Actually 38m but no Strava till Carnoustie on sunny coastal HebWay training ride to Arbroath for alfresco fish lunch!

Can you spot me amongst the creels at Arbroath Harbour?!

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to see Arbroath Smokies being smoked while in Arbroath … and of course sample the local fish delicacy!

It was all part of the “old git’s” master motivational plan to get more tandem training miles clocked up for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. And with much of today’s route just a few yards from the sea it is likely to be ideal preparations for the big ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. With the weather coming up trump with the forecast dry sunny – but breezy – day, the “old git” had decided on a route which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1.

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

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the docks area and on up the coast. Regular readers of my blog will be well aware that Team Matilda are great fans of properly maintained cycle paths, and the great news is that NCN Rt1 has had a much needed revamp. This includes the installation of a new (and more reliable) passenger and bike lift at the Tay Road Bridge providing direct access to the shared path which runs between the two carriageways on the bridge deck. Like the last one, I was delighted to see it was tandem-length!

The “old gal” at the brand new tandem-length lift at the Tay Road Bridge.

The five-star improvements have also transformed the section thru Dundee Docks – with the laying of a sensational super-smooth tarmac surface and the removal of all of those pesky z-style gates to make life much easier for cyclists – and of course tandemers!

The brilliant new super-smooth tarmac surface on the revamped NCN Rt1 thru Dundee Docks.

A new fence separates the path from the actual docks and this avoids the need for cyclists to have to carry some form of identification in case the docks implemented their policy of only allowing access to people with ID. All good news and chapeau to those involved with the funding.

Pedalling on, the “old git” spotted the Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure. What a great idea!

Tandeming on the path heads over Barry Links, past a large Ministry of Defence area known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards 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!

We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open played over the Carnoustie links golf course last 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 peaceful scenic seascape at Carnoustie – just before spotting the Strava operator error!

The cycle path almost looks like it is going direct into the sea at this point, with only a barrier of boulders separating riders from the water! Time for a quick photo stop for my dynamic crew to take in the scenic views. The blissful atmosphere was however somewhat tarnished when a Strava operator error was discovered at this point – meaning none of the miles from the Tay Road Bridge had been recorded. Oh how the “old git” laughed! But at least the “old gal” was relieved to know it was his fault!

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town – which has a proud maritime and fishing history – was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have the authentic local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie for lunch. This time we went one step better and were fortunate enough to see the fresh haddock being smoked at Stuart’s Fresh Fish.

My dynamic crew were fortunate to see Arbroath Smokies during the traditional smoking process.

So lunch was a brilliantly delicious fresh fish combination of one of the newly smoked Arbroath Smokies, a dressed crab and a side of Tiger prawns! And it all tasted so much better eating it alfresco from a bench overlooking the impressive marina.

What a catch! Yummy alfresco lunch of Arbroath Smokie, dressed crab.and tiger prawns.

Re-fuelled my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and into the breeze! The route took us back thru East Haven – which has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally the “old git” had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The Sustrans Artroots funded outdoor art wooden sculpture at East Haven.

There was then a unanimous vote from the stoker’s saddle as the “old gal” called a pit-stop at the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s tandem rides – carrot cake and coffee!

Coffee and carrot cake – in tandem – at the Glass Pavillion.

Broughty Ferry itself was busy with people (and dogs!) on the path but a few friendly parps of my French horn cleared a route for us to tandem past. The “old gal” noticed further improvements by the side of the NCN Rt1 with the installation of a series of outside gym fitness stations – positioned looking out to sea – and naturally couldn’t resist trying the static cycling one!

The “old gal” on the static cycling fitness apparatus beside the NCN Rt 1 near Broughty Ferry.

The route took us back down thru the renovated path thru Dundee Docks where we noted other useful improvements like a useful mirror at a tight bend to see if anyone was riding the other way.

Mirror mirror on the cycle path wall – who is the fairest of them all?! Me, of course!

The last part of our ride – after using the new lift – was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Back at Matilda Transport in the Tay Bridge Car Park, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – which given the breezy conditions is fairly impressive! The gong total was made up of 6 personal bests, 5 second bests; and 3 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26.5 miles (which should have been 38 miles had there not been that annoying Strava operator error!) with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph while the elevation was a relatively flattish 513 feet. The maximum speed was 22.4 mph, as there were no steep downhill stretches, and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,184 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W.

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

Finally, more about Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. That’s another 38 miles in the training bag – and given the proximity of NCN Rt1 to the sea it was ideal practice then for the HebWay. Not long to go now and I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club challenge.

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

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De-hibernating by kick starting HebWay training on gusty Hillfoots Loop with cake diversion to Dollar!

The “old git” and the “old gal” admiring the views over the dramatic Ochil hills.

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue a weather window was opened by the tandem cycling gods – well as forecast – and the strong gale force winds suddenly died away to leave a sunny but blustery day.

My dynamic crew had their fingers firmly crossed – and I crossed my spokes – that would happen as today was the planned grand de-hibernating after a longer than normal, and sadly enforced, lay off.

The “old git” had planned a new route – the Hillfoots Loop around Alloa in the shadow of the towering Ochil Hills – which offered a good inaugural training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake and strong coffee at a fancy new cafe along the way. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog – including the trip logo – but first today’s ride. To add to the fun we were joined by “half-bike” cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden. The promise of a  nice post-ride relaxation in the warm bubbles, complete with a glass of bubbly, was just too much for the “old gal” to turn down. I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?! (Apart from the gusty wind and the odd hill that is!)

Ready for the off – the four riders ready to blow away some cobwebs on the Hillfoots Loop.

The Hillfoots Loop is a circular route promoted by Team Matilda’s friends at Sustrans Scotland and combines no less than three different National Cycle Network Routes – 76, 768 and 767. The fantastic network of paths is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network and is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors by local tourism initiative Discover Clackmannanshire.

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

The route is classed in the easy category – on a mix of well maintained dedicated tarmac paths running along old railway lines and some quiet back roads. And it was immediately a joy to tandem on as we entered NCN Rt 76 just a few wheel turns from Gillian and Craig’s house in Alloa – with the sunshine bringing smiles to my dynamic crew’s faces, despite the wind. And I must say I was impressed at the brisk pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter than they believe, despite their recent inaction!

A quiet farm road lead us onto a tarmac multi-use path towards Cambus before passing whisky cooperages and bonded warehouses with their distinctive aroma on one side and the River Devon on the other.  At the junction with NCN Route 76 near Tullibody, the loop continues northwards on NCN Rt 768 on a good tailored railway path towards Menstrie and the Ochil Hills.

The NCN Rt 768 section offered blissful tandeming along good railway paths in the sunshine!

At Menstrie the NCN Rt 768 continues on a quiet shared road on as we hit manageable rolling hills along the edge of the Ochils. The route by-passes the centre of Alva on a quiet back road which features the only challenging – but short – hill on the loop. And it was chapeau to my dynamic crew who managed to keep cycling to the top – despite this being the first real training ride of the year!

Team Matilda enjoying the de-hibernating experience on well-surfaced cycle paths.

At the east of Alva we joined the shared-use path alongside the main road to Tillicoultry before the route then joined NCN Rt 767, also known as the Devon Way. We took a planned three mile diversion on a well-surfaced cycle path and headed to the lovely village of Dollar where the “old git” had done his research and unearthed the quaint-sounding Cafe des Fleurs as a perfect coffee stop.

Cafe des Fleurs offered a fab coffee stop in Dollar just after the half-way point.

Now the “old gal” is known to be a bit of an aficionado of tandem and cycle friendly cafes –  and obviously their scone, cake and coffee offerings, as well as the warmth of their welcome – but Cafe des Fleurs got more than pass marks on her personal rating scale!

Despite the cafe obviously being a bit of a destination in its own right – and therefore busy with customers dressed in their Sunday best – the staff made our group clad in cycling clothing very welcome. The fruit scones were just perfect as was the strength of the fab coffee. And as for the carrot cake – de-rigueur for tandemers especially Team Matilda – well the “old gal” clearly coveted her slice and wasn’t letting anyone else near it! It was so good that it got a four and a half “yes” ranking!

The “old gat” became very protective over the slice of yummy carrot cake!

That was praise indeed! And everyone else in the group concurred the cafe would go down on the list as worth paying a return visit for further sampling! Suitably re-energised we pedalled back to Tillicoultry in no time to complete the Hillfoots Loop riding past Sauchie and back to Alloa.

Smiles all round as Team Matilda and Gillian and Craig set off for the second half of the Hilfoots loop.

Gillian had time to take a selfie-in-the-saddle on the NCN Rt 767 back from Dollar

The path is quite undulating at this point but the scenery more than makes up for any effort required with stunning panoramic views over the Ochil Hills and a satisfying overview of the route just taken.

Time for a quick breather to let the “old git” and “old gal” take in the backdrop of the Ochil Hills.

A ride thru some quiet backstreets of Alloa took us back to where we started – exhilarated after the wonderful ride. I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport as it was time for my dynamic crew to “endure” the warm-down-up in the hot tub strategically situated in Gillian and Craig’s garden!

Safely packed back in Matilda Transport while my dynamic crew went for their warm-down-up!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no gongs at all … as this was the first attempt at the Alloa Hilfoots Loop route.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 19.4 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 43 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph given the gusty conditions, while the elevation was 718 feet. The maximum speed was 29.3 mph given on a steep downhill section and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,039 calories and produce an average power output of 150 W.

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

It was a suitably long therapeutic soak – with my dynamic crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled glass of prosecco, while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! I mean there are worse ways (though admittedly not many!) to spend a Sunday afternoon! Absolute bliss!

Thanks again to Gillian and Craig for a much-needed outing to literally blow away some cobwebs – and the fun company and solace that only good friends can provide.

So that’s the first serious 20 miles done – and given the terrain and conditions it was an ideal training then for the Hebridean Way in mid June. I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour.

The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming! That should certainly focus the mind!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way

First pedal spin of the year battling colds and headwinds to finish with a hot tub!

Team Matilda was joined by “half-bike” friends Gillian and Craig for the first ride of 2019.

So a nice Sunday and time for the first spin of my tandem pedals for 2019 – and therefore my first blog post of the year! Despite the forecast of a “moderate breeze” my dynamic crew decided it was time to blow away the cobwebs and have my first outing of the year. And to help ease my crew back into my saddles, the “old git” decided on a fairly flat ride on a dedicated cycle path along the bed of an old railway line.

To add to the fun we were joined by good “half-bike” solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden. The promise of a  nice post-ride relaxation in the warm bubbles, complete with a glass of bubbly, was just too much for the “old gal” to turn down. I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?! (Apart from the headwind that is!)

So despite my dynamic crew recovering from heavy colds, they were full of the joys as I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed for the start point of National Cycle Route 764 for the ride. The path – managed by the good people at Sustrans Scotland – begins just outside Clackmannan and follows the course of the old Alloa to Dunfermline railway line.

Ready for the off! All smiles as we set to spin the pedals – despite the low temperature!

I was quickly unpacked and set up for the ride and – after greeting Gillian and Craig – we were ready for the off at the start of the NCR 764 route – which 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.

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

The route is classed in the easy category – on a well maintained tarmac path. And it certainly was a joy to tandem on as we headed off on the ride to Dunfermline – with the bright sunshine bringing smiles to my dynamic crew’s faces, despite the chill wind. And I must say I was impressed at the brisk pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter 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 we are actually achieving! In fact we averaged over 13 mph for the whole trip!

The “old git” and “old gal” smiling and feeling refreshed at the half way point on the ride.

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 there is 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!

Buoyed by a healthy tail wind, half way point was reached with just 46 minutes on the clock. But despite the sun shining brightly in a bright blue sky, it was bitterly cold and certainly not conducive for one of this cycling group’s signature pop-up gin bars which had been a highlight of previous rides!

Despite the bright sunshine it wasn’t warm enough to stop for long!

In fact there was hardly time for the obligatory photos before body temperatures started to plummet, which is perhaps no surprise as the temperature had a “real feel” of -1C. The “old gal” was heard to say: “I’m so glad I’ve got my thermal under-layers on!” So after just a few minutes we headed off on the return journey – to battle that brutal headwind!

The sun breaking thru the clouds made for a lovely sky – but it was bitterly cold!

Both crews soon reaped the benefits of the initial downhill section, picking up speed. Despite the wind fiercely blasting into our faces, it really was fantastic tandeming – lots of laughs with good friends.

One of the great things about this cycle path is that there are 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 that there are still 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.

As always its the smiles not the miles that count on Team Matildas tandem rides!

After a final sprint battling the ever increasing force of the wind along the last mile or two, we soon reached the end of the path – exhilarated after the wonderful ride. After I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport it was time to head back to Gillian and Craig’s with the lure of the garden hot tub! So the offer was made for a warm-down in the hot tub, complete with celebratory drink. I mean there are worse ways (though admittedly not many!) to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Hot tub with prosecco bubbly back at Gillian and Craig’s? Oh if you insist!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – which given the temperature and the  fierce headwind on the return leg is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 10 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 3 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 21.4 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 36 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.3 mph while the elevation was a modest 513 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 924 calories and produce an average power output of 143 W.

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

I am reliably told the hot tub was a very therapeutic way to relax – with my crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled glass of prosecco – while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! Absolute bliss! The last I heard was the “old gal” saying: “I want one!”

After a suitably long soak my crew emerged and joined Gillian and Craig in a hearty and warming bowl of home-made soup to refuel, before it was time to head home after a great day!

So that’s the first 20-odd miles of the year clocked up – so here’s to more sunny tandeming days out to look forward to with good friends, and lots of laughs along the way. Maybe the next time it will be warm enough to allow one of our infamous pop-up cocktail bars to be set up! I’ll say cheers to that!

Errol to V&A Dundee then headwind back for steamin’ scones at Cairn O’Mohr winery!

Team Matilda in front of the new V&A museum at Discovery Point in Dundee.

Some unexpected November sunshine was forecast and Team Matilda took advantage of the mild weather for a tandem ride to admire the stunning architecture of the new V&A museum in Dundee.

I was very excited because the “old git” informed me that the V&A Dundee was designated Scotland’s first design museum – and being a bit of a design icon (of a tandem!) myself I thought it would be right up my street (or cycle path!) You never know – they might want a new exhibit for their displays!

And just to make the trip more interesting the “old git” decided on starting the trip at Errol – at the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery – giving a nice round trip of just over 25 miles with the “old git” promising the “old gal” a carrot of ending back at the winery for a civilised afternoon coffee at the AliBob Cafe. Don’t say he doesn’t know how to treat my stoker!

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

The winery has been producing its well-known brand of Scottish fruit wines since 1987 and is a key visitor attraction in the area – offering various tours and tastings. The cycle-conscious owners have even created their own cycle path to make it easier for visitors to get there.

My dynamic crew soon picked up speed as we tandemed away from Errol towards Dundee on the quiet country roads which make up Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt77. The “old gal” and “old git” were enjoying the tail wind and we were soon pedalling into Dundee on the riverside esplanade with the new V&A museum in our sights right on the waterfront.

The amazing new V&A museum building occupies a site directly on the Dundee waterfront.

The imposing £80 million building – which opened in mid September – has been designed to look like a giant ship by the acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

It is built beside Discovery Point with the three masts of the wooden Royal Research Ship Discovery, which was captained by Robert Falcon Scott on his first journey to the Antarctic in 1902, creating an interesting old and new juxtaposition.

The architecture of the building is incredible including this tunnel thru the middle!

The V&A Dundee is the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum outside London. At the heart of the museum, the Scottish Design Galleries feature 300 exhibits drawn from the V&A’s rich collections of Scottish design, as well as from museums and private collections across Scotland and the world.

At the entrance to the new V&A design museum.

Surely there will be space in the new V&A design museum for an iconic design like me?

As Scotland’s first design museum, V&A Dundee describes its aim as telling “a global story, investigating the international importance of design alongside presenting Scotland’s outstanding design achievements.”

I must say this “old lady” did manage to catch a bit of attention from those visiting the new V&A.

It is expected to attract 500,000 visitors in its first year, providing the city of Dundee with a big economic boost. It was good to see the area looking so busy with tourists. This “old lady” even managed to catch a bit of attention from those visiting! But my dynamic crew didn’t venture inside – deciding to leave that for another occasion when not wearing cycling gear!

It really was interesting touring round the fab new building which is built to look like a ship.

After touring the outside of the eye-catching new V&A museum it was time for the return journey back to Errol. But guess what? Yes, my dynamic crew now found themselves pedalling into a rather fierce headwind. “Why do we always hit a headwind on our return journey?” asked the “old gal.” But for once the “old git” didn’t have an answer!

The wind certainly slowed our speed as we headed back along the waterfront, past the airport and out through Invergowrie. Here the route  gives impressive views of the River Tay which is some 4.5 kilometres wide at this point. Interestingly the NCN Rt77, which links Dundee with Pitlochry, is also known as the salmon run – and it was easy to see why at this point.

The unexpected November sun created some interesting long shadows of Team Matilda in action!

The afternoon sun created some interesting long shadows of Team Matilda in action, which the “old gal” managed to capture as we pedalled along enjoying the relatively flat and stunning Carse of Gowrie countryside – including a perfectly symmetrical tree lined avenue where the “old git” had to stop for a photo opportunity.

An Autumnal scene as the “old git” poses at a tree lined avenue on the return to Errol.

After battling the headwind, returning to the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery provided my dynamic crew with a perfect sanctuary to refuel and recover – the fantastic AliBob Cafe which offers an amazing range of memorable and tasty treats. And the the temperature was so mild Team Matilda were able to sit outside and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine!

Believe it or not it was so mild that my dynamic crew were able to sit outside for coffee and scones.

The “old git” and “old gal” decided they had to sample the local speciality of steamin’ scones. Yes they were served warm but the steamin’ relates to the fact that the raisins are soaked in the wine before baking! And I am told they were very yummy! There was also a far too tempting range of cakes on offer – which my dynamic crew decided it would have been rude not to taste! So naturally they opted for a slice of carrot cake … so loved by tandemers everywhere!

Selfie time while sampling the steamin’ scones at AliBob cafe at Cairn O’Mhor winery!

Back in Matilda Transport, before we headed back to Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 25 gongs – which given the fierce headwind on the return journey is nothing short of astonishing! The total was made up of 11 personal bests and 14 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 56 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.0 mph while the elevation was a modest 386 feet. The maximum speed was 23.5 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1002 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W.

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

Another great tandem day out in November sunshine for Team Matilda. My spokes are crossed for a mild and dry Autumn and Winter so we can keep up those miles (and smiles).

When in Arbroath do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with your picnic!

The new Sustrans Scotland ArtRoots funded wooden sculpture depicts East haven’s fishing heritage.

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to sample an Arboath Smokie while in Arbroath!

Yes I know its very exciting!! … but you’ll have to read on for the taste test!

Firstly I need to set the scene as the “old gal” and the “old git” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for an overnight stop for a good catch-up, and to join us for a Sunday cycle with their “short bikes”!

Now the bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie after a home-made curry and a few drinkies but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day – although diplomatically no one mentioned the wind which was forecast as a “moderate breeze”!

Given that my dynamic crew decided on a repeat of our recent enjoyable and fun route, which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1, this was to prove significant! Brutally significant to be honest – but more of that later!

Ready to Roll – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig about to tackle the Tay Road Bridge.

As the crews unpacked and set up the bikes in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay offered an ideal backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – before we were ready to roll! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast. The “old git” spotted the recently installed Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 78th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 29,256 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Counting bikes! – the Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

We tandemed on noting how the miles seem to pass more quickly when cycling with friends. Maybe a useful tail wind also helped … although no one was talking about that … as it was inevitable that clearly was going to provide a tough obstacle on the return journey! We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open 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.

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Cyclists very welcome! East Haven’s bike friendly drinks dispenser and route map.

East Haven has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a recently installed giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally my dynamic crew had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The “old git” and “old gal” trying (and failing!) to blend in with the fishermen sculpture!

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. The area has a proud maritime and fishing history and the storm wall at Fish Quay has an RNLI memorial to the area’s “darkest day” when six lifeboatmen lost their lives when the lifeboat Robert Lindsay was overwhelmed by the sea just a quarter of a mile from the harbour back in October 1953.

The “old gal” at the RNLI memorial which stands proudly over Arbroath Harbour.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with our prosecco picnic!

The “old gal” and “old git” duly disappeared into one of several fish shops open for business and touting the authentic local delicacy of smoked haddock! And they were not disappointed. The taste test verdict was that it was remarkably fresh and just smoky enough to make it a truly mouth-watering experience. Just perfect when washed down with a glass of prosecco – with the bottle duly carried on my frame in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Cheers! Gillian and Craig toasting the signature prosecco picnic at Arbroath …

… while the “old git” had to add the ubiquitous Arbroath Smokie to my dynamic crew’s picnic!

The Arbroath Smoke was the perfect appetizer for my dynamic crew’s picnic – lovingly prepared by the “old gal” of smoked salmon, chilli cream cheese and spinach wraps and some seasonal fresh fruit – all enjoyed overlooking the area’s impressive marina.

Me and my dynamic crew with the impressive Arbroath marina as a backdrop!

Re-fuelled and re-hydrated Gillian and Craig and my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and all became immediately aware of the “moderate breeze”!

We stopped to admire the community garden at East Haven – complete with a decommissioned fishing boat. It is one of just five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it is easy to see why when admiring the colourful site. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

Time for a breather! All four at the award-winning picturesque community garden at East Haven.

It would need to be said here that the pedal on the section most exposed to the sea around Carnoustie was not fun as the bikes were battered by brutal 20 mph head winds – which made for fairly slow progress. So there was a unanimous vote for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake and coffee!

Except there was a devastating snag! The venue, the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach, had run out of cakes! Never heard that one before – but it seems there had been a wedding the day before and the cafe’s supply of cakes had all been sold! What a disappointment! So the crews had to make do with a coffee without an infusion of cake!

Time for the final run back through Broughty Ferry to Dundee – where we enjoyed the protected run through the docks area. To finish it was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge. Now keen readers of my blog will be aware that my dynamic crew had recently broken their own record for this crossing – appropriately named as ‘The Killer Tay Bridge’ sector on Strava – getting their time down to just 6 minutes and 12 seconds.

But today the “old git” conceded that today was not a day to be breaking records – much to the relief of the “old gal”! – as Team Matilda was buffeted by strong crosswinds from the start of our pedal across the river. But kudos to my dynamic crew as we still recorded our 3rd best ever time crossing the bridge of 7 minutes 29 seconds.

Gillian and Craig had beetled off with their “short bikes” not as badly affected by the crosswinds – and they were back in the car park filming our arrival at Matilda Transport, which you can watch here.

After getting our breath back from the battle against the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of an incredible 33 gongs – which is almost worthy of a PB award on its own! I will say that again for effect in case you missed it – 33 gongs! There were no less than 19 personal bests; 10 second bests; and 4 third bests. Given the brutal head winds on the return journey my dynamic crew were more than happy with that outcome!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 641 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1563 calories and produce an average power output of 117 W.

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

So a great sunny – if a tad windy – day for a tandem ride, which was made all the better by cycling with good friends … and sampling the Arbroath Smokie! Another grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

City of Discovery penguins and discovering a winery on ride to Errol

Penguin spotting at Discovery Point in Dundee with RRS Discovery and the new V&A museum.

More penguin spotting … a fabulous picnic spot … and the key attraction of exploring a winery – it sounds like another perfect schedule for a Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Another day of warm sunshine and fabulous blue skies was forecast so my dynamic crew decided on a new route south from the Tay Road Bridge to Errol on  Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1 and NCN Rt77.

“Did someone say we are visiting a winery” asked the “old gal” – trying hard not to sound too enthusiastic – as we drove to Dundee. “Yes, and you’ll get to sample their produce!” responded the “old git” before adding: “And on a day like today you will be able to close your eyes and think you are in the vineyards of France!” … Well almost!

But first there was the business of continuing our penguin hunt by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail of 80 giant individually designed penguins! The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

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

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee we had to battle a bit of a headwind on the “downhill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge, before taking the lift down to Discovery Point where we spotted our first penguin of the day – Fundeeland at Discovery point.

This is a real hub of the City of Discovery with the three masts of the wooden Royal Research Ship Discovery, which was captained by Robert Falcon Scott on his first journey to the Antarctic in 1902, creating an interesting old and new backdrop with the soon-to-be-opened V&A Dundee design museum which has been built to look like a giant ship.

We headed south out of Dundee along Riverside Drive at the start of the NCN Rt77 but quickly stopped at the eye-catching Yoda Pengiun – from the Star Wars movie franchise – which has been imaginatively sponsored by Specsavers!

Here I am with the eye-catching Yoda penguin – sponsored by Specsavers!

I Believe I can Fly penguin with me and the “old gal” at Dundee Airport!

We tandemed on towards Dundee Airport where the “old gal” couldn’t resist having her photo taken with I Believe I can Fly penguin – suitably painted in old-fashioned flying gear!

Into Invergowrie – passing the station – before the path comes out beside the Tay giving impressive views of the river which is some 4.5 kilometres wide at this point. Interestingly the NCN Rt77, which links Dundee with Pitlochry, is also known as the salmon run – and it was easy to see why at this point.

The spectacular Firth of Tay is 4.5 kilometres wide at this point near Invergowrie!

On out into the Carse of Gowrie – one of the country’s prime growing areas for strawberries and raspberries – where the “old git” and the “old gal” found themselves pedalling hard against that headwind. But it was a lovely relatively flat route though and the scenery is amazing. We passed the old Errol airfield before an uphill stretch into the village of Errol itself – which retains a feel from years gone past. We tandemed on for another mile to our planned picnic spot at Port Allen.

Little remains of what was once a principal local harbour in the Victorian times at Port Allen.

Although nothing but a picturesque bridge remains now, Port Allen was one of the principal local harbours in Victorian times. Given how quiet and tranquil it was on our visit, and its rural location, it is hard to imagine it as a bustling port area.

The beautiful old bridge is all that is left of any harbour area at Port Allen.

The area – known as the Tay reed beds – form the largest continuous area of reeds in the UK and are an internationally recognised habitat for breeding and overwintering birds. It certainly provided a tranquil spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy their picnic on a lovely hand crafted bench.

Ideal hand-crafted picnic bench – deep in the Carse of Gowrie by the Tay at Port Allen.

Re-fuelled by the picnic – and a bit of warm sunny relaxation – it was time to start the return journey … with the additional carrot of the visit to the winery! Tandeming back thru Errol we took a detour to the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery. The cycle-conscious owners have even created their own cycle path off NCN Rt77 to their farm base to make it easier for visitors to get there.

That’s a big bottle! There is no doubt about the kind of operation going on at Cairn o’Mohr.

The operation has grown in recent years and now has huge vats to mature the fruit wine.

The winery has been producing its well-known brand of Scottish fruit wines since 1987 and is a key visitor attraction in the area – offering various tours and tastings. The AliBob Cafe offers a huge range of memorable treats – and of course the opportunity to sample the produce.

The “old git” and “old gal” treated themselves to sample the range of sparkling wines – including a very tasty strawberry fizz! Naturally there was also a sozzled fruit scone – with the raisins soaked in the wine before baking! And a far too tempting range of cakes – which my dynamic crew decided it would have been rude not to taste!

Fruit fizz, scones, cakes and coffee! What’s not to like?!

Having consumed far too may calories (but very enjoyably!) the “old git” upped the pace on the ride back to Dundee in a vain attempt to burn some of them off! It really was blissful tandeming in the warm sunshine, and with the wind behind us, as we pedalled across some fantastic countryside.

The scenery we tandemed past was stunning – like this impressive tree lined avenue.

We flashed thru Invergowrie and past the airport back into Dundee via Riverside Drive where we took a few minutes to stop at the impressive Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial. It is a moving tribute to the victims of the disaster back in 1879 when the central navigation spans of the Tay Bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay, taking with them a train, 6 carriages and 75 souls to their fate.

A shot looking towards the Tay Rail Bridge – from just beside the memorial stones to the 1879 disaster.

Just time to tick off two more penguins on our pedal back to the lift onto the Tay Road Bridge. First up was Poppy the penguin and the last one of our ride was The Baltic Builder penguin – complete in Bob the Builder artwork clevery placed beside all the construction work which is being finished off near Discovery Point.

The “old gal” with Poppy the Penguin easily spotted from the cycle path.

The Baltic Builder penguin – aka Bob the Builder – with the “old git”.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – a stretch which always seems to come at the end of a long ride and therefore not one to bring shouts of enthusiasm from my dynamic crew! In truth it always seems a bit of a grind. But today the wind was blowing in the correct direction and the “old git” set the “old gal” a challenge of trying to break Team Matilda’s record for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment of 6 minutes 46 seconds set just the week before!

And my dynamic crew were euphoric when they reached the other side of the Tay – well they would have been if they weren’t so out of puff – to discover that they had smashed their own record by over half a minute to a new Team Matilda record of 6 minutes 12 seconds. I was most impressed and am now wondering if they can beat that the next time we do this route!

After calming down and getting his breath back at Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12 miles an hour while the elevation was 983 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1682 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.

Again a fantastic de-stressing memorable day out and escape for my dynamic crew in glorious sunshine. I guess with the weather and the winery we really could have been tandeming on one of Team Matilda’s fabulous Tours de France …

Well almost!

Life’s a beach Superheroes and p-p-p-p-ick up the penguin trail on ride to Arbroath

It’s not everyday I get to meet up with three Superheroes at Broughty Ferry!

Meeting superheroes and penguins – well I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me as I should be well used to such strange happenings on another typical Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Sunday morning dawned with fabulous blue skies so my dynamic crew decided on a route from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1.

And as an added attraction the “old git” decided that we would do some penguin spotting by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail and spotting some of the 80 giant individually designed penguins! 

The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

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

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee a quick “downhill” pedal took us across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast to Broughty Ferry. That’s where we ticked off our first penguin – appropriately called Crystal Azure given the weather conditions.

Matching outfits (nearly!) The “old gal” ticks off our first penguin – Crystal Azure at Broughty Ferry.

Just beside our first penguin photo stop, we spotted a Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter which has been installed at the east end of Douglas Terrace path along the waterfront and will provide a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 88th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 10,721 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

What a great idea! The Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

Tandeming past Broughty Ferry Castle my dynamic crew were somewhat surprised to be accosted by no less than three Superheroes – Hulk, Captain America and Robin – who were looking for transport to the town’s Gala Day in the adjacent park! This “old lady” was in my element as it’s not exactly an everyday occurrence to be the subject of such Superhero attention (and of course – whisper it – so was the “old gal” even tho she loyally claims the “old git” is her superhero!)

The “old gal” couldn’t fail to be impressed with her new pals – Hulk, Captain America and Robin.

Having safely delivered the Superheroes to the Gala Day – as you do! – we pedaled on to our next stop on the trail – a penguin called Sunrise who was enjoying the sunshine in Barnhill Rock Garden situated just behind the dunes of the beach.

My dynamic crew meet Sunrise penguin just behind Broughty ferry beach.

My dynamic crew tandemed on to Carnoustie where preparations were in the final stages for hosting the 147th The Open which was 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 course was looking resplendent in the sun and I took the opportunity of a sneeky photo in front of the area for the world’s top golfers to practice their putting. Naturally the golf course is host to a penguin – Old Tom Morris named after the legendary Scots golfer who won The Open four times back in the 1860s.

At Carnoustie Golf Links – looking resplendent in the sun ready for the 147th The Open.

The “old git” meets Old Tom Morris penguin at Carnoustie Golf Links.

Now the “old gal” and the “old git” have never progressed further than Carnoustie – despite doing this ride a few times. But today, conditions couldn’t be better and my dynamic crew decided to pedal out on the extra seven miles along NCN Rt1 to Arbroath. And what a joy that section of the cycle path was to pedal on. The harbour town was looking a its best in the bright sunshine and was busy with families enjoying the beach giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.

It was the warmest part of the day when Team Matilda arrived at the harbour area at Arbroath.

The “old gal” spotted some picnic benches on the High Common which gave a great view over the beach and sea and the perfect spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy one of their signature prosecco picnics! And I am told the fizz went down particularly well given the high temperatures!

A park bench overlooking the sea – perfect spot for my dynamic crew’s prosecco picnic!

Refuelled after a most relaxing and tasty picnic, and catching the sun’s rays, my dynamic crew set off from Arbroath on the return journey along NCN Rt1. It was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. It was a fun ride and soon we were in the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome!

The “old gal” seems temporarily confused as to which bike she should be riding at East Haven!

East Haven is one of five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it was easy for the “old git” and “old gal” to see why as they stopped to admire the colourful community gardens – complete with a fishing boat. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

The “old git” enjoying the scene in the award-winning picturesque garden at East Haven.

Back into Carnoustie and time for a photo stop by the beach – where the sea was actually blue! Quite a contrast to my dynamic crew’s last visit in March when it was not exactly sunbathing weather! In fact the “old gal” was so cold she had to wear not only her own cycling jacket, but the “old git’s” as well in a bid to try and keep warm!

The “old gal” enjoying it being a tad warmer – and less windy – than on our last visit to Carnoustie!

No such weather problems today and a glorious sunny pedal took us along the coast for another signature event of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake! The venue was the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach.

As we stopped the “old git” discovered that he had left his cycling wallet – complete with the required cash for said carrot cake – in Matilda Transport. Fortunately the ever-resourceful “old gal” had a small amount of cash with her and they just managed to fund a cold drink each and share a portion of carrot cake! I have a feeling that the “old git” will not be allowed to forget about that one for a while!

The “old git” meets Bonnie Dundee penguin.

Back into Broughty Ferry – and the “old gal” was disappointed not to see her new Superhero friends again! But there was more penguin spotting to be done including the Bonnie Dundee one in the park. We discovered this one had actually been painted by talented artist Gail Stirling Robertson – who lives not far from Team Matilda’s home base of Auchterarder in the next village of Dunning and who is also the daughter of friends of my dynamic crew. Gail focuses on what she calls “quirky bendy art” – taking well known places and literally adding her own slant to them, while still keeping them recognizable.

The “old gal” with Penguin’s Paradise at Broughty Ferry

Capguin Scott penguin getting to know the “old git” at Brought Ferry Harbour.

After ticking another two penguins off the list – Penguin’s Paradise at Broughty Ferry Castle and Capguin Scott at the harbour – we tandemed off on the final stretch to Dundee. In the shadows of the Tay Road Bridge, near the Apex Hotel, we found the last one of our ride – called Engulfed.

The last penguin meet – Engulfed at the Apex Hotel near the Tay Road Bridge.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Back at Matilda Transport there was time for the “old git” to check Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 19 gongs – a highly pleasing 12 personal bests; 5 second bests; and 2 third bests. My dynamic crew were delighted to discover that one of the PB’s was for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment on the return crossing with a new Team Matilda record breaking time of 6 minutes 46 seconds!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 32 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.9 while the elevation was 642 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1552 calories and produce an average power output of 109 W.

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

All in all it was a much needed day out and escape for my dynamic crew – and was certainly action packed. I really don’t think Team Matilda could have packed any more in … unless I become a Superhero bike of course! Now there’s an idea! ……..