4 seasons in a day, 2 broken spokes, and 1 speedo error on HebWay training run.

Spot the blue sky! The “old gal” near Dunblane at half-way – with snow just round the corner!

The phrase “four seasons in a day” has been used by Scots people for years to describe the unpredictable Spring weather which the gods can cast down on us! And our recent sneaky Monday off tandem ride was a perfect example of where it was simply a waste of time trying to guess the best cycling clothing to suit the conditions!

My dynamic crew experienced all four key elements of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter rain, sunshine, wind, and even snow on their latest training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. In fact some would say it was just ideal conditions to prepare for the ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. The “old git” had decided it was time to test the “old gal” on a few hills on a canter to Dunblane, with the promise of a coffee and cake stop on the return leg at Braco – although to be fair he hadn’t quite calculated the total elevation involved of over 1400 feet … or the inclement weather conditions!

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and its world-famous golf courses. Despite the thrust required for the incline, the “old git” applied the brakes when he saw a special road sign designed to protect red squirrels by urging motorists to drive carefully. Maybe the sign should also have said ride carefully!

The “old git” slowed down when he saw the road sign designed to protect the red squirrels.

After the Gleneagles summit my dynamic crew enjoyed a nice downhill stretch although a fairly blustery head wind meant the “old gal” had to keep pedalling as stoker when normally this downhill stretch allows for a bit of free-wheeling! Just the first of many encounters with the ever changing weather on this ride!

Pedalling on we tandemed thru Braco – with the “old gal” checking that the coffee shop was open as we pedalled past and headed up a few more tough inclines to just outside Kinbuck where the “old git” spotted a crop of Christmas trees getting ready for next festive season!

The “old git” pointing out my dynamic crew’s Christmas tree for December!

Oh how the “old gal” laughed when he joked that they could come and choose their tree in early December and could even carry it home attached to my frame! Well I think he was joking anyway!

A few pedals further on my dynamic crew passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to drool over what they may be serving up for lunch – but sensibly decided she wasn’t quite dressed for that kind of culinary experience!

A quick stop at our turning point on the flyover of the A9 just outside Dunblane for some water – and the chance to take in the blue sky which had suddenly appeared, and the views over to the sun dancing on the snow-capped hills in the distance.

Time to move on, and despite the pesky wind it was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire. For a welcome respite from the challenging weather conditions there was a pit stop at the bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop !

The “old gal” in heaven with scone, millionaire shortbread and a nice strong coffee! Perfect!

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and locals having decided to stop en route for sustenance. The “old gal” chose a scone and some yummy millionaire shortbread – all of which was washed down by lovely strong coffee – just the way she likes it! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

As my dynamic crew emerged from the coffee stop they were hit by a shower of rain – the third of the seasons after the wind and the sunshine – but fortunately the worst of the rain seemed to have fallen when they were inside. The four seasons in a day were however completed as the “old git” and “old git” battled the rapidly changing weather conditions on the return stretch from Braco to Gleneagles where in a shady hollow they came across snow lying on the ground! Yes snow!

Four seasons in a day – tick – snow lying on the ground in a shady hollow.

It was a hard grind for my dynamic crew on the return – but a welcome downhill brought about one of those moments of madness when the “old git” and “old gal” just have to laugh out loud! Pedalling as fast as they could the “old git” checked the speedometer – expecting to see it hit 30 mph if they were lucky … only to see it suddenly record a top speed of 91.5 mph.

They say the camera never lies! – evidence of the 91.5 mph recorded on the malfunctioning speedo!

Yes you read that correctly – a reading of 91.5 mph on a bicycle made for two. Despite the fact that the camera never lies and the photographic evidence of this never-to-be-repeated feat, my dynamic crew graciously conceded it clearly was a speedo malfunction!

Then just to compound the unpredictable nature of the ride, as we were heading down towards Gleneagles there was that unmistakable ping – which can only mean a spoke had pinged on my rear wheel! My dynamic crew ground to a halt and surveyed the damage – not one but two spokes had gone!

The rest of my wheel looked fairly sound – and despite a clear wheel wobble – the “old gal” took the decision as chief engineer that we could continue to pedal and limp home at a somewhat slower than normal speed, while the “old git” did his best to avoid any potential bumps. Looks like I am going for a visit to my personal surgeon John – bike wheel builder extraordinaire at JM Richards Cycles in Perth

Spot the two broken spokes! I need a visit to my personal surgeon to repair my rear wheel!

Safely back at Maitildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – which given the variable conditions is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 3 second bests; and 11 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.3 mph while the elevation was a hilly 1,444 feet. The maximum speed was officially 32.0 mph – not the rogue 91.5 mph! – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,691 calories and produce an average power output of 154 W.

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

So that’s another near 30 miles in the bag – and given the weather conditions, mechanicals, and the 1,444 ft elevation 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.

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

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Matilda goes carol singing – in dulci jubilo in the winter sun!

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – “it might be more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing!” … but he was trying – very trying, as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century, and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. My dynamic crew make a point of going – as it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by torch light.

In a reprise of last couple of years the “old git” persuaded the “old gal” that it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats and Christmas jumpers! And I even got to join in the fun by having an extra addition this year of sporting a pair of eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers making me feel very festive!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the third time ever that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

Ready to roll! The “old gal” in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise!) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be out as we all enjoyed the unseasonably bright sunshine.

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

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there had been any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes (or so they claim!) … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

The beautiful and atmospheric Tullibardine Chapel dates back to the 15th Century.

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely more than lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their vocal arrival!

Tullibardine Chapel is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

So before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

The chapel occupies a scenic tranquil spot in the rural Perthshire countryside,

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing at Tullibardine.

So after the practice – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving, with lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singing carols by torchlight!

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere and after the carols my dynamic tandem crew emerged back outside to find that Team Matilda had been somewhat upstaged by someone who had arrived on horseback – as you do in the middle of the Perthshire countryside!

Upstaged by a horse who wanted to join in the carols – only in rural Perthshire!

After the service my dynamic crew pedalled off quickly in a  bid to warm up as the winter sun was setting and the temperature had dropped quickly. With the cold air the tough Easthill hill climb back to Auchterarder seemed tougher than usual!

But we were not heading directly home. My dynamic crew had an important stop off in Auchterarder with an invite to pop-in and say hello at a 90th birthday party for Betty Connell – one of the “old gal’s” long standing clients at her hairdressing salon.

Betty’s daughter Anne – a keen “half-bike” cyclist – had been told the “old git” and “old gal” would be arriving en-route home from the carol service but were told that didn’t matter! However two mad cyclists arriving wearing Santa crash helmets and Christmas jumpers certainly caused a bit of a stir – and upset the otherwise glamorous dress code just a bit! But with impeccable timing my crew arrived just as the champagne was being poured for the toast and the cake cutting! I am told that both were very tasty!

Darkness had fallen while we spend an hour or so at the birthday party, so the last mile was completed with all my lights on! It made for an interesting high speed downhill dash!

Safely back at Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing we had tandemed a distance of just 6.15 miles with a moving time of 37 minutes – but as always it is the smiles not the miles that count. The average speed was 10 mph while the elevation was a modest 322 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 347 calories and produce an average power output of 141 W.

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

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had great fun – and felt it was a great way to crank up the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” as she relaxed in her post-ride bath!

Team Matilda certainly had fun getting into the Christmas spirit – in #tandem of course!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post coming soon! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

Fine dining Sunday lunch – macaroni pie style!

The “old gal” with her Sunday lunch fine dining delicacy of a macaroni pie!

Don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! “Treat you to Sunday lunch by tandem,” said the “old git! “Oooh, that sounds like a plan,” said the “old gal” suitably impressed! Well let’s just say that the resulting gastronomic delight was not exactly the the silver service fine dining experience that was anticipated! Read on to find out about our (mis)adventure!

It all started so well with some bright sunshine greeting my dynamic crew on Sunday morning. Yes there was some strong gusts of wind blowing about, but the decision was taken to get out and about from a second successive Autumnal local ride. The masterplan was for a ride to Dunblane, with that promised stop for lunch at a mystery location somewhere on the return trip.

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel followed by a nice downhill stretch and on to Braco.

Near to Kinbuck Team Matilda passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to think that she may be in for a real culinary experience on the return pedal! Let’s just say she was mistaken!

The “old git” wasn’t saying anything as the “old gal” started to salivate at the treat which could be in-store and added more power to my pedals to get me to our turning point of Dunblane.

The 20 mile mark – the “old gal” looking fresh at Barbush Roundabout in Dunblane.

A quick stop for a breather and some water at the Barbush roundabout and we headed on the return leg. Anticipation was building … but the “old gal’s” face fell when the “old git” steered me right past the entrance to Cromlix without even breaking cadence!

So if it wasn’t Cromlix for Sunday lunch – then where? Perhaps another suitably grand venue of Gleneagles Hotel ? Not exactly. The venue chosen by my Captain to treat my Stoker was … wait for it … Braco Coffee shop !

Actually, joking aside, the “old gal” was quite pleased really as we pulled up outside given she was clad in cycling gear – not really the dress of choice for a fine dining experience!

My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by these snazzy motorbike helmets.

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and motorbikers having decided to stop en route for sustenance. My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by a pair of very snazzy looking motorbike helmets!

Now as I said at the start of this blog – don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! The “old git” spied something he knew would have the “old gal” in ecstasy … the Scottish delicacy of a macaroni pie!

And he was correct! The “old gal” loved it! The carb-laden pie was fresh, warm, very tasty and great value! Sunday lunch sorted! Result!

Before! Happy girl! The “old gal” just before devouring the macaroni pie!

After!  Unhappy girl!  The “old gal” just after devouring the macaroni pie!

And the pies were washed down with lovely strong coffee, accompanied by a yummy piece of caramel shortcake! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

Time to move on. Despite the pesky wind, It was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire and on the return journey the “old git” – with the “old gal’s” full consent! – detoured to add on a few extra miles with a reprise of the longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then up past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved that heady combination of pain and euphoria for my dynamic crew as they again nailed the steep 10% gradient section known as the Duchally Ramp. The fact that Strava awarded a second best gong as we managed to grind it out only added to the sense of achievement for all three of us!

The last three miles flew past – living up to the section’s name as Duchally Downhill Fun – before a final sharp hill on Abbey Road.

Back in the sanctuary of Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – which given the brutal winds and the hills was nothing short of astonishing! The total was made up of 4 personal bests;  17 second bests; and 5 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 33.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given that we were being blown about as if in a wind tunnel!) while the elevation was a not unsubstantial 1799 feet. The maximum speed was 32.2 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2032 calories (yes that’s before the negative effect of the macaroni pie!!!) and produce an average power output of 176 W.

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

The great macaroni pie (mis)adventure – which received lost of fun comments on my social media channels – was the second Autumnal local run in a row for Team Matilda.

The week before the “old gal” decided the destination for coffee and cake would be Gloagburn Farm Shop – with the distance of around 28 hilly miles adequate to work up an appetite for the goodies on offer. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On the long downhill stretch out of Auchterarder the “old git” was on a mission to try and break Team Matilda’s recent speed record of 34.7 mph. But despite my dynamic crew adopting their most aero-dynamic position, the data showed that the fastest we hit was 32.4 mph again!  Naturally the “old git” blamed the headwind! But he has ambitions to break that record again soon!

Crossing Kinkell Bridge marks the start of the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church, which dates back to 1770, before several cheeky sharp climbs in the area which was known as the Gask Ridge Frontier  – the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

After the sharp climbs there was some relief for my dynamic crew as we sped along to Tibbermore on a gently undulating stretch to our half way stop of the oasis which is Gloagburn Farm Shop.

The “old gal” – looking as fresh as a daisy – on arrival at Gloagburn Farm Shop in the sun.

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and rewarded themselves with some coffee, scones and the signature carrot cake. After refuelling it was then time to battle the headwinds on the return journey as we tandemed thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent back to sea level at Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable spot for a photo of the “old git” while having a water break.

Kinkell Bridge offered the perfect spot for a photo showing Perthshire at its best!

Time for the final pedal and the energy sapping long grind of Easthill back up to Auchterarder. But despite a fierce headwind I can happily report that my dynamic crew managed that stretch just 9 seconds outside their personal best while achieving an average speed of 8.4 mph!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 9 gongs – not bad given the emergence of the wind … again! The total was made up of 2 personal bests; 1 second best; and 3 third bests. My dynamic crew got real pleasure out of the PB for the climb past Trinity Gask Kirk! The time on this ride was 2 minutes 24 seconds … over a  minute and a half faster than back in July when it was 4 minutes 01 seconds. Good to see their efforts rewarded!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph while the elevation was 1239 feet. The maximum speed was 32.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1571 calories and produce an average power output of 168 W.

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

So all in all two great Autumnal rides to keep my dynamic crew “in training” on their fitness regime.

There’s probably going to be a short gap till my next blog as the “old gal” and “old git” are heading to warmer climes for a sneaky holiday week sitting on a beach in Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba.

As for me I am being left behind in my cosy garage as it is a well-earned relaxing break.  The “old git” however has already researched the availability of hiring a bike for a short ride. But the “old gal” says the only pedalling that she will be doing is on one of those pedalo boats! But at least that will be “in tandem”!

Till the next adventure!

Yummy cake at new Braco Coffee shop but rain stopped play on Dunblane tandem ☔

The “old gal” drookit on arrival at the new bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop!

Carrot cake and tandeming goes together like … well like Team Matilda’s Captain and Stoker really!

And my dynamic crew’s love for a stop at a coffee shop for carrot cake has become a signature event of our rides. In fact I understand the unbeatable combination is now de rigueur for most tandemers!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been told about a great new tandem and cycle-friendly coffee shop in Braco and the plan for the day involved a pedal to build an appetite to sample the goodies on offer.

But the plan came a bit unstuck in some heavy rain which stopped the planned route in its tracks, forcing us to quickly retreat to the coffee shop to dry out.

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

Now as regular readers of my blog will know the “old git” is a bit of a zealot for checking the weather forecast with the localised BBC Weather service being his (usually) reliable first port of call. Dry and cloudy it said! But it was wrong!

When we set out it was accurate and soon we were tandeming away from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and on to Braco. To be honest, the cloud was building at this point – as the “old gal” pointed out. But the “old git” in his role as Captain decided to press on with the planned route to Dunblane.

But halfway to Dunblane – just before Kinbuck – rain stopped play with some ninja showers rolling in off the hills forcing the decision to abandon and take shelter before hastily retracing our route back to Braco.

It would need to be said my dynamic crew were looking somewhat less than dynamic as they arrived outside the Braco Coffee shop – drookit being the appropriate Scots word!

But they were guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome as the previous attempt at sampling the coffee shop ended in inglorious failure as my crew arrived just 8 minutes after the owners had decided to close early at 3 pm for staff training … on a busy Bank Holiday Monday!

Braco Coffee was sadly closed on our last visit – but my crew got a friendly welcome this time!

It was most definitely a case of “You’ll have had your tea” … as they say in some parts of Scotland as my crew disappointingly arrived that day to find the blinds down and not even the option of buying a carry out coffee, despite having checked the opening hours online before setting out.

After getting in touch with the owners they admitted it perhaps wasn’t the best day to close early – and tempted my dynamic crew to pay another visit – with some vouchers to help ease the disappointment!

Great coffee, scones, brownie and carrot cake! (Scones so good already eaten!)

Fair play to them, so my Captain and Stoker were happy to re-visit … and well worthwhile it turned out to be. Braco Coffee shop opened its doors back in March and since then has been providing an oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area – well situated on the busy tourist route to Crieff.

My dynamic crew can report that the fruit scones, chocolate brownie, and of course the carrot cake were all yummy as was the very welcome freshly brewed strong coffee.

The scones were so good that my dynamic crew forgot to take the pictures until after they had been scoffed! The “old git” nearly got his hand bitten off when he remembered and stopped the “old gal” just at the moment of launching in to sample the cakes!

The “old gal” still looking a tad wet! But ready to pounce on the cakes!

A real plus point for Braco Coffee Shop is that it doesn’t just keep to the coffee and cakes offering – the menu includes interesting freshly made lunch options including the likes of quiche and an interestingly named naanwich … obviously made from naan bread! And you can wash it all down with a glass of wine … or indeed prosecco … as it has a table licence.

And it stays open past its usual 5pm closing – till 9pm on a Friday and Saturday, to offer the local area a bistro dining option.

Great friendly customer service with a smile from the Braco Coffee team!

The food was tasty, fresh and well presented – with the scones warm on serving – which along with great friendly service from the Braco Coffee team, and sparkling toilets, meant the venue got top marks from Team Matilda! Well worth pointing your wheels in the direction of Braco for a pit stop on your next cycle ride! The carrot cake is worth it alone!

Now fortunately, while my dynamic crew refuelled, the rain disappeared – allowing for a fairly pleasant return tandem ride. Indeed weather conditions had improved dramatically so the “old git” decided not to simply repeat the outward journey but to add on a few extra miles with a longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved some euphoria after nailing the steep 7% – 10% gradient uphill section known as the Duchally Ramp – which previously had seen my dynamic crew grind to a halt. But in my new low gear they managed to grind it out – which gave all three of us a great sense of achievement.

The last three miles flew past and returning to Matildas Rest the “old gal” quickly put the Team Matilda cycling anoraks – which had performed admirably in the downpour – on the washing line to dry.

The Team Matilda anoraks that did their job keeping my dynamic crew dry hanging on the line.

While the anoraks were blowing dry in the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 16 gongs – which given the weather conditions and the hilly terrain was pretty unbelievable! The total was made up of 7 personal bests;  and 9 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.2 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 09 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph (given the monsoon rain!) while the elevation was 1401 feet. The maximum speed was 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1569 calories and produce an average power output of 182 W.

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

So not quite the 35 miles that were planned – but still a good bit of exercise! And it is always good to find a another tandem and bike-friendly coffee shop serving carrot cake! We’ll be back!

Tandeming the dens dells and delis of Dunkeld

Ready to roll in the warm sunshine – with Dunkeld Bridge in the background.

Now as you know this “old lady” likes to try something new every now and again – so when the “old git” came up with the idea of tandeming a new route around the ancient Cathedral “city” of Dunkeld in Highland Perthshire, it seemed like an exciting plan!

And when the “old git” mentioned that we passed a couple of coffee shops and finished at a new deli which we also did tapas early evening, the “old gal” was immediately on board too!

The addition of the deli word gave the “old git” the joy of coming up with some of his favoured alliteration in the title of the ride – adding to the dens and dells of Dunkeld! Simple pleasures!

Now for those who are not au fait with Scots dialect a “den” is a long and narrow valley while a “dell” is  a hollow and there are plenty of both in this area … but (whisper it) that also means it is lumpy!

The ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The sun was already high in the sky creating a perfect day for our tandem ride as I was unloaded from Matilda Transport at the Tay Terrace Car Park handily placed beside the river just after crossing Dunkeld Bridge. After kitting up – and applying the necessary factor 30 – Team Matilda pedalled off along the A984 which runs east out of Dunkeld to Caputh.

This follows the route of an old military road built by Major William Caulfield in the 18th century. It is a lovely road to cycle with mild undulations and and some great views over the majestic River Tay.

Just after Caputh is the hamlet of Spittalfield which is home to the cyclist and walker-friendly Walkin’ Cafe. Opened a year ago the welcoming cafe specifically targets cyclists and walkers who frequent the area. For many years the building was the village store before being transformed into a cafe to keep it as a hub of the village.

The cafe has lots of cycling-related aftefacts to catch the eye – and don’t forget to look out for the French-designed poster showing all the different kinds of bikes which have been produced over the years … in the toilets! Glad to say that a tandem was featured among the drawings! The “old git” and “old gal” quickly polished off a coffee and scone from the appealing treats on offer.

The Walkin’ Cafe is a real oasis for cyclists and has lots of bike artefacts.

The Walkin’ Cafe is ideally situated on the A984 at Spittalfield to attract cyclists and walkers.

Refreshed we pedalled on for around four miles to a local landmark of the Meikleour Beech Hedge which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest hedge in Britain and the highest of its kind in the world. It is is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the Meikleour Beech Hedge – the longest hedge in the UK.

Our route took us left at Meikleour on to the A93 towards Blairgowrie – and although it was quite a busy road cars gave us plenty of space as we pedalled along. Just before Blairgowrie centre, we turned left again on to the scenic A923 which would take us back to Dunkeld – with the promise of enjoying the views over no less than six lochs along the way.

We quickly passed Rae Loch and Loch of Drumellie before the “old gal” decided it was time to stop for one of Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! She fortuitously called stop at beautiful Loch of Clunie. Although it was busy – due to the sunshine – with families enjoying the shallow calm water she found a spot on the beach to allow my dynamic crew to sunbathe and enjoy their picnic goodies. And the sit was made all the more comfortable by our fab new fold-up pads which our good cycling friends John and Jane had given my crew on the recent mini Tour de Perthshire.

Sun-kissed Loch of Clunie provided the perfect stop for a prosecco picnic.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew enjoying the warm sun on the loch’s beach.

Chillin – the “old gal” relaxing in the sun on our new picnic pads.

Back on the road and maybe it was just the effects of the relaxing picnic, but my dynamic crew noticed the gentle incline as we headed on past Loch of Butterstone. We took a short diversion to the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve – a near 100 hectacre site where the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. We had actually spotted the huge wingspan of one of the magnificent birds doing a spot of fishing for food for their chicks in one of the lochs earlier.

The Loch of the Lowes reserve – famous for its ospreys – is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

From the last of the six lochs – Loch of Craiglush – there is a steep climb and my dynamic crew had to work hard to keep my wheels turning. A long winding – but welcome – swooping downhill stretch returned us to Dunkeld with some time to explore the town. First stop was the eye-catching Atholl Memorial Fountain in the Market Cross area. The Fountain was funded by public subscription and built in 1866 ‘to the memory of George Augustus Frederick John 6th Duke of Atholl’ who had introduced a piped water supply to Dunkeld.

The “old git” at the Atholl Memorial Fountain in Dunkeld.

By now my dynamic crew were ready for a re-fuel and had some fabulous cake sitting outside on the sun drenched terrace at the Spill the Beans coffee shop.

Next we took in some of the Dunkeld Heritage Walk (or cycle!) which takes in many of the restored 18th century merchants houses in Cathedral Street – which are now looked after by The Little Houses Improvement Scheme – in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. This includes The Old Rectory which is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house. Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns and Fiddler Neil Gow entertained here in 1787.

I feel like a young thing beside Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house!

Cathedral Street – not surprisingly – leads to Dunkeld Cathedral whose history can be traced to the ninth century when it emerged as an important religious centre for the early Celtic Church. No building of this period survives, the present Cathedral dates from 1318. Partly destroyed during the Reformation (1560), the choir is roofed and now serves as the parish church for regular Sunday worship. The rest of the cathedral is ruinous, but is preserved as an Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who are also responsible for the grounds.

Cooling in the shade in the grounds of the historic Dunkeld Cathedral.

The cathedral’s grounds give great views over the River Tay and Dunkeld Bridge.

The grounds of the cathedral give great views over the majestic River Tay and the historic Dunkeld Bridge which was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1809.

After all the miles and the local history it was time for us all to return to Matilda Transport. I was safely loaded back inside while my dynamic crew got changed for a refreshment stop before dinner.

Over a nicely chilled glass of white wine, and enjoying the warm sunshine on the decking of the Atholl Arms overlooking the river, the “old git” checked Strava which showed no gongs as this was our first time on this route. But the detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given a couple of sharp hills while the elevation was 1178 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1528 calories and produce an average power output of 185 W.

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

Suitably impressed by that data my dynamic crew ended their day out in style with a mouth watering tapas meal at the highly recommended The Scottish Deli on Dunkeld’s Atholl Street. I am told that the prawns in garlic and the manchego cheese and serrano ham platter were particularly impressive!

Replete it was time for the 30 minute return drive to Matildas Rest and soon time for some zzzs after a memorable sunny day out as we tandemed the dens, dells and delis of Dunkeld in glorious Perthshire!

Sun-kissed tandeming at Muthill Sportive 2018 – yellow route

Team Matilda – kitted out in eye-catching King of Mountain gear – at the Muthill Sportive.

There was much excitement at Matildas Rest on a recent Saturday as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official competitive bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2018. This would only be my second 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!

Those of you with good memories may remember my Sportive debut a year ago when the “old git’s” son Niall took up a role as substitute stoker as the “old gal” was working. Team Matilda hadn’t planned to be taking part this year as the date was scheduled to be the penultimate day of our Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way Challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed. So my dynamic crew decided on a last minute entry.

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 – which was basking in bright sunshine, in stark contrast to heavy rain of last year.

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 two years 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.

Ready for the off- with my official ‘158’ sportive competitor number!

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. I had my start number of 158 firmly attached to my handlebars and the “old gal” volunteered to attach my snazzy timer chip to her ankle – even tho it did look like she was wearing an electronic monitoring tag!

No comments about the “old gal” being used to wearing a tag! This is the official timing chip!

Then 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. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway!

At the start line – ready for the hooter!

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

The “old git” and the “old gal” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. This turned out to be a bit of a “killer hill” so soon in the route – which is perhaps no surprise as a later check measured the incline at 10.3%.

I think the joke turned out to be on my dynamic crew who thought that wearing their King of the Mountain cycling shirts would be a big joke! But after a bit of a push (literally!) we reached the plateau and then the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable and we soon picked up speed again.

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 before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

We crossed the Auchterarder to Crieff road before the route took us along the roads around Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalisinly there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct road 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 a 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 actually completed a sportive as they crossed the finishing line. A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of  just under 1 hour 31 minutes.

Hi-fives at the end – the “old git” and “old gal” happy at the end!

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!

So after some much needed re-fuelling it was time to head back to Matildas Rest where the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – 5 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 2 third bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew another 3rd best ever gong – meaning that our time of 6 mins 49 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the 2.3 mile section ‘Machanay Road only’. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 9th best ever time too! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.3 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 31 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1036 feet. The maximum speed was 31.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1229 calories and produce an average power output of  202 W.

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

My dynamic crew both agreed that The Muthill Sportive was a great event and fun to be part of! Apart from living up to its reputation of being one of Scotland’s friendliest sportives, it 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.

Lets hope the event raised 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.

Team Matilda is certainly planning on being on the starting line next year!

Team Matilda are already planning to join Scotland’s friendliest sportive in 2019!

Sunny tandem to Bridge of Earn for carrot cake on HebWay warm-up ride

Carrot cake and coffee in warm sunshine – de rigueur for happy tandemers!

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue the weather offered idyllic conditions for tandeming – bright warm sunshine and little wind. Which was just as well as the “old git” had decreed today would be a ride on a lumpy hilly route as training for Team Matilda’s forthcoming  Hebridean Way adventure. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake at the half way point. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay later – including a photo shoot of my dynamic crew in the tour t-shirts – but first a run to Bridge of Earn. We weren’t able to start from Matilda’s Rest as our usual route across the A9 was closed due to a major police incident – so we started from the next village at Aberuthven.

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

First stage was an easy canter towards the village of Dunning, then on to Forteviot. The synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” was working well with all three of us on Team Matilda perfectly in tune! It was a great day to be out and feel the warm air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my dynamic crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

A quick stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Lovely warm sunshine means t-shirts and shorts at the new Pictish stone in Forteviot …

… in contrast to our last visit in February when my dynamic crew needed coffee to keep warm!

What a difference in weather conditions since our last visit in February when it was barely above freezing the day before the Beast fae the East blew in. No warming coffee required today for my dynamic crew as they admired the ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ artwork.

The eye-catching stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The carved stone in Forteviot is inspired by its Pictish history as an ancient capital of Scotland.

Back on the road and my dynamic crew were enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs on my saddles as the miles seemed to whizz past in idyllic conditions. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top.

The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn, with the “old git” reveling in his role as Captain – revealing that we were hitting the 30 mph mark at times! As we turned into the Brig Farm Shop and cafe my dynamic crew were amazed and impressed to find they had arrived in record time of just 57 minutes. There’s obviously life in this “old lady” yet! I must admit I do like it when we are whizzing along as it makes me feel like a young thing! Mind you, I guess it probably also has something to do with my crew’s weight loss – now totalling 50lbs – and improved fitness!

The Brig Farm Shop & Cafe was Team Matilda’s half way point on the ride.

Talking of weight loss … it was clearly time for a well-earned coffee and cake! Given the sunshine my crew decided an alfresco refuelling was required on the colourful decking area overlooking the farmland and ordered some carrot cake – de rigueur for many tandemers and in particular the “old gal” and the “old git”! And very yummy it was, or so they tell me! In fact so scummy that the “old git” nearly had his hand bitten off trying to get a photo before the “old gal” demolished her portion!

The “old git” just managed to get this photo before the “old gal” demolished her carrot cake!

After a nice relaxing time it was time to head on the return journey. My dynamic crew were in buoyant mood after such a good first half of today’s route – but unbeknown to them, while they were indulging their taste buds, the wind got up. Now as all tandemers know to their cost – when there is wind it is always blowing in an unhelpful direction! It was still pretty warm, but the “old gal” and the “old git” had to battle against a fierce head wind.

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog! Let’s just say that the average speed we achieved on the way to the cafe was not being achieved on the way back – much to the chagrin of my Captain! But Team Matilda gamely battled on (well truthfully there was no alternative!) tandeming back thru Forteviot and on to Dunning before arriving back at the A9 and Aberuthven.

Back at Matildas Rest, and in a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 12 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 56 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.4 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1091 feet. Actually I am quite chuffed to report that the average speed was 2.2 mph faster than the 10.2 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Bridge of Earn in June last year. The maximum speed was 32.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1361 calories and produce an average power output of 175 W.

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

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge in early June. Just 3 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over five days tandeming!

In the protected garden the “old git” decided Team Matilda needed to take a couple of pictures in the bright sunshine to unveil the newly arrived HebWay t-shirts – complete with our snazzy tour logo.

The “old git” and “old gal” sporting the new Nutty Tandemers Club HebWay tour t-shirts.

As always our t-shirts are produced by Sprinterz – a local digital print and embroidery specialist firm run by a good friend of the “old gal” called Gill and her husband Kevin. The highly professional team at Sprinterz produced stunning eye-catching t-shirts made of lightweight Cooltex material.

My dynamic crew are hoping for some warm sunny days tandeming the Hebridean Way.

To personalise things the arms of the tour t-shirts have the team names printed on the sleeves – Team Matilda obviously, and Team JayJay named after the initials of John and Jane!

The sleeves of the t-shirts list the crews of Team Matilda and Team JayJay.

This will be the third tour of the two tandem teams following two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year. Both produced some fabulous sun-kissed tandeming so my spokes are crossed the weather gods are on our side again for the third time pedalling!

Team JayJay – John and Jane – in action on board their tandem Siggy.

Jane and John certainly seemed to have lots in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying prosecco! In fact both Team Matilda and Team JayJay seem to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously – which is nuttily summed up in the tour logo!

The tour logo in detail.

As for me, I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird. Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies! So you never know he and I may just have a little bit of a HebWay holiday tandem romance!

Siggy is also very clever and he has couplings which allow him to be separated into three sections – making it much easier to transport to the Outer Hebrides. Mind you that shouldn’t be too much of a problem as John and Jane flew to India with Siggy for an amazing tandem adventure back in February!

The “old gal” smiling in the sunshine as she looks ahead to lots of laughs on the HebWay.

So in a nutshell the Nutty Tandemers HebWay tour involves two fun-loving couples on two tandem bikes cycling 185 miles “on the edge” on the Outer Hebrides from the start on Vatersay to the end at Isle of Lewis – covering 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries. I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

My dynamic crew just need some ideas for prosecco and carrot cake stops now before departure!