After last Sunday’s hilly and wet ride at Loch Katrine, the “old gal” had a simple request when planning this weekend’s ride. “Can we do a flat ride in the dry?” she begged! Well good that the “old git” is, he hasn’t (yet!) perfected the art of being able to control the weather -but he did graciously concede to planning a ride which didn’t involve any King of the Mountains tandeming!
We had been recommended to a route which starts at Newport on Tay and involves crossing the Tay Bridge, into Dundee and following National Cycle Network Route (NCR)1 up the east coast to Carnoustie – a perfectly manageable distance of 13 miles. And it was showing almost totally flat – with the only real elevation getting onto the bridge! When the “old gal” saw this she was ecstatic and happily agreed.
Therefore on Sunday morning we were all in good spirits as we drove away from Matildas Rest – with the added bonus of some bright sunshine making an appearance! A 45 minute drive in Matilda Transporter saw us parked up in the car park across the Tay from Dundee, which had direct access to NCR 1 via a ramp. You can check out the route of our Tay bridge to Carnoustie ride on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
The Tay Bridge carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay and at around 2,250 metres – or 1.4 miles – it is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrates its 50th anniversary later this month. Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity. But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride.
It was fairly breezy on the bridge but with the clear skies we got a good view of the adjacent Tay Rail Bridge. The windy conditions allowed for a good practice of my dynamic duo’s latest gizmo – walkie talkies! Now why do you need walkie talkies when you are both on the same bike I hear you ask – and that would normally be a very sensible question! But there is a good answer. You see the “old git” – because (whisper it!) is getting on in years his hearing is not what it used to be! And that has left the “old gal” becoming increasingly frustrated as she has been having to shout things usually three times before she is heard. And if the message is “truck behind” it is usually too late by the time the message is understood!
So to avoid catastrophic consequences (and to ease the “old gal’s” blood pressure”!) they invested in a set of voice activated walkie talkies with earpieces which worked a treat and means they can actually communicate with each other! And I have to say it is an improvement – even if it does leave my crew looking like two FBI secret service agents!
Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 along the river bank and then through the Dundee port area. You are advised that you may need photographic identification for this part of the cycle path, but we just pressed the button on the gate and it opened for us!
It really is a great cycle path – and as flat as promised. And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.
With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifeith where a new stretch of the path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right – and kept well secret – known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!
Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Instead we headed along the NCR1 to Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best today in the sunshine. The path took us along the sea front and we found a nice bench in an alcove for a lunch stop, which protected us from the sea breeze.
Now it has been mentioned in passing that perhaps Team Matilda were perhaps over indulging in the calories with our famous prosecco picnic lunches! To be honest, my dynamic crew put that down to envy! But in deference to those claims, my crew decided to set up a parsimonious prosecco picnic for a giggle.
After that the rest of the grand Sunday prosecco picnic was unloaded from the cool bag. Today’s menu was croissants filled with smoked salmon and chilli flavoured cream cheese, a few mini pork pies and some jarlsberg cheese, followed by a healthy fruit salad, and of course the key ingredient – the nicely chilled small bottles of prosecco.
I have to say I was feeling very glamorous with the sun shining on my frame – looking every inch a classic tandem today! And I have been basking in the adoration of passers by today as would you believe that during the day no less than five different people came up to my dynamic crew and wanted to chat about the tandem and my history. Phrases such as “lovely bike” and “beautiful condition” and “lovely paint job” were being banded about as well as questions about how easy (or difficult) I was to ride! But the “old gal” expertly fielded all questions and obviously said I was a joy to ride! Apart from the weight of my steel frame going up hills, that is! It was all going to my head a bit, and the “old git” just added to that feeling when he told me that a fellow member of the Tandem Club UK had described me during a discussion about Jack Taylor tandems as “a work of art”! Well as we all know, it is nice to be recognised!
So after lunch we headed off on the return journey – managing to run the gauntlet of the golf courses and the military firing range without incident! We pulled up and had a nice coffee and slice of chocolate and ginger cake at the lovely looking Tayberry restaurant in Broughty Ferry, with my dynamic crew making a mental note to return for a meal.
You know my crew really shouldn’t be let out alone as the “old git” decided to have some fun on the walkie talkies when the “old gal” went to the loo, and suddenly found herself listening to the “old git” whispering sweet nothings in her ear! Oh how he laughed! Let’s just say the “old gal” wasn’t quite so impressed!
As we cycled on we passed the first of several pieces of artwork themed on the famous Oor Wullie cartoon character – complete with the bucket he sits on – from the Sunday Post newspaper. This one was brightly coloured in purple, and on closer examination the “old git” discovered it was called Dreamland Wullie and that it was part of a newly created Oor Wullie Bucket Trail which has been set up in and around Dundee.
The trail is a huge public art event running to 27 August, featuring 55 5ft tall sculptures of Oor Wullie sitting on his bucket, all individually sponsored and decorated by artists/designers located in and around the city for the public to view, share and adore. Trail maps and a digital app are available to enable the folks of Dundee and visitors to go out and find all 55 sculptures and to strike them off their ‘bucket’ list. Then at the end of the summer the statues will all be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Archie Foundation’s appeal for a new twin operating theatre pediatric surgical suite for Tayside Children’s Hospital.
Pedalling on we passed the beach. During a particularly narrow stretch along what was not much wider than the beach wall, the “old git” decided it would be a good idea to do a selfie video to show the problems we can encounter when trying to dodge wayward pedestrians, prams and dogs – who all believe they have a much greater right to use any shared paths than this “old lady” tandem does! As you will see the most often repeated phrase is “excuse me!” And if you listen carefully you will hear my horn being parped! (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.)
After negotiating the selfie video shoot next stop was Broughty Ferry Castle where we found another Oor Wullie, proudly sitting against the backdrop of the castle. This one was called Rain Song Wullie, and was a good match for my dynamic duo’s saltire cycling tops.
Now as you know every proper castle has to have a drawbridge. And of course I had never been on a drawbridge before so the “old git” duly obliged by pushing me up the steep rampart so I could imposingly pose for a picture, much to the amusement (that should really be bemusement!) of visitors to the castle.
We could see another Oor Wullie on the harbour wall and this one was cleverly themed as Oor Lifesaver – decorated in full RNLI gear as it was placed just yards away from the local lifeboat.
We continued along the route, back through the dockyard’s electronic gates, emerging on the other side to one of the most colourful Oor Wullies, called Glow Wullie.
With four Oor Wullies collected my dynamic crew decided that was enough – but it’s a great idea and had clearly brought lots of families out walking on the streets to let children tick them off.
Time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge and we had to get the lift back up to the cycle path level. And the “old git” got the “old gal” to record my first (well second obviously, as I had to go down in the lift earlier – but who is arguing!) trip on a lift to show how easy it is to use. I was thinking I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an angle as there would probably be only length for single bikes – but I was delighted to say I could simply be pushed in. Have a laugh at the “old git” doing his tour guide bit! (And don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, that you need to click onto the blog to watch the video.)
A quick cycle back across the bridge and we were soon back in the car park at the other side of the bridge – just in time to toast a great ride with a cooling soft drink, while checking up on Strava. It officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 26.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 25 minutes, with an average speed of 7.8 mph. The plus point was that the elevation covered was just 374 feet – and most of that was going up and down to the Tay Bridge! Top speed was 32.4 mph – and we even managed to burn up 1,632 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 119 W. Another fabulous ride and a great day had by all!
So on the way back to Matildas Rest thoughts turned to France – and amazingly there are now just six weeks left till the Grand Depart for Le Tour de Loire Valley in mid September which will see my dynamic duo having to pedal me nearly 230 miles while through the world-famous vineyards and stunning chateaux of the region.
This will be the third annual Tour de France holiday for Team Tandem Ecosse (Team Matilda’s name for foreign holidays!) – following in the footsteps of amazing tours of Burgundy in 2014 and Bordeaux in 2015. (If you want to read my Musings of those wonderful trips – just type Burgundy or Bordeaux into the ‘Search Matildas Musings’ box and you will see the postings.)
But before then – in just two weeks time my dynamic duo are hosting two fellow tandemers, Jane and John Taylor who live near Southampton in Hampshire, on Le Tour de Perthshire.
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!
Jane and John certainly seem to have much in common with my crew – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine!
In fact the quartet seem to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously – including decorating Bluebird with Christmas lights then sitting in the garage with a glass of wine to take a photograph – that they have decided that they are the founder members of the self-created Nutty Tandemers Club!
So the plan is that me and Bluebird – accompanied by our crews, obviously! – will be going out for some of the most scenic rides around my area, including the likes of Loch Rannoch and Loch Katrine. My dynamic duo have even arranged for a couple of days off work to be local tour guides for Le Tour de Perthshire!
This “old lady” is certainly 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 those famous prosecco picnics or when we stop at local hostelries!
I mean the crews of Team Matilda and Team Bluebird clearly think they are the ones going to be enjoying themselves – but us tandems are going to have brilliant time together.
Meantime Jane and John have sent a contribution to my blog explaining a bit about themselves and the forthcoming Tour de Perthshire:
“So, the much awaited Tour de Perthshire will soon be upon us and The Nutty Tandemers Club will ride forth for the first time.
The southern contingent – aka Team Bluebird – has been out and about all over the place, near and far, riding a variety of terrains so hopefully Perthshire won’t throw anything unexpected our way.
We do know it’s a beautiful area having ridden through parts of it on a few different trips in recent years – but we know we are going to see so much more with your suggestions and your company Matilda. And Bluebird says she is eagerly anticipating meeting up with you too.
Since last September we have ridden Scottish hills, Holland and Belgium’s flat land, and tracks and roads in quite a few English counties so we hope we have covered all eventualities.
Despite all our endeavours – like Team Matilda – climbing hills has never got any easier! We get up them, not many defeat us, but it’s a slow process! But does that matter? Of course not, because we aren’t in a race.
I am glad to say we have similar attitudes to tandeming as Team Matilda – we go out on Bluebird to enjoy the ride, look at the views, smell the fresh air and feel at one with the world.
Oh and one final thing, we are looking forward to sampling those famous prosecco picnics of yours Matilda!
Cheers and here’s to a very successful Tour de Perthshire!
Jane and John