A few tales from those that attended our Associate training weekend

I joined TVAM in November ‘21 and started working towards my IAM test. I heard about 7Ws but was unable to make the one in the spring. Everyone said it was a great experience so I was determined to make the next trip. As soon as the date was announced I put my name down and hoped to be selected. While I was waiting to hear I took and passed my IAM test. I also took the decision to start the journey to become an Observer. That means I currently have the status of a PTOB. A TOB is a Trainee Observer who wears a Yellow badge and is working towards full Observers qualification. A PTOB is what you are referred to until you have completed all of the qualification elements of the Trainee Observer Programme and have had your first assessment.

So, what is 7Ws? It is a weekend of riding through the wonderful roads of Wales in the company of like-minded souls. It is a training weekend, and the focus is on encouraging, supporting and coaching all the Associates that attend. It is also a chance to chat about all things bike, compare machines, gear and enjoy lots of friendly banter.

7ws wales

As it was my first 7Ws and I was neither Associate nor Observer, I was there to shadow the Observers and learn how they work with their Associates. Some Observers have been doing this for many years and others only recently, so I was able to see the different approaches they took with their Associates and learn from that. I assumed the coaching of the Associates would be structured a bit like a St Crispin’s run, however it is a lot more informal that that. I did not see one ride report form or copy of the Highway Code for the whole weekend. I did see a lot of discussions at the side of the road and in coffee shops about lines through bends, overtaking, bike machinery and a whole range of other topics. Associates were encouraged to ask questions at all times and I was involved in a great conversation on the way to Wales where the Associate had watched the Observer and myself execute overtakes in a certain way and wanted to know why we did what we did.

Waterproof clothing was also a topic of conversation as the run up was wet wet wet! There was also some discussion about touring on motorcycles and how to prepare for that. I clocked well over 500 miles over the three days with 220 on the Saturday. One Associate I spoke to had never ridden more than 40 miles in one ride, so the weekend provides a good taster of what it’s like to go touring on a motorcycle and that in itself is a learning experience.

Left: Chris will observe anyone willing to listen!

The Training Team who organise the weekend put a lot of effort into grouping Associates so that those with similar experience end up together on the various rides and their Observers are aware and can prepare their rides accordingly. There was an Observer meeting each evening to check in on how the Associates (and everyone else) were doing and discuss the next day.

I’d like to say a big thank you to all the Training Team, for putting this together and handling all the behind-the-scenes work, and to all the Observers who supported the Associates over the weekend, allowed me to shadow them and answered my questions about their Observer approach. For me personally the next step is to drop the “P” and work towards full Observer status in time for the next 7Ws in 2023.

Mark Powell – PTob

So this is a viewpoint of the Oct 22 7Ws weekend from an Associate and is written with new Associates in mind who have not yet had the chance to experience a 7Ws training weekend, may be unsure or thinking it would be too overwhelming.

Fundamentally 7Ws is a focused training weekend for Associates and that is exactly what it felt like. It comes with the added benefits of additional social aspects, such as food, wine, beer and the company of other members and of course riding what are the best roads I have ridden to date, considering my limited years of riding.

So why 7Ws? Well we’ve all done our observed rides which, more often than not, are usually limited to just a few hours and sometimes having to share an Observer with another Associate. Although this does allow time for Observers to pick up on your riding and give you things to go away and work on, you only get very limited time to put into practice the items discussed whilst being observed on that ride. 7Ws fixes that, from my perspective, as quite simply you can spend whole days in the seat, have the benefit of lovely winding Welsh roads and it gives you the time to really put the guidance into practice, whilst still under close observation. There is plenty of time for stops and lunch and being paired off with another Associate you can take time to discuss items in more detail, build on your skills throughout the day as well as having the chance to see your paired Associate develop theirs.

The format is well thought out in typical TVAM style and really puts the Associate at the heart of it all. A few days before the trip your allocated Observer for the Friday contacts you to discuss the weekend. Key items such as what you want to get out of the ride, what to expect, how far you can or have ridden in one day, etc. I have to say that at all times you really got a sense of this trip being for the Associate. I have no doubt the Observers do enjoy their weekend immensely, but the focus is the Associate under training.

It is an early start on the Friday to get to the Wandering Café for breakfast and coffee (well recommended) for the initial briefings. Riding with myself, and my Observer, to Wales was PTob (Prospective Trainee Observer) Tom. The journeys to Wales are all done as starburst rides, meaning that although some groups took similar routes you weren’t all riding the same roads as a group and this method worked really well for me and others I spoke to.

A certain TVAM Chairman was unfortunate enough to be lumbered with me for the ride to Wales, which really marked the start of the training. From the point you leave to the point of arriving in Wales you are either being observed or observing their riding. To be fair it’s quite a distance but having already been asked about my comfortable distances this wasn’t a problem, with plenty of stops and a nice lunch on route. Each stop gave us time to discuss the riding and most importantly plenty of time in between to practice. So, if you are concerned about distance on your bike please don’t be put off by this trip and make sure to let your Observer know what you are comfortable with.

When it comes to roads, Wales did not disappoint, with plenty of chance to practice those skills and often with very little traffic. One small stop was made about 23 miles from our final destination, primarily to inform me that I was about to ride on one of the best roads in the UK, this being the A483 Newtown to Crossgates in Llandrindod Wells. A dream of a road, it was flat, fast, wide, winding and really did give you the chance to put into practice what you had picked up during the day – it’s almost as if it was built just for the 7Ws! I can even confess to doing it in the dark on the Saturday night, though technically that wasn’t in the overall plan and the less said the better on that!

Come the Friday night I have never been so grateful for a warm room, shower and a beer, and the Metropole in Llandrindod Wells was a very welcome sight. With an area set aside for our bikes, which soon filled up, all was very smooth at check in.

Dinner was held in a private room for our group and it was a great chance to catch up with other members and share “war stories” of the days travel. The food was simple but tasty and I certainly had no complaints. More importantly beer seemed reasonably priced! Post dinner we had a talk from Shaun Westlake, an ex-Police rider and long-time friend of TVAM, who was both informative and exceedingly amusing at the same time, I’m sure he does the voices for Fireman Sam!

That evening we all received our Observer allocations for the Saturday and I was lucky enough to be paired with Andy Hunter, although he may have thought differently! The location of the bar seemed very convenient to speak with him and plan timings for the morning without any concerns or pressure, other than who gets the next round!

The Saturday started with a good breakfast, which I recommend making full use of during the stay. You certainly won’t go hungry on a 7Ws weekend. The benefit of the 2nd day allows you to be paired with another Observer and effectively start afresh but once again having a day on the roads allowing you to build on other items that still need some work. My fellow associate Taira needed a new headlight bulb so a swift stop at a garage and simple twist and fit (thank God it was a Honda) saw her back up and ready prior to our departure. This proved a good move as that light was needed much later in the day as our trip back was somewhat in the “dark”. I’ve mentioned that twice now, haven’t I? ‘Nuff said.

Once again, some stunning riding and fantastic scenery, the route Andy had planned was superb. A mix of roads which took in the stunning views across the Vale of Rheidol down towards Aberystwyth and then around to Barmouth for lunch which is such a picturesque stop. There was one small down hill “donkey track” which funnily enough did end up next to a field of donkeys. They all seemed to be named after Disney characters or fizzy drinks.

Dinner on the Saturday was once again in a private room and then, all too soon, it was time to think about the return trip on the Sunday and once again certain individuals had carefully planned and offered to lead social rides back to different return points. My chosen route returned to St. Crispin’s, so a big thanks to Simon Whatley and Iain Gaitley for leading and back marking a good ride home, though I have to say this was probably the wettest of all 3 days. Wales certainly has an allure with some of the nation’s most stunning scenery and roads. It was my first time riding there and I can see why it has such an appeal and, considering it isn’t that far from the Thames Valley, I’ll be back.

I have never been the best reporter or travel blogger, so apologies, but if you’ve got this far, well done. What I will say is that if you are working towards your green badge or are new to TVAM and have not had chance to go on 7Ws, in my humble opinion this training weekend is a must do. If not for the training and experience at least for the social.

A huge thanks really has to go to the organisers Andy Wedge and his team. Thanks to Barrie and Andy for observing and all the other Observers, TObs and PtObs who gave up their time to help us Associates become better riders. Yes Ian, I’ll work on those left hand bends more! 

James Jarvis – Associate

The first thing to say is what a fantastic weekend spent with a very friendly group of people. I have never gone away for a weekend on a motorbike before, I was both excited and nervous. Many thanks to Gill for coming and talking to me at The Wandering Kitchen before we set off, I think I looked a wee bit worried.

Being teamed up with an Associate of similar ability to me on the ride up to Wales was perfect. Funnily enough we both have the same Observer. Unfortunately, Andy our Observer for that day got a puncture which was a pain for him but a great learning experience for both of us to watch him repair it.

The first evening after a delicious 3-course meal and an entertaining talk, we were introduced to our second Observer of the weekend. So early on Saturday morning we set off for another day’s ride and it stayed dry… until we headed back to the hotel then the heavens opened, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I was given some very good feedback to improve my riding during the day and the scenery was amazing; interspersed with some enjoyable cake stops.

We weren’t left to make our own way back home on the Sunday, although a few people chose to do that. There were groups heading home via different locations. I joined the group led by Si that headed straight back to The Wandering Kitchen.

Thank you very much to everyone for organising the weekend and to the Observers who gave up their time to impart their expert knowledge to us. I didn’t stop smiling for a long while after returning home, and will continue to grin every time I think about that weekend! 

Jenny Cooksley – Associate

Observer Hev Smith is still smiling!