Sunday morning dawned with Matildas Rest bathed in bright sunshine. The forecast was for the thermometer to reach a balmy 10C, so the “old git” was in his element as the plans for a ride out – only our second of the year – fell into place. We were on for some much needed exercise and fresh air between my spokes!
The “old gal” was still a bit worried about rustiness – but the “old git” had thought out a new circular route on some of the quiet and scenic Perthshire back roads around the famous Gleneagles hotel estate. Anyway my dynamic duo’s combined weight loss on the Hay healthy eating plan has now reached 24 pounds so they were feeling much healthier.
And to add to the excitement of getting out on the roads again around Matildas Rest, the “old git” had persuaded the “old gal” that we should use Strava – the cycling GPS tracker which you can operate via an app on a mobile phone. So this classic tandem is moving into the digital age. Forget that rubbish that you are too old to learn new skills and tricks!
Essentially it tracks the journey from start to finish – including pausing when I am stopped – and then gives a highly detailed report on the ride. This incorporates a terrain map showing the journey and lots of statistics like distance covered, moving time, total time, elevation, average speed and top speed. You can compare segments of the ride against other cyclists – and also against our own time when we repeat a route. Which all sounds like fun, unless the “old git” becomes a Strava bore!
My dynamic duo were recommended to use it by Jane and John Taylor who live in Hampshire and are frequent tandemers on their Pino semi-recumbent called Bluebird. The “old git” and the “old gal” have become friends with Bluebird’s crew after starting to chat on social networks including The Tandem Club UK Facebook page. And, what’s more, I understand they are avid fans of my blog – so they must be good people!
In fact I am most excited as I am due to meet Bluebird when she brings her crew up to Perthshire in August for a holiday. The plan is that me and Bluebird will be going out for some of the most scenic rides around the area – so I am looking forward to having a tandem pal for some ride outs. I am sure Bluebird and I can get up to mischief while the two tandem crews are indulging in a few glasses of wine when having picnics or when we stop at local hostelries!
So back to the ride and we set off in calm conditions and were soon the “old git” and the “old gal” were in perfect synchronicity (well that’s what the old git likes to believe anyway!) as they pedalled up Auchterarder high street and headed out of the town, continuing up hill towards Gleneagles hotel – the playground of the rich and famous!
We headed up the road towards Blackford and Braco with my crew buoyant to be out in the mild Spring day – despite further long slow climbs past the back entrance to the hotel. In fact we were moving faster and smoother than both I and the “old gal” would have dared imagine at this stage in the season, soaking in the picturesque Perthshire countryside and wonderful fresh air.
The first point of interest was cycling along the edge of the King’s golf course – renowned as being one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places to play golf in the world. Opened in 1919, the King’s course is regarded as a masterpiece of golf course design, which has tested the aristocracy of golf, both professional and amateur. A quick photo stop allowed us to take in the views with the Ochil hills giving a dramatic backdrop to the perfectly manicured fairways.
Pedalling on we soon picked up speed on a nice downhill stretch and reaching the heady heights of 24.8 mph – albeit only for less than 100 yards – before abruptly slowing down again as we faced the next incline.
It was a wonderful day to be out tandeming – proving the old adage that “it’s always better tandeming together” – which was showing Perthshire off at its best. We soon turned sharply to the left taking the road to Blackford – passing the ghost-like golf course of the gWest complex belonging to Ochil Developments. On its website it is described as being “Scotland’s best kept secret” – and it truly is.
The golf course has been there for a few years – but the first steps towards a luxury new resort to rival its neighbour Gleneagles have now been launched. The first 26 residential plots are now available, providing potential buyers the chance to design their very own bespoke, multi million pound home on an average of 1.25 acres of land with extraordinary views across one of Scotland’s finest landscapes.
On down towards the village of Blackford, crossing the main Glasgow to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness railway line. It is the line the “old git” commutes each weekday on to get to Glasgow, so it was interesting to see the level crossing from a different perspective. We headed past the sprawling Highland Spring water factory – home of one of Perthshire’s most iconic brands – before cycling through the village and past the Tullibardine Highland single malt whisky distillery which is expanding its visitor centre.
The next stage was to cross the busy A9 dual carriageway – on foot rather than pedalling – and turning into the much quieter and remote road around Bardrill. Before departure the “old git” had one of his (few) bright ideas and packed a flask with some freshly brewed coffee in it, as he was aware there were no cafes on today’s route. So after the adrenalin-fuelled activity of dodging the fast moving cars and trucks on the main route north to Inverness the “old gal” was ready for a very welcome coffee.
As my dynamic duo enjoyed a quick pit stop, and practicing taking a few selfies on the self-timer camera on the mobile phone, the “old gal” was even heard to praise the “old git” for his forward thinking in organising the flask of coffee! And that doesn’t happen very often – the praise I mean!
With the sunshine having made a disappearing act behind some heavy cloud we were soon on the move again, with the three of us enjoying the flat cycling on the farm roads around Bardrill. This is a good road for practicing gear changes as there are straight stretches followed by downhills and inclines all in quick succession. All was going well until a cry of “stop pedalling” was heard from the “old gal.” In her position as stoker on the rear, she gets a good view of my chain and it had slipped off the gear mechanism following a rapid change down the gears.
Fortunately the “old git” immediately stopped moving my pedals so the chain didn’t get jammed, and the “old gal” used her skills in her other role as chief engineer to hook my chain back into position and we were soon moving again.
We turned out on to the Glendevon road and paused to admire the roundabout with some huge golf clubs as an art work commemorating the Ryder Cup golf match being held at Gleneagles in September 2014 – when Europe famously beat the US 16½ to 11½.
We headed back towards Matildas rest tandeming past the posh front entrance to Gleneagles – stopping for another photo opportunity – before a nice downhill stretch back into Auchterarder. My dynamic duo decided on a stop at at the cafe at Synergy Cycles. They both enjoyed a slice of caramel shortcake – one of the best in the area according to the “old gal”, and who would argue with her! – washed down by a nice warming coffee.
Back to Matildas Rest and a wonderful day was made even more perfect by watching Scotland beat France at Murrayfield in the Six Nations Rugby International – the first such victory for a decade! There was even time for a celebratory gin and tonic!
You can check out our route on Strava here – and make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!
I am proud to say that we are even registered as Team Matilda – what else?! – on Strava and are now a member of the the Tandem Club on the site. You will see that we were ranked 52nd out of 54 tandems registered when judged on distance covered in the past week. But I have to say we have no ambitions to top the table. Now if there was a ranking for fun quotient we would definitely be near the top – as for the three of us that’s what tandeming is all about. And we wholeheartedly agree with the Tandem Club UK website that tandeming is really twice the fun!
And finally – don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.
I have my my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I will win the award! Although I am a bit worried as to where the “old git” would attach the trophy to my delicate frame?!