This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew had a superb Breakout of #Lockdown2 sunny tandem ride on The National Cycle Network Route 7 and The Coig Route 1 from Irvine to Ayr and back – with a small measure of gin thrown in too!
There has been just over a month of enforced inactivity for Team Matilda as the “old gal” was finally able to return to her hairdressing salon as Scotland slowly emerged from Covid #Lockdown2 and not surprisingly faced overwhelming demand from customers who have gone without haircuts since the end of last year. This meant working crazy hours of effectively 8am till 8pm six days a week, so there was no time – or energy! – for pedalling. And obviously that has meant no blogs for me to write either!
But after five weeks, things calmed down a bit and my dynamic crew were keen to get back on my saddles for some much needed exercise on a Breakout from #lockdown adventure. With restrictions on travel across Scotland lifted, the “old git” decided the schedule would be to head to one of the “old gal’s” favourite #tandem rides – along the Ayrshire Coast Cycleway. The start point would be the Coastwatch Scotland car park in Irvine, with a picnic lunch at the turnaround point of Ayr beach.
The Ayrshire Coast Cycleway forms part of Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt7 and is also a key part of Route 1 of The Coig – which is Gaelic for five and is a new tourism initiative comprising five cycle friendly routes around Ayrshire and the Clyde islands.
You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
But before we get to the pedalling, I want to tell the story of how I have been passing the period of enforced inactivity by helping the “old git” making my own blend of tandemers gin! Yes you heard that correctly! A Scottish gin called “Matilda’s Merry Mix!”
You see, my dynamic crew are partial to the occasional artisan gin and the “old gal” bought the “old git” a gin making kit. He bought a bottle of unflavoured vodka and added the juniper berries and then a few days later added the mix of botanicals.
After infusing for around a week, and a filtration, the result was an amazingly tasty lightly spiced gin. The “old git”, being the creative type, came up with the name ‘Matilda’s Merry Mix’ and created a suitable label for the bottle!
The gin is highly exclusive of course – a bit like me! – as the recipe created just a single bottle! It it is unlikely to last long as a collector’s item … but it sparked a bit of fun!
So to our ride … My dynamic crew were up at very early o’clock to drive to the west coast but were rewarded with a beautiful sunny morning on arrival in Irvine – allowing for some great sun-kissed photos before rolling out on our adventure.
My dynamic crew were pleasantly surprised to find they were not rusted up and remembered how to pedal and set off with great gusto! A mild tail wind and pedalling along some almost motorway-smooth tarmac on long sections of the cycle path saw us quickly pass thru Troon and onto Prestwick Promenade in what seemed like no time – buoyed by the (almost warm but not quite!) sunshine. A loo stop was called by the “old gal” where she discovered that South Ayrshire Council has recently implemented a 30p charge on all public loos! Or as the “old git” quipped: “30p to have a pee!”
Time for photos with the “old gal” sitting on a bench with a fabulous view – looking towards the island of Arran, known as Scotland in miniature, in one of those colourful sea meets sky pictures – with almost unnatural shades of blue! It is worth clicking on the images to see it in a larger size!
The Ayrshire Coast Cycleway is well signposted and easy to follow – ideal for newbies to the NCN and The Coig – with dedicated painted cycle lanes on stretches along the promenades at Troon, Prestwick and Ayr. Pedalling onwards, the route took my dynamic crew into Ayr – which was hugely busy with people desperate to escape the recent lockdown and get some sea air. But it was good to see that nearly everyone was keeping to social distance rules.
With the sky turning a bit cloudier, my dynamic crew found a sheltered bench in gardens just off the promenade to enjoy their picnic lunch – and signature prosecco toast, naturally! – while enjoying the stunning views out to Arran and Ailsa Craig – aka Paddy’s Milestone. Great brain food to go along with the sustenance food!
With the sun having disappeared temporarily behind heavy cloud, the “old gal” decided a coffee was required to heat up a bit – and fortunately the easing of Covid restrictions now allowed my dynamic crew to sit inside to restore body temperature.
Suitably revived, the sun started to re-appear and there was an opportunity for a couple of photos of my dynamic crew’s new dayglo orange sunglasses – which just so happen to perfectly colour coordinate with their bright shiny cycling helmets!
A quick pedal of the full length of the promenade saw the “old git” spot one of several NCN Millennium signposts dotted along the route pinpointing distances and directions.
The wind had picked up a bit so the return journey was a bit of a battle – but still highly enjoyable. The “old gal” in particular liked the stretch between Prestwick Airport and Troon where the broom was in full yellow bloom – which traditionally signals a warm summer is on the way!
My dynamic crew then blasted back to the start point at Irvine for a re-fuelling coffee and cake at the Small Talk Coffee and Gift Shop which looks out on to the harbour.
Back at Matildas Transport, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a superbly pleasing total of 24 gongs given my dynamic crew’s rustiness due to a lack of pedalling – made up of 5 personal bests, 9 second bests; and 10 third best times.
The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 36.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph – which given the inevitable coastal winds was perfectly acceptable – while the elevation was 550 feet due to the route mainly running along the edge of the sea. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,530 calories and produce an average power output of 132 W.
So with Scotland on a clear route map out of restrictions, my dynamic crew’s NCN Rt7 and The Coig Rt1 pedal clocked up a final 36 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer, taking the total to 327 miles from the 14 rides completed. The “old git” and “old gal” feel this is a pretty reasonable mileage given the fairly severe winter weather around Matildas Rest which hit almost as soon as #lockdown was announced.
There were hugely positive feelings from the breakout of #Lockdown2 ride – with obvious signs that things are looking brighter on the pandemic front. My dynamic crew continue to feel lucky, fortunate and blessed that they have been able to be able to keep healthy – mentally and physically – with our madcap #tandem adventures on a bicycle made for two during the enforced restrictions! Lets just say my spokes are firmly crossed that there won’t be a #lockdown3 any time soon.
Meantime this “old lady” tandem is uber excited about my next scheduled ride when I am hopefully going to get to meet my namesake! yes amazingly there is another Matilda tandem out there – tho she is affectionately called ‘Tilly’ for short!
You will remember that Team Matilda was featured in the March issue of BIKE Magazine Europe – over 5 pages in glorious technicolour! Well it was read with interest by Linda and Jon Reed – who are based in Suffolk – who have been riding tandems for 25 years! They loved the article and reached out to say hello given the coincidence of the name! Their granddaughter shortened their Matilda to ‘Tilly!
Now ‘Tilly is a Viking Serengeti and is Linda and Jon’s third tandem – and is a bit more experienced than me! Her crew do lots of touring and ‘Tilly has notched up a staggering total of nearly 40,000 kms and been to no less than 48 countries.
Apart from the same name there are other coincidences – as ‘Tilly also has a stoker who doesn’t like hills – just like the “old gal”! And Linda and Jon also have a blog in which they recount their adventures on ‘Tilly the tandem, and “Ten Tonne Taffy” – or “FatTaf” for short – their “beast” of a motorhome.
Team ‘Tilly are currently on a Breakout from Lockdown tour – a “slow pedal north to Scotland” from their Suffolk base. And on Sunday – as long as weather gods play along – I am getting the opportunity to meet ‘Tilly as the “old git” and “old gal” are meeting up with Linda and John as they pedal thru nearby Bridge of Earn, and ride together into Perth. The tandem crews will catch up over some food and drink while us tandems will have a good natter! How exciting is this all going to be?! I can’t wait!