Sun-kissed tandeming at Muthill Sportive 2018 – yellow route

Team Matilda – kitted out in eye-catching King of Mountain gear – at the Muthill Sportive.

There was much excitement at Matildas Rest on a recent Saturday as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official competitive bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2018. This would only be my second ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

Those of you with good memories may remember my Sportive debut a year ago when the “old git’s” son Niall took up a role as substitute stoker as the “old gal” was working. Team Matilda hadn’t planned to be taking part this year as the date was scheduled to be the penultimate day of our Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way Challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed. So my dynamic crew decided on a last minute entry.

The Muthill cycling event has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – which was basking in bright sunshine, in stark contrast to heavy rain of last year.

The idea of the Sportive is to raise funds for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project which will create a safe route along the 4 miles to the Strath capital, avoiding the busy A822 road. Phase 1 of the project is complete – a 1 mile off-road route from Muthill to Templemill, which links with other core paths and quiet country walking and cycling friendly roads. Just over two years ago when it was opened, I was the first tandem to ride the new cycle path. You can read more about the project in my blog of that ride.

Ready for the off- with my official ‘158’ sportive competitor number!

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. I had my start number of 158 firmly attached to my handlebars and the “old gal” volunteered to attach my snazzy timer chip to her ankle – even tho it did look like she was wearing an electronic monitoring tag!

No comments about the “old gal” being used to wearing a tag! This is the official timing chip!

Then it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes. I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway!

At the start line – ready for the hooter!

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The “old git” and the “old gal” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. This turned out to be a bit of a “killer hill” so soon in the route – which is perhaps no surprise as a later check measured the incline at 10.3%.

I think the joke turned out to be on my dynamic crew who thought that wearing their King of the Mountain cycling shirts would be a big joke! But after a bit of a push (literally!) we reached the plateau and then the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable and we soon picked up speed again.

The ride was well signposted with big yellow arrows marking directions at every possible junction to ensure we couldn’t get lost – and there were marshalls at any intersections with busier roads. The route developed into a gently undulating ride, along well maintained farm roads before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

We crossed the Auchterarder to Crieff road before the route took us along the roads around Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalisinly there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct road for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy.

Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of a climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had actually completed a sportive as they crossed the finishing line. A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of  just under 1 hour 31 minutes.

Hi-fives at the end – the “old git” and “old gal” happy at the end!

The friendly nature of the Muthill Sportive was underlined by the amazing hospitality on offer back in the church hall. An army of volunteers had been busy and yummy home made soup was on offer, along with tasty filled rolls, followed by a fantastic selection of home baked cakes. The fact that they even had gluten free cakes was quite literally the icing on the … well you know what I mean!

So after some much needed re-fuelling it was time to head back to Matildas Rest where the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – 5 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 2 third bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew another 3rd best ever gong – meaning that our time of 6 mins 49 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the 2.3 mile section ‘Machanay Road only’. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 9th best ever time too! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.3 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 31 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1036 feet. The maximum speed was 31.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1229 calories and produce an average power output of  202 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

My dynamic crew both agreed that The Muthill Sportive was a great event and fun to be part of! Apart from living up to its reputation of being one of Scotland’s friendliest sportives, it certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre.

Lets hope the event raised lots of money for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project and that I will soon be blogging about new developments and an extension to the existing first stage of the route – including a large span bridge to cross the River Earn at Crieff.

Team Matilda is certainly planning on being on the starting line next year!

Team Matilda are already planning to join Scotland’s friendliest sportive in 2019!

Tandem ride to festival that leaves you wanting Mhor!

My dynamic crew looking for fun and funk after arriving at the Mhor Festival.

“Do you fancy going to a festival?”, the “old git” had casually asked the “old gal” a few weeks ago? The response wasn’t immediately enthusiastic it would need to be said – from either of my dynamic crew! Perhaps it was those traditional images of huge crowds of people standing soaked and caked in mud and pouring rain that came to mind.

But this was different – very different – a smaller scale festival for grown-ups deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country. So Sunday dawned and there was bright sunshine as we headed off early from Matildas Rest. The start point for Team Matilda’s festival trip was the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to park by friendly owners Lesley and Bill. Even tho it was just around 10 o’clock the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders for hearty breakfasts flying out of the kitchen.

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and delicious home made scone there was time for a quick catch up with Lesley and Bill and offer our congratulations at winning Most Welcoming Cafe of the Year at the Scottish Cafe Awards 2018. Back on my saddles we then headed off out of Strathyre on the super smooth surface of the Sustrans Scotland NCR7.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Team Matilda picked up a good speed on the off-road cycle path heading for the Mhor Festival being held in the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel. Billed as the best “off the beaten track” festival in Scotland it promotes itself as a festival of food, drink, music, theatre and dance! As the festival web site says: “Come, play, sing, dance, cook, learn, chill!” Well, ok, if you insist!

Arriving by tandem is ideal, as it saves having to use the bus on the traffic management system on the narrow roads! It gave my dynamic crew the opportunity to ride again on one of the best routes we have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Truly magnifique!

Arriving by tandem was perfect – avoiding the traffic management system on the narrow roads!

As we rounded the final bend we were greeted with the first view of the Mhor Festival site. The campsite, just on the edge of the loch, has to be one of the most scenic festival sites ever. In fact it is just a few hundred yards from our favourite prosecco picnic spot where Team Matilda was featured last year on BBC Scotland’s Landward television programme.

With thousands of people already enjoying the party atmosphere it looked like my crew were going to have fun – especially as the “old git” spotted a sign promising “fun and funk”!

The camp site at Mhor Festival must be one of the most scenic in Scotland.

The festival organisers at Mhor had arranged for VIP admission tickets for Team Matilda – and even arranged for our admission wrist bands to match the vivid day-glo yellow colour of their t-shirts!

I was safely parked up in the VIP car park as my dynamic crew entered the festival site – and were immediately taken by the friendly nature of the event. And there was so much going on – dance, music, comedy, art, theatre, a shopping area, a market, and of course some amazing food and drink including a champagne and seafood bar.

The festival armbands were even perfectly colour coordinated to my dynamic crew’s t-shirts!

The “old gal” and the “old git” decided that festivals may not be that bad after all! They were both quickly impressed with the funky nature of the festival and had to pose beside some of the many amusing eye-catching signs dotted around the site.

No jokes please about the “old gal” and “the oldest hippy in town!”

The “old git” showing off his funkier side at an eye catching sign at Mhor Festival.

Lots of fun for kids – big and small! The “old gal” was seriously tempted!

After soaking up the atmosphere, my dynamic crew decided it was time to sample some of the culinary delights on offer and ordered up scrummy burgers before deciding to indulge in some seafood and had some amazing fresh oysters washed down with an obligatory glass of champagne!  As the “old gal” was heard to say while quaffing her fizz and enjoying the alfresco lunch – “I do like festivals like this!”

Cheers – some yummy food for alfresco lunch. What’s not to like about festivals?

After lunch my  crew bumped into Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead  – along with her husband Fraser who were enjoying a cool jazz funk band playing in the main arena.

One of the joys of the event for my dynamic crew was just chilling and relaxing in the warm sunshine. The festival site had a lovely relaxed feel about it which was great for people watching.

The festival site had a lovely relaxed feel about it – great for people watching while sunbathing!

One of highlights of the festival was left till last when my dynamic crew joined the crowds queuing to get into the Big Dutch Barn for the renowned A Play, A Pie and a Pint performance of “A funny place for a window” – the Chic Murray story.

Normally based at the famous Oran Mor in Glasgow, the play featured the life of one of Scotland’s best comics – with his drole observational wit brilliantly portrayed by Dave Andersen sporting Chic’s signature bunnet.

Despite battling some difficult accoustic challenges and a brilliant piece of unscripted comedy when a dog decided to bark at the perfect moment for a laugh – the performers deservedly received a standing ovation.

Dave Anderson was brilliant in his role playing the drole Chic Murray.

The afternoon seemed to slip past and all too soon it was time to leave and wind our way back to Strathyre. Again it was a fun fast pedal trying to outpace the various convoys of cars on the single track road, and we were soon back at Matilda Transport for the drive home.

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – and I am proud and delighted to say there were all personal bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew a 3rd best gong – meaning that our time of 24 mins 18 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the hilly 5.7 mile section ‘Mhor and Mhor’ which runs from the Mhor 84 hotel to the Monachyle Mhor hotel. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 8th best and a 10th best gong! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 16.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 15 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.0 mph, while the elevation was 514 feet. And what with my new gears – and my dynamic crew’s weight loss – I am pleased to report that the average speed was nearly 4 mph faster than the 9.1 mph when my dynamic crew did the same route exactly a year ago! The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 867 calories and produce an average power output of 173 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

What a fantastic day in the sunshine for Team Matilda at what has to be Scotland’s most artisan, scenic and chilled festival! It certainly leaves you wanting Mhor!

Let’s just say that my dynamic crew enjoyed it so much they are already planning to come back in 2019! It is certainly highly recommended – as well as being easily accessible on two wheels! You never know, we might be able to persuade some other tandems to join us!

And just a thought – but maybe the organisers may want to consider introducing a discounted ticket for people who turn up by on bikes as pedal power is certainly in tune with the environmentally friendly nature of the Mhor Festival.

Plenty of room for more tandems and solo bikes at the Mhor Festival.