7Ws through the eyes of some participants

An Observer – Carl Flint

I could not help overhearing a conversation at a recent St Crispins, between a group of long serving Observers about the forthcoming 7Ws. One mentioned that the fun had left the club with all the emphasis on training and less on social rides and asked what is the point of having a training session so far away in Wales? I thought that sounds bonkers, we all know that Wales has wonderful roads, perfect for training and it is great fun.

Take an Associate called Phil for example. Phil aka Barnes Wallace, because Phil had his top box come off on several occasions on his way over to Llandrindod! How it missed the other bikers in the group and how they managed to find it each time, remains a bit of a mystery! Anyway, on Saturday I was assessing Dave Brooks, Trainee Observer and Dave was observing Phil. We were both delighted that Phil was not bringing his top box! Dave asked Phil what he would like to focus on during the day and Phil said positioning and bends. Dave mentioned he had some very good roads in mind that would give Phil plenty of opportunity to develop his skills. So, did I see Phil have fun during his training? You bet he did, with Dave’s very good demonstration of lines to take and the roads with long sweeping bends, it was perfect for Phil and the improvement we saw in the consistency of his riding during the afternoon was a big step forward.

On the way to Llandrindod on Friday, I was observing Graham Emerson and I bumped into him at the bar on Saturday evening after he had been out doing his ride. He had a grin on him as wide as the Cheshire Cat. I asked him how his day was, knowing full well he had really enjoyed himself and had lots of fun.

The notion that the Starburst system (a trio of an Observer with two Associates or Trainee Observer and Associate) excludes fun for the Associate is just bonkers. It is harder work for the Observer or Trainee Observer. They need to have routes that allow the Associate to work on the areas that were raised in the opening discussion. But that is soon forgotten when we all get out there and have the privilege and fun of riding the wonderful roads in mid Wales.

Where did you say they’d got to? (Photo Syvester de Koster)

A Trainee Observer – Mark Powell

When I last attended 7Ws in September 2022, I was a PTOb, a provisional Trainee Observer. By this 7Ws I had progressed to being a TOb. This meant I could take a much more active role in the weekend on my journey to becoming a fully qualified Observer. For the trip to Wales I was allocated Kevin Dunwell as my Observer.  He shared his route up to Wales with me in advance and I loaded it into both my BMW connect and my Garmin XT.  Kevin also loaded it into his Garmin XT. At the start point I gave the run briefing to Sylvester, our Associate for the day and off we went. It became clear within the first 30 miles that the three sat navs were not in complete agreement and I added a loop that Kevin was not expecting! But all rides are a voyage of discovery and despite some rain on the way we had a good ride up.  Kevin provided me with some valuable feedback on my observing skills.

Friday night, a few beers, a good meal and introductions to riding partners for the Saturday. Andy McWalter was my Observer coach for the day and we discussed different approaches to route planning. That is code for I was supposed to have prepared a route for the Saturday but had not realised that, so Andy and I worked out a circular route with options. We also spoke with Ed, our Associate for Saturday to find out what he wanted to work on and planned accordingly.

Saturday morning, thick fog!  After a hearty breakfast I went through the ride brief with Ed and off we went.  Mid-morning coffee and snacks, the sun came out, some great roads, stopped for lunch.  In the car park over lunch, Andy’s back tyre decided to let all the air escape and it was as flat as a flat tyre can be!  I knew the theory but had never had to fix a puncture before. The three of us worked together to find the leak (not so easy with a completely flat tyre), sticky string in the hole, pump tyre up and away we go.  Learning point for me is that without putting air in the tyre we would never have found the leak.  I carry 4 CO2 canisters. Would that be enough to put air in, find the leak, and then have enough to inflate a GS back tyre to a riding pressure? Andy carries a small compressor so not a problem there.  We felt we needed a reward so rode to Aberystwyth for ice creams on the sea front.   Then back to the hotel. Andy gave me some useful tips on observing during the day and a good debrief after. Gentle run back on Sunday. 

A quick thank you from me to Simon and Si from the Training team who did all the on-site management and the rest of the training team that organised it. And to all the Observers who gave their time to help us TObs and Associates to develop our skills. Much appreciated.

A Provisional Trainee Observer – Richard Lawson

Getting ready for the off on a foggy Saturday morning (Photo Sylvester de Koster)
Repairing the puncture (Photo Mark Powell)

I just wanted to offer my own feedback to the 7Ws weekend from 21st to 23rd April, which was, in short, a fantastic three days of motorcycling.

I attended as a pTOb, so my principal role was to shadow the Observers and the Associates I was grouped with for the Friday and Saturday rides. I always get a lot from shadowing and the combination of learning from highly skilled TVAM Observers, watching keen Associates develop and experience some of the very best roads in the UK, made it an excellent weekend for me.

The emphasis of enjoying the rides was constantly reinforced by everyone in the training team and the vibes I got from the weekend were really positive and relaxed. I enjoyed great company, made new friends, experienced awesome scenery and rode some really beautiful Welsh roads.

I’d like to thank Observers Dave Parker and Michael Hattey again for having me along on their Observer Rides, and for kindly asking for my own feedback with the Associates, as this made me feel valued and kept me on my toes.

I wish Associates; Dave & Danny, the very best with their cross-checks and tests – you guys are both very competent riders and, I’m certain, even more polished after this weekend. I’ll definitely go back and do another 7Ws, and maybe I’ll be an Observer myself by then! 

An Associate – Graham Emerson

It was the first time I had attended the 7Ws and I was a little anxious on what would be expected and how limited the riding under training may have been. How my worries were so ridiculous goes like this. I met Carl and Dave on arrival at the wandering kitchen and into debrief/chat about what IPSGA and system means to us and a quick chat about our ride to the first heading. We geared up and headed off taking it in rotation for being observed then a coffee and chat with some useful pointers and off again to catch some very thick fog and a line of traffic as we got round some tree felling.

As we moved on, the roads became more engaging with some overtaking opportunities followed by lunch at a lovely garden centre that knocked out a very nice omelette and again debrief with pointers. Some weather caught us just as we stopped for tea, but I couldn’t believe another hour and a bit had passed – I was enjoying the roads so much as the rolling countryside passed by. Now Dave up front being observed by Carl on a fantastic road with a lovely combination of sweeping bends and tighter turns yielded more progressive riding and we had also left the drizzle behind. A fantastic ride capped the day as the rain caught us as we filled up just around the corner from the hotel. Day 1 was good. Dave grinned at me, “Just wait for tomorrow it gets even better…..”

So a couple of beers, dinner and met Paul and Tom for Saturday’s ride. A chat and a debrief and at 8.30am the fog was thicker than grandma’s vegetable soup, so a short bumble down the road to a coffee stop for an hour ‘talking bollocks’ a.k.a., bikes, sports, work, women, not all in that order. Now the skies had cleared and up the hill to some of the funnest roads one could wish for, with Tom who was training to be an Observer watching me, being watched by Paul, who saw everything we both did. Lots of pointers and feedback on better road positions led to better entry everywhere and overtaking became easier and the riding seemed very progressive and very quickly the fun factor was in full effect, which whilst learning is a hell of a thing to achieve. A fantastic spot at Aberporth for lunch, more riding, more great roads getting better and more progressive as we went down to Aberystwyth for ice cream and the piece de la resistance.

The ride back. Putting into practice what we had learned with the Observer now leading followed by Observer in training with me picking up a great demonstration of how it’s done. Progressive and now the ‘funometer’ in the red zone as we rode through Wales in an afternoon which I shall long remember. As we arrived back Carl caught me grinning like a Cheshire Cat, and asked me to pen my thoughts in a paragraph. So there we go, I’m afraid too much fun for just one paragraph.

Fun in Aberystwyth (Photo Mark Powell)

First published in Slipstream May 2023