I’m back on the road! Yes, there’s been a gap since my last Musing – but there is a valid excuse! I have been at the tandem doctors, and it turned out to be more serious than first appeared. The “old git” and the “old gal” booked me into see my personal tandem consultant at J.M. Richards Cycles in Perth for my annual service. I also needed two new tyres as they were showing the yellow marks which means they need replaced.
All was going well until they inspected my front wheel and discovered the wheel rim was split! So I had to have a new wheel built! Now being an “old lady” classic Jack Taylor tandem has its benefits – especially when it comes to the admiring glances I get – but it does have a costly downside.
And that is that being an “old lady” all my bits are imperial in size as opposed to the new-fangled metric measurements. So they rebuilt my wheel using one of these fancy stronger e-bike wheel trims and heavy duty spokes – just like they did with my back wheel in October 2014. So I now have two matching metric 700 mm wheels now, instead of my original 27.25 inches ones!
And the tyres they used were Specialized Infinity Reflective tyres, with “flak jacket puncture protection” – especially designed to be hard wearing for touring bikes. They make me look very trendy! So what with the wheel replaced, my fancy new tyres, my chain degreased, and my gears and brakes adjusted, I felt fully fit and ready to roll again.
The “old git” has been working in Edinburgh recently which involves driving across the Forth Road Bridge, so he persuaded the “old gal” that it would be fun to do a route which involved tandeming across the bridge from North Queensferry to South Queensferry and back.
Now both my dynamic crew have had a heavy work schedule of late so I knew today wasn’t going to be about covering lots of miles – it was going to be a nice relaxing run to test out my new bits! And we were going to take in some amazing scenery of the iconic Forth Bridges – with the three bridges spanning three centuries – and have a relaxing lunch.
Despite many cyclists commuting across the bridge every day, it seemed rather difficult to find a way to access the bridge. The “old git’s” research failed to find a dedicated route so we drove to North Queensferry in the hope we would find an access point.
After a quick stop for a selfie at the slipway at North Queensferry with the original Forth Bridge – the rail one – in the background my dynamic crew disappeared into a cafe for a coffee and scone … and to ask directions.
The answer was that the alternatives were either to use the path from North Queensferry up to the bridge – which involved carrying me up over 100 very steep steps – or parking at the nearby Ferrytoll Park and Ride which offers free parking and is virtually adjacent to the entrance to the bridge.
Guess which option the “old gal” selected?! But I have to say it was the correct choice! And anyone else thinking of doing this route should take note and use the park and ride as their starting point as it leads directly on to Cycle Route 1 across the Forth.
We set out in glorious sunshine and perfect calm conditions as we climbed uphill to the peak of the magnificent Forth Road Bridge which has been carrying traffic, pedestrians and cyclists across the Firth of Forth since 1964. The suspension bridge’s main span stretches 1006 metres between its two towers, and its total length of 2.5 km made it the longest bridge of its kind outside the United States at the time of its completion.
It was a sensational ride on the dedicated cycle lane – with its maximum speed limit of 15 mph, which we dutifully met – and the sight of a classic tandem pedalling along resulted in several cars tooting their horns in encouragement! We stopped off on the main span to admire the views of the magnificent backdrop of the adjacent Forth Bridge, which looks like it has been built with a huge meccano set.
With the weather being so clear there were lots of other cyclists and pedestrians about and several offered to take pictures for us.
A quick burst of history here – opened in 1890, The Forth Bridge is a Scottish icon that is recognised the world over as the most famous of cantilever designs. The world’s first major steel structure, the Forth Bridge represents a key milestone in the history of modern railway civil engineering and still holds the record as the world’s longest cantilever bridge. A full-scale restoration project to return the bridge – which is 110 metres high – to its original construction condition was completed in 2012. In July 2015, UNESCO inscribed the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage site.
The “old gal” decided to record the stunning views of the masterpiece of Scottish engineering on this video. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)
While drinking in the fabulous panorama that you can only truly see from walking or cycling – as the barriers on the part for cars are just high enough to cut out about half the view – more cars tooted their horns at my dynamic duo … who it would need to be said were enjoying their moment in the spotlight, even if they were playing up to their image as founder members of the Nutty Tandemers club decked out in their day-glo yellow t-shirts.
Now those of you who pay attention to these things will be aware that the day-glo yellow t-shirts are multi-lingual – French on one side and English on the other. The message reads: “Always Better When We’re Together” as that is the motto of my crew.
Obviously the irony of that message on the weekend following the vote to exit the European Union was lost on the “old git” – who normally likes to think he is sharp and on the ball – until one passer by pointed out in dead-pan humour without breaking step: “Well its no longer better together, it seems, after Brexit!”
It seems that nearly everyone who crosses the bridge has to do the “Look, I’m holding the Forth Bridge up” photo … and yes, the old git was no exception!
Before tandeming on, the “old git” and the “old gal” turned their attention to the Road Bridge – which is made up of 40,000 tonnes of steel and 125,000 cubic metres of concrete. Astonishingly it carries over 24 million vehicles cross the bridge each year, which is much higher than ever the most optimistic forecasts when it opened in 1964.
It is a very strange feeling standing at the middle of the centre span as the bridge literally vibrates quote noticeably up and down with the impact of the vehicles.
And just to prove the point my dynamic duo decided to show readers of my blog what they meant with this selfie video as we all felt the vibe!: (And don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, you need to click on to the actual blog to view the video. This one is worth the effort!)
At this point I have to say sheepishly that the “old git” and the “old gal” were enjoying themselves so much they forgot to take pictures of the new Queensferry Crossing – the third bridge at the site which is due to open in May 2017, and will replace the ageing Forth Road Bridge. So here is a picture form the Forth Bridges website clearly showing the big gaps between different spans of the bridge.
When it is open, the stunning, globally unique bridge will form the centerpiece of a major upgrade to the important cross-Forth transport corridor in the east of Scotland, representing a total Scottish Government investment of around £1.35 billion. The new 1.7 miles (2.7km) structure will be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world and also by far the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. This innovative design provides extra strength and stiffness, allowing the towers and the deck to be more slender and elegant.
So time to tandem on and a relaxing easy ride downhill to the other side and following the extremely well signposted cycle path – which steered us away from all the traffic – down into the historic town of South Queensferry.
It really is a beautiful spot, with a narrow cobbled main street, and plenty of places to get a photo of the Forth bridge which dominates the skyline. Again visitors were keen to take a photo of the three of us – I think they thought we were on some long distance charity ride to be honest!
So after clocking up just over 3.5 miles it was clearly time for some lunch. Now credit where it is due, but the “old git” does have a knack of finding amazing restaurants – and this one didn’t disappoint. The Boat House has a patio area which looks directly out onto the bridges – providing an uninterrupted view.
And apart from the views – enjoyed in bright sunshine – it has a great seafood menu. So naturally a glass of white wine had to be ordered while the menu was perused. The “old git” persuaded the “old gal” to try a couple of arty shots involving the wine glasses – and it would have to be said she is getting quote creative! Here’s a reminder of the pic from the start of this blog post to show you what I mean.
My dynamic duo couldn’t make up their mind and chose two starters each instead of the traditional starter and main course. The “old gal” selected some wonderful smoked salmon while the “old git” had crab meat. then they both went for mussels. And what meaty mussels they were, I am reliably told!
After lunch, with clouds gathering rather ominously, my crew explored the quaint shops – with the “old gal” collecting a beautiful heart shaped necklace – before paying a visit to the town’s museum which had a fascinating World War 1 exhibit.
While in the museum the rain – which was forecast – started and we decided to head back across the Forth a little in trepidation of how windy it would be.
But despite fairly heavy rain we completed the return crossing easily – without stopping this time – with my fear of being blown about on the bridge unfounded as it was very calm. I was soon back at Ferrytoll and quickly back in Matilda Transport which fortunately was parked under cover.
Strava officially recorded the ride at a distance of 7.2 miles, covering an elevation of 475 feet. The moving time was 1 hour 20 minutes, with an average speed of 5.4 mph. Top speed was 22.4 mph. My team even managed to burn up 475 calories! So (some of) those mussels were allowed after all!
So not the most arduous day’s cycling I have ever experienced. But as someone said on a Facebook link: “It’s never about the “miles” but always about the “smiles” on a tandem ride!
It was just what my dynamic duo needed. The ride may have been short on miles – but it was full of fun, laughs, iconic scenery, sunshine, fantastic seafood and lovely wine!
And that is truly the definition of a great tandem day out for Team Matilda!