Quest for birthday carrot cake by tandem on early hilly HebWay training!

The rapidly ageing “old git” enjoying his birthday carrot cake even tho it had just gone 10am!

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear “old git!”

Happy birthday to you!

This was the alarm call that greeted the “old git” early on Sunday morning as the “old gal” sweetly wakened him from his slumbers! Yes it was my (ageing!) Captain’s birthday! And with a busy schedule of family commitments later in the day, it was an early start for my dynamic crew to fit in another hilly training ride for the forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure.

And the quest today was to find some tasty carrot cake – which would double as birthday cake!

Which is why at the early hour of 9 am my dynamic crew were tandeming away from Matildas Rest on a repeat of a recent ride to Tibbermore. And as it was effectively the same journey that means this blog is somewhat briefer than normal! (Oh thank goodness did I hear you say?!)

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. The “old gal” got into the spirit of things with my dynamic crew both adopting a position known as “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France!

But for all our efforts the data showed that the fastest we hit was exactly 34.7 mph again! The “old git” couldn’t believe we hadn’t eeked at least another 0.1 of a mph out of the downhill – far less not broken the new elusive speed target of 35 mph!

After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a grind as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! Perhaps it was something to do with the “old gal” having raised her seat a bit to give her legs a full extension on my pedals.

So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church 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.

Fresh as a daisy at half-way point at Gloaburn – average speed 13.3mph!

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and as Strava was paused they were happy to see that the average speed clocked was 13.3 mph! So slices of celebration carrot cake were ordered and birthday greeting exchanged! But no candles – well I mean there simply wouldn’t have been enough room for 57 candles! I mean that’s old – giving the true meaning to the “old git!”

The carrot for the fast ride was the yummy cake for the “old git’s” birthday!

No time today for any Outlanderish pranks at Tibbermore – which was the filming set for an episode of the popular hit show Outlander.  Time was ticking so refuelled we had to set off on the return trip – and yes you’ve guessed that head wind had suddenly appeared again!

But with a few smiles the miles seemed to slip by – despite the climbs – as we headed towards Madderty before taking a turning thru the picturesque village of St Davids and back down to sea level at Kinkell Bridge. Even the energy sapping long grind of Easthill didn’t phase my dynamic crew today – in fact I can proudly relate that they achieved a new personal best for that stretch with an average speed of 8.6mph! Kudos to Team Matilda!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 16 gongs – 10 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 15 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1240 feet. And what with my new gears – and my dynamic crew’s weight loss – I am pleased to report that the average speed was 1.1 mph faster than the 11.6 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Tibbermore just a few weeks ago. The maximum speed was 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1686 calories and produce an average power output of 186 W.

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

A quick mention here of the “old gal’s” birthday present to my Captain – a bottle of small batch artisan Kinrara gin from a new distillery in the heart of the Cairngorms. The “old git” is hoping that the gin itself tastes as good as the highly attractive bottle looks! And I dare say the “old gal” will manage to help him with the sampling!

The attractive Kinrara gin from a smalll batch distillery in the Cairngorms.

Todays hilly terrain was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge – with the countdown now underway! Just 2 weeks till Team Matilda 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!

John and Jane have dubbed themselves Team JayJay for the trip which will be the third annual 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.

To emphasise the nutty nature of both team’s sense of humour Team JayJay sent a highly appropriate birthday card to my Captain! They must have looked for ages for it –  but it was rather special! You certainly couldn’t doubt whose birthday card it was!

No explanation necessary with this birthday card!

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.

The tour logo.

And for those who are wondering what the names of the 10 islands the tour will be tandeming thru – and that included the “old git” – then here’s the official HebWay listing: Vatersay; Barra; Eriskay; South Uist; Benbecula; Grimsay; North Uist; Berneray; Harris and Lewis.

The “old gal” has just said: “That’s going to require a fair bit of re-fuelling with prosecco and carrot cake stops!” I think she might be correct!

I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

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!