Just eight weeks to go till the Grand Depart …

While summer has missed Auchterarder so far this year, the “old gal” had a quick look at the calendar and exclaimed that there were ‘just eight weeks to go!’

Yes, the final countdown is on to the Grand Depart for the Tour de Bordeaux in mid September. Which means my dynamic duo have to pedal me some 150 miles over a week while cycling the Vineyards and Beaches of Bordeaux route.

The unseasonable summer weather has put the brakes on some of the training runs – with the “old git” getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of practice runs. If the “old gal” hears him say: “We need to get some miles under our belts” one more time, I am sure there will be an incident!

It’s nearly three weeks since we have all been out on the road – but for the first week I was at Matilda Hospital visiting my personal tandem doctors at Perth-based JM Richards Cycles. The very nice technicians there look after me when anything goes wrong, you see.

Regular readers of my Musings will no doubt remember that I suffered the embarrassment of a rear tyre blow out just as we completed the last outing – on the one day of warm sunshine we have had so far this summer while riding round Loch Rannoch. And there was also that pesky vibrating noise coming from by pedal crank.

So I was loaded into Matilda Transport and driven into Perth where the experts fitted a new tube – as it had blown completely – and adjusted the crank with a bit of subtle manipulation. Then I got the full pre-France check-over – with a couple of tweaks to bits like my brakes and gears.

Fully restored I returned to Matilda’s Rest and waited and waited for some decent weather so I could get back out on the roads.

Finally the rain and wind abated for a day, and the “old git” and “old gal” rushed to get me out for a tour of the back roads around Auchterarder.

Actually it was most pleasant and we decided to call in on friends Ann and Alan as we headed for Strathallan. Now Alan is a bit of a (self-confessed) expert engineer and he gave me the once-over before giving me the thumbs up! I mean if Alan thinks this “old lady” is mechanically sound, then that’s quite an accolade.

The “old gal” persuaded them to have a shot and off we set with me two tandem virgins on board. With a bit of a wobble, they soon got the hang of it as we pedalled along a farm road and back again without mishap. Ann got brownie points from the “old gal” for mentioning that you don’t see too much from the rear seat, apart from the back and rear end of the person on the front!

With my regular riders back on board, we waved goodbye to the friends, and headed for the road around Strathallan Castle – the home just over a week ago of the T in the Park music festival.

Mat too late T in Park

Too late for T in the Park at Strathallan Castle!

Now there has been lots of controversy about it being staged on this very picturesque but rural site. The biggest problem seemed to be the narrow roads which everyone had to use – resulting in gridlock for hours.

And the heavy rain didn’t help – turning the festival site, and the car parks, into a sea of mud.

I am actually quite glad I wasn’t there – going by the scene of devastation that has been left behind! And where do you get tandem wellies anyway?!

One of the big rows before the  festival was given the green light was about the impact on the environment, with an osprey nest – a protected species – almost stopping the festival in its tracks.

As it turned out, by all accounts, the ospreys seemed to enjoy the concert and the “old git” and the “old gal” caught sight of one of the magnificent birds in full flight as we cycled round the outside of the site.

We were fair moving along, which (whisper it) just goes to show that the “old git” and the “old gal” are actually fitter and stronger than they think. They even managed all the hills that we came across.

Now you’ll remember that the “old git” likes his gadgets and had invested in a selfie stick. Needless to say we had to try it out again – although I think he still has a bit of work to do to get the photos perfected!

new selfie stick 2

Spot the selfie stick in the picture!

You see, as I understand it, you are not supposed to see the selfie stick in the picture! More practice is obviously needed! I am sure they will have it worked out by the time we all get to France.

The route took us through Tullibardine before the long climb back into Auchterarder and back to Matilda’s Rest.

A quick 10 mile circular route which filled my dynamic duo with positive feelings of being back out on the road.

Which takes us nicely back to why we go tandeming. Well its great fun. And that reminds me of a short little video that friends Liz and Martin filmed when we were on my ‘Highland Fling’ trip to Dornoch in early May.

Liz asked the “old git” and the “old gal” why they like tandeming. Click on the video to see and hear the answers!


So all in all a highly successful short outing, and not too rusty after three weeks out of the saddle – although I am sure I could hear the “old git” whispering under his breath that they still need to “get more miles under our belts!”

I am sure he is already planning a good few more trips over the next few weeks!

Prosecco and sunshine on a grand day out

LR2 prosecco for lunch

Prosecco – the perfect picnic aperitif on a sunny tour of Loch Rannoch.

At last the weather forecast said it was going to be summer – well at least for one day. The sun was to make a rare appearance, the rain was to disappear, the winds were due to drop and the mercury was due to rise.

Perfect for a day’s tandeming claimed the “old git” as he suggested it would make ideal conditions for a return trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch, this time with our good friends Ann and Jack.

The “old gal” approved, as she knew the terrain was fairly flat – and she also cleverly suggested a picnic with prosecco, and booking dinner at the wonderful Moor of Rannoch “escape-from-it-all” boutique hotel after their exertions.

“The old git” agreed, remembering the fabulous hospitality they enjoyed during their stay over Easter weekend. No time for an overnight stop this time, unfortunately, but he knew the prospect of the gorgeous food – featuring lots of local produce – would spur them on while cycling the 24 miles round the loch.

Now regular readers of my musings will remember that the dynamic duo dramatically “hit the wall” as they ran out of energy the last time they did this trip. (For a recap click here!)

So the plan this time was to start from the bottom of the loch at Bridge of Gaur, and avoid the gruelling hills of the extra 5 mile each way to and from the hotel. Thus just the simple matter of negotiating their way round the loch – and enjoying the sunshine and scenery.

So on a beautiful warm sunny summer’s morning we all headed up the A9 to Loch Rannoch. 70 odd miles later we were parked up on the lochside ready for the off. Ann and Jack have those fancy battery-powered electric bikes – which as we all know is cheating, and not real cycling! But I was fairly confident that this “old lady” could give them a run for their money on these flat rural roads.

LR2 racing start

Ready for the off – the “old gal” with Jack and Ann ready for a racing start on those “cheating” electric bikes.

The wind was soon between my spokes as the “old git” and the “old gal” soon had me whizzing along at well above my normal average of below 10 mph. Due to the calm conditions, and flat roads, we were averaging nearly 15 mph!

Ann and Jack were enjoying the scenery and about half way up the loch towards the village of Kinloch Rannoch we stopped to get some pictures of the mighty Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most famous mountains, due to its almost conical summit.

LR2 in shadow of Schiehallion

All smiles – the “old git”and the “old gal” in the shadow of Schiehallion.

Jack reminded us of the mountain’s place in scientific history – back in 1774 it was used for a ground-breaking experiment to estimate the density of the planet Earth. The work was carried out by the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne. He was assisted in the task by mathematician Charles Hutton who devised a graphical system to represent large volumes of surveyed heights, which later became known as contour lines. Every day is a school day!

Back on the saddle and we soon completed the first half of the route round Loch Rannoch by cycling into Loch Rannoch. A quick toast to good friends with small bottles of prosecco, and we all enjoyed a hearty picnic in warm sunshine. So warm that the “old git” had to put on a second application of sunscreen. His face gets very red you see – though, whisper it,  I think that is from the cycling, and not the sun!

After a tasty and welcome coffee and home-made cake from the Riverbank Cafe, we set off for the second half of the route, back down the quieter side of the loch and along the edge of the last remnants of the Great Forest of Caledon.

The quiet road took us through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch, which is one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. Some trees are thought to be over 400 years old.

The “old git” was really working the gears today and the “old gal was impressed to know that for the majority of the time they were pedalling in the biggest gear – and fair cantering along we were.

In fact for most of the way we outran those battery powered bikes, showing that you just can’t beat good old-fashioned pedal power.

Ok, yes, I admit there were a couple of occasions when steep hills got the better of us and we ending up walking – while Ann and Jack motored (not cycled!) past – but for most of the time it was easy going and a good training run for the Tour de Bordeaux in September.

A quick stop for some water mid way down the loch and another photo stop. Now you know what the “old git” is like, well he has surpassed himself by buying one of those selfie sticks so  he could get better pictures for my blog. How kind of him!  So after much faffing about, he eventually managed to get a group shot – without falling into the loch!

LR2 selfie on quiet side

Smile for the camera – trying out the “old git’s” new selfie stick!

Off we all headed again before another quick stop for a picture to get the scale of the scenery near the bottom of the loch.

LR2 quiet side hydro

Loch Rannoch truly is the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

We soon covered the last few miles, completing the 24 mile loop at Bridge of Gaur with ease.

It was all going to well, then a minor disaster struck. The “old git” felt a shudder which turned out to be a rapid puncture. My back tyre had suffered a sudden failure. But fortunately it was right at the end of the route, and just a few hundred yards from the cars.

So no need to repair the inner tube in situ, and I was pushed back to Matilda Transporter and packed away. With my rubbing noise returning during the cycle – which the “old gal” thinks is coming from my rear pedal crankshaft – I think I could be heading for a trip to Matilda Hospital (aka the cycle repair shop!) for a check over.

But what a difference a few months makes however. I must admit I was rather proud of the fitness levels of my dynamic duo. They ate up the miles today, mostly in high gear, and even managed up a few of the hills. No fears of them hitting the wall today! The training runs are obviously paying off!

We drove the few miles to Moor of Rannoch Hotel, which must be one of the most romantic places for a hotel in Scotland. Situated right beside Moor of Rannoch station, it truly is last stop at the end of the road.

While I had a welcome rest in Matilda Transporter, the “old git”, the “old gal” and Ann and Jack were warmly welcomed by owners, Scott and Steph, who have the art of hospitality perfectly refined. Nothing is too much trouble and we were able to change in spacious toilets for dinner.

With the “old git” having volunteered to drive, the “old gal” was able to endulge in a choice from their artisan Scottish gin collection. This was followed by a truly memorable meal – all with the wilderness majesty of Rannoch Moor as the ever-moving vista from the dining room. For an idea of the kind of food on offer, check out the sample menu here.

All too soon it was time to head back to Matilda’s Rest – but the beauty of the area still had some treats to offer, including a beautiful sunset over Schiehallion and the loch itself. The “old gal” managed to get a couple of photos on the way home, and I think she is getting quite good as my blog photographer!

LR2 Schiehallion sunset

Sunset on Schiehallion, turning it into a fiery peak. 

LR2 sunset

A final glance over Loch Rannoch with the sun setting on the beauty spot.

All in all, a good training run and truly a grand day out.