There’s nothing like tempting fate! In his infinite wisdom (ie questionable!) the “old git” decided we needed to beat our demons and do a trouble free and deluge free tandem trip to Loch Katrine – which 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.
For those of you unfamiliar with the mechanical breakdowns (which seemed to be put down to my ageing frame) – a quick reminder. Three years ago, in July 2014, my rear gear cog disintegrated and then two years ago the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. But we did successfully complete a Beating the demons tandem ride last year – albeit ending up pretty soggy in driving rain.
So it was with somewhat more confidence – hopefully not misplaced – combined with an encouraging weather forecast that we set off from Matildas Rest to meet up with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig. The “old git” had done his research and discovered there was a music cruise on the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott later in the afternoon – and booked tickets so my dynamic duo could relax with Gillian and Craig after their exertions!
So at at ten o’clock on Sunday morning we were parked at the head of the beautiful Loch Katrine at Trossachs Pier. As we unpacked it was apparent that we were in midge country – with literally swarms of the nasty little blighters everywhere. Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.
The itinerary – planned (as usual) with military precision – was for us to tandem the 13 miles down to the bottom of the lock at Stronachlachar, before having a spot of lunch, then cycle the return leg, before the cruise. The distance was a manageable 26 miles – but the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) So it was going to be a good test for my dynamic crew’s new found fitness! And that’s why – somewhat tongue in cheek – the “old git” was sporting his red polka dot Tour de France King of the Mountains jersey! Oh and he has matching socks too!
You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
In lovely dry conditions we set off tandeming down the loch – with the synchronicity soon kicking in and we picked up a fair pace. The route down the side of the loch is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. And of course the amazing scenery is real brain food. After about four miles, and the first really tough King of the Mountain hill, we all stopped for a welcome breather and took in the awesome views across the loch.
My dynamic crew were really enjoying the ride – even managing to nail most of the hills that previously required them to get off and push. The route was busy with cyclists – quite a few who were clearly with cycling clubs given their matching lycra kit! A couple of very friendly ones stepped off their pace to chat for a bit and jokingly admired the “old git’s” King of the Mountain jersey and said that the “old gal’s” green one represented the sprint jersey in the Tour de France … making us quite a powerful combination. To which the “old gal” replied that my crew simply had delusions of grandeur!
It was tough going but – in a mark of the new found fitness of the “old git” and the “old gal” – we reached the bottom end in what seemed like no time at all and cycled round to Stronachlachar for a halfway break. Gillian and Craig had already arrived a good few minutes ahead of us, but they videoed our arrival as their stomachs rumbled ready for lunch! (Don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)
There is a fantastic spot for lunch here – the Pier Cafe which really is a treasure of a find, in a very remote corner of the country. It has new owners and all the food on the refreshed menu is home-made on the premises. After a much-needed reviving chilled drink, extremely tasty paninis were ordered and demolished! Coffee and caramel shortcake followed – to ensure energy levels were topped up for the return journey. Five stars for the service and food – and it was good value too.
Before heading back my crew noticed a great addition to the car park – the old red phone box had been turned into a defibrillator station. Naturally my crew joked that with the hills it may be needed! – but seriously it is a great place to store such a vital piece of life saving equipment.
As we hit the first hill it brought back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – as they reminisced about a day five years go when they visited Loch Katrine on their first proper date together! You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine 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! They had planned a walk along the banks of the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire from Katrine Wheelz at Trossachs Pier.
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 my crews unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles … both on and off the saddle. You can read a humorous account of that fateful day here.
Those fifth anniversary memories of their first tandem ride spurred my crew on as they battled the hills on the return journey. And fortunately the weather was much better and they were able to enjoy the fantastic awe inspiring scenery – albeit there was the odd shower of rain.
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.
On we pedalled up and down hills and spotted a couple of hired tandems coming in the opposite direction. They were crewed by Dutch tourists who insisted on high-fiving my captain on the way past! Team Matilda was happy to do our bit for post-Brexit European relations! My crew had planned a prosecco stop half way back along, but when we arrived at the picnic tables there were swarms of those midges everywhere and that idea was quickly abandoned. It must be one of the few times that my crew have voluntarily given up prosecco – but they did pledge to open it later! The good thing about cycling is that we were travelling too fast for the midges – so it was actually very pleasant … until we stopped! So a final couple of hills before the route finally levels out for the last couple of miles back to Trossachs Pier where you get a great view across to the steamship.
On return to Trossachs Pier I was quickly packed back inside Matilda Transport in a futile attempt to thwart the midges! But my dynamic crew were delighted that we had beaten our demons and completed Loch Katrine without a major mechanical incident …. and without getting soaked!
Strava officially recorded the ride as covering an elevation of 1,643 feet – one of the biggest up and down hill rides that my dynamic duo have done. All credit to them – and I would even have to say that the “old git” really deserved to be wearing his King of the Mountains jersey! Whisper it but I think he is going to order the “old gal” one as well!
There was great euphoria when my dynamic crew discovered that Strava had awarded Team Matilda 14 gongs along the way – no less than 12 personal bests … I will repeat that … no less than 12 personal bests!! … and 2 second bests.
We tandemed a distance of 26.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 41 minutes, with an average speed of 9.8 mph – which is pretty impressive given the hilly terrain. Top speed was 32.9 mph – and we managed to burn up 1,858 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 172 W.
If my dynamic crew ever needed an excuse to pop open the prosecco, then those impressive figures provided a great reason. As I rested up, my dynamic duo and Gillian and Craig got changed out of their cycling gear and had a celebration glass of bubbly on the pier. The toast was not only to the PBs – but of course to five fantastic years since that first (fateful) tandem date! Cheers!
As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)
The four cyclists then boarded the Sir Walter Scott for a two hour music cruise on Loch Katrine. It was a wonderful event, sailing on an iconic 115 year old steamship, listening to rock, folk and pop music – along with a good few cheesy tunes – from enthusiastic entertainer Dougie McQ against a backdrop of the stunning mountains and almost mirror-like flat loch which was reflecting the scenery.
The “old git” had to be persuaded not to get up to do his “Dad dancing” routine again – well banned by the “old gal” actually! – so he had to make do with singing along to some of his favourites from the 1970s! The “old gal” had prepared one of her special picnics for my crew to eat while listening to the music as the cruise took us all the way down to the bottom of Loch Katrine and back up again.
After disembarking my crew bid farewell to Gillian and Craig before Team Matilda headed back to Matildas Rest. All in all another fabulous tandem ride – with no mechanical mishaps – and another day full of fun, laughs, iconic scenery, sunshine, a bit of rain, prosecco, and a fantastic picnic … all shared with good friends!
And that is truly the definition of another great tandem day out for me and my dynamic crew!