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!

Advertisements

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!