Lockdown2 Ride12 – Pre Tandem Club AGM cold and windy ride where snoods essential but new top speed record on Mill of Drummond loop.

Tandem Club snoods were essential on a cold windy tandem ride prior to the club’s AGM later!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew enjoyed a fun #Lockdown2 Ride12 – a pre Tandem Club AGM cold and windy #tandem where the Club’s snoods were essential, but hit a new top record speed on a Mill of Drummond loop.

It was Tandem Club UK AGM day on Saturday, so what better way to spend the morning than out on a bicycle made for two – although the weather had taken a sharp turn for the worse from last week’s warmish sunshine.

The “old git” and “old gal” were keen to get back out in tandem to get some much needed exercise for their 12th #lockdown adventure – while adopting Cycling UK Scotland‘s #cyclingfromhome mantra in #tandem in rural Perthshire, mainly on Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network routes. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The strong winds of around 15mph created a “feels-like” temperature of just 3C which meant that the new Tandem Club snoods were an essential item of kit!

The aim was to have a quick blast round the Mill of Drummond/Muthill loop – and hopefully set a few PBs – but it was obvious when cycling out of our home town of Auchterarder that this was going to be a ride of gritty endurance rather than one of speed!

It was hard going tandeming into the fierce headwind all the way out past Gleneagles towards Braco. Turning left at the junction with the A8222 did little to ease the windy conditions and we pedalled bravely on to the highest point for the briefest of stops for a quick photo.

Great views from the highest point on the ride – but it was a day of gritty endurance!

We then turned left at the Mill of Drummond signpost and had fun on the great 4.5 mile section which weaves thru local farms on an impressively surfaced road – albeit a narrow country road, with passing places! This route is part of the Muthill Sportive routes – tho usually used in the opposite direction – but my dynamic crew enjoyed the adrenalin-inducing roller-coaster style undulations.

This section ends with a great steep downhill section past Muthill Golf Course – which includes a 9% decline – and the “old git” was determined to get the speedometer over the 40mph barrier!

So it was heads down and pedal fast! The speed picked up … in line with the high pitched screams from my rear saddle from the “old gal” … and just as Team Matilda “flew” over the last hump my handlebar speedometer went past the 40 mph mark … just in time for a sharp bit of braking before joining the main road again!

But as all cyclists know … it is only really an “official” record when it comes up on Strava to be recorded for posterity. And there was much joy from the “old git” when Strava did indeed record a top speed of 41.2 mph on that section! And that is in fact a new Team Matilda speed record! Woooo!

Strava confirmed Team Matilda’s new 41.2 mph top record speed!

A quick stop for a DIY coffee at Muthill allowed my crew to return to normal status – the “old git” coming down from his euphoric high while the “old gal” came back up from her state of shock!

As we left Muthill on the backroads there was a light shower, but fortunately it dried up by the time we reached Tullibardine – before the final section of the Easthill climb! Don’t think the “old gal” would have been too happy doing that … into the wind … and the rain! As it was the wind was hard enough!

Despite the poor weather, it was good to be out and the ride clocked another 21 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer, taking the total to 276 miles from the 12 rides completed so far.

Back at Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being amazingly worthy of 7 gongs given the weather – over and above the new Team Matilda top speed record – three personal bests; two 2nd bests; and three 3rd bests! No “Local Legend” accolades tho!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 21.6 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 42 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph despite the ever present wind! Elevation was 1,286 feet. The maximum speed was that new record of 41.2 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,463 calories and produce an average power output of 214 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so click here to view or on the image below.

So after all the drama of breaking that speed record, it was time later in the afternoon for my dynamic crew to “attend” their first AGM of The Tandem Club – albeit by Zoom!

It was great to see people – even if on an electronic screen due to the current Covid restrictions – and put some faces to some names! There was even a nice thankyou for the “old git’s” social media activities on behalf of the Club.

But in an epic fail the “old git” forgot to take a photo of the AGM in action on the Zoom screen – so sadly there is no image! Aaaagh!

But despite the far from ideal conditions for tandeming, there were hugely positive feelings from #Lockdown2 Ride12. My dynamic crew continue to feel lucky, fortunate and blessed to be able to keep healthy – mentally and physically – with our madcap #tandem adventures on a bicycle made for two in our rural Perth and Kinross Cycle CampaignPerth and Kinross Countryside TrustAuchterarder Community Cycling and Love Perthshire area.

With the ride and Zooming in on the AGM, all in all it was a great day in #tandem! Can we just have the warmer weather back please?!

Lockdown2 Ride10 – Sunny pedal with friends Anne and Alan as rules start to be relaxed on Muthill loop – and Susan Calman tv feature.

Fab to be out in the great Perthshire outdoors with friend again – selfie smiles with Anne and Alan!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew had a spectacular #Lockdown2 Ride10 #tandem with friends Anne and Alan as rules start to be relaxed on a Mill of Drummond and Muthill loop. There’s also news of this “old lady” tandem attracting more media fame by amazingly featuring on Susan Calman’s new tv show #HappySpace on the BBC Scotland channel!

The “old git” and “old gal” were keen to get back out in tandem taking advantage of some sunny conditions for their 10th fun #lockdown adventure – while adopting Cycling UK Scotland‘s #cyclingfromhome mantra in #tandem in rural Perthshire, mainly on Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network routes.

And what a joy to feel the warm sunshine that was forecast – indeed it was the warmest day of the year so far! Mind you the “old gal” did sarcastically say: “That wouldn’t be hard!” after the many days of harsh winter weather we have experienced since #lockdown began!

And with Covid rules having just been relaxed in Scotland – allowing four people from two households to meet outside – we were delighted to welcome good solo cycling friends Ann and Alan on the ride with us. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

But before we get to the pedalling, I want to tell the story of how delighted this “old lady” tandem was to make an appearance – albeit a fleeting blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance! – on Susan Calman’s #HappySpace programme on the BBC Scotland channel.

The show features what people have been doing during #lockdown to stay happy! And researchers got in touch with my dynamic crew after seeing the recent media coverage of Team Matilda getting thru #lockdown on a bicycle made for two on the Sustrans website and in the in the March issue of BIKE Magazine Europe.

The “old git” was asked to send in a video showing some tandeming action which was then used in a short section featuring people spending time in their #HappySpace in the great outdoors! Watch the short 26 second clip from the show by clicking here to view or on the image below.

You know I am quite enjoying all this publicity – in fact I am picking up a nickname of being a bit of a media tart! So much so that the “old git” thought about making a sign for my ageing frame proudly pronouncing “Matilda the tandem – as seen on BBC Scotland tv!” … but then thought better of it. Well, truth be told, the “old gal” put her foot down and said no!

So to our ride – which offered quite sensational clear visibility in the bright sunshine. We “collected” Anne and Alan as we cycled up the high street of our home base of Auchterarder, cycling out of town past the still deserted luxury Gleneagles resort and on towards Braco. The wind had dropped – allowing a much more pleasant pedal – and certainly a massive difference from just a few days ago when when the “old git” and “old gal” were being battered by an icy gale!

At the junction with the A822 we all turned right cycling to the highest point of the ride for some “essential” group photos! It was a great feeling to be out in the great outdoors with friends again! And the views across the valley towards the A9 trunk road and the Ochil hills beyond was awe-inspiring.

The “old gal” with Anne and Alan enjoying the sun and views at the highest point of the ride.

We turned left at the Mill of Drummond signpost and enjoyed the fabulous 4.5 mile route which weaves thru local farms on an impressively surfaced road. Anne and Alan hadn’t been on this particular loop before – and were duly impressed at the route which forms part of the Muthill Sportive  –  although in the opposite direction!

Anne and Alan agreed that the undulations create an adrenalin-inducing roller-coaster style pedal with some enjoyably steep downhills … the best of which is the drop down past the local golf club. The “old git” was told to be on his best behavior tho by the “old gal” as we were leading the ride, and it would have been rude to lose our guests! And he obeyed which meant my dynamic crew did not beat their previous 38.7 mph speed on that section. But as the “old git” thought – there is always another day for that! Just don’t tell the “old gal” or his ears will be pierced by the screaming from the back of my frame!

There was time for a scheduled DIY coffee and cake stop in the centre of the village of Muthill at the fascinating Muthill Old Church and Tower– which dates back to the 1100s and is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. The churchyard offered a secluded and wind-free spot – ideal for the coffee break and a (socially distanced!) chat! And of course the opportunity for more photos!

All matching! – the “old git” and “old gal” enjoying the sunshine for the DIY coffee stop at Muthill.

Anne and Alan enjoying the warmth of the sun at Muthill – Anne even took her jacket off!

The “old gal” and Anne enjoying a bit of catching up on gossip -socially distanced style!

The quiet backroad return from Muthill was a speedy affair – with an amazingly quick ascent of the steep Machany ridge sector – before pedalling back to Auchterarder.

Fantastic endorphins buzzing thro my dynamic crew’s bodies on returning to Matildas Rest from the pedal – which clocked another 22 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer, taking the total to 219 miles from the 10 rides completed so far.

Carefully following the new rules, Anne and Alan joined us in the garden for a post-ride #gin – complete with social distancing! It was a real pleasure to be able to do such a “normal” activity again – and have a “real” ‘Gin Lounge’ meeting (albeit outside) rather than a virtual one over Zoom! And the weather played along offering some warm sunshine to enjoy the drinks!

Cheers! The crew’s enjoying a welcome post ride gin in the garden – as rules now allow!

While enjoying the gin the “old git” checked Strava to discover that my dynamic crew had been awarded no less than SEVEN new “Local Legend” accolades! This was the subject of much humour – as “Local Legend” riders the “old git” and the “old gal” are not! But it was obviously a good excuse for a celebratory gin toast! After all – a “Local Legend” accolade is an accolade not to be sniffed at!

Strava officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a very pleasing 21 gongs – which after the 7 “Local Legends” left 14 made up of a spectacular nine personal bests; one 2nd best; and four 3rd bests. And the best bit for the “old gal” was that one of the PBs was on her personal nemesis of Easthill! As the “old git” quipped: “So no more excuses now!” Tho she did retort that it was probably due to the warm sunshine and a lack of wind. And she probably has a valid point there!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.8 mph despite the ever present wind! Elevation was 1,282 feet. The maximum speed was 35.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,442 calories and produce an average power output of 207 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so click here to view or on the image below.

Once again there was a hugely positive feelgood factor from #Lockdown2 Ride10 for my dynamic crew – underlining what fun it is being out pedalling on a bicycle made for two in our rural Perth and Kinross Cycle CampaignPerth and Kinross Countryside TrustAuchterarder Community Cycling and Love Perthshire area.

So here’s to more sunshine – allowing the “old git” and “old gal” to get some sun on those legs! And of course, don’t forget to wave if you recognise us from our appearance on television! Lol!

Lockdown2 Ride8 – Retro Ag2r jersey-clad reprise of Mill of Drummond loop with arty DIY coffee stop at Muthill and Matilda discovers another ‘Tilly!

The retro AG2R Team jerseys made a (brief) appearance from under the hi-vis jackets at Muthill!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew enjoyed a fun #Lockdown2 Ride8 #tandem adventure with a retro Ag2R Citroen Team Le Tour de France jersey-clad reprise of Mill of Drummond loop with an arty DIY coffee stop and photoshoot at Muthill. There’s also news of this “old lady” tandem amazingly discovering another tandem called ‘Tilly!

The “old git” and “old gal” were keen to get back out in tandem taking advantage of calmer conditions and a break from the recent dreich weather for their eighth fun #lockdown adventure – while adopting Cycling UK Scotland‘s #cyclingfromhome mantra in #tandem in rural Perthshire, mainly on Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network routes.

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

But before we get to the pedalling, I want to tell the story of how delighted this “old lady” tandem was when I got a message on my Facebook feed saying: “I’d like to say hi to my namesake and look forward to following your blog!” Amazingly there is another Matilda tandem out there – tho she is affectionately called ‘Tilly for short!

You will remember that Team Matilda was featured in the March issue of BIKE Magazine Europe – over 5 pages in glorious technicolour! Well it was read with interest by a couple called Linda and Jon Reed – who are based in Norwich – who have been riding tandems for 25 years!

Linda said they loved the article in the magazine and wanted to reach out to say hello given the coincidence of the name! Their granddaughter shortened their Matilda to ‘Tilly!

She added: “‘Tilly is a Viking Serengeti and is our 3rd tandem. Over the years we have modified her with lots of bits and pieces, bespoke built wheels and a Rolhof hub – which have been great for touring. In normal times, pre Covid, we normally tour 2 or 3 times a year and ‘Tilly has notched up 39,000 kms and been to no less than 48 countries.

The “other” ‘Tilly the tandem – enjoying a more exotic climate than Scotland!

Linda continued: “Until we get back to more normal times, like you we’re out and about as often as we can making use of roads a bit closer to home … but in our part of the world it’s a bit flatter than where you are! And this is another stoker who doesn’t like hills!”

The remarkable number of coincidences continue as Linda and Jon also have a blog in which they recount their adventures on ‘Tilly the tandem, and “Ten Tonne Taffy” – or “FatTaf” for short – their “beast” of a motorhome.

Tilly’s blog ident!

And this social media shout-out may lead to me meeting “the other” Matilda as Linda and Jon are currently planning and mapping their next tour, a post Covid “slow pedal north to Scotland.” If they get near our area – they are keen to link up with the “old git” and the “old gal” to give the two Matildas the chance to meet up! How exciting would that be?! I can’t wait!

The “other” ‘Tilly is a Viking Serengeti and weighs about 22kg naked and unloaded!

So to our ride – it was a real joy to be out on beautiful rolling countryside on quiet farm roads. And the best part of the trip was that despite a rather iffy weather forecast, Team Matilda successfully managed to dodge the showers. Fortunately not a spot fell on my dynamic crew – despite the evidence of rather wet roads on the last few miles, showing that there had been heavy showers.

It was fairly cloudy as we set off from our home base town of Auchterarder, tandeming out of town past Gleneagles and on towards Braco. At the junction with the A822 we turned right pedalling to the highest point of the ride – where a quick stop for a breather saw us capture (just) a huge flock of geese which decided to descend as the “old git” took a photo of the “old gal!”

Spot the geese! A huge flock of geese decided to descend as the “old gal” posed for a photo!

Beautiful rolling rural Perthshire countryside… and even a spot of blue sky!

Then a left turn at the Mill of Drummond signpost and a reprise of a wonderful 4.5 mile route thru local farms on amazingly well surfaced rural roads. This is part of the route used for the Muthill Sportive– but in reverse!

It is quite undulating but also quite adrenalin-inducing in a roller-coaster kind of way with some steep downhills – especially hurtling down past Muthill Golf Course before having to brake before re-joining the main road! The “old git” managed to get the Strava speedometer to register 38.7mph … despite the loud screams from the back! So obviously the target the next time on this route is to hit the 40mph barrier … but shhhh! Don’t tell the “old gal” just yet!

My dynamic crew stopped in the centre of the village of Muthill for an arty DIY coffee stop at the fascinating Muthill Old Church and Tower– which dates back to the 1100s and is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. Here the “old git” decided to express his inner artist and get a shot thru one of the ruined arches to a carpet of snowdrops.

An arty shot at Muthill Old Church and Tower … spot the snowdrops!

There were also some fun photos of Team Matilida where they (briefly!) removed their hi-vis jackets to reveal their retro Ag2r Tour de France cycling jerseys!

It’s always better when we’re tandeming together! Ag2r photoshooot laughs!

It’s the smiles not the miles that count for Team Matilda! More Ag2r photoshoot fun!

Photo shoot over it was jackets back on quickly to keep out the cold chill – and enjoy the welcome DIY coffee and cake! Then a breeze of a tandem cycle back to Auchterarder – including the masochistic pleasure of recording a personal best at the steep Machany Bridge sector. My dynamic crew also took 21 seconds off our time from our last effort on our personal nemesis of Easthill. Just another 20 seconds to go for a new PB there!

Great feelgood factor on returning to Matildas Rest from the exercise – which clocked another 22 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer taking the total to 181 miles from the 8 rides completed so far.

And the day got even better when the “old git” checked Strava to discover that my dynamic crew have been awarded the “Local Legend” accolade for no fewer than FOUR different sectors on the route! This causes the “old git” and the “old gal” much amusement given the fact that they are so very far from “local legend” status cyclists!

But a “Local Legend” accolade is an accolade no matter what – and they are quietly chuffed at the same time. Naturally their combined 4 stone weight loss is obviously a contributory factor – but probably more so is the fact that the roads they were pedalling on are clearly “roads less travelled” by local cyclists as the accolade is given for the most efforts on a particular segment over the last 90 days.

Strava officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 13 gongs – five personal bests; four 2nd bests; and the four “local legends”! The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.6 mph despite the ever present wind! Elevation was 1,285 feet. The maximum speed was 38.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,431 calories and produce an average power output of 204 W.

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

Once again there were hugely positive endorphins from #Lockdown2 Ride 8 for my dynamic crew – underlining what fun it is being out pedalling on a bicycle made for two in our rural Perth and Kinross Cycle CampaignPerth and Kinross Countryside TrustAuchterarder Community Cycling and Love Perthshire area.

Roll on the next fun spirit-lifting #tandem pedal! And of course roll on that potential meet-up with the “other” ‘Tilly!

Lockdown2 Ride5 – Muc-Off clean up and fab new route to Mill of Drummond before our nemesis of Easthill!

Muc-Off works wonders leaving this “old lady” shining bright after the ignominy of a bath!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew had a fun Friday with a Muc-Off outside bath clean up (for me!) followed by a sunny #tandem pedal on a fab new route to Mill of Drummond and Muthill before tackling our psychological nemesis of Easthill.

The “old git” and “old gal” decided to take advantage of sunny calm conditions for their fifth fun #lockdown adventure – while adopting Cycling UK Scotland‘s #cyclingfromhome mantra in #tandem in rural Perthshire, mainly on Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network routes.

Team Matilda decided to have a pedal on some new (to us!) quiet rural farm roads. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

But before the pedalling, the day started with this “old lady” having the ignominy of having a bath (actually a cold water shower!) in the back garden at Matildas Rest! My dynamic crew even had to protect my saddles from the hose using their waterproof seat covers!

Truth be told I was badly in need of a spruce up as I had become a rather mucky tandem! The sun was out so it wasn’t too bad and I have to say that this Muc-Off stuff certainly worked wonders, showing that – despite my age – that I can still scrub up rather well! I was well chuffed with the results – sporting a gleaming frame again!

My dynamic crew had to protect the saddles from the hose tho! But this “old lady” scrubs up well!

Then after lunch – which allowed me to dry off and warm up! – Team Matilda pedalled off in glorious sunshine. The first part of the ride saw us head out of our home base town of Auchterarder on a familiar route past Gleneagles and out towards Braco.

A right turn took us on to the A822 – with a brief stop to take in the stunning views across the valley towards the A9 trunk road. Then Team Matilda decided to explore a left turning signposted to Mill of Drummond.

The magnificent views across the valley towards the A9 trunk road.

Left turn before enjoyed fab scenic countryside on well surfaced farm roads thru Mill of Drummond.

This was a sensational route on beautifully smooth surfaced roads thru fab scenic farming countryside – and is highly recommended. After Mill of Drummond the road drops down past Muthill golf course into the village of Muthill itself.

A long straight stretch, about a mile long, tree-lined all the way. Highly recommended!

My dynamic crew had done this section a couple of times – but in the opposite direction when taking part in the Muthill Sportive. Pedalling in this direction certainly involved a whole lot less climbing! Incidentally due to the current Covid restrictions the 2021 Sportive – which is usually held in June is now planned to be on Saturday 4 September. Organisers say the registration link will go live after the Easter holidays. One for Team Matilda’s diary I hope!

Causing a diversion – the “old gal” trying to divert attention from the DIY outside coffee!

In Muthill my dynamic crew tried to cause a diversion – by sitting behind huge yellow roadwork diversion signs! – to try to divert attention away from a brief DIY coffee and cake stop. This was partaken on a lovely bench outside Muthill Old Church and Tower – which dates back to the 1100s.

Lovely bench outside the historic Muthill Old Church and Tower which dates back to the 1100s.

Pedalling back from Muthill was a joy – and Team Matilda even found a way thru the closed section of road – due to roadworks – at Tullibardine … thanks to two friendly road workers who happily lifted this old lady over the barriers! They were healthy strapping lads! And whisper it but I am sure I saw the “old gal” look on enviously! They even offered to help when she got temporarily stuck trying to get her leg over the barrier! Let’s just say her face was as bright red as my newly cleaned frame! Sadly – and most unusually – the “old git” failed to capture a picture of this!

After that bit of drama it was time for my dynamic crew to tackle their personal psychological nemesis of Easthill … but I am glad to report that they found it much easier than expected … indeed recording their 5th ever fastest time on that sector! Which given the rustiness caused by the recent snow lay-off was more than a little pleasing. Me thinks the fact that they have jointly lost 4 stone between them may just have been a bit of a helpful factor too! Maybe they are actually getting the hang of this tandeming lark after all!

There was a real feelgood factor when we returned to Matildas Rest – having clocked another 20 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer – which now sits at 99 miles for the 5 rides completed so far.

Back at Matildas Rest – with a huge feelgood factor after a spectacular outing – the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as as being worthy of 7 gongs – including no less than four personal bests and one 3rd best! And amazingly, again the other 2 gongs were for being awarded “local legend” status on two separate sectors! So I guess my dynamic crew are getting that bit fitter as they grind out the miles! This was definitely the cause for celebration and a screen grab of Strava was again taken to be recorded for posterity!

Local legend status again on Strava!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 50 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.0 mph despite the presence of the wind! Elevation was 1,283 feet. The maximum speed was 32.2 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,477 calories and produce an average power output of 200 W.

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

Once again there were hugely positive endorphins from #Lockdown2 Ride 5 for my dynamic crew – underlining what fun it is being out pedalling on a bicycle made for two in our rural Perth and Kinross Cycle CampaignPerth and Kinross Countryside TrustAuchterarder Community Cycling and Love Perthshire area.

Another slightly longer route is planned in the next day or so to allow Team Matilda to be out in tandem to clock up more #lockdown miles on another fun spirit-lifting adventure!

Muthill Sportive 2017 yellow route with sub stoker!

My regular stoker “the old gal” was replaced by “the young son” for the Muthill Sportive 2017!

There was much excitement on Saturday morning at Matildas Rest as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2017. This would be my first ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

To add to the sense of anticipation I was going to have a substitute stoker for the event as the “old gal” – who is usually on my back saddle – was working and couldn’t get time off. So she was replaced by the “old git’s” son Niall, who will from here on be referred to as the “young son” in this blog post!

Now the “young son” had only had the briefest of outings on a tandem before so it was brave of him – if slightly mad – to readily volunteer to be substitute stoker for the first time in an event like a Sportive! But volunteer he did and don’t tell the “old gal” but I was looking forward to having his youthful legs power me along! (And, whisper it, but so was the “old git – although he would never admit to that!)

Now the village of Muthill is about 5 miles away from Matildas Rest and the “old git” decided it would be a good plan for us to tandem to the start line to give the “young son” a chance to get used to the joys of tandeming! Unfortunately the weather gods had plans for almost biblical rain.

The buoyant atmosphere as we set off in dry, almost sunny conditions was soon blown away as the skies darkened and heavy showers rolled in which saw my crew arrive to register at Muthill Church like drowned rats! Getting soaked before the off wasn’t exactly in the plan, and the “young son” was questioning whether his volunteering for the role of stoker had been such a good idea!

The “old git” and the “young son” ready for the start – with soaking cycling jackets!

The Muthill cycling event  has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – in stark contrast to the chilly inclement weather outside.

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

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. And after I had my start number of 009 firmly attached, along with my snazzy timer chip, it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes.

I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments from other riders. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway! You 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 “old git” and the “young son” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. But the youthful energy provided by the “young son” in his role as stoker helped us reach the plateau in no time. And amazingly Team Matilda was in second place at this stage with just a lone female rider ahead of us.

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

Just before crossing the Auchterarder to Crieff road the solo rider decided enough was enough and powered off with a cheery wave never to be seen again! So now determination kicked in and the “young son” decided that we were going to maintain our second position and helped power us along the quiet roads to Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalising there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct route for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy. Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch  before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had crossed the finishing line in second place! I will repeat that … we finished second! Unbelievable!

That feeling when you have just finished your first ever Sportive … and finished second!

A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of 1 hour 28 minutes and 23 seconds. And it had stayed mainly dry. Because we kept cycling there were no photos en route, but the “old git” did ask the guy running the Dr Bike clinic to take a couple of the three of us to record our achievement at the end, which he was happy to oblige.

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

There was time to say a quick hello to a few people the “old git” recognised – including Lorna Davidson from local folk group Tarneybackle who we met at the launch of the Blackford Paths Network project recently. And as my crew were chatting they were asked to take part in a publicity shot for the event. Oh if you insist! Ever the PR man, the “old git” grabbed every available prop!

Time for sustenance – my crew with Lorna Davidson from local folk group Tarneybackle.

As we were finishing our food, the team from Keep it Simple Timing announced that the official times for the first few bikes home had been officially verified – and my crew were delighted with the proof that the results showed that we had indeed finished second in the yellow route category! Simple pleasures and all that!

Official confirmation of the “old git” Colin and the “young son” Niall coming in second!

So after some much needed re-fuelling – and basking in the glory of being second home in our first ever Sportive – it was back to reality for my crew with the slight issue of getting back on my saddles for the five mile tandem back home! It would need to be said this was a bit of a grind as muscles had seized up a bit after stopping at the end of the Sportive! And that wasn’t confined to the “old git” as the “young son” wasn’t quite so full of that youthful exuberance that was on show earlier!

After returning to Matildas Rest a check of Strava revealed Team Matilda had registered three personal bests along the way – beating times on previous cycles set by the “old git” and the “old gal”.

Strava officially recorded the Sportive ride as a distance of 18.3 miles at an average speed of 12.1 mph, with a top speed of 28.9 mph. The elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,048 feet, as we managed to burn up 1,201 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 192 W.

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

After a warm reviving shower, the “old git” and the “young son” agreed that despite the rain, it was a great event and fun to be part of! The Sportive certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A great day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace for cycling!

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

And it may have been my first Sportive … but it certainly won’t be my last!

Oh – and for the avoidance of doubt – although I enjoyed having the extra thrust provided by the “young son” I am looking forward to having the “old gal” back in her rightful place on my rear saddle!

Matildas Muthill reprise and T in the Park snub!

Quelle excitement! Getting tips watching Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

Quelle excitement! Getting tips watching Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

I could hardly contain my excitement on Saturday! Let me explain – well you know I get to get to look out my passport and head off on a Tour de France du Tandem each year. This year’s trip is to the Vineyards of the Loire Valley and will continue the tradition of a tour of the Vineyards of  Burgundy in 2014 and the Vineyards of Bordeaux last year. These tours offer the “old git” and the “old gal” the opportunity to do a fair bit of semi-serious tandeming in warm weather through scenic countryside – but are really an excuse to sample as many of the wines of the region in wine tastings along the route as possible!

So perhaps you get my drift that the cycling is not perhaps the main focus – but it is the journey which is important!

Well that is in sharp contrast to the real Tour de France which got underway at the weekend with Le Grand Depart getting from the fantastic magical island of Mont St Michael in Normandy. Now the excitement was that the “old gal” – as a co-founding member of the Nutty Tandemers club – decided that it would be a good idea if I got to watch Le Grand Depart live on television to see if I could pick up any tips. So I was ceremoniously wheeled in from my cosy garage for a rare visit to the lounge at Matildas Rest to see the action!

Mont St Michel in Normandy provided a dramatic backdrop for the start of the 2016 Tour.

Mont St Michel in Normandy provided a dramatic backdrop for the start of the 2016 Tour.

aaa tour de france logoThis really was quite a spectacle and this “old lady” was most impressed with some of the shapely models on display – and some of the fancy bikes were not bad as well! I also had to quickly get to grips with a whole new Tour de France vocabulary that we don’t normally have to bother with on our tandeming adventures – like peloton, which simply means the group of riders and is also the most frequently misspelled piece of cycling jargon there is! And of course I knew that bidons was French for water bottles. I guess that the Tour riders don’t actually swap the water for wine tho, like my dynamic duo have been known to do on a couple of occasions.

One piece of jargon which caught the eye of the “old gal” was bonking! Yes, you read that correctly! It seems that refers to a rider who has completely run out of glycogen – the carbohydrate that fuels the muscles. As in “that rider is bonked!” So now you know! Amazing how some words have different meanings in different situations ….

bbb tdf wineAnyway moving on, the “old git” found an alternative Tour de France logo, which if you look carefully has a wine bottle strategically positioned as the air valve. It seems Team Matilda may be adopting that as their official logo on the sleeve of this year’s team t-shirts!

Amazingly this logo also caught the attention and of fellow members of the Tandem Club UK when the “old git” posted it on Facebook – and sparked a significant number of  “likes” from tandemers who obviously have the same philosophy as us!

So after watching Le Grand Depart I was itching to get out on the open road and on Sunday we headed out on a looping route to the village of Muthill where I could reprise my maiden trip on the new Muthill cycle path, which I took back in April.

The "old git" having a breather at the start of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

The “old git” having a breather at the start of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

The path marks the first stage of a bigger project to have a user-friendly Muthill to Crieff cycle path running the 4 miles to the Strath capital. The ambitious project has been driven forward by community development group Muthill Village Trust. The first phase stretches about a mile from Muthill to Templemill.

Having had a couple of months or so to settle in, the new path is looking fantastic and the surface is a joy to cycle on. Even though it is relatively short, I would highly recommend that you try and  include the path as part of a longer route – as it is fun and takes you safely off the roads and through some great rolling Perthshire countryside. This classic tandem, for one, can’t wait till another of the sections is opened as it is a great asset to the area.

The "old gal" at the end of stage 1 of the new Muthill cycle path - looking towards Crieff.

The “old gal” at the end of stage 1 of the new Muthill cycle path – looking towards Crieff.

At the end of the cycle path – clearly marked with a cycle path sign, we continued onto lovely quiet – and undulating – farm roads in the general direction of Auchterarder. You can check out the route of our Muthill Reprise on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

TITP strava map

The “old git” deliberately planned the route home to take in the steep hill after Machanay Bridge that my dynamic duo managed to tandem up for the first time in April – just to see it could be done again. My crew were full of confidence and soon the hill was behind us – with hardly a wheeze to be heard.  This new found fitness – which has seen the “old git” and the “old gal” shed 70 pounds or five stone between them, yes I will repeat that … shed five stones – is obviously working! And the good thing is that they tell me they are enjoying it much more being able to tackle such hills which previously would have ended up with me being “taken for a walk”!

t in parkBuoyed by that hill climb success, on we tandemed around the perimeter of the site which next weekend will host T in the Park – effectively Scotland’s Glastonbury. The three day event is set to attract 70,000 music fans to the rural site at Strathallan Castle and will feature headlining acts such as Stone Roses, Kaiser Chiefs, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Calvin Harris and Jess Glynne. So we thought it would be a good idea to see if we could cycle around the site itself – just to see for ourselves the much-promoted improved layout after the festival ran into big problems last year, in its first year after moving to the new venue.

T in the Park snub! No way thru for Matilda without a pass!

T in the Park snub! No way thru for tandems – even classic tandems – without a car pass!

But unfortunately Team Matilda received a T in the Park snub! The burly security officials told us “yez cannae get in without a car pass.” Credit to the “old git”, he doesn’t normally take a no at the first answer, so he gamely tried to enter into communication with said security guards pointing out that I was a bike, in fact a tandem bike, and not a car – and we would just take a quick look before heading back out again. Unfortunately this eloquent appeal failed to sway the monosyllabic guard who just kept grunting “Naw.”

So retreating seemed the sensible policy – but undeterred the “old git” knew a side road which was not fenced off where we could get the chance to peek in to see what was happening. And the site was going like a fair – literally as workers toiled to install a fun fair as well as the main stage which was still under construction with less than a week to go.

Peeking over the fence to see the big tents and fun fair

Peeking over the fence to see the big tents, fun fair, and – thru the tree – the main stage.

We were able to get close enough to see the landmark blue and yellow marquee which hosts the T Break Stage for up and coming acts – under the ‘BBC introducing’ banner – and also the red and white Stand Comedy Tent. And the “old gal” had a big smile on her face when she spied a tent with “wine” on it – but unfortunately it was so close – but just out of reach due to the security fence!

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So near – but so far away … the wine tent!

So having been snubbed after failing to convince the security guards of the merits, indeed attraction, of a classic tandem touring their site, we headed back to Matildas Rest including notching up another personal best as they nailed the long – but gentler – climb at Easthill.

Strava officially recorded the ride at a distance of 18.5 miles, covering an elevation of 827 feet – the second biggest elevation covered since my dynamic duo started using the Strava gizmo. The moving time was 1 hour 56 minutes, with an average speed of 9.6 mph. Top speed was 33.3 mph – and we even managed to burn up 1,124 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 161 W.

And particularly pleasing was that Team Matilda managed to clock up 7 personal records on the route – including the tough hilly section around Machanay! Let me tell you a funny moment here – when my crew returned to Matildas Rest they were analysing all the data from Strava and discovered they also had been awarded two Queen of the Mountain gongs!

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Time to dream of a ‘malliot a pois rouges’!

The “old gal” was ecstatic about her new found hill climbing recognition until the “old git” looked a little more in depth to discover that it was for our fastest times on the two DOWNhill sections named ‘Auchterarder whizz down to Kinkell Bridge’ right at the start, and also ‘Downhill to Matildas Rest’ right at the end! Sorry but I can’t repeat the “old git’s” response to that as this is a family blog! But a clue – it was a four letter word containing one vowel and ending in k!

Soon they will be dreaming about getting one of those coveted polka dot cycling jerseys with white and red dots – known as ‘malliot a pois rouges’ in French – which denotes the rider with most points from the mountain stages in the Tour de France! Now the “old git” and the “old gal” both agree that does deserve respect!

Whisper it – but I think they need just a bit more practice! But then hopefully there won’t be too many mountain stages in the Loire Valley!

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Meander to Muthill in brilliant Perthshire sunshine!

Basking in the sunshine at the medieval kirkyard at Muthill.

Basking in the sunshine at the medieval kirkyard at Muthill.

Check out our route on Strava here – and then make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

Strava MuthillSeems to be getting a habit, a ride out on a Sunday. But then the “old git” is a man on a mission – to get himself and the “old gal” fit again ahead of the big Tour de France later in the year.

And of course there is the little matter of helping the Hay Plan weight loss programme that my dynamic duo are currently embracing – and it is obviously working. Yesterday’s weigh in saw them having lost a combined total of 2 stones in just 5 weeks. I am most impressed, and it certainly reduces the strain on my ageing frame!

So with an encouraging weather forecast showing lots of sunshine and the temperature set to hit 11C – the plan was to hit the road mid morning. The”old git” had researched a 15 mile route from Matildas Rest around more of Perthshire’s quiet country roads to Muthill – which (whisper it) involved a bit of “uphill” training!

Now as you know neither me nor the “old gal” are fans of hills – but these were more of the steady slow inclines rather than the north face of Everest variety! At least that’s what the “old git” promised us!

But the plan for a morning departure hit a snag! The central heating system at Matildas Rest decided to fail late on Saturday and we were promised a visit form an engineer on Sunday morning. The engineer duly arrived, but an immediate fix wasn’t possible as the circuit board had burned itself out, and it looks like two or three days for the part to arrive. The “old gal” – who feels the cold more than the “old git” – is just grateful for the milder forecast!

So it was early afternoon before I was wheeled out of the garage – with water bottles filled and a flask of coffee in my bag – into brilliant sunshine. The hills beyond Matildas Rest – Craig Rossie and the Ochils looked resplendent in the rays. So much so that we had to have a photo before we set off!

Team Matilda about to depart in brilliant sunshine - and what a view from our front door!

Team Matilda about to depart in brilliant sunshine – and what a view from our front door!

And of course the “old gal” had her new responsibility of setting the Strava app on her mobile to record our ride. Everyone was in buoyant spirits as we headed off heading along Hunter Street and out into the countryside heading along an undulating route towards the Kinkell Bridge.

I am please to report there is still some life in this “old lady” yet as we whizzed along on a downhill stretch reaching the giddy heights of just under 30mph – 29.8 mph precisely according to Strava! – before the “old gal” was heard to shout “Slow down”. But for me it was quite a thrill to be going so fast!

Mind you the momentum was soon lost on the next incline! The “old git” had decided to use one gear higher than normal in order to give my dynamic duo a bit of a work out. But I have to say that the “old git’s” explanation to the “old gal” that “We will benefit from it in the future” wasn’t really cutting it!

In what seemed like no time we arrived at the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arch bridge across the River Earn and dates back to 1793.

On the approach to the magnificent four-arch Kinkell Bridge.

On the approach to the magnificent four-arch Kinkell Bridge.

The area around the bridge is a renowned salmon and trout fishing spot making it highly popular with anglers.

Back on the saddles for my dynamic duo who had spotted a couple of small aircraft circling overhead and then groups of parachutists jumping. That was because we were near to Strathallan airfield which is the base for Skydive Strathallan – which is the oldest skydiving centre in Scotland, and also the largest.

Here I am at Skydive Strathallan - I thought they wanted tandems for their parachuting!

Here I am at Skydive Strathallan – I thought they wanted tandems for their parachuting!

I was getting quite excited as I had heard that one of the popular things they offer is tandem parachute jumps. Now I thought this would be an excellent activity for me as a classic tandem to get involved in! In fact I had to be restrained at the entrance to the site!

The “old gal” had to explain to me that in fact tandem parachute jumps are not actually for tandem bikes but it is a training method using a dual-harness system where humans jump attached to a highly experienced instructor who controls the free fall, parachute opening and the landing.

Watching the plane with the next load of intrepid parachutists taking off.

Watching the plane with the next load of intrepid parachutists taking off.

I have to say it still looked quite spectacular and we stood and watched for a bit as a few tandems – parachutists not bikes! –  sailed down descending from the clear blue sky. The “old gal” even had to watch out when one of the aircraft took off from the grass air strip just in front of her.

Both the “old git” and the “old gal” were able to tell me that they had both done a parachute jump in their past lives. The “old git’s” was a considerable time ago when he was a member of the Air Training Corps and completed two solo jumps. The scary part it seems was he had to pack his own parachute. Bet you he paid attention to that lesson!

As for the “old gal” she did her jump here at Strathallan – more than ten years ago. It was part of a tandem jump raising funds for charity. Well I never – the things you learn about my dynamic duo on a day out!

Pedaling on, a few tractors  with trailers loaded with potatoes and turnips passed us as this is prime Perthshire agricultural land. The “old git” was heard to say “It is a bit different to cycling in France where it was grapes being harvested!” The “old gal” could only agree as she reminisced about our trips through the world-famous vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux … and the wine tastings en route!

This year Team Tandem Ecosse – which is the name for Team Matilda on our French trips – are heading for the Loire Valley. And yes, you’ve guessed it, there are lots of famous vineyards there too! I must admit it will be nice to feel the warmth of the French sun on my frame again!

A couple more miles and we were in the ancient village of Muthill – which is another village steeped in history. For a start there are over a hundred listed buildings in the small village. In its time it was also an important religious centre.

The kirkyard at the centre of the small town contains the ruins of an important 15th-century parish church, which incorporates an 11th-century bell-tower. It is comparable – though on a smaller scale – to that incorporated into the famous cathedral in the nearby larger town of Dunblane.

The ruined medieval churchyard in the centre of Muthill with its impressive bell tower.

The ruined medieval churchyard in the centre of Muthill with its impressive bell tower.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had a wander through the old gravestones before the “old gal” admitted that she had never been in the churchyard, despite it being only a few miles from Auchterarder – where she had lived most of her life.

The "old gal" was paying her first ever visit to the ancient churchyard at Muthill.

The “old gal” was paying her first ever visit to the ancient churchyard at Muthill.

A welcome cup of coffee was enjoyed from the flask as they perused the information board which informed them that the church had also served for a time as a seat of the Bishops of Strathearn (later Dunblane) before the building of the cathedral at Dunblane in the 13th century.

One disappointing aspect of Muthill is that the revered Birdhouse Bakery cafe has unfortunately closed. They used to serve the best carrot cake for miles around. It was even deemed the best in Britain by a tv series called Britain’s Best Bakery.

But alas it is no more – and the “old git” will no longer be able to use the carrot (cake) as a persuasive stick technique on the “old gal” in the future! But the “old gal” did manage to get a copy of the recipe before the bakery closed – and is promising to make it – but obviously only after my dynamic duo have reached their target on the Hay Plan!

So back on the saddles for the return journey back to Auchterarder. And I have to say I was impressed with the fitness levels of the “old git” and the “old gal” as we fair cycled along – moving freely up and down the gears.

The only real obstacle was one very steep hill which required de-tandeming (good word there!) and me being pushed up the hill.

But we were soon underway again and one of the last stretches involved a long slow climb for over a mile. Neither of my dynamic duo thought we would make it to the top without stopping – but make it we did. And we all had a great triumphant feeling as a result.

The reward was a lovely downhill stretch back down the high street of Auchterarder, right back to my nice garage at Matildas Rest.

So 15 miles covered, with a cycling time of 1 hour 48 mins meaning we managed to clock up a respectable average speed of 8.4 mph.

All in all, a great ride out to get ahead of my dynamic duo taking me for an Easter Sunday trip around scenic Loch Rannoch – with them indulging themselves in a stay over at the amazing Moor of Rannoch hotel. The “old gal” says she can’t wait!

And if you’ve got this far and haven’t checked out my route to Muthill on Strava you can do so here.

Finally, don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April. In the words of the song: “I’m so excited!”

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