Cycle and cruise in tandem with Loch Tay Safaris

Team Matilda were invited to boat-test the new cycle and cruise offering at Loch Tay Safaris.

Sunday dawned and although there were menacing dark clouds about, my dynamic crew were up early and energised as Team Matilda had been invited to road test – or that should really be boat-test! – another of Scotland’s top tourist attractions for my blog!

This time the invitation was to try out Loch Tay Safaris new cycle and cruise offering – which allows people the ultimate fun way to explore Perthshire’s largest loch on an exciting adrenalin-fuelled combination of two wheels and a fast RIB boat.

So we headed off to the pretty estate village of Kenmore – parking in the Loch Tay Safaris car park right on the edge of the loch beside their private jetty and pontoon – to get ready for our adventure.

Ready for the off! At the Loch Tay Safaris car park in Kenmore right on the edge of the loch.

Adding to the excitement was that this ‘old lady’ had been under repair and had a whole new gear mechanism fitted – including chain set, crank, mech and gear selector. So all three of us on Team Matilda were keen to get out on the open roads of Highland Perthshire to see how my ‘new bits’ performed! There are some pics and some technical stuff at the end of this blog post which details the work I had done to my ageing frame!

We decided to follow one of the suggested routes for the cycle and cruise itinerary – a near 14 mile loop from Kenmore to Aberfeldy and back on scenic roads which straddle both sides of the River Tay.

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

We left Kenmore on Sustrans Scotland NCN Route 7 crossing the bridge and turning right onto the quiet B846. The route immediately takes you up a hill on the edge of the Tay Forest Park, but my crew found this much easier than normal due to my new gearing!

A great long flat stretch soon had us building up speed before crossing the River Lyon just before it joins the Tay. Turning right and less than 2 miles later we found ourselves in the wonderfully named Highland Perthshire hamlet of Dull – where it would need to be said the weather wasn’t very bright! See what I did there?!

The weather wasn’t very bright when we reached the wonderfully named hamlet of Dull.

But locals – clearly with a sense of humour – are keen to make the most of the unusual name and promote the road sign as a tourist attraction in its own right. It helps that Dull has been twinned with Boring – a small town in Oregon USA which also has an etymologically-similar name.

Naturally my dynamic crew had to stop for the must-do selfie with the sign and discovered that Dull and Boring created the League of Extraordinary Communities in 2013 and made Bland in New South Wales Australia its first member – giving them a Dull, Boring and Bland tie-up!

Dull is twinned with Boring in Oregon, USA. Can’t describe my dynamic crew as dull and boring!

Dull’s other claim to fame is that it is the base of Highland Safaris – the parent business of Loch Tay Safaris. It is quite an operation and as winner of the Best Visitor Experience in Scotland offers exhilarating Land Rover Safaris, a red deer centre, inspiring walking and mountain biking activities, Perthshire’s only gold panning centre, and a cafe.

We were soon in Aberfeldy – marking the half way point – and headed west on the A827 to complete the loop back to Kenmore. This is more undulating but even the long climb near the end didn’t present my crew – and my new gears – with too many problems.

The welcome freewheel downhill saw us return to our lochside base and there was plenty of time for a fun photoshoot with me and the Loch Tay Safaris boat called Iolaire. Even though I wasn’t actually going on the cruise, the ever-cautious “old gal” did kit me out with a lifebelt … just in case I fell in!

Got my lifebelt on my handlebars at Loch Tay Safaris! Can’t be too careful around boats!

You can’t miss the signs for Loch Tay Safaris at Kenmore – the ultimate way to experience the loch.

After the photos there was time for a picnic lunch of smoked salmon and spinach wraps and fresh fruit salad which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel before they took to the water!

Then I was safely locked up at the lochside before my dynamic crew donned their life jackets and had a full safety briefing before boarding for their 90 minute cruise!

Loch Tay Safaris is a new venture only launched last summer. As the blurb says: “Our modern, custom built cabin RIB is safe, comfortable, fast, dry and guaranteed to raise a smile!”

Although Iolaire can seat up to 12 people my dynamic crew were fortunate enough to be the only people on board so effectively had a fantastic private charter!

Ahoy there! The “old git” and “old gal” up front on the fast Loch Tay Safari RIB.

Not long into the cruise the “old git” and “old gal” were given the chance of sitting up front by expert skipper Alex while the superbly informative tour guide Norman took us on a journey through local history, nature and folklore. Points of interest included the old piers where steamboats plied their trade in years past taking day-trippers on the water until 1939; and the so-called Loch Tay Fault Line.

The interesting route taken by the comfortable Iolaire RIB on the Loch Tay Safari ride.

The RIB’s versatility makes it perfect for getting in close to the inaccessible banks of the loch and exploring the unique landscape from the water. About half way, at the deepest point of the loch, just off Ben Lawyers, our tour guide Norman regaled us with stories about Loch Tay’s very own Kelpie lair describing the supernatural mythical white horse which lured people to its lair deep in the waters.

My dynamic crew know a think or two about Kelpies, having visited the magnificent metal horse sculptures near Falkirk, including filming one of my Matildas Musings video clips – featuring three iconic steel structures – for my Youtube channel. The “old gal” was offered the chance to feed the Kelpies – with some appropriately named ‘Kelpie Food’ masquerading as oats!

The “old gal” was invited to feed the Kelpies – with Kelpie food, obviously!

One of the highlights of the cruise comes near the end when its stops just beside the Scottish Crannog Centre – a unique reconstruction of an ancient loch dwelling which recreates what life was like on Loch Tay some 2,500 years ago in the early Iron Age. Here in Highland Perthshire the prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles or stilts driven into the loch bed.

The Loch Tay Safari boat cabin has comfy seating for 12 passengers – all with their own binoculars.

All too soon the cruise was at an end and we returned to the pontoon at Kenmore – thanking Alex and Norman for a brilliant sail. Loch Tay Safaris is certainly a highly recommended way to explore the loch if you are in the area – not just by the “old git” and “old gal” but by the great reviews on Tripadvisor.

Returning to terra firma – buoyed by the exuberance of the cruise – my dynamic crew quickly found their land legs and we set off on our second tandem circuit to complete our cycle-cruise-cycle agenda. And I am delighted to report it was even quicker than the first – with the miles literally flying past.

Soon we were thru Dull again (still not much brighter!) and passed Menzies Castle – the seat of the Clan Menzies. It dates back to the 16th century and Charles Edward Stuart stayed here for two nights before the fateful Battle of Culloden in 1746.

A quick dash thru the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Weem took us to our second crossing of the impressive Wade’s Bridge which spans the Tay. It was built in 1733 by the architect William Adam – son of the better known Robert Adam.

A blistering downhill finish into Kenmore saw a first for Team Matilda – as we set off a “slow down” warning as we flashed past one of these new digital speed signs which registered us at 33 mph! Shame it wasn’t a speed camera!

The “old gal” made a shout for a drinkie stop after we dismounted so we headed to the Kenmore Hotel – which claims to be Scotland’s oldest inn. Certainly our national bard Robert Burns was a visitor back in 1787 and wrote one of his famous poems on the plaster on one of the walls.

The historic Kenmore Hotel made a great spot for a celebratory refreshment for Team Matilda!

Over a most welcome refreshment – and me back in Matilda Transport – the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – with 7 personal bests and 7 second bests. Certainly worth of a celebratory libation!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 27.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph – thanks to the changes to the gears – while the elevation was 1185 feet. The maximum speed was a dizzy 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1676 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

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

Team Matilda had a scenic drive home taking the single track route out of Kenmore high over the moor and through Glen Quaich. Coming over one of the many blind summits a brightly coloured rainbow appeared filling the glen with light. It seemed a fitting mark to end a spectacular day out in Perthshire and naturally the “old gal” had to take a photo!

The impressive rainbow and the view across Glen Quaich.

So lastly, as promised, the techno bit – and some photos – of my repairs which were expertly carried out with tender loving care by my personal surgeon John at JM Richards Cycles in Perth – who went above and beyond the call of duty to find a solution! I have no hesitation in recommending them if your set of two wheels needs a repair.

Now this “old lady” makes no secret of my age – and the fact that I am older than either of my dynamic crew! So it was perhaps no surprise that my gears had been suffering from a bit of wear and tear.

Proud to show off my shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech.

I am delighted to report that I am now proudly sporting a shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech. And to make life a bit easier – and to ensure my gears engaged every time the “old gal” shouted at the “old git” to throw a gear at it – I now have a new gear shifter on my handlebars to ease my gears into the front gears!

My Captain now has a new gear shifter to ease my gears into the front gear wheels!

And the good thing that replacing my old bits – which were more than a bit worn – was totally painless! And the result of the repairs just goes to prove that there’s still plenty of life in this “old lady”!

The old and the new! Replacing my old bits, which were a bit worn, was painless!

The “old gal” has re-named John as ‘Saint John’ due to the fact that life going uphill is now significantly more bearable – and amazingly our average speed went up by nearly 2 mph over the day. At times we were flying along so easily that the “old git” was heard to say that we could do with an extra gear!

But he was joking – right?!

So many, many thanks to John and I know my dynamic crew are now convinced they had been battling old gears for some time without realising. The outcome is that all three of us on Team Matilda are now looking forward to the Hebridean Way attempt in early June with renewed vigour!

Just need some sunshine now and everything will be perfect!

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Roadtest glamping eco lodges at Loch Katrine and 6th anniversary KoM ride!

The snazzy new wooden eco lodges camp at Loch Katrine – we were staying in Loch Venachar

Awwh! Who said romance was dead?! Six years on to the very date of  a tandem ride on a blind first date at Loch Katrine my dynamic crew were back to where it all began to celebrate their sixth anniversary! And to make it even more exciting Team Matilda had been invited to road test the new glamping eco lodges with an overnight stay followed by a sail down the loch and a King of the Mountains tandem ride back to the start.

Relaxation and some tandeming – is there a better way to spend an anniversary mini-break?!

There are 8 lochside lodges in the new eco camp – each with decking area.

So firstly a bit about the new eco camp where the basic idea is to provide an opportunity for people to get away from it all and re-connect with nature. The lodges are ideally based to attract cyclists and walkers as Loch Katrine nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery in the heart of Rob Roy Country and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

There are just eight of the wooden lodges – four of the more basic Ben pods named after nearby hills; and four more luxurious cabins named after local lochs. We were in Loch Venachar and despite looking bijou from the outside it is like a tardis inside – complete with everything you could need if tents aren’t your scene (so ideally suited then for the “old git” and “old gal”!)

The Loch eco lodges have double bed, kitchenette and en-suite facilities.

Loch Venachar can sleep four people; two in a fixed double bed and two in a fold-down bed. The Loch lodges come with bed linen and towels; en-suite facilities with walk-in electric shower; kitchenette with combo microwave, fridge and sink; freeview HDTV; free wi-fi; lighting and underfloor heating.

My dynamic crew met up with Stuart Brain, Operations Manager, and it wasn’t a surprise to learn that with facilities like that, the lodges have been almost fully booked since opening at the start of the year.

The cosy eco lodges all have great views from the decking over Loch Katrine.

The cosy lodges are set in a semi circle, all overlooking Loch Katrine. As Stuart said: “Sleeping under the stars in this lochside setting, in the heart of Scotland’s first National Park, is a truly magical experience. Sir Walter Scott rightly described Loch Katrine as ‘the scenery of a fairy dream’ in his famous poem Lady of the Lake.”

Not quite big enough for me – but super cute matching eco kennel for any dogs!

The eco camp facility – as it’s name suggests – has been sensitively designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. And that goes all the way from the big items to the basics like the loo paper and shower gel! There’s even a cute dog kennel – in matching shape to the wooden lodge beside each pod! However it wasn’t big enough for me, so I was secured to the railings of the decking for the night!

The eco lodge camp looking enchanting at dusk in this Loch Katrine photo.

After the photoshoot and a walk to explore the site the rain started so my dynamic crew decided to settle in for the night! They lovingly exchanged anniversary cards – tandem themed obviously! – and uncorked a bottle of fizz brought home from their Champagne vineyards tour last summer.

The ‘Happy Anniversary’ toast brought back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – and over dinner, cleverly cooked in the microwave, they reminisced about that fateful day six years go when they visited Loch Katrine on a first blind date! You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic crew as without it, they may never have teamed up together! It is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place and it was totally by accident! The story goes that they had planned a walk along the banks of the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire!

My dynamic crew exchanged cards and champers to mark their 6th anniversary!

Thinking this would be a fun way to break the ice on the date they set off in an unsteady fashion – but the result was they got hooked on tandeming immediately – despite the constant heavy rain that day and the “old gal” falling off into an unglamorous muddy heap on at least two occasions!

And the rest, as they say, is history – with my crew romantically falling in love with a new hobby, and each other, as a result! And despite the unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles, on and off the saddle!

On that fateful first blind date on a tandem at Loch Katrine six years ago! And not aged a day!

Morning came and the verdict was that the eco lodges were very cosy and comfortable – with my crew awakening from their slumbers super relaxed! The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the weather with heavy rain spoiling the outlook over breakfast! The “old git” did his usual checking the forecast and promising it would dry up soon, while the “old gal” did her usual disbelieving “aye right” response!

But we were booked on the on the historic steamship SS Sir Walter Scott for a sail down the loch to Stronachlachar – with the only way back being a 14 mile tandem ride up the hilly lochside. So despite some half-hearted protestations there was nothing for it but for the “old gal” to don her waterproofs – including her new fetching hi-vis waterproof helmet cover – and get ready to board.

Two old artefacts together! Here I am getting ready to board the SS Sir Walter Scott at Trossachs Pier.

As it turned out there really wasn’t much of a queue! Being a non holiday wet Monday there were less than 20 passengers on board – and it was almost like a private charter just for Team Matilda!

It was almost like a private charter for my dynamic crew as it was fairly quiet on board.

My dynamic crew were treated like royalty and the “old gal” was delighted when a friendly crew member not only offered her a blanket to snuggle under but also a warming coffee. It would need to be said it was a tad breezy with the wind off the water! Even the “old git” – who is never cold – agreed!

The “old gal” nursing her coffee while snuggled under a rug to keep warm!

Next came a real highlight for Team Matilda as my dynamic crew were invited on to the bridge of the steam ship. Now as you know the “old gal” performs the role of stoker while tandeming and never gets to do the steering – as that is clearly the domain of my Captain, aka the “old git”!

But the Captain of the ship soon turned that view on its head when he offered the “old gal” the amazing opportunity to have a go at steering the near 120 year old steamship down the loch.

Concentration! The “old gal” is allowed a shot at steering the historic SS Sir Walter Scott!

The “old git” was relegated to videoing the “old gal” at the wheel enjoying her memorable experience. Click on the video below to see how she got on – and includes a short history lesson about the vessel.

As we arrived at Stronachlachar the sun appeared as if on cue – much to the delight of the “old gal” who wasn’t relishing a tandem ride in the rain … and the relief of the “old git” who hadn’t exactly been coming up trumps with his weather reports recently!

So buoyed by the sunshine we immediately pedaled off from the pier towards Inversnaid for a short four mile each way warm up ride beside Loch Arklet before lunch.

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

Back at Stronachlachar we enjoyed a very hospitable welcome from the owners of The Pier Cafe. Despite being tempted by the wide variety of specials on offer, my dynamic crew decided on some very tasty ciabattas to energise themselves for the hills ahead. This was followed by a shared portion of carrot cake. The excuse here was that the code for the wi-fi was ‘carrotcake’ and it would have been rude not to sample it. The “old gal” officially rated it as “one of the best” in her carrot cake league table!

Ready for the King of Mountain ride from Stronachlachar pier back to top of the loch.

Suitably refuelled it was time to hit the first hill for the King of the Mountain rated ride back to Trossachs Pier. And amazingly – with some clever use of the gears – I am proud to report that we sailed up the first steep Invergyle climb with some energy to spare!

It was tough going but the “old git” and the “old gal” are clearly somewhat fitter than they tell themselves! And that – combined with some welcome sunshine – allowed my dynamic crew to to enjoy the fantastic awe inspiring scenery as they tandemed along.

One of the highlights, about half way back along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.

To get a breather after a tough set of hills in succession, we stopped at a picnic area and fondly remembered an amazing prosecco fuelled picnic with good tandeming friends John and Jane on a fabulous warm sunny August day from 2016 during our memorable Nutty Tandemers Club tour.

A stop at the picnic spot – but not warm enough for t-shirts or prosecco! …

… unlike the blue skies and warm sunshine at the same spot two years ago!

Here’s hoping for some fun-filled sunny days like that when we team up again with John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our joint attempt at the Hebridean Way in early June. Just a small matter of 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Despite now being well into April there was still evidence of the harsh Scottish winter with significant snow still languishing on the slopes of the hills known locally as the Scottish Alps.

The “old git” pointing out lots snow still on the ‘Scottish Alps’!

Getting energised for the last four miles of the KoM ride to Trossachs Pier!

Maybe a glass of prosecco would have helped – but after getting our breath back and some refreshing water, it was time to face the last couple of hills and complete the 14 mile King of the Mountains ride back to the eco lodge camp at Trossachs Pier.

With me safely packed back in Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 8 gongs – 3 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 thirds! Which was pretty impressive given the somewhat hilly nature of the ride!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 21.05 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 05 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.1 mph, while the elevation was 1083 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1327 calories and produce an average power output of 158 W.

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

All in all a fabulous 6th anniversary mini break – back where it all started for Team Matilda! And with the stay in the new eco lodges, it was great to leave the daily grind far behind on a date to re-connect with nature at an area which has very special memories for my dynamic crew.

Thanks to all at Loch Katrine for their help, overnight accommodation, sail and friendship offered to Team Matilda on their mini-break. All opinions are that of Team Matilda!

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

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

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

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

Gillian as Ruth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monster spotting at sunny Loch Lubnaig in BLiSSful Rob Roy Country

Monster spotting! – The “old gal” on the lookout for Lubbie at Loch Lubnaig.

“Do you fancy looking for a monster this weekend?” the “old git” casually asked the “old gal”. Never short of a quip she wittily replied: “It’s ok I don’t need to go looking for another one – I’ve got a perfectly good one here!” Oh how the “old git” laughed! Ouch! … but I presume she was joking! Right?!

And that’s why Team Matilda found themselves monster spotting at Loch Lubnaig as they tandemed from Callander to Strathyre on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt7 in blissful sunshine. The weather people promised some bright sunshine for Sunday but the “old gal” was just a tad cautious given the last time warmer weather was forecast two weeks ago, we all froze our spokes off on a ride to Carnoustie.

But Saturday had been a stunning day and Sunday was to be more of the same so we all kitted up and headed from our home base of Auchterarder to Callander in Matilda Transport ready to ride. And fortunately as we arrived at the car park, so did the sun! This was much to the relief of the “old git” as the “old gal” decided he was personally responsible for the Baltic temperatures on our last outing!

My Callander Girl! – The “old gal” checks out the directions on NCN Rt7

Now as all tandem teams know, one of the first duties of the stoker is to find a signpost to ensure the captain heads off in the correct direction! Sometimes this is easier said than done – but not today! Callander seemed to be a busy crossroads for NCN Rt7 with clear signposts pointing in one direction to Strathyre, and on to Killin and Loch Lomond – and to Aberfoyle in the other.

So after a picture of Team Matildas Callander girl – see what I did there?! – we headed off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The cycle path heads out of town on the old Oban railway line alongside the picturesque river Leny. Now this is one of those railway lines that is most definitely not flat and has a slow gradual uphill section for the first two miles, which was a bit of a shock to my dynamic crew. But the synchronicity soon kicked in and we picked up speed.

The views when passing the white water Falls of Leny were mesmerising and got us ready for the spectacular outlook when we first encountered Loch Lubnaig, which is situated within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The route hugs high above the western shore of the freshwater loch. A look at the Strava map above reveals how it came by its name, for Lùbnaig means crooked in Gaelic.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun on their faces my dynamic crew decided there was time for monster spotting to see if we could see Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live deep in Loch Lubnaig! Despite some serious viewing – and even some calls of “Lubbie, Lubbie, Lubbie” from the “old gal” – it was nowhere to be seen! Obviously Lubbie is equally publicity shy as its cousin at Loch Ness!

It seems Lubbie was as evasive as its more famous cousin at Loch Ness!

Devastated at not being able to get a photo of Lubbie we tandemed on thru the forested Pass of Leny – with some impressively tall oaks. On we pedalled over an undulating path at the end of the loch when all of a suddenly we found ourselves unexpectedly forced to try our handlebars at mountain biking tandeming! The smooth path abruptly finished and we were faced with a very steep zig zag boulder strewn section! It was exciting for this “old lady” who as you know likes to try new things – but the “old gal” on the back was less convinced by the sharp bends and bumpy ride!

We won! Kim Proven with husband Fraser and the Innovation trophy! Credit Chris Watt

Cycling into Strathyre the “old git” decided we had to do a few more miles before our coffee and cake break so we headed off on a wonderfully smooth section of NCN 7 towards Kingshouse. Before we built up the pace for the two-mile high speed dash(!!), there was a quick photo stop at Drover’s Bho – part of the award-winning innovative cultural outside art #BLiSStrail which is  the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group.

And many congratulations from Team Matilda are in order for my friend (and occasional substitute stoker … very occasional!) Kim Proven, chair of LETi and her community team after recently being crowned winner of the “Innovation In Tourism” category in the National grand final of the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle Awards – regarded as Scotland’s tourism ‘Oscars’.

The “old git” seeing if Drovers Bho wanted a drink from his water bottle!

The metal scultpture of  a Highland Coo was made by Kev Paxton’s ArtFe to mark the old cattle drovers route. The artwork has been beautifully landscaped to give the impression of the coo standing on a hilloch and really makes it feel at home! The intricacy of the metal artwork has to be admired – and the “old git” couldn’t resist the tempatation of seeing if the coo wanted a drink from his water bottle!

Turning round at Kingshouse we headed back towards Strathyre – with the motivation of some nosh spurring my dynamic crew on as we blasted along clicking up thru the gears. The view ahead of the snow covered peaks was also inspirational for my dynamic crew.

The snow covered peaks were inspirational as my dynamic crew headed back towards Strathyre.

Soon we were at the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – which offers a real oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area. There we met up with the ultra-friendly owners – and friends – Lesley and Bill, and it was great to see them again.

Being lunchtime the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders flying out of the kitchen. My dynamic crew resisted ordering some very appetising paninis and instead restricted themselves to a well deserved coffee, scone and caramel shortcake! But the “old gal” was so keen to eat she forgot to take a photo until there were literally just crumbs left!

Oh crumbs! The “old gal” was so hungry for her scone and cake she forgot to take a photo!

There was a bit of rain during the break so not the weather for a leisurely game of petanque on the cafe’s own petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste! – but Bill promised that long awaited doubles match soon! Happily the sun burst thru clouds again just as it was time to leave so we managed to get a nice sunny shot of Lesley and Bill on board my frame with my dynamic crew at the Ride Out seats just outside the cafe.

All aboard! Lesley and Bill, hosts at Broch Cafe in Strathyre, try my frame for size!

Before we tandemed off there was time to check out the fascinating and historical Dun Lubnaig Broch Project – which is now completed. Brochs are mysterious circular dry-stone hollow structures – like forts – which date back to the iron age and are only found in Scotland.

One artifact meets another! The “old git” at the Dun Lubnaig Broch which dates back to the Iron Age.

Refuelled, we set off back towards Strathyre – retracing our pedals back thru the forest – drinking in both the magnificent scenery and the fresh air. The tight zig zags of the short section more suited for well sprung mountain bikes looked unmanageable so we walked down that bit!

The path at the Pass of Leny gave great views along Loch Lubnaig.

Selfie time! My dynamic crew on the forest path.

As we approached the end of Loch Lubnaig we cycled thru the Forest Holidays site – which features a group of fabulous looking log cabins with hot tubs overlooking the loch. The “old gal” called time for a stop and my crew discovered the centre’s cafe had a bar – and naturally a small libation was required! It was very relaxing and actually warmish sitting outside on a picnic bench in the sun!

Cheers! A little libation in the sunshine at the cafe at Strathyre Forest Holidays site.

Refreshed we tandemed off on the final few miles back past the Falls of Leny before a welcome gentle downhill back into Callander which was busy with people enjoying the sunshine.

The end of the ride – the “old git” back at Callander after a great day tandeming!

After I was safely packed back into Matilda Transport the “old gal” had one of her brilliant ideas – fish and chips! Ten minutes later my dynamic crew were tucking into a hearty fish supper in the car with a wonderful view of the river! Bliss!

Replete, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of just 2 gongs – both 3rd best times – which is a tad unfair given it was mainly a new route!

The figures show my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.0 mph – not too bad given the mountain bike terrain stretch! – and the elevation was a not insubstantial 1,320 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,320 calories and produce an average power output of 146 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. I think you’ll agree the fish and chips was earned by the effort expended!

It truly was an inspirational day out for all three of us on Team Matilda – and from my perspective it was nice to get some sunshine on my ageing frame! Let’s hope the weather has turned for the better and Spring has indeed sprung!

Life’s a beach (but not sunbathing temperature!) on ride to Carnoustie

“Where’s the sun” asks the freezing “old gal” in a somewhat forlorn manner!

So after our first ride of 2018 the “Beast Fae the East” – as it was called around these parts – meant heavy snow abandoned any hopes of another outing anytime soon. Finally the weather forecasters promised some milder air and my dynamic crew decided it would be safe to venture out – if they kept to the coast. The lure of a balmy 10C and even a few rays of sun was just too tempting. After all the weather folk are never wrong … are they?!

The “old git” had selected one of my favourite routes – a 13 mile ride across the Tay Road Bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie. And the “old gal” likes it too, as it is relatively flat.

The first doubts about the weather forecast surfaced however as we pulled into the Tay Bridge car park opposite Dundee. As I was unpacked from Matilda Transport it was quite difficult to even see the bridge – despite it being so close – due to mist and low cloud.

The Tay Road Bridge is there somewhere – if you look closely thru the mist!

The omens were not looking good and the “old gal” who doesn’t do cold was already full of a feeling of foreboding. But the “old git’s” natural exuberance told her the cloud would lift and there would be sunshine by the time we got to Carnoustie! Let’s just say he was wrong!

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

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. On this bridge the cycle path intriguingly sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. It can be quite alarming watching lorries speeding in what seems straight for you – but you are safely boxed in behind crash barriers. Just the joggers and dog walkers to look out for!

The mist shrouded the far side before somewhat eerily the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee emerged from the low cloud. It is in the final stages of construction – with the building designed to look like ships. Opening later this year, it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. Emerging from the electronic gates the “old gal” was already shivering so the “old git” chivalrously offered her his cycling jacket so she had double the protection against the elements.

We pedalled on trying to work up some internal steam to fight off the bitter cold. As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view – albeit it was looking a bit damp and grey today. Passing the quaint castle we continued along a stretch of the cycle path which hugged the Blue Flag beach – which was completely deserted! Wonder why?!

The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area! Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course!

Brrr! The “old gal” trying to escape the chill for a quick picnic and welcome coffee at Carnoustie.

Another couple of miles and we reached our half way point on the ride – and our picnic destination – at Carnoustie sea front. Certainly no sunbathing for the “old gal” today as she huddled in a shelter under two jackets and warm gloves nursing a very welcome flask of coffee! The good thing was that we didn’t have to queue for a picnic bench as they were all deserted! Strange that!

Where is everyone! The picnic benches were (not surprisingly) deserted!

Despite the chilly conditions my dynamic crew bravely ate their picnic of smoked salmon and spinach wraps with and some fresh fruit. Just a shame it wasn’t a bit warmer as the view from our picnic shelter was amazing. But that sea looked icy cold!

Erm what do we do now? Here I am at the top of the bmx and skateboard track!

Our picnic spot was close to a bmx bike and skateboard track and naturally the “old git” thought this was an ideal spot for a couple of fun photos! I seriously thought he was going to take me for a ride down some of the steep slopes! As an “old lady” classic tandem I would have found that quite exhilarating! Mind you I think the “old git” was the one who was scared and decided not to risk life and limb … and my brakes! Secretly everyone was quite glad!

Personally, me thinks the “old git” was more scared than me looking at the steep slopes!

The steps at a slipway which providing another interesting photo opportunity with big waves crashing in leaving the beach almost non existent. The “old git” helpfully promised the “old gal” that they would return on a day when the sun was splitting the skies so she could soak up some rays on the sand!

It was fair to say it was bracing with the waves pounding in to Carnoustie beach!

As we tandemed back thru the car park there was a brief stop to check out the preparations for the 147th The Open which is to be played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues. The last time The Open was played at Carnoustie was in 1999 when Scots golfer Paul Lawrie lifted the famous claret jug.

The “old git” checking preparations for the 147th The Open being played over Carnoustie Links in July.

As we headed off on our 13 mile return trip it was clear lots of work is going on all over the course – and at a huge extension to the hotel overlooking the 18th green. It wll be jam packed come the week of the tournament in July.

My dynamic crew quickly got into their synchronicity factor and soon we were speeding back along the NCR1. Half way back the “old gal” made a good call for a coffee and carrot cake stop at the Glass Pavilion in Broughty Ferry.

Refuelled – and with the “old gal” having regained feeling in her feet – we tandemed back thru the dockyard before facing the final challenge of our ride – the return uphill crossing of the Tay Bridge. Into a head wind, and being cold and a bit tired from our adventure, this was a bit of a grind!

But we made it back to Matilda Transport in one piece! Back in the warmth of Matildas Rest the “old gal” immediately had a bath to defrost while the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 20 gongs! Amazingly we recorded a personal best for the initial crossing of the bridge covering the 1.3 miles in a time of 5 minutes and 06 seconds – it seems at an average speed of 15.7 mph. We also collected 8 2nd bests and a further 11 3rd bests! Not at all bad considering the temperature and that it was only our second outing of the year.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 54 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.7 mph and the elevation was 512 feet. The maximum speed was 18.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,050 calories and produce an average power output of 90 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the second outing of 2018 ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are getting a bit fed up with the cold weather. Winter can go away now – as all three of us on Team Matilda are hoping some warmer temperatures are on the way soon for sunny tandem rides!

Out of hibernation on a rusty flutter to Forteviot

The new stone in Forteviot is inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the Dupplin Cross.

My dynamic crew decided they could wait no longer for the temperature to start rising. And much as the “old gal” likes some warmth, there was a resounding acceptance that Team Matilda had to emerge from their winter hibernation before rust and inactivity seized up all our joints!

Our last outing was just over two months ago – back before Christmas, with a short ride to Carols at Tullibardine Chapel. So, with the weather forecast giving dire warnings of the Beast from the East blasting freezing temperatures and lots of snow at the start of the week, the “old git” decided it was a case of now or never!

Ready to roll for 2018! Emerging from my garage at Matildas Rest!

My crew wakened to bright sunshine but the temperature was still stuck on zero as they fuelled up with a hearty but healthy breakfast. Next task was getting kitted up in multiple layers of winter cycling gear before I finally emerged out of my comfy garage at Matildas Rest for the first time in 2018.

After the “old gal” in her role as “chief mechanic” gave me the once over to check all my bits were lubricated and in working order, we headed off.

The “old gal” – half of my dynamic crew – wrapped up against the elements!

The “old git” had chosen a run that would be a pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and then on to Forteviot, covering a distance of just under 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test their fitness after a long lay off.

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

With the sun on our faces my dynamic crew tentatively pedalled off into the glorious Perthshire countryside towards Dunning. Despite initially feeling like tandem novices all three of us were quickly back into the way of it.

It probably helped that the first stretch involves a steep downhill which saw us record a speed of  just over 25 mph within the first three minutes of leaving Matildas Rest! Let’s just say that speed wasn’t beaten for the rest of the ride.

But the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” soon kicked in and we quickly picked up some speed, with all three of us perfectly in tune! It was great to be back out and feel the fresh 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 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.

We had travelled the near 8 miles in 50 minutes – which wasn’t too bad considering it was our first ride of the year – and the village was looking its usual pretty self in the sunshine. The village “square” (or green to be exact!) has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

Time for a welcome cup of hot coffee for my dynamic crew at the new Forteviot stone.

As my crew enjoyed a cup of hot coffee – which the “old gal” had thoughtfully added to a flask before departure – they discovered a fabulous new centrepiece to the village since Team Matildas last visit.

A new carved stone now stands proudly – 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. It is now housed in the nearby St Serf’s Church in Dunning and looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

There is no plaque in place as yet to tell you about it, but a chat with some locals saw my dynamic crew discover it is called Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba and is a new Pictish stone celebrating Forteviot’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The new 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 kingdom that became Scotland. The new contemporary Pictish sculpture is being formally unveiled on Saturday 17 March at 12 noon.

The “old git” in his not remotely colour coordinated winter kit! But he wasn’t cold!

While enjoying the warmth of the coffee the “old gal” noticed that the old green wooden bus shelter was being rebuilt – and went over to speak to the workman who was cutting and sawing wood. This turned out to be local forester Jim Thomson who runs his own Woodland Craft business.

Forester Jim Thomson is building a new bus shelter as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership project.

Jim has been contracted to build a new eco-friendly bus shelter in Forteviot as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership funding for the area. It was certainly one of the best built bus shelters my crew had seen!

The new environmentally friendly wooden bus shelter taking shape in Forteviot.

It was great to see such activity in the village – which will hopefully provide a flow of visitors keen to find out more about the Pictish history of the area.

Bidding farewell to Jim, and before we got too cold, we headed back on our return journey – passing another historical site worth visiting in the village – Forteviot Church of St Andrew where archaeological studies indicate that Christians were first buried in the graveyard in the 6th century.

My dynamic crew pedalled furiously to create some heat – and were in buoyant mood as they discovered that there was (for once!) no headwind to battle. Despite a few hills climbing out of Forteviot we were soon tandeming into Dunning – a village which is also rich in history having been burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.

Here I am parked up outside the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning – need a loo stop they said!

It is also boasts a great friendly country pub called The Kirkstyle Inn which my dynamic crew have been known to visit from time to time! It provided the ideal place for a loo stop – which the “old gal” then decided would be a good spot for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The “old gal” decided a small libation would help the ride home!

So after a lovely Scottish artisan gin, it was time for the last four miles home. Gosh it had suddenly turned a good bit colder – wonder if that was anything to do with the cosy pub and the gin!? Surely not! We pedalled off quickly and didn’t stop at the the last piece of local history on today’s trip – the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake.

The return trip to Matildas Rest took just 10 minutes longer than the outward journey – which given the hills and my crew’s rustiness is a commendable effort. While having another warming cup of coffee the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … amazingly we recorded a personal best and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 15.7 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.5 mph and the elevation was 633 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 801 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the first outing of 2018 now ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are hoping some warmer weather is on its way soon for sunny tandem rides!

Brr! the “old gal” shivering on return … hoping for sunnier tandem days ahead!

A coffee table book of my Musings and lots of tandeming Christmas gifts!

My new Matildas Musings blog book outlines my latest European tandeming adventures!

Excitement reached fever pitch at Matilda’s Rest on Monday when Christmas Day finally arrived! The “old git” – who should really be re-named Santa over the festive period! – made sure everyone had their ‘ho! ho! ho!’ on, whether they wanted to or not!

On Christmas Eve the “old gal” even put on her Christmas jumper to signal she was in the mood for Santa’s arrival! She had whispered to me that I was getting a present or two all for myself so I could hardly contain myself!

And I knew the “old git” had been planning something with my blog as a present for the “old gal” so it was an exciting time! I could hardly sleep and I am sure I heard Santa’s jingle bells as he and Rudolph delivered his presents around rural Perthshire …. presumably in #tandem!

The “old git” was up early on Christmas morning making sure that Santa had arrived – and he certainly delivered … filling the “old gal’s” stockings to overflowing … and he even dropped a few presents in the “old git’s” stockings too! (Yes he does have some …. weird or what!)

Then it was time for my dynamic duo to tear open their presents. The thing the “old git” had been secretly scheming away about was turning all my Musings about our tandeming  tour adventures across Europe during September into a beautiful hard-back coffee-table style book.

My Musings of our European trip turned into a glossy coffee table book.

I must say even I was impressed at the what the “old git” had achieved – and you know I’m not easily impressed! … and as for the “old gal” well she thought it was brilliant! There was even a wee tear in her eye as she read the “old git’s” soppy dedication at the front of the book! Awh shucks!

Each page is in glossy colour and the book is essentially a full record of each day of my blog – including all the photos – as they appeared on my on-line blog! A great permanent record of a fabulous trip! And great fun to flick through and bring back those memories of my dynamic duo’s days in my saddles in warm sunshine … oh and not forgetting those amazing picnics and wines and champagnes!

And as a special festive season treat for readers of my blog you can take a look at the complete book (in a pdf version) by clicking on the title of the book here: Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem

I do hope you enjoy re-reading it all again, as much as me and the “old gal” did!

A bundle of tandeming presents from my good friends John and Jane.

So then it was time to open my presents, and the “old git” and the “old gal” made sure Santa delivered a bundle of presents from my dynamic crew’s tandeming friends – and fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! They have a stable of no less than three tandems – Siggy, Henry and their original Bluebird.

The presents included a fabulous cushion cover which captures the good life my dynamic crew enjoy en France! Perfect! There was also a lovely Matilda sign – ideal for the garage door at Matildas Rest!

The garage at Matildas Rest now proudly bears my nameplate!

The “old git” said that I must have been a “very good girl” as I am reliably informed that only “good girls” get presents from Santa! And there was more in the present from John and Jane! My handlebars now bear a pretty mini vase – especially for bikes!

Tulips from Amsterdam! My new handlebar vase proudly in place!

Regular readers of my blog will remember that Team Matilda enjoyed magnificent hospitality from team Bluebird during Le Tour de New Forest back in July, which followed an equally memorable Le Tour de Perthshire the year before.

So naturally my dynamic crew had organised a present on my behalf for Team Bluebird and designed a personalised Nutty Tandemers Club 2017 calendar – with each month having a great memory from our wonderful week together touring the New Forest.

Calendar time – our European Tour on the left and Le Tour de New Forest on the right.

Now these two tours have been such a success that Team Bluebird and Team Matilda are already planning a joint Le tour de Hebridean Way in June 2018. This will be an attempt at completing the Hebridean Way  – a simple matter of 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. I may need some lucky white heather in my new handlebar vase for this trip!

John and Jane are riding Siggy the tandem on this trip – and it looks like the Outer Hebrides won’t ever have seen anything like the two tandems as we will both be carrying that highly sophisticated must-have accessory for tandems – eye-catching and very French La Bouclée wine carriers.

You see my dynamic crew have long been extolling the virtues of  La Bouclée to Team Bluebird – as Scottish ambassadors for the product no less! So they decided that it would make an ideal Christmas present for John and Jane – complete with a bottle of champagne specially selected and brought back from our tour of the Champagne area!

Henry the tandem sporting his new la bouclee wine carrier!

John and Jane were so impressed with the product that they immediately attached it to Henry (Siggy was too dirty it seems!) – well they did after watching the Youtube video how to do it! It’s only easy when you know how!

There were lots of other presents to open with a special one for me from the “old gal”! It was a replacement gel saddle cover for my front saddle as the “old git” had worn thru the previous one!

My new gel saddle cover – a replacement for the “old git” to sit on as Captain!

My dynamic crew even bought each other tandem t-shirts! The “old gal’s” had the wording: “It takes two to tandem” on it while the “old git’s” said: “Complete Tandemonium” They will certainly catch the eye on future trips!

My dynamic crew happily wearing their new tandeming t-shirts!

Now you know that my stoker, the “old gal”, has a bit of a quirky sense of humour … well she excelled herself with one of her presents for my captain – the “old git.” He was delighted to receive tandem cuff links … but not just any tandem cuff links – specially commissioned hand-made silver cuff links … the only ones in existence!

The “old git’s” very exclusive specially commissioned hand-made silver tandem cuff links!

Another present for the “old git” which he loved were a new pair of trainers to match the “old gal’s”! He had secretly coveted her day-glo orange trainers ever since she bought a new pair for our European tour. And when he delved into his stocking a pair was there for him!

So now my dynamic crew will not only be matching but totally unmissable! I guess he must have been a good Captain throughout the year then!

The “old git” got a pair of day-glo orange trainers to be a match with the “old gal”!

Last but not least was some wonderful soft bamboo silk socks from seriouslysillysocks – complete with bicycle patterns.

Great soft bamboo silk socks with cycling patterns.

Matildas Musings Strava

As the year comes to a close my dynamic Matildas Musings crew have had a great time during 2017 in #tandem! Our Strava app recorded every one of our 43 tandem adventures during the year – which incredibly saw us clock up approaching 1,000 miles.

The nice people at Strava have compiled a little video which pulls together all our statistics which is fun to view. Just click on any on the images below to watch – it only takes 60 seconds!

The blog is great fun to write – and I am delighted to report that over the year that according to host WordPress, my Matildas Musings blog has published 35 new posts which has attracted nearly 5,000 views from nearly 60 different countries around the globe.

The most popular countries are the UK, followed by France then the USA. But my worldwide appeal sees my blogs being red as far afield as the Philippines, Mexico, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.

So, to everyone who has read a blog post – a huge thank you!

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds. If you want to follow me on social media hit any of the images below to access my pages, and then hit follow or subscribe.

Matildas Musings Facebook feed

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Matildas Musings Youtube feed

Team Matildas Musings sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

Finally for the moment, I hope all readers of my Musings had a lovely Christmas and that Santa brought you and your tandems what you wanted! If not then the only explanation is that you were on the “naughty” list!

And if we don’t speak until after the bells – on behalf of Team Matildas Musings – let me be one of the first to wish you all the best for 2018 … and many happy tandeming miles together for you and your team!

Here’s to more adventures in 2018 for Team Matildas Musings as “it’s always better when we’re tandeming together!”

Cheers!

Here I am at Matildas Rest waiting on the weather to improve to get put on some 2018 adventures!