Foggy Remembrance Day (plus 1!) pedal along NCN Rt 764 on the old Clackmannan to Dunfermline railway line.

My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets had a Remembrance theme!

A short blog post which recounts my dynamic crew having a fun but raw and foggy Remembrance Day (plus 1!) pedal along Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network #NCN Rt 764 – on the old Clackmannan to Dunfermline railway line.

The original plan was to do this ride – also known as the West Fife Cycle Way – on Remembrance Sunday but it was delayed by a day due to heavy rain. But the “old git” and “old gal” still sported poppies on their cycling helmets.

You can check out the details of our route – which is part of the Inner Forth area network of NCN routes – by clicking on the Strava map below.

Today’s revised optimistic schedule was to do two return trips, to clock up some miles – but a thick fog ruled that one trip was sufficient in the raw murky conditions.

At some points the thick haar coming off the Forth estuary meant the “old git” could barely see more than a few feet in front of him! And in the sections thru the woods, it was actually quite spooky!

It was however good to see the route so busy with many cyclists and walkers. Although it could be described as a “hidden gem” it clearly is a very popular route amongst locals. And the network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors called Discover Clackmannanshire.

Sadly we were not accompanied by our good solo cycling friends, Gillian and Craig, who introduced my dynamic crew to this route. They have left their beloved Scotland for a couple of years for a new lifestyle in Malaysia. But they were certainly in the thoughts of the “old gal” and “old git” – and read on for more flashbacks!

The “old gal” and “old git” ready to roll at the start of NCN Rt 764 at Clackmannan.

Starting from just off the B910 to the north-east of Clackmannan the route follows the old railway line over open and wooded countryside over just short of 11 miles to the west side of Dunfermline.

The route usually offers some great views over the Kingdom of Fife towards the impressive sight of the Forth Bridges – tho not today! Just a thick blanket of fog!

Coffee break at our self-supported socially distanced coffee stop at the Dunfermline end of NCN Rt 764

A welcome coffee break at the half way point at the Dunfermline end was my dynamic crew’s self-supported socially distanced coffee shop set up on an old railway sleeper.

Which was much different to our trip with Gillian and Craig back in 2017 when they sped off and set up an impromptu mini cocktail bar on that very same railway sleeper! And amazingly they had brought along a spirit measure and even more remarkably – ice cubes! An effort fully worthy of a gold star!

Great memories – which I had to relive in these flashback photos below:

Gillian and Craig were sadly missed – here they are with the “old gal” at their DIY cocktail stop!

The “old git” at the same railway sleeper – no cocktails … just coffee!

Fond memories of Gillian and Craig’s pop-up cocktail bar from 2017.

A quick turnaround saw Team Matilda heading back to the start at Clackmannan – but only after a quick stop at one of the many NCN Rt 764 signs along the way!

Lots of clear signs for NCN Rt 764 as it runs 11 miles along the old Clackmannan to Dunfermline railway.

Despite a picnic lunch being packed in my panniers the “old gal” called the wise choice of abandoning the planned second ride due to the cold dank conditions – and decided on a short detour for a reviving hot soup lunch at the bike friendly Café des Fleurs in Dollar on the drive home!

Over steaming bowls of Thai sweet potato soup the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a healthy total of 14 gongs – made up of 8 personal bests, 4 second bests; and 2 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a weather curtailed distance of 21.5 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 37 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.2 mph – which given the thick fog and visibility issues was perfectly acceptable! Elevation was a relatively flat 445 feet given we were pedalling along the bed of an old railway line. The maximum speed was 23.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 904 calories and produce an average power output of 138 W.

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

Despite the inclement conditions, it was still good to be out and as always my dynamic crew managed to have fun – as it should be – on a bicycle made for two!

The “old gal” just wants a bit of Autumn sunshine for the next ride! Don’t think that’s too much to ask!

De-hibernating by kick starting HebWay training on gusty Hillfoots Loop with cake diversion to Dollar!

The “old git” and the “old gal” admiring the views over the dramatic Ochil hills.

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue a weather window was opened by the tandem cycling gods – well as forecast – and the strong gale force winds suddenly died away to leave a sunny but blustery day.

My dynamic crew had their fingers firmly crossed – and I crossed my spokes – that would happen as today was the planned grand de-hibernating after a longer than normal, and sadly enforced, lay off.

The “old git” had planned a new route – the Hillfoots Loop around Alloa in the shadow of the towering Ochil Hills – which offered a good inaugural training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake and strong coffee at a fancy new cafe along the way. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog – including the trip logo – but first today’s ride. To add to the fun we were joined by “half-bike” cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden. The promise of a  nice post-ride relaxation in the warm bubbles, complete with a glass of bubbly, was just too much for the “old gal” to turn down. I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?! (Apart from the gusty wind and the odd hill that is!)

Ready for the off – the four riders ready to blow away some cobwebs on the Hillfoots Loop.

The Hillfoots Loop is a circular route promoted by Team Matilda’s friends at Sustrans Scotland and combines no less than three different National Cycle Network Routes – 76, 768 and 767. The fantastic network of paths is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network and is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors by local tourism initiative Discover Clackmannanshire.

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

The route is classed in the easy category – on a mix of well maintained dedicated tarmac paths running along old railway lines and some quiet back roads. And it was immediately a joy to tandem on as we entered NCN Rt 76 just a few wheel turns from Gillian and Craig’s house in Alloa – with the sunshine bringing smiles to my dynamic crew’s faces, despite the wind. And I must say I was impressed at the brisk pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter than they believe, despite their recent inaction!

A quiet farm road lead us onto a tarmac multi-use path towards Cambus before passing whisky cooperages and bonded warehouses with their distinctive aroma on one side and the River Devon on the other.  At the junction with NCN Route 76 near Tullibody, the loop continues northwards on NCN Rt 768 on a good tailored railway path towards Menstrie and the Ochil Hills.

The NCN Rt 768 section offered blissful tandeming along good railway paths in the sunshine!

At Menstrie the NCN Rt 768 continues on a quiet shared road on as we hit manageable rolling hills along the edge of the Ochils. The route by-passes the centre of Alva on a quiet back road which features the only challenging – but short – hill on the loop. And it was chapeau to my dynamic crew who managed to keep cycling to the top – despite this being the first real training ride of the year!

Team Matilda enjoying the de-hibernating experience on well-surfaced cycle paths.

At the east of Alva we joined the shared-use path alongside the main road to Tillicoultry before the route then joined NCN Rt 767, also known as the Devon Way. We took a planned three mile diversion on a well-surfaced cycle path and headed to the lovely village of Dollar where the “old git” had done his research and unearthed the quaint-sounding Cafe des Fleurs as a perfect coffee stop.

Cafe des Fleurs offered a fab coffee stop in Dollar just after the half-way point.

Now the “old gal” is known to be a bit of an aficionado of tandem and cycle friendly cafes –  and obviously their scone, cake and coffee offerings, as well as the warmth of their welcome – but Cafe des Fleurs got more than pass marks on her personal rating scale!

Despite the cafe obviously being a bit of a destination in its own right – and therefore busy with customers dressed in their Sunday best – the staff made our group clad in cycling clothing very welcome. The fruit scones were just perfect as was the strength of the fab coffee. And as for the carrot cake – de-rigueur for tandemers especially Team Matilda – well the “old gal” clearly coveted her slice and wasn’t letting anyone else near it! It was so good that it got a four and a half “yes” ranking!

The “old gat” became very protective over the slice of yummy carrot cake!

That was praise indeed! And everyone else in the group concurred the cafe would go down on the list as worth paying a return visit for further sampling! Suitably re-energised we pedalled back to Tillicoultry in no time to complete the Hillfoots Loop riding past Sauchie and back to Alloa.

Smiles all round as Team Matilda and Gillian and Craig set off for the second half of the Hilfoots loop.

Gillian had time to take a selfie-in-the-saddle on the NCN Rt 767 back from Dollar

The path is quite undulating at this point but the scenery more than makes up for any effort required with stunning panoramic views over the Ochil Hills and a satisfying overview of the route just taken.

Time for a quick breather to let the “old git” and “old gal” take in the backdrop of the Ochil Hills.

A ride thru some quiet backstreets of Alloa took us back to where we started – exhilarated after the wonderful ride. I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport as it was time for my dynamic crew to “endure” the warm-down-up in the hot tub strategically situated in Gillian and Craig’s garden!

Safely packed back in Matilda Transport while my dynamic crew went for their warm-down-up!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no gongs at all … as this was the first attempt at the Alloa Hilfoots Loop route.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 19.4 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 43 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph given the gusty conditions, while the elevation was 718 feet. The maximum speed was 29.3 mph given on a steep downhill section and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,039 calories and produce an average power output of 150 W.

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

It was a suitably long therapeutic soak – with my dynamic crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled glass of prosecco, while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! I mean there are worse ways (though admittedly not many!) to spend a Sunday afternoon! Absolute bliss!

Thanks again to Gillian and Craig for a much-needed outing to literally blow away some cobwebs – and the fun company and solace that only good friends can provide.

So that’s the first serious 20 miles done – and given the terrain and conditions it was an ideal training then for the Hebridean Way in mid June. 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 tour.

The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming! That should certainly focus the mind!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way

First pedal spin of the year battling colds and headwinds to finish with a hot tub!

Team Matilda was joined by “half-bike” friends Gillian and Craig for the first ride of 2019.

So a nice Sunday and time for the first spin of my tandem pedals for 2019 – and therefore my first blog post of the year! Despite the forecast of a “moderate breeze” my dynamic crew decided it was time to blow away the cobwebs and have my first outing of the year. And to help ease my crew back into my saddles, the “old git” decided on a fairly flat ride on a dedicated cycle path along the bed of an old railway line.

To add to the fun we were joined by good “half-bike” solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden. The promise of a  nice post-ride relaxation in the warm bubbles, complete with a glass of bubbly, was just too much for the “old gal” to turn down. I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?! (Apart from the headwind that is!)

So despite my dynamic crew recovering from heavy colds, they were full of the joys as I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed for the start point of National Cycle Route 764 for the ride. The path – managed by the good people at Sustrans Scotland – begins just outside Clackmannan and follows the course of the old Alloa to Dunfermline railway line.

Ready for the off! All smiles as we set to spin the pedals – despite the low temperature!

I was quickly unpacked and set up for the ride and – after greeting Gillian and Craig – we were ready for the off at the start of the NCR 764 route – which is also known as the West Fife Way and is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network. The network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors by local tourism initiative Discover Clackmannanshire.

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

The route is classed in the easy category – on a well maintained tarmac path. And it certainly was a joy to tandem on as we headed off on the ride to Dunfermline – with the bright sunshine bringing smiles to my dynamic crew’s faces, despite the chill wind. And I must say I was impressed at the brisk pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter than they believe!

I actually think that Team Matilda pedals along faster when we are in the company of other cyclists as my dynamic crew tend to get caught up in the chat – and don’t realise what speed we are actually achieving! In fact we averaged over 13 mph for the whole trip!

The “old git” and “old gal” smiling and feeling refreshed at the half way point on the ride.

Now railway lines are recognised as being flat – that means no sudden hills – as trains (like this “old lady”) don’t do hills! But that doesn’t mean you don’t get inclines – and in this case there is a long slow incline rising some 300 feet over the first half of the route.  But the views over the Kingdom of Fife towards the Forth bridges made it all worthwhile!

Buoyed by a healthy tail wind, half way point was reached with just 46 minutes on the clock. But despite the sun shining brightly in a bright blue sky, it was bitterly cold and certainly not conducive for one of this cycling group’s signature pop-up gin bars which had been a highlight of previous rides!

Despite the bright sunshine it wasn’t warm enough to stop for long!

In fact there was hardly time for the obligatory photos before body temperatures started to plummet, which is perhaps no surprise as the temperature had a “real feel” of -1C. The “old gal” was heard to say: “I’m so glad I’ve got my thermal under-layers on!” So after just a few minutes we headed off on the return journey – to battle that brutal headwind!

The sun breaking thru the clouds made for a lovely sky – but it was bitterly cold!

Both crews soon reaped the benefits of the initial downhill section, picking up speed. Despite the wind fiercely blasting into our faces, it really was fantastic tandeming – lots of laughs with good friends.

One of the great things about this cycle path is that there are relatively few obstructive gates, which meant my crew weren’t forced to get on and off repeatedly – and the NCR 764 is certainly a credit to Sustrans Scotland who maintain it. Although it could be described as a “hidden gem”, it clearly is a very popular route amongst locals.

One of the attractions of the route is that there are still some old railway relics – like sleepers made into seating, or railway signals. There is even an old signal box along the path – abandoned from the days when it controlled the trains on the line.

As always its the smiles not the miles that count on Team Matildas tandem rides!

After a final sprint battling the ever increasing force of the wind along the last mile or two, we soon reached the end of the path – exhilarated after the wonderful ride. After I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport it was time to head back to Gillian and Craig’s with the lure of the garden hot tub! So the offer was made for a warm-down in the hot tub, complete with celebratory drink. I mean there are worse ways (though admittedly not many!) to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Hot tub with prosecco bubbly back at Gillian and Craig’s? Oh if you insist!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – which given the temperature and the  fierce headwind on the return leg is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 10 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 3 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 21.4 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 36 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.3 mph while the elevation was a modest 513 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 924 calories and produce an average power output of 143 W.

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

I am reliably told the hot tub was a very therapeutic way to relax – with my crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled glass of prosecco – while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! Absolute bliss! The last I heard was the “old gal” saying: “I want one!”

After a suitably long soak my crew emerged and joined Gillian and Craig in a hearty and warming bowl of home-made soup to refuel, before it was time to head home after a great day!

So that’s the first 20-odd miles of the year clocked up – so here’s to more sunny tandeming days out to look forward to with good friends, and lots of laughs along the way. Maybe the next time it will be warm enough to allow one of our infamous pop-up cocktail bars to be set up! I’ll say cheers to that!

Pop-up gin bar on Easter Sunday ride (with Strava operator error!😥)

Cheers! A pop-up gin bar set up by the “old git” at the half way point was enjoyed by all!

As you know my dynamic crew are partial to invitations – and especially to invitations which involve overnight stays and a tandem ride! Throw in a bit of culture, a pop-up gin bar and a hot tub into the mix – and you have shorthand for heaven on earth!

Team Matilda were asked by good solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in the garden of their home in Alloa – to spend Saturday night with them.

Gillian as Ruth

A ride was planned for Easter Sunday – but before then there was some real drama! Among her many talents, Gillian is a member of the Alman Dramatic Club and has been starring as the female lead – playing Ruth – in the club’s production of Blithe Spirit, a famous comic play written by Noel Coward. My dynamic crew were invited to join the audience for the last night of the run at the dramatic club’s own beautiful Coach House Theatre in Alloa. And what a great ensemble performance it was – with the whole cast receiving a well deserved ovation from the enthusiastic audience. And special mention goes to Senga Awlson for her solo directional debut.

The cast of Blithe Spirit – with Gillian starring as Ruth second from left.

The “old git” and the “old gal” joined the after show party marking the last performance before we headed home for a midnight dip under the stars in their relaxing hot tub! Oh and there might have been a cheeky wee glass of prosecco to help Gillian celebrate the end of the run!

Now there is still a cycle run to come in the morning! I mean the “old git” promised me! ….

Ready for the off! The “old gal” and “old git” with solo cyclist pals Gillian and Craig.

The promised weather window of bright sunshine greeted the lifting of the blinds on Easter Sunday and even the “old gal” couldn’t be despondent at the prospect of a fairly flat tandem ride along an old railway line! A few members of the foursome were a tad fragile on waking up after the celebrations but after breakfast we were off with Gillian and Craig having identified a ride to blow away the cobwebs! The path along National Cycle Network 764 – managed by my friends at Sustrans Scotland – follows the course of the old Alloa to Dunfermline railway.

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

The NCN 764 route is also known as the West Fife Way and is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network. The network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors by local tourism initiative Discover Clackmannanshire.

The route is classed in the easy category – on a mainly tarmac path. And it certainly was a joy to tandem on as we headed off on the run to Dunfermline. And I must say I was impressed at the pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter and stronger than they believe!

I actually think that Team Matilda pedals along faster when we are in the company of other cyclists as my dynamic crew tend to get caught up in the chat – and don’t realise what speed they are actually achieving! In fact we averaged over 12 mph for the whole trip!

Now railway lines are recognised as being flat – that means no sudden hills – as trains (like this “old lady”) don’t do hills! But that doesn’t mean you don’t get inclines – and in this case – a long slow incline rising some 300 feet over the first half of the route.  But the views over the Kingdom of Fife towards the Forth bridges made it all worthwhile!

The “old git set up a pop-up gin bar at half way – complete with garnishes and ice cubes!

As we stopped at the end of the first leg the “old git” let out a huge groan – having discovered that he had forgotten to push “go” on the Strava app back at the start to record our journey! Oh how the “old gal” laughed – at least she couldn’t be blamed for the ‘operator error’ this time!

However my captain quickly redeemed himself by setting up a pop-up gin bar on a railway sleeper – complete with artisan gins, tonics, lime and grapefruit garnishes and even ice cubes!

My dynamic crew toasting the pop-up gin bar – purely for re-hydration purposes of course!

What a fabulous idea for a way to re-hydrate! The mix of gin cocktails really hit the spot! And what made it all the more enjoyable was the priceless looks on the faces of the many other cyclists who passed by! How many different ways is there to to say that’s a good idea or I wish I was with you lot?!

The eyes have it! Gillian enjoying the half way drinks stop!

The gin cocktails nicely washed down the smoked salmon and spinach wraps which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel! This was followed by a fresh fruit salad before – appropriately enough – a taste of chocolate in the shape of small Easter eggs, just for energy purposes of course!

The “old git” with his soon-to-be-devoured Easter egg!

Batteries recharged we headed off on the return journey – after triple checking that Strava was indeed working! We soon reaped the benefits of that uphill climb, by picking up speed on the decline. It really was fantastic tandeming – lots of laughs with good friends in dry fairly mild conditions. The sun even made fleeting appearances!

Just as everything was going like clockwork Craig had to pull up with a flat tyre. However being the good boy scout that he is he quickly produced a replacement inner tube and had it changed within minutes! Whisper it … but he did have to borrow my pump as he forgot to pack that! But good effort!

One of the great things about the cycle path was how there were relatively few obstructive gates which meant my crew weren’t forced to get on and off repeatedly – and the NCR 764 is certainly a credit to Sustrans Scotland who maintain it. Although it could be described as a “hidden gem” it clearly is a very popular route amongst locals.

One of the attractions of the route is some old railway relics – like sleepers made into seating, or railway signals. There is even an old signal box along the path – abandoned from the days when it controlled the trains on the line.

After a bit of a sprint along the last mile or two we soon reached the end of the path – exhilarated after the wonderful ride, if a bit chilly by that point. But after I was packed back into Matilda Transport it was time to head back to Gillian and Craig’s for another hot tub!

Happy faces marking the end of our fun pedal along NCN Rt 764 near Alloa.

I am reliably told it was a very therapeutic way to relax. I mean there are worse ways for my dynamic crew to spend a Sunday afternoon than having a tandem ride followed by a warm-down in a hot tub! The last I heard was the “old gal” saying: “I want one!”

It was so good that the “old gal” forgot to take a photo so I will have to use one from a previous visit instead! But it was very similar!

The hot tub offered the perfect warm down therapy for the “old git” and the “old gal”!

Relaxing in the bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 7 personal bests and 2 2nd bests! Which was pretty impressive given the operator error which saw only the inbound leg recorded! Naturally there would have been lots more personal bests if the app had been switched on for both legs!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 10.7 miles with a moving time of 47 minutes. The average speed was a good bit quicker than of recent at 13.6 mph, while the elevation was 128 feet. The maximum speed was 20.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 363 calories and produce an average power output of 114 W.

Fortunately the old steam-powered milometer on my handlebars did not require any fancy GPS signal to work – and did in fact record a distance of 22.1 miles with a travelling time of 1 hour 45 minutes.

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

Back at Matildas Rest, an excellent Easter Sunday was made all the better by checking out the brilliant launch edition of The Perthshire Magazine – with my dynamic crew were really chuffed to see a four-page colour feature about Team Matilda and tandeming – written by the “old git”!

Click here (or on the picture below) to read the amusing article – including the story of how my dynamic crew got together on a blind first date on a tandem at Loch Katrine!

Click on the image to read the article in The Perthshire Magazine

The new digital magazine for our home base of Perthshire looks great and is a very classy – and much needed – addition to our local media scene.

A great end to a great day. So here’s to more sunny tandeming days with good friends, lots of laughs, pop-up cocktail bars, and fairly flat cycling paths! I’ll say cheers to that!

Choo choo! Cocktails and chugging along Clackmannan to Dunfermline old railway line!

The impromptu cyclists’ mini cocktail bar … complete with ice cubes!

So a nice Sunday and our second attempt at a Spring ride out with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig. The previous attempt was abandoned in the full force of storm Doris hitting Scotland – and given the fact that I am not exactly aerodynamic when it comes to gusts of wind … I think that was a very wise decision.

But more benign weather greeted the lifting of the blinds and even the “old gal” couldn’t be despondent at the prospect of a fairly flat ride along an old railway line bed, followed by a nice relaxation in a hot tub, and an Indian meal. Gillian and Craig had even sent a cryptic message saying they would “fix the drinks” on the ride! I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?!

So my dynamic crew were full of the joys as I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed for Gillian and Craig’s home in Alloa. They had identified a run along National Cycle Route 764 for the ride. The path – managed by my friends at Sustrans Scotland – starts just outside Clackmannan and follows the course of the old Alloa to Dunfermline railway line.

Ready for the off! The “old gal” with solo cyclists Gillian and Craig – bravely sporting shorts!

A short drive through the towns and we were soon parked near an old railway bridge. Fortunately the sun was out and there was also little in the way of wind – which meant that Gillian and Craig bravely decided to sport their cycling shorts. My crew (I think wisely) opted for the leggings!

The “old gal” at the start of our route which is part of the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network.

I was quickly unpacked and set up for the ride and soon we were ready for the off at the start of the NCR 764 route – which is also known as the West Fife Way and is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle NetworkYou can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

The route is classed in the easy category – on a tarmac path. And it certainly was a joy to tandem on as we headed off on the run to Dunfermline. And I must say I was impressed at the pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter and stronger than they believe!

I actually think that Team Matilda pedals along faster when we are in the company of other cyclists as my dynamic crew tend to get caught up in the chat – and don’t realise what speed they are actually achieving! In fact we averaged over 11mph for the whole trip!

The cycle path was encouragingly busy but there was till plenty of room to take a selfie with Gillian and Craig playing their role by photobombing the shot!

Time for a selfie as we tandemed along – photobombed by Gillian and Craig!

Now railway lines are recognised as being flat – that means no sudden hills – as trains (like this “old lady”) don’t do hills! But that doesn’t mean you don’t get inclines – and in this case – a long slow incline rising some 300 feet over the first half of the route.  But the views over the Kingdom of Fife towards the Forth bridges made it all worthwhile!

With about two miles to the half way mark, Gillian and Craig sped off! My dynamic crew thought they must have been going too slow for them – but didn’t try to chase after them! But all was revealed when we came round a bend and saw the end of the path and discovered that our friends had set up an impromptu mini cocktail bar on a railway sleeper!

Gillian and Craig set up a mini cocktail bar at half way – and they even brought ice cubes!

What a fabulous idea for a way to re-hydrate! And amazingly they had brought along a spirit measure and even more remarkably – ice cubes! An effort fully worthy of a gold star!

The mix of Martin Millers gin, Vermouth and cranberry juice really hit the spot! And what made it all the more enjoyable was the priceless looks on the faces of the many other cyclists who passed by! How many different ways to say that’s a good idea?!

Here I am at the mini cocktail bar which attracted interest from lots of other cyclists!

The cocktails nicely washed down the smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel! This was followed by a fresh fruit salad and a small piece of chocolate – just for energy purposes of course.

Batteries recharged we headed on the return journey – soon reaping the benefits of that uphill climb, by picking up speed on the decline. It really was fantastic tandeming – lots of laughs with good friends in dry fairly mild conditions.

It was definitely one of those “its the Smiles not the miles that count” days and that was emphasised in this fun short video of part of our ride. (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.)

One of the great things about the cycle path was how there were no obstructive gates which meant my crew weren’t forced to get on and off repeatedly – and the NCR 764 is certainly a credit to Sustrans Scotland who maintain it. Although it could be described as a “hidden gem” it clearly is a very popular route amongst locals. And the network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors called Discover Clackmannanshire.

NCR764 is a hidden gem, which is also known as the West Fife Way

One of the attractions of the route are the views across the Forth for a good part of the trip – but the sections with a more restricted view are of interest as every so often my dynamic crew discovered some old railway relics – like sleepers made into seating, or railway signals. There is even an old signal box along the path – abandoned from the days when it controlled the trains on the line.

NCR764 runs along the bed of an old railway so there are relics like signal boxes along the way.

After a bit of a sprint along the last mile or two we soon reached the end of the path – exhilarated after the wonderful ride. After I was packed back into Matilda Transport it was time to head back to Gillian and Craig’s who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden! So the offer was made for another cocktail, a warm-down in the hot tub, and an Indian meal. I mean there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Hot tub with prosecco cocktail back at Gillian and Craig’s? Oh if you insist!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles there was time for the “old git” to check on Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  21.5 miles with a total moving time of  1 hour 53 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 11.3 mph.

The total elapsed time was 2 hours 23 minutes – meaning cocktails and lunch took just half an hour! Top speed was 23.5 mph and the elevation covered was 459 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1032 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 135 W.

The hot tub offered the perfect warm down therapy form the “old gal” and the “old git”!

I am reliably told it was a very therapeutic way to relax – with my crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled prosecco cocktail – while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! Absolute bliss! The last I heard was the “old gal” saying: “I want one!”

After a suitably long soak my crew emerged and joined Gillian and Craig in a hearty Indian takeaway to refuel, before it was time to head home after a great day!

So here’s to more sunny tandeming days with good friends, lots of laughs, pop-up cocktail bars, and fairly flat Sustrans Scotland cycling paths! I’ll say cheers to that!