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.
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 “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! ….
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!
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!
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 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!
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!
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!
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!
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!