The Associate – by Joey Buttfield

It’s Friday 8th April and the 8am breakfast rendezvous point is The Wandering Kitchen Cafe near Berinsfield. My Observer for the day is Hev, who discusses with me the areas I want to improve on over the weekend and introduces me to my co Associate Ilhan. I was expecting a larger group, so delighted with the 2 to 1 ratio.

As I hadn’t ridden with Hev before she asked me to lead off as all the groups dispersed on multiple routes to Llandrindod Wells.

All communication is done via the mirrors, supplemented by arm signals, so all very clear and timely. I especially enjoyed the frequent stops to discuss aspects to work on and also how Hev would demonstrate techniques and elements of the system I was struggling with.

Ludlow Farm Shop, Bromfield was our lunch stop and the rendezvous point for the social ride to our destination, via some awesome roads led by Barrie. This really helped me to practice and reinforce the techniques I was shown by my Observer Hev.

An awesome day was rounded off by a swim in the hotel pool and a great dinner. I must also mention the after-dinner presentation from Sean Westlake which seriously awakened me to many facets of riding I was hitherto blissfully unaware of, and his colourful Welsh banter!

On Saturday I was paired up with my Observer Barrie and trainee Observer Aaron. I especially liked this format as from my perspective I had the benefit of two instructors! And what a day, just awesome on every level. I loved the challenging routes and the way both parties instructed, as well as the feedback given.

After a leisurely Sunday breakfast, I had to make a difficult choice on which Observer led run home to take with a choice of three no less.

A big shout out to Barrie, Hev and fellow Associates who got me back to Oxfordshire via some stunning roads.

I am now a much-improved rider, but importantly understand my journey is just beginning. Get yourself booked on this awesome learning curve that is the 7Ws. Thank you all so much.

The Full Member – by JB Staunton

Having recently passed my motorbike test and bought my first bike (a Honda CBR650F), I joined TVAM in October 2019, and although I didn’t get much riding in before the first lockdown, I had oft heard members tell me in hushed tones that the 7Ws trip as something “you had to do”.

I’d swear, that without exception, everyone who uttered the phrase “7Ws” said it with a wistful smile and glazed eyes – you could tell they were thinking back to some awesome riding on the twisty and windy roads of Wales. I knew from the get-go that I wanted a piece of the action too!

Although I knew the trip is focused on Associates, I applied for a place on the trip in January, knowing I’d just passed my advanced test in December ‘21 – I didn’t know if I’d get a place, but as my wife says “What do 100% of winners have in common? They try!” In this case I tried and succeeded.

This would be my first trip away on the bike and honestly, I was a little anxious of what to expect. I googled a few articles on “what to pack on a motorbike trip”, and, oh yeah, I also had to google “how to attach soft panniers to your motorbike”; luckily, I picked up a set at the St Crispin’s moto-jumble in January 2020 (they were a bargain!).

Despite Alan’s Sat Nav being a bit temperamental, and Rhona nearly running out of fuel, we had a great run down on the backroads of England and Wales. However, has anyone mentioned the rain, hail and snow, yes snow! Well, it wouldn’t be a good trip without a story or two, would it?

On the final leg to Llandrindod Wells, we had to climb over some hills and I wasn’t worried when it started to rain – it’s Wales in April right and what do you expect? However, I’d never ridden in hail before and was a tad nervous of this when it started, but it really wasn’t an issue as the hail just bounced off our helmets and clothing. The snow was a different story as it was that claggy and wet kind of snow that sticks to you, resulting in having to wipe your visor every 30 seconds or so (which was reminiscent of my advanced test). In all, the bad weather only lasted for a maximum of an hour, over the course of the weekend I hasten to add, but I was glad to get to the hotel in the end and I have some good stories to tell!

If you’ve not been on one of these trips before I would highly recommend it and I’d like to commend the organisers on how well things ran. It was an early start on day one, but along with a filling breakfast bap at our breakfast rendezvous point, I met the rest of my group for the trip to Wales – there were only half a dozen of us in total: Run leader Alan Heighway, back marker Marianne Myburgh as well as fellow TVAM members Konrad Marciniak, Neville Till and Rhona Ferry.

Saturday was a great day of riding too and our group was lucky enough to be paired up with ex-motorbike police officer, tour guide and 7Ws event guest speaker, Sean Westlake. Unfortunately for me the day started slightly embarrassingly insofar as my battery had died overnight due to the previous owner of my bike wiring the heated grips directly to the battery, and me forgetting to turn them off after our “Arctic” experience the afternoon before. I appreciate a number of fellow riders help in trying to bump start me (Konrad you star) as well as Neville letting me use his jump start battery (birthday/Christmas gift idea anyone?) and an unnamed member lending us his mini-jump leads!

In the end we got going 15 minutes late and not only did Sean bring us on a very scenic 150-mile route, he was able to give us the history of the places we visited too!

By the way the hotel worked very well for the group, with ample parking, a private dining room for us for both evening meals, decent food and a large bar, which was unsurprisingly frequented by TVAM members.

In summary it was a well-run event, which was great fun and certainly one I’d endorse. I’ll be aiming to attend another TVAM group trip as well as make it over to Wales again…oh those roads…..

The Observer – by Andy Hunter

Having completed my pre-ride checks in the afternoon, I packed and loaded my bike the evening before we set out.

So, Friday morning I was up and out early for my 45-minute ride to the meet point, arriving 10 minutes early to find the place already open and serving food. The coffee and bacon sandwich were spot on, perfect, just what I needed.

Top marks to the management and staff at The Wandering Cafe, they did a superb job of looking after us. Well done and thank you.

We had been previously allocated two Associates for the ride up, so having met both Sam and Ondrez, I started to understand what each was looking for on their observed ride into Wales. One had passed his crosscheck, the other of a very similar standard. From the Observer’s viewpoint it is very much easier if the Associates are of a similar standard, as it makes the route planning easier.

So shortly after 9am we headed out towards Abingdon, then on towards Burford to find the first planned coffee and chat stop, allowing a chance to swap the Associates over. A power cut derailed those plans and meant they were unable to serve anything as it had rendered their till out of action. We decided to continue towards Stow-on-the-Wold, then stopped for a slightly belated coffee as we entered Tewkesbury.

We discussed a few minor points for both Associates before getting back on our way, heading towards Leominster and picking up the A44.

As we were running well for time, we continued towards Hereford and found a golf club for lunch – ideal for the snack that we needed.

The weather was a mix of cloud with the sun breaking through, but as we approached Crossgates we experienced a 5-minute sleet storm. In fairness this was the only rain that I saw all weekend, so I still don’t know if my new waterproof gloves are any good or not!

We refuelled at Crossgates and, as we had arrived with time to spare, rode from Crossgates to Newtown and back. That rounded off an excellent day’s riding and we headed to the Metropole hotel, our accommodation for the two nights. Having used the Metropole many times, over the years, I knew that we were in for great hospitality and we were not disappointed.

Saturday morning, we were again allocated two Associates who were different from the Friday allocation. Again, I was blessed that both rode to a similar standard and they agreed that they wanted to work on riding bends. We headed south and west giving both Associates the chance to lead for a time before stopping for coffee at the West End Cafe in Llandovery. A true bikers’ cafe.

After coffee and a chat, we headed out towards Aberystwyth where we found the ‘Diner on the Prom’ to be very busy. We continued to find somewhere a little quieter for a slightly later lunch.

Returning to the hotel, from Newtown to Crossgates, we refuelled ready for the Sunday ride home.

Sunday was entirely a social ride. Having offered to lead a ride towards Henley, and getting a little banter from Mr Brownlee, it was agreed that anybody that wanted to take my route would meet at 9.30am for a briefing in the car park before heading out.

The run back was pretty much a re-run of my outward route, with myself, two Full Members, one other Observer and one Associate. It was all very relaxed, giving the Associate a chance to practice what he had learnt during Saturday’s session.

More top-quality riding skills were on display, stopping for a sandwich and drink at the filling station at Stow-on-the-Wold. We had agreed at the briefing that people would simply give us a wave and peel off at a point close to where they lived. Checking on my phone messages, it was good to see that everybody returned home happy.

Overall, this was a great weekend. It was a chance to meet and chat with old friends, introduce some Associates to the roads in Wales and reacquaint myself with a couple of great roads I have not used for some time.

Firstly, the Tewkesbury road out of Stow-on-the-Wold and then the A44 heading west into Crossgates.

I have no doubt that all of the Associates returned home with new or improved riding skills. We must not forget the importance of the team building benefits of these events.

Thanks to the Training Team and all that were involved in planning and running this event.