Team Matilda clocks up 6000 miles in tandem on a flood-hit weekend Tour de Arbroath mini break

I am a tandem – not Noah’s Ark! Looks like I have found the ability to cycle on a canal on NCN Rt1!

Saturday afternoon saw Team Matilda drive to Arbroath in Visit Angus for a weekend break with good solo cyclist friends Alan Ince and Anne Connell – Team AA!

We arrived late afternoon during a period of torrential rain with a severe weather warning for flooding. However the “old git” remained his usual optimistic self about a change in the weather as we all checked in to the very welcoming and luxurious Harbour Nights bed and breakfast wonderfully situated overlooking the harbour and marina.

The luxury Harbour Nights b+b sits on the waterfront.

The view from the brand new luxury sea view suite – across the marina and harbour

Everyone else thought he was mad (what’s new there!) as the “old git” said he was confident the rain would relent in time for the planned Sunday ride which would see my dynamic crew clock up their 6000th mile in tandem!

To take the minds off the by now biblical rain a gin and prosecco bar was quickly set up by the cycling teams in the brand new luxury sea view suite – with magnificent views across the marina and harbour – and naturally the crews had to sample a few of the offerings!

Team Matilda and Team AA enjoy the first prosecco toast of the Tour de Arbroath!

A gin and prosecco bar was quickly set up in the suite to take the minds off the biblical rain!

Waterproofs on we walked the short distance for a great Greek style evening meal at Andreou’s Bistro – which if it wasn’t for the constant rain battering the windows would have felt like the crews had arrived somewhere in the Mediterranean!

After a nightcap – of a sumptuous new dark red Shiraz flavoured gin brought by Anne and Alan – the crew’s went to bed with my Captain still bravely predicting that the storm would blow thru by the morning, as the weather forecast predicted. Everyone else just smiled along to keep him happy!

Ride 1 – Team Matilda hits 6000 miles in tandem on pedal where Noah’s Ark would have struggled on Arbroath – Dundee route with Anne and Alan

Sunday dawned – and believe it or not – the sun was out and the rain had subsided! So after a hearty home cooked tasty breakfast at the b+b, the crews got kitted up and we headed out of Arbroath on the pre-planned route heading for Dundee on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network  #NCN Rt 1. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Team Matilda’s dynamic crew and Anne and Alan of Team AA ready to roll at Arbroath marina.

A bracing pedal down the promenade – which was being hit by amazing waves – took us to the start of the coastal cycle path. After a couple of miles we suddenly hit a large area of water. Somewhat inadvisably the crews thought they could pedal thru, not being able to tell the depth. But when the flood water came up over my pedals after about 60 yards it was time to stop!

With fairly fast flowing water from a heavily flooded burn now lapping at the shins of the crews the next decision was whether to push the bikes on for a couple of hundred yards or reverse and seek a detour. The decision was made in no uncertain terms when a solo cyclist coming the other way decided to walk his bike thru and ended up with it over his shoulder and waist high in water!

So the “old git” bravely battled to turn me in the water and Team Matilda and Team AA waded back to dry land! But the stalwart crews simply decided to ring out their socks and shoes and squelch off to continue the ride by retracing our pedals back into Arbroath and finding the alternative cycle path which runs along the route of the A92.

Feet wet! At the edge of the waist high flooding on NCN Rt1 just after leaving Arbroath.

Drying out by the side of the cycle path as the crews rung out their shoes and socks!

The wind helped dry out the feet of the crews(!!) and we were soon turning back down a quiet rural road to the village of East Haven – where we saw a beached fishing boat! But this wasn’t the result of the severe floods but was in fact part of a beautiful community garden display!

Despite the flooding this boat is meant to be beached in a lovely garden at East Haven.

Back on the planned #NCN Rt1 the next stop was at Carnoustie, where there was time for photos while admiring the raw power of the high breakers pounding the seafront.

The pounding waves and bracing fresh sea air at Carnoustie enjoyed by Team Matilda and Team AA..

Alan and Anne of Team AA admiring the raw power of the sea.

The “old gal” and the “old git” take in some salty sea air at Carnoustie.

Pedalling on, the cycle path is wonderfully flat going past the Barry Buddon tank training range – with its dire warnings of potential death to trespassers if the flags are flying. The sun was shining brightly and Broughty Castle and the small harbour at Broughty Ferry offered the perfect backdrop for another photo opportunity.

Don’t jump! Broughty Ferry harbour looking down to the Tay Estuary towards the Tay bridges.

My dynamic crew enjoying the sunshine and the backdrop of Broughty Castle.

The path then continues along the scenic seafront before a new section along Dundee Docks brought us into Dundee at the revamped waterfront area incorporating the impressive V&A Dundee, which is built to look like a large ship. The cafe at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery offered a perfect stop for re-fuelling scones, cakes and coffee.

Selfie time at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery in Dundee with the V&A Dundee in the background.

My dynamic crew now had just a few miles to go till they hit their 6000th mile in tandem landmark and with much checking of my milometer on my handlebars – and the “old git” doing a countdown – it finally clicked over at Broughty Ferry sea front right beside a bench with a great view down the Tay Estuary.

Photo proof of the 6000th mile clocked up in tandem for my dynamic crew!

Naturally this was deemed a perfect spot to pop the cork on the signature #prosecco celebration with Anne and Alan who had helpfully packed a hip flask with some sloe gin which turned the fizz into a very appealing pink #ginsecco! Not surprisingly this popping of the cork and subsequent fairly loud celebrations caused a bit of interest on a very busy sunny Sunday afternoon at the sea front! But I think that hitting 6000 miles – with just as many smiles! – on a bicycle made for two is good justification for a celebration!

Popping the cork with a bang to celebrate the 6000th mile.

My dynamic crew were basking in their personal glory – fuelled as a quick bit of Google research revealed that a 6000 mile circumference as the crow flies from their home base of Auchterarder would have seen them pedal as far as Johannesburg in South Africa; Bangkok in Thailand; Sao Paulo in Brazil; or Hong Kong! Quite an achievement and as the “old gal” quipped: “See what a blind date on a tandem can sign you up for!”

A signature prosecco toast for my dynamic crew to mark the big moment at Broughty Ferry!

We even had a quick impromptu video call to our close tandeming pals Jane Termini Taylor and John Taylor to share the fizz moment as we had been with our Travelling In Tandem blog friends in person as Team Matilda hit 3000 miles on our Nutty Tandemers Club Tour de New Forest and then again for 4000 miles on the fabulous Tour de Hebridean Way last year. We just had to share the prosecco with them virtually as Team Matilda fell just a few miles short of hitting the 6000 mark on our recent Tour de Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

A virtual toast with our tandeming pals John and Jane of Travelling in Tandem blog!

There was also a toast to my trusty bike doctor John at Richards Cycles in Perth for keeping me on the road! Team Matilda is acutely aware we couldn’t have hit this landmark without you! Cheers!

The 6000th mile brought back memories of our 5000 mile landmark – which was achieved strangely enough just along the cycle path at Monifieth Beach back in May this year. Now that was during the Covid-19 lockdown and I decided it wasn’t really the mood to write a blog about it at the time, but my dynamic crew did record a couple of videos that day to record the 5000 miles for posterity!

So I decided to include them in this blog! The first one was a little celebratory tandem song – with profuse apologies to The Proclaimers! Click on the video to watch!

The second one saw the “old git” doing a toast in tribute to the “old gal” – my trusty Stoker (and Chief Engineer!) who has been a stalwart for every one of those miles! Again click below to watch!

Celebrations over, the crews pedalled back to Carnoustie where the flooding was worse than earlier, which seemed to turn the cycle path into a canal at some points. Then there was the amazing sight of the Open Championship Carnoustie Golf Links at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel and Spa looking more like a fast flowing river than its carefully manicured fairways.

Don’t put your feet down! My dynamic crew pedalling thru the floods near Carnoustie.

Looks like a river to the right of the “old gal” – but it’s the waterlogged Open Championship golf course!

Now as if the flooding wasn’t enough drama for one day, unfortunately Alan punctured around East Haven. For what ever reason noone noticed he had fallen behind and the others all pedalled on oblivious to his plight on the steep climb out of the village. A ping on Anne’s phone alerted us to the problem and we went back to find him just as he had completed a quick change of his inner tube.

It was just starting to get dark as the now tired crews pedalled back into Arbroath. Safely ensconced back at the warmth and comfort of the Harbour Nights b+b, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing Team Matilda had been awarded 20 gongs – made up of 7 personal bests; six second bests; and 7 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 44.6 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 14 minutes. The average speed was 10.5 mph – which given the windy conditions and flooding detours was pretty respectable – while the elevation was just 601 feet. The maximum speed was 24.8 mph and the “old git” and “old gal” managed to burn up 2,322 calories and produce an average power output of 136 W.

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

After welcome reviving showers, a brilliant day was completed with some tasty fish and chips for re-fuelling from Marco’s On The Shore – superbly situated right next door to our wonderful bed and breakfast – which was naturally washed down with another couple of tastings from the gin bar!

A great full-on tandeming day out – with a second route planned for Monday, which hopefully will be a little less eventful! But who can tell! After all, I I do need something to write about in my Matildas Musings and these adventures just seem to happen naturally!

Ride 2 – Arbroath to Lunan Bay – take 2 … after a snapped rear gear cable was fixed within 20 minutes as a hero at a local bike shop saved the day!

Monday morning and my dynamic crew and solo cyclist friends Anne and Alan (Team AA) woke after a restful nights sleep at the charming and highly recommended Harbour Nights bed and breakfast for the second ride of their Tour de Arbroath mini break.

After the drama of tandeming thru the floods on Sunday both crews were hoping for a less eventful pedal. But – as always – our rides never seem to be straightforward, and this one turned into another adventure full of drama! Firstly it was blowing a hoolie – as they say in Scotland when the wind is pretty blustery. But despite a few sharp squalls while the crews enjoyed a tasty breakfast – including the local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie – it had dried up when we pedalled off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The bracing head wind along the sea front towards the cliffs on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network  #NCN Rt 1 made progress interesting!

Then disaster struck with less than 2 miles on the clock as my dynamic crew tackled the first hill climbing away from the sea. There was a resounding twang as the “old git” changed down gear and this “old lady” tandem ground to a halt.

Closer inspection revealed I had a snapped rear gear cable at the handlebars end, and I was stuck in a low gear. Just as it looked like the ride was going to have to be abandoned a helpful local walked past and suggested calling in at the bike shop in the town.

A quick downhill pedal took us back to Arbroath and easily found the Angus Bike Chain shop. The “old gal” disappeared inside more in hope than anything – but after a quick chat with the fantastically helpful ‘Biker Steve’ who owned the shop, she gave a thumbs up and I was wheeled inside.

The business more than lived up to its reputation of being “the best bike shop in Angus”. Not only did it have the longer gear cable required for my lengthy frame in stock – but within 20 minutes the new cable was carefully fitted and I was fully tested and repaired – and all for a very modest payment. Great service!

“Biker Steve” at the fab Angus Bike Chain shop soon had a new rear gear cable attached and tested.

The Angus Bike Chain certainly lived up to its reputation of the best bike shop in Angus!

Then it was Take 2 – as the crew’s retraced their steps and enjoyed a great ride on undulating quiet roads to the wild and beautiful Lunan Bay Beach and its attractive red-coloured sand.

The wild and beautiful Lunan Bay Beach was our scenic destination.

Leaving the bike’s at the boardwalk entrance to the beach the crew’s admired the views of nearby Red Castle which overlooks the beach.. History says that both Robert the Bruce and William the Lionheart used the castle, which now is sadly in a serious state of disrepair.

The viewpoint overlooked the rugged sand dunes offered a perfect spot for some pictures of Team Matilda and Team AA before the signature #prosecco toast overlooking the blustery beach.

The “old gal” with Anne – one half of solo cycling Team AA!

Selfie time for Team Matilda and Team AA showing the wide open red coloured beach.

Another view of Lunan Bay Beach from the viewpoint in the sand dunes.

Cheers! My dynamic crew share their signature #prosecco toast overlooking the beach.

Blowing a hoolie! Prosecco toast at a blustery – but beautiful – Lunan Bay Beach.

After taking in the sea air the crews pedalled back to Arbroath but on the return leg we had a P-word incident as Alan had the misfortune to puncture for the second time on his rear wheel in two days.

The crews tried a quick fix with the instant spray sealer foam but the tube must have been too badly damaged as it didn’t work. So as we were just 3 miles from the finish, Alan decided that the rest should all head back into Arbroath, with the “old git” then collecting him by car to avoid having to do the full wheel removal puncture repair.

Don’t mention the P-word! Alan Ince suffered his second puncture in two days.

Safely back in the town the crew’s enjoyed a reviving coffee scone and cake at The Old Boatyard – while recounting another typical drama-filled Matildas Musings adventure!

The “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that despite all the trauma of the day Team Matilda had amazingly been awarded a gong for being “8th fastest in the world” for a downhill stretch known as “Flat out to the fire station” coming back into Arbroath!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 39 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.1 mph given the blustery conditions, while the elevation was 924 feet. The maximum speed was 28.9 mph and the “old git” and “old gal” managed to burn up 1,188 calories and produce an average power output of 179 W.

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

My dynamic crew bid fond farewell to Alan and Anne – with the promise of a repeat weekend trip in the future – probably in the Spring!

Before heading home to Matildas Rest, Team Matilda decided to enjoy the last of the early evening sunshine with a brief walk round the exterior impressive sandstone ruins of Arbroath Abbey, which dates back to 1178 and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the magnificent sandstone ruins of Arbroath Abbey.

A celestial moment as the sun broke thru the cloud above Arbroath Abbey

It is currently closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions but the Abbey is most famous for being the base for the Declaration of Arbroath when Scotland’s nobles swore their independence from England in a letter to the Pope sent from the Abbey 700 years ago in 1320.

A bit of history in the Arbroath sunshine to end a fabulous weekend of tandeming adventures!

Finally, As a little tribute to the unforgettable Tour de Arbroath the “old git” has pulled together a photo montage video – set to music – to help everyone remember the madcap fun  we all enjoyed – so click below and enjoy!

Actually 38m but no Strava till Carnoustie on sunny coastal HebWay training ride to Arbroath for alfresco fish lunch!

Can you spot me amongst the creels at Arbroath Harbour?!

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to see Arbroath Smokies being smoked while in Arbroath … and of course sample the local fish delicacy!

It was all part of the “old git’s” master motivational plan to get more tandem training miles clocked up for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. And with much of today’s route just a few yards from the sea it is likely to be ideal preparations for the big ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. With the weather coming up trump with the forecast dry sunny – but breezy – day, the “old git” had decided on a route which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1.

You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the docks area and on up the coast. Regular readers of my blog will be well aware that Team Matilda are great fans of properly maintained cycle paths, and the great news is that NCN Rt1 has had a much needed revamp. This includes the installation of a new (and more reliable) passenger and bike lift at the Tay Road Bridge providing direct access to the shared path which runs between the two carriageways on the bridge deck. Like the last one, I was delighted to see it was tandem-length!

The “old gal” at the brand new tandem-length lift at the Tay Road Bridge.

The five-star improvements have also transformed the section thru Dundee Docks – with the laying of a sensational super-smooth tarmac surface and the removal of all of those pesky z-style gates to make life much easier for cyclists – and of course tandemers!

The brilliant new super-smooth tarmac surface on the revamped NCN Rt1 thru Dundee Docks.

A new fence separates the path from the actual docks and this avoids the need for cyclists to have to carry some form of identification in case the docks implemented their policy of only allowing access to people with ID. All good news and chapeau to those involved with the funding.

Pedalling on, the “old git” spotted the Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure. What a great idea!

Tandeming on the path heads over Barry Links, past a large Ministry of Defence area known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards 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!

We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open played over the Carnoustie links golf course last July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues.

The peaceful scenic seascape at Carnoustie – just before spotting the Strava operator error!

The cycle path almost looks like it is going direct into the sea at this point, with only a barrier of boulders separating riders from the water! Time for a quick photo stop for my dynamic crew to take in the scenic views. The blissful atmosphere was however somewhat tarnished when a Strava operator error was discovered at this point – meaning none of the miles from the Tay Road Bridge had been recorded. Oh how the “old git” laughed! But at least the “old gal” was relieved to know it was his fault!

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town – which has a proud maritime and fishing history – was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have the authentic local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie for lunch. This time we went one step better and were fortunate enough to see the fresh haddock being smoked at Stuart’s Fresh Fish.

My dynamic crew were fortunate to see Arbroath Smokies during the traditional smoking process.

So lunch was a brilliantly delicious fresh fish combination of one of the newly smoked Arbroath Smokies, a dressed crab and a side of Tiger prawns! And it all tasted so much better eating it alfresco from a bench overlooking the impressive marina.

What a catch! Yummy alfresco lunch of Arbroath Smokie, dressed crab.and tiger prawns.

Re-fuelled my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and into the breeze! The route took us back thru East Haven – which has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally the “old git” had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The Sustrans Artroots funded outdoor art wooden sculpture at East Haven.

There was then a unanimous vote from the stoker’s saddle as the “old gal” called a pit-stop at the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s tandem rides – carrot cake and coffee!

Coffee and carrot cake – in tandem – at the Glass Pavillion.

Broughty Ferry itself was busy with people (and dogs!) on the path but a few friendly parps of my French horn cleared a route for us to tandem past. The “old gal” noticed further improvements by the side of the NCN Rt1 with the installation of a series of outside gym fitness stations – positioned looking out to sea – and naturally couldn’t resist trying the static cycling one!

The “old gal” on the static cycling fitness apparatus beside the NCN Rt 1 near Broughty Ferry.

The route took us back down thru the renovated path thru Dundee Docks where we noted other useful improvements like a useful mirror at a tight bend to see if anyone was riding the other way.

Mirror mirror on the cycle path wall – who is the fairest of them all?! Me, of course!

The last part of our ride – after using the new lift – was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Back at Matilda Transport in the Tay Bridge Car Park, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – which given the breezy conditions is fairly impressive! The gong total was made up of 6 personal bests, 5 second bests; and 3 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26.5 miles (which should have been 38 miles had there not been that annoying Strava operator error!) with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph while the elevation was a relatively flattish 513 feet. The maximum speed was 22.4 mph, as there were no steep downhill stretches, and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,184 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W.

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

Finally, more about Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. That’s another 38 miles in the training bag – and given the proximity of NCN Rt1 to the sea it was ideal practice then for the HebWay. Not long to go now and I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club challenge.

But obviously there’s still a good few training rides for the “old git” and “old gal” to get in peak condition before they tackle the 185 miles of the #HebWay route from Vatersay to Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at Ness over 5 days tandeming! What is it they say about practice makes perfect?

When in Arbroath do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with your picnic!

The new Sustrans Scotland ArtRoots funded wooden sculpture depicts East haven’s fishing heritage.

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to sample an Arboath Smokie while in Arbroath!

Yes I know its very exciting!! … but you’ll have to read on for the taste test!

Firstly I need to set the scene as the “old gal” and the “old git” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for an overnight stop for a good catch-up, and to join us for a Sunday cycle with their “short bikes”!

Now the bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie after a home-made curry and a few drinkies but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day – although diplomatically no one mentioned the wind which was forecast as a “moderate breeze”!

Given that my dynamic crew decided on a repeat of our recent enjoyable and fun route, which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1, this was to prove significant! Brutally significant to be honest – but more of that later!

Ready to Roll – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig about to tackle the Tay Road Bridge.

As the crews unpacked and set up the bikes in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay offered an ideal backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – before we were ready to roll! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast. The “old git” spotted the recently installed Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 78th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 29,256 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Counting bikes! – the Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

We tandemed on noting how the miles seem to pass more quickly when cycling with friends. Maybe a useful tail wind also helped … although no one was talking about that … as it was inevitable that clearly was going to provide a tough obstacle on the return journey! We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues.

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Cyclists very welcome! East Haven’s bike friendly drinks dispenser and route map.

East Haven has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a recently installed giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally my dynamic crew had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The “old git” and “old gal” trying (and failing!) to blend in with the fishermen sculpture!

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. The area has a proud maritime and fishing history and the storm wall at Fish Quay has an RNLI memorial to the area’s “darkest day” when six lifeboatmen lost their lives when the lifeboat Robert Lindsay was overwhelmed by the sea just a quarter of a mile from the harbour back in October 1953.

The “old gal” at the RNLI memorial which stands proudly over Arbroath Harbour.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with our prosecco picnic!

The “old gal” and “old git” duly disappeared into one of several fish shops open for business and touting the authentic local delicacy of smoked haddock! And they were not disappointed. The taste test verdict was that it was remarkably fresh and just smoky enough to make it a truly mouth-watering experience. Just perfect when washed down with a glass of prosecco – with the bottle duly carried on my frame in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Cheers! Gillian and Craig toasting the signature prosecco picnic at Arbroath …

… while the “old git” had to add the ubiquitous Arbroath Smokie to my dynamic crew’s picnic!

The Arbroath Smoke was the perfect appetizer for my dynamic crew’s picnic – lovingly prepared by the “old gal” of smoked salmon, chilli cream cheese and spinach wraps and some seasonal fresh fruit – all enjoyed overlooking the area’s impressive marina.

Me and my dynamic crew with the impressive Arbroath marina as a backdrop!

Re-fuelled and re-hydrated Gillian and Craig and my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and all became immediately aware of the “moderate breeze”!

We stopped to admire the community garden at East Haven – complete with a decommissioned fishing boat. It is one of just five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it is easy to see why when admiring the colourful site. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

Time for a breather! All four at the award-winning picturesque community garden at East Haven.

It would need to be said here that the pedal on the section most exposed to the sea around Carnoustie was not fun as the bikes were battered by brutal 20 mph head winds – which made for fairly slow progress. So there was a unanimous vote for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake and coffee!

Except there was a devastating snag! The venue, the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach, had run out of cakes! Never heard that one before – but it seems there had been a wedding the day before and the cafe’s supply of cakes had all been sold! What a disappointment! So the crews had to make do with a coffee without an infusion of cake!

Time for the final run back through Broughty Ferry to Dundee – where we enjoyed the protected run through the docks area. To finish it was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge. Now keen readers of my blog will be aware that my dynamic crew had recently broken their own record for this crossing – appropriately named as ‘The Killer Tay Bridge’ sector on Strava – getting their time down to just 6 minutes and 12 seconds.

But today the “old git” conceded that today was not a day to be breaking records – much to the relief of the “old gal”! – as Team Matilda was buffeted by strong crosswinds from the start of our pedal across the river. But kudos to my dynamic crew as we still recorded our 3rd best ever time crossing the bridge of 7 minutes 29 seconds.

Gillian and Craig had beetled off with their “short bikes” not as badly affected by the crosswinds – and they were back in the car park filming our arrival at Matilda Transport, which you can watch here.

After getting our breath back from the battle against the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of an incredible 33 gongs – which is almost worthy of a PB award on its own! I will say that again for effect in case you missed it – 33 gongs! There were no less than 19 personal bests; 10 second bests; and 4 third bests. Given the brutal head winds on the return journey my dynamic crew were more than happy with that outcome!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 641 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1563 calories and produce an average power output of 117 W.

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

So a great sunny – if a tad windy – day for a tandem ride, which was made all the better by cycling with good friends … and sampling the Arbroath Smokie! Another grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Life’s a beach Superheroes and p-p-p-p-ick up the penguin trail on ride to Arbroath

It’s not everyday I get to meet up with three Superheroes at Broughty Ferry!

Meeting superheroes and penguins – well I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me as I should be well used to such strange happenings on another typical Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Sunday morning dawned with fabulous blue skies so my dynamic crew decided on a route from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1.

And as an added attraction the “old git” decided that we would do some penguin spotting by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail and spotting some of the 80 giant individually designed penguins! 

The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

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

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee a quick “downhill” pedal took us across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast to Broughty Ferry. That’s where we ticked off our first penguin – appropriately called Crystal Azure given the weather conditions.

Matching outfits (nearly!) The “old gal” ticks off our first penguin – Crystal Azure at Broughty Ferry.

Just beside our first penguin photo stop, we spotted a Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter which has been installed at the east end of Douglas Terrace path along the waterfront and will provide a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 88th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 10,721 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

What a great idea! The Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

Tandeming past Broughty Ferry Castle my dynamic crew were somewhat surprised to be accosted by no less than three Superheroes – Hulk, Captain America and Robin – who were looking for transport to the town’s Gala Day in the adjacent park! This “old lady” was in my element as it’s not exactly an everyday occurrence to be the subject of such Superhero attention (and of course – whisper it – so was the “old gal” even tho she loyally claims the “old git” is her superhero!)

The “old gal” couldn’t fail to be impressed with her new pals – Hulk, Captain America and Robin.

Having safely delivered the Superheroes to the Gala Day – as you do! – we pedaled on to our next stop on the trail – a penguin called Sunrise who was enjoying the sunshine in Barnhill Rock Garden situated just behind the dunes of the beach.

My dynamic crew meet Sunrise penguin just behind Broughty ferry beach.

My dynamic crew tandemed on to Carnoustie where preparations were in the final stages for hosting the 147th The Open which was played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues. The course was looking resplendent in the sun and I took the opportunity of a sneeky photo in front of the area for the world’s top golfers to practice their putting. Naturally the golf course is host to a penguin – Old Tom Morris named after the legendary Scots golfer who won The Open four times back in the 1860s.

At Carnoustie Golf Links – looking resplendent in the sun ready for the 147th The Open.

The “old git” meets Old Tom Morris penguin at Carnoustie Golf Links.

Now the “old gal” and the “old git” have never progressed further than Carnoustie – despite doing this ride a few times. But today, conditions couldn’t be better and my dynamic crew decided to pedal out on the extra seven miles along NCN Rt1 to Arbroath. And what a joy that section of the cycle path was to pedal on. The harbour town was looking a its best in the bright sunshine and was busy with families enjoying the beach giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.

It was the warmest part of the day when Team Matilda arrived at the harbour area at Arbroath.

The “old gal” spotted some picnic benches on the High Common which gave a great view over the beach and sea and the perfect spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy one of their signature prosecco picnics! And I am told the fizz went down particularly well given the high temperatures!

A park bench overlooking the sea – perfect spot for my dynamic crew’s prosecco picnic!

Refuelled after a most relaxing and tasty picnic, and catching the sun’s rays, my dynamic crew set off from Arbroath on the return journey along NCN Rt1. It was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. It was a fun ride and soon we were in the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome!

The “old gal” seems temporarily confused as to which bike she should be riding at East Haven!

East Haven is one of five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it was easy for the “old git” and “old gal” to see why as they stopped to admire the colourful community gardens – complete with a fishing boat. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

The “old git” enjoying the scene in the award-winning picturesque garden at East Haven.

Back into Carnoustie and time for a photo stop by the beach – where the sea was actually blue! Quite a contrast to my dynamic crew’s last visit in March when it was not exactly sunbathing weather! In fact the “old gal” was so cold she had to wear not only her own cycling jacket, but the “old git’s” as well in a bid to try and keep warm!

The “old gal” enjoying it being a tad warmer – and less windy – than on our last visit to Carnoustie!

No such weather problems today and a glorious sunny pedal took us along the coast for another signature event of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake! The venue was the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach.

As we stopped the “old git” discovered that he had left his cycling wallet – complete with the required cash for said carrot cake – in Matilda Transport. Fortunately the ever-resourceful “old gal” had a small amount of cash with her and they just managed to fund a cold drink each and share a portion of carrot cake! I have a feeling that the “old git” will not be allowed to forget about that one for a while!

The “old git” meets Bonnie Dundee penguin.

Back into Broughty Ferry – and the “old gal” was disappointed not to see her new Superhero friends again! But there was more penguin spotting to be done including the Bonnie Dundee one in the park. We discovered this one had actually been painted by talented artist Gail Stirling Robertson – who lives not far from Team Matilda’s home base of Auchterarder in the next village of Dunning and who is also the daughter of friends of my dynamic crew. Gail focuses on what she calls “quirky bendy art” – taking well known places and literally adding her own slant to them, while still keeping them recognizable.

The “old gal” with Penguin’s Paradise at Broughty Ferry

Capguin Scott penguin getting to know the “old git” at Brought Ferry Harbour.

After ticking another two penguins off the list – Penguin’s Paradise at Broughty Ferry Castle and Capguin Scott at the harbour – we tandemed off on the final stretch to Dundee. In the shadows of the Tay Road Bridge, near the Apex Hotel, we found the last one of our ride – called Engulfed.

The last penguin meet – Engulfed at the Apex Hotel near the Tay Road Bridge.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Back at Matilda Transport there was time for the “old git” to check Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 19 gongs – a highly pleasing 12 personal bests; 5 second bests; and 2 third bests. My dynamic crew were delighted to discover that one of the PB’s was for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment on the return crossing with a new Team Matilda record breaking time of 6 minutes 46 seconds!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 32 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.9 while the elevation was 642 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1552 calories and produce an average power output of 109 W.

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

All in all it was a much needed day out and escape for my dynamic crew – and was certainly action packed. I really don’t think Team Matilda could have packed any more in … unless I become a Superhero bike of course! Now there’s an idea! ……..

Chilly canter to Carnoustie and Christmas lights celebrations with Craig and Gillian

Solo cyclists Gillian and Craig joined my dynamic duo for the ride across the Tay to Carnoustie.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for a weekend of fun! The plan was to head into Perth on the Saturday for Scotland’s biggest Christmas lights switch-on party before heading for a meal, back home for some zzzzs, then a planned gentle ride to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday.

And it all worked a treat! I was left behind to entertain the two shiny sleek sporty lightweight racing bikes belonging to our visitors, while the cycling crews headed by bus into Perth city centre.

The cyclists all enjoying themselves watching acts like Alesha Dixon at the Perth Christmas Lights concert.

And the city certainly lived up to its billing as “Scotland’s Christmas capital” as it hosted a massive party, with an estimated 100,000 revellers flocking into the festivities.

Before the big light switch on and fireworks there was the small matter of visiting a gin and chocolate festival on the High Street. Now as you may now my dynamic crew have a bit of a thing for Scottish artisan gins – and Gillian and Craig have a bit of history in this area too – so it was a perfect match! The crew’s eagerly sampled and compared quite a few of the brands on display! It seems that one of the best was a brand new gin from Twin River Distillery based in Banchory, near where the “old gal” was brought up. The Twin Rivers refers to the Dee and the Don and the distillery is one of only three in Scotland to make its own grain neutral spirit, the base for craft spirits, to ensure a completely authentic gin offering. Result – bottle purchased for the gin cupboard at Matildas Rest!

Boyslife blasted out the hits from Boyzone and Westlife.

East 17 sang their 1994 Christmas hit Stay Another Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the gin and chocolate stalls, the city was packed with fairground rides, ice sculptures,  food stalls and street performers. After squeezing our way past all that entertainment the cycling crews made their way to the main stage on Tay Street where an outdoor concert was a major feature to the switch-on celebrations with Mud, Boyzlife  and East 17 providing the musical entertainment.

Alesha Dixon was the headline act – and did not disappoint.

Topping the bill was singer Alesha Dixon, best known for Strictly Come Dancing and her role as judge on Britain’s Got Talent. She vowed the crowds with an entertaining set. Congratulations should go to Perth and Kinross Council and Perth City Centre for putting on such a fantastic and well organised day.

As the temperature dropped my dynamic crew and their friends retired to enjoy a Spanish tapas themed meal at Sante – where I am told the paella was fabulous! After a late night bus trip back to Matildas Rest – everyone was soon asleep dreaming of our pedal the next day!

Beautiful sunny skies met the “old gal” and the “old git” as they got ready to roll!

The bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day, so it was off in Matilda Transport to the Tay Bridge car park. The route was going to be one of my favourites – a near 13 mile ride across the bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie.

Craig and Gillian took a selfie which was photobombed by my dynamic crew!

As the crews unpacked in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay was clear blue skies which offered the perfect backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – including one where Craig and Gillian were effectively photobombed by my dynamic crew! And then we were ready to roll!

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

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! 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 having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity – albeit behind crash barriers.

But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride and as you will see from this Strava segment called “Hop the Tay” my crew worked up a good speed, averaging 15.3 mph over the 1.3 mile stretch with a time of 5 mins 16 secs – smashing their own previous record of 6 mins 30 secs.

Amazingly the segment also shows up any friends who have done the same route and the “old git” was surprised to see good tandem friends John and Jane – of Travelling in Tandem blog fame – pop up. They recorded a (slower!) time of 6 mins and 02 seconds when they crossed the Tay Bridge in the same direction back in September 2015 during one of their long distance rides from John O Groats.

The new V & A is designed to look like a ship on the Dundee waterfront. Credit V&A

As we got to the end of the bridge my dynamic crew got a great view of the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee which is taking shape as it emerges from the construction site – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, 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 Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right 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!

The spot selected for the picnic was right at the beach and had a wonderful view across the bay.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Pedalling along on the NCR1 we soon came to our picnic destination of Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best in the sunshine – with lots of golfers out on its links.

Along with Gillian and Craig – who had enjoyed their first time on the route – we selected a brilliant location for our picnic right at the seafront with a fabulous view across the bay. There were some steps at a slipway which providing an interesting photo opportunity for my dynamic crew, with big waves crashing in behind them!

There were some steps at a slipway which provided an interesting backdrop of big waves!

Gillian took a picture of Craig taking a photo of my dynamic crew trying not to get wet!

Naturally Craig and Gillian had to have a shot at beating the waves on the steps – although they looked a bit less comfortable on the “old git’s” shout of “It’s behind you!” as one massive wave crashed in and crept up the steps! I guess it must be his sense of humour!

It’s behind you! Gillian and Craig looking a little unsure as the waves rush in!

After playing dodge the waves my crew were ready for their picnic which today offered a menu of smoked salmon croissants with chilly cream cheese and some fresh seasonal fruit. Another wonderful picnic with another wonderful vista.

Gillian and Craig checking their performance on their phones after the picnic!

The “old gal” fortified by her picnic ready for the return trip back to the Tay Bridge.

Fortified by their picnic lunch it was time to head back on the return trip 13 mile trip back to the Tay Bridge so we would all be back before it started to get dark. As the sun began to drop in the sky so did the temperature – and a check later revealed that the promised 6C was hit … but it masked a “feels like” temperature of minus 1! So it was starting to get a bit chilly around my spokes – and Craig’s legs as he bravely (or perhaps foolhardily!) opted to wear shorts!

Here I am showing off my classic lines basking against the sea vista at Carnoustie.

Half way back the “old gal” – who was starting to get a bit chilly called a coffee break and we had a warming reviving coffee in the welcoming Glass Pavillion in Broughty Ferry. At this point Gillian and Craig bid my dynamic crew farewell as they could cycle faster on their solo bikes.

After tandeming back thru the dockyard, it was time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge – but firstly we encountered the rather unusual way of accessing the bridge and staying on NCR1 – a lift! But fortunately it is very easy to use. I was thinking that I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an awkward angle as there would probably be only room lengthwise for single bikes – but I am delighted to report I could simply be pushed in.

Going up! Unusual way of accessing the Tay Bridge on NCR1 – but happily it was a long lift!

The “old git” was waffling on about breaking another record on the way back across the bridge – but the “old gal” was quick to point out that it was in fact an uphill pedal on the return trip! The “old git” scoffed, but quickly discovered the truth as they pedalled off and were suddenly hit by a head wind!

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – with Strava showing that the return trip – dubbed The Killer Tay Bridge – took nearly four minutes longer than earlier in the day with a time of 8 minutes 58 seconds with the average speed dropping to 9.1 mph.

A great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride, especially when the sun started to go down.

I was packed back into Matilda Transport and back home in the warmth of Matildas Rest my dynamic crew checked out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs … 18 personal bests … five 2nd bests … and three 3rd bests.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 34 minutes. Average speed was 9.9 mph and the elevation was a fairly flat 505  feet. The maximum speed was 18.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1110 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride – made all the better by cycling with good friends. A grand day out really for Matildas Musings!