Fine dining Sunday lunch – macaroni pie style!

The “old gal” with her Sunday lunch fine dining delicacy of a macaroni pie!

Don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! “Treat you to Sunday lunch by tandem,” said the “old git! “Oooh, that sounds like a plan,” said the “old gal” suitably impressed! Well let’s just say that the resulting gastronomic delight was not exactly the the silver service fine dining experience that was anticipated! Read on to find out about our (mis)adventure!

It all started so well with some bright sunshine greeting my dynamic crew on Sunday morning. Yes there was some strong gusts of wind blowing about, but the decision was taken to get out and about from a second successive Autumnal local ride. The masterplan was for a ride to Dunblane, with that promised stop for lunch at a mystery location somewhere on the return trip.

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel followed by a nice downhill stretch and on to Braco.

Near to Kinbuck Team Matilda passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to think that she may be in for a real culinary experience on the return pedal! Let’s just say she was mistaken!

The “old git” wasn’t saying anything as the “old gal” started to salivate at the treat which could be in-store and added more power to my pedals to get me to our turning point of Dunblane.

The 20 mile mark – the “old gal” looking fresh at Barbush Roundabout in Dunblane.

A quick stop for a breather and some water at the Barbush roundabout and we headed on the return leg. Anticipation was building … but the “old gal’s” face fell when the “old git” steered me right past the entrance to Cromlix without even breaking cadence!

So if it wasn’t Cromlix for Sunday lunch – then where? Perhaps another suitably grand venue of Gleneagles Hotel ? Not exactly. The venue chosen by my Captain to treat my Stoker was … wait for it … Braco Coffee shop !

Actually, joking aside, the “old gal” was quite pleased really as we pulled up outside given she was clad in cycling gear – not really the dress of choice for a fine dining experience!

My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by these snazzy motorbike helmets.

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and motorbikers having decided to stop en route for sustenance. My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by a pair of very snazzy looking motorbike helmets!

Now as I said at the start of this blog – don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! The “old git” spied something he knew would have the “old gal” in ecstasy … the Scottish delicacy of a macaroni pie!

And he was correct! The “old gal” loved it! The carb-laden pie was fresh, warm, very tasty and great value! Sunday lunch sorted! Result!

Before! Happy girl! The “old gal” just before devouring the macaroni pie!

After!  Unhappy girl!  The “old gal” just after devouring the macaroni pie!

And the pies were washed down with lovely strong coffee, accompanied by a yummy piece of caramel shortcake! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

Time to move on. Despite the pesky wind, It was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire and on the return journey the “old git” – with the “old gal’s” full consent! – detoured to add on a few extra miles with a reprise of the longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then up past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved that heady combination of pain and euphoria for my dynamic crew as they again nailed the steep 10% gradient section known as the Duchally Ramp. The fact that Strava awarded a second best gong as we managed to grind it out only added to the sense of achievement for all three of us!

The last three miles flew past – living up to the section’s name as Duchally Downhill Fun – before a final sharp hill on Abbey Road.

Back in the sanctuary of Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – which given the brutal winds and the hills was nothing short of astonishing! The total was made up of 4 personal bests;  17 second bests; and 5 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 33.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given that we were being blown about as if in a wind tunnel!) while the elevation was a not unsubstantial 1799 feet. The maximum speed was 32.2 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2032 calories (yes that’s before the negative effect of the macaroni pie!!!) and produce an average power output of 176 W.

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

The great macaroni pie (mis)adventure – which received lost of fun comments on my social media channels – was the second Autumnal local run in a row for Team Matilda.

The week before the “old gal” decided the destination for coffee and cake would be Gloagburn Farm Shop – with the distance of around 28 hilly miles adequate to work up an appetite for the goodies on offer. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On the long downhill stretch out of Auchterarder the “old git” was on a mission to try and break Team Matilda’s recent speed record of 34.7 mph. But despite my dynamic crew adopting their most aero-dynamic position, the data showed that the fastest we hit was 32.4 mph again!  Naturally the “old git” blamed the headwind! But he has ambitions to break that record again soon!

Crossing Kinkell Bridge marks the start of the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church, which dates back to 1770, before several cheeky sharp climbs in the area which was known as the Gask Ridge Frontier  – the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

After the sharp climbs there was some relief for my dynamic crew as we sped along to Tibbermore on a gently undulating stretch to our half way stop of the oasis which is Gloagburn Farm Shop.

The “old gal” – looking as fresh as a daisy – on arrival at Gloagburn Farm Shop in the sun.

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and rewarded themselves with some coffee, scones and the signature carrot cake. After refuelling it was then time to battle the headwinds on the return journey as we tandemed thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent back to sea level at Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable spot for a photo of the “old git” while having a water break.

Kinkell Bridge offered the perfect spot for a photo showing Perthshire at its best!

Time for the final pedal and the energy sapping long grind of Easthill back up to Auchterarder. But despite a fierce headwind I can happily report that my dynamic crew managed that stretch just 9 seconds outside their personal best while achieving an average speed of 8.4 mph!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 9 gongs – not bad given the emergence of the wind … again! The total was made up of 2 personal bests; 1 second best; and 3 third bests. My dynamic crew got real pleasure out of the PB for the climb past Trinity Gask Kirk! The time on this ride was 2 minutes 24 seconds … over a  minute and a half faster than back in July when it was 4 minutes 01 seconds. Good to see their efforts rewarded!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph while the elevation was 1239 feet. The maximum speed was 32.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1571 calories and produce an average power output of 168 W.

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

So all in all two great Autumnal rides to keep my dynamic crew “in training” on their fitness regime.

There’s probably going to be a short gap till my next blog as the “old gal” and “old git” are heading to warmer climes for a sneaky holiday week sitting on a beach in Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba.

As for me I am being left behind in my cosy garage as it is a well-earned relaxing break.  The “old git” however has already researched the availability of hiring a bike for a short ride. But the “old gal” says the only pedalling that she will be doing is on one of those pedalo boats! But at least that will be “in tandem”!

Till the next adventure!

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Yummy cake at new Braco Coffee shop but rain stopped play on Dunblane tandem ☔

The “old gal” drookit on arrival at the new bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop!

Carrot cake and tandeming goes together like … well like Team Matilda’s Captain and Stoker really!

And my dynamic crew’s love for a stop at a coffee shop for carrot cake has become a signature event of our rides. In fact I understand the unbeatable combination is now de rigueur for most tandemers!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been told about a great new tandem and cycle-friendly coffee shop in Braco and the plan for the day involved a pedal to build an appetite to sample the goodies on offer.

But the plan came a bit unstuck in some heavy rain which stopped the planned route in its tracks, forcing us to quickly retreat to the coffee shop to dry out.

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

Now as regular readers of my blog will know the “old git” is a bit of a zealot for checking the weather forecast with the localised BBC Weather service being his (usually) reliable first port of call. Dry and cloudy it said! But it was wrong!

When we set out it was accurate and soon we were tandeming away from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and on to Braco. To be honest, the cloud was building at this point – as the “old gal” pointed out. But the “old git” in his role as Captain decided to press on with the planned route to Dunblane.

But halfway to Dunblane – just before Kinbuck – rain stopped play with some ninja showers rolling in off the hills forcing the decision to abandon and take shelter before hastily retracing our route back to Braco.

It would need to be said my dynamic crew were looking somewhat less than dynamic as they arrived outside the Braco Coffee shop – drookit being the appropriate Scots word!

But they were guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome as the previous attempt at sampling the coffee shop ended in inglorious failure as my crew arrived just 8 minutes after the owners had decided to close early at 3 pm for staff training … on a busy Bank Holiday Monday!

Braco Coffee was sadly closed on our last visit – but my crew got a friendly welcome this time!

It was most definitely a case of “You’ll have had your tea” … as they say in some parts of Scotland as my crew disappointingly arrived that day to find the blinds down and not even the option of buying a carry out coffee, despite having checked the opening hours online before setting out.

After getting in touch with the owners they admitted it perhaps wasn’t the best day to close early – and tempted my dynamic crew to pay another visit – with some vouchers to help ease the disappointment!

Great coffee, scones, brownie and carrot cake! (Scones so good already eaten!)

Fair play to them, so my Captain and Stoker were happy to re-visit … and well worthwhile it turned out to be. Braco Coffee shop opened its doors back in March and since then has been providing an oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area – well situated on the busy tourist route to Crieff.

My dynamic crew can report that the fruit scones, chocolate brownie, and of course the carrot cake were all yummy as was the very welcome freshly brewed strong coffee.

The scones were so good that my dynamic crew forgot to take the pictures until after they had been scoffed! The “old git” nearly got his hand bitten off when he remembered and stopped the “old gal” just at the moment of launching in to sample the cakes!

The “old gal” still looking a tad wet! But ready to pounce on the cakes!

A real plus point for Braco Coffee Shop is that it doesn’t just keep to the coffee and cakes offering – the menu includes interesting freshly made lunch options including the likes of quiche and an interestingly named naanwich … obviously made from naan bread! And you can wash it all down with a glass of wine … or indeed prosecco … as it has a table licence.

And it stays open past its usual 5pm closing – till 9pm on a Friday and Saturday, to offer the local area a bistro dining option.

Great friendly customer service with a smile from the Braco Coffee team!

The food was tasty, fresh and well presented – with the scones warm on serving – which along with great friendly service from the Braco Coffee team, and sparkling toilets, meant the venue got top marks from Team Matilda! Well worth pointing your wheels in the direction of Braco for a pit stop on your next cycle ride! The carrot cake is worth it alone!

Now fortunately, while my dynamic crew refuelled, the rain disappeared – allowing for a fairly pleasant return tandem ride. Indeed weather conditions had improved dramatically so the “old git” decided not to simply repeat the outward journey but to add on a few extra miles with a longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved some euphoria after nailing the steep 7% – 10% gradient uphill section known as the Duchally Ramp – which previously had seen my dynamic crew grind to a halt. But in my new low gear they managed to grind it out – which gave all three of us a great sense of achievement.

The last three miles flew past and returning to Matildas Rest the “old gal” quickly put the Team Matilda cycling anoraks – which had performed admirably in the downpour – on the washing line to dry.

The Team Matilda anoraks that did their job keeping my dynamic crew dry hanging on the line.

While the anoraks were blowing dry in the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 16 gongs – which given the weather conditions and the hilly terrain was pretty unbelievable! The total was made up of 7 personal bests;  and 9 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.2 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 09 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph (given the monsoon rain!) while the elevation was 1401 feet. The maximum speed was 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1569 calories and produce an average power output of 182 W.

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

So not quite the 35 miles that were planned – but still a good bit of exercise! And it is always good to find a another tandem and bike-friendly coffee shop serving carrot cake! We’ll be back!

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!

Team Matildas 3000th tandem mile clocked up during celebration ride on Millport 🍾🥂

Team Matilda chose one of their favourite spots – Millport – to record their 3000th tandem mile!

“But I would tandem 3000 miles

And I would tandem 3000 more!”

Well not quite the lyrics of the chorus of the famous “I’m Gonna be (500 miles) anthem by Scots band The Proclaimers! But you get the idea!

The reason behind the slightly unusual introduction to this blog is that it marks a celebration ride for my dynamic crew as they clock up their 3000th mile on my saddles.

It was an early start on Sunday morning as Team Matilda had decided to head “overseas” to one of their favourite tandeming spots to hit their major landmark – the island of Millport. As regular visitors to the island, and big fans of its charm, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided their beloved “Costa del Millport” would be the ideal destination for their celebrations. The island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the sea.

After a fairly quick 77 mile drive in Matilda Transport to the west coast, I was unpacked in Largs and we tandemed to catch the CalMac ferry. The island is less than a 10 minute trip across the Firth of Clyde, but those few minutes make a huge difference as it feels like you are heading to a different world as you leave the mainland – and your worries – behind.

With the sun out the ferry was busy and it was good to see quite a few other bikes on the crossing – even if there were no other tandems. Despite the sun it was obvious from the choppy water that this was going to be a fairly blustery tandeming day by the seaside!

The “old gal” on the slipway after disembarking the Millport ferry.

As we disembarked the ferry the milometer was reading 2980 – so 20 miles to tandem till the big celebrations! We headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile tandem into the town of Millport – and that is when we encountered our first blast of headwind. So much for the balmy conditions which had been forecast! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On reaching Millport town, the “old gal” decided a coffee stop was a must and my dynamic crew called in to the wonderfully named Crocodeli delicatessen – which combines the deli part with the famous Crocodile Rock landmark. The coffee was just as the “old gal” likes it – nice and strong and my crew couldn’t resist a small Italian pastry to accompany it!

Crocodeli had an interesting couple of posters in the window – one which was obviously designed for the “old gal’s” love of coffee … while the other seemed to suggest that the much maligned “old git” – aka real name Colin – had been providing the “live entertainment” in one of the local bars two nights before! Me and the “old gal” had a good laugh at that prospect!

The poster suggesting my Captain was providing the entertainment in a local bar!

Time for the first lap and we headed off clockwise quickly pedalling out from the town and enjoying magnificent views across to neighbouring islands of Arran and Bute. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with numerous deserted beaches and abundant wildlife. In high spirits we identified our usual “private picnic table” and “made a booking” for an hour’s time when on our second lap! In what seemed like no time at all we had completed the first circuit by pedalling back into the town in less than 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up given the blustery conditions!

After a quick break it was time to start our second circuit – and this would be the one that would see my dynamic crew clock up tandem mile number 3000! Anti clockwise this time and as we pedalled out of town the beach at Kames Bay looked stunning in the sunshine with the island more than living up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.

As we pedalled on up past the ferry slipway the “old git” started the countdown to the big moment. “Two thousand nine hundred and ninety nine point one … point two …” Then to much parping of my French horn and hooting from my dynamic crew the magic 3000 appeared on my milometer!

The landmark 3000th mile clocked up on my milometer! Quite a moment!

Who would have thunk it eh? I know it is a fairly small distance in the grand scheme of things but for my dynamic crew it is quite an achievement. And if someone had suggested when the “old git” and “old gal” first climbed on to my saddles that we would tandem 3000 miles together – they would have been laughed at. But they have achieved it – and for that this “old lady” classic Jack Taylor tandem is rightly proud! And they tell me there are many more miles – and of course the related smiles – to come!

Thumbs up from my dynamic crew to hitting the 3000 mile landmark.

The “old git” pulled in to a viewpoint at the memorial at Tomont End to take in the magnitude of the moment! Well actually it was to allow him to grab a passing cyclist – bemused by all the fuss – to take a photo of my dynamic crew’s big moment!

We tandemed on for another couple of miles till we arrived at our private picnic table – a perfect setting for a prosecco celebration toast to Team Matildas clocking up their 3000th #tandem mile together. Just as well I was faithfully carrying a bottle in my stylish la bouclee wine carrier!

Firstly there were the official “3000 mile” photos of the “old gal” and “the old git” grinning with euphoria as they looked at my milometer after reaching such a landmark achievement.

The “old gal” looking suitably pleased at clocking up 3000 tandem miles!

The “old git” seems just a tad pleased too at breaking the 3000 mile barrier!

Then to delay the toast even further the “old git” decided we needed a stylish shot of the picnic table – just to set the scene! I must say with all this faffing about I thought the “old gal” – who was by now in need of some prosecco re-hydration therapy – was going to hit him over the head with the bottle!

Prosecco picnic is served! Our special picnic bench provided the perfect celebration venue.

Finally the “old git” popped the cork – and the opportunity for my dynamic crew to enjoy a quick quaff (or three!) of the fizz! But naturally the “old git” wasn’t finished yet with the media tasks and decided we need a video to record the 3000 mile toast for posterity! Watch as my Captain waffles on about the achievement – only for the “old gal” taking great delight in pointing out that he doesn’t have the milometer switched on when showing it to the camera!

Our idyllic quiet picnic table had stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The food which emerged from the ‘bicycle rider’s luncheon box’ was delicious smoked salmon and spinach wraps followed by fruit salad. Oh, did I happen to mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!

The “old gal” created an artistic treatment on a photo of the milometer against the prosecco bottle.

After a walk on the beach my dynamic crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at another favourite stop – the ultra friendly Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers. The welcoming coffee shop has a wonderful view looking out on to the colourful promenade – looking quite tropical with its palm trees – and the sea beyond.

The “old gal on the colourful promenade at Millport which was looking quite tropical.

Before our planned final speed lap my dynamic crew decided to have a look at the pier area in the town which is currently subject to a high profile community fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on a visit last September Team Matilda joined the campaign to save the facility. The campaign is drawing attention to the community’s fears over the deterioration of the wooden pier which dates from 1833, amid fears over its long term future – with concern it will be demolished if funds are not invested in protecting it.

While my crew checked out Millport Pier I met a new friend!

Neglected since 2014 the pier is now out of bounds for safety reasons. And that means there is currently nowhere in Millport to safely tie up a boat – with the ferry slipway only usable by by roll on/ roll off ferries. As an island community, campaigners are battling to show the economy and resilience of the island is being compromised – and persuade North Ayrshire Council to repair the pier. Let’s hope the campaign has some good news to report soon.

Meanwhile on the pier head the “old git” found evidence that the island was living up to one of its advertising slogans: “Millport – in a world of its own!” All the clock faces at the weigh bridge were showing different times! But then the good thing is that noone seemed remotely bothered!

No further comment needed!

Well I guess you don’t really need to know what time it is when in Millport!

So the carrot cake was to provide the fuel for the planned ‘finish with a flourish’ – where Team Matilda’s last complete lap would be an attempt on our own Tour de Millport record time for going round the island of 38 minutes dead. But although this was a record breaking day in achieving the 3000th tandem mile landmark, it would need to be said that Team Matilda were not hopeful of hitting another record given the wind conditions encountered on the two laps earlier in the day.

But my dynamic crew gamely decided to give it a go. With the changeable conditions there was much discussion about which way to go – using arguments and counter arguments and the scientific experiment of sticking a finger in the air to try and establish which way the wind was blowing! Finally the “old gal” decided on clockwise! And to emphasise the serious nature of this new personal best attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!

We set off from the Royal George Hotel at the pier and I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. The tail wind certainly helped progress for the first half of the island, and the record attempt was certainly on track.

But then approaching the top end of the island we hit the wind – quite literally! The second half was a bit of a struggle against firstly a fierce crosswind, then head on! My dynamic crew bravely battled on … but the clock was ticking down into the red as we pedalled back into the town.

Crossing the finishing line back at the Royal George the clock said 42 minutes 39 seconds – which meant an average speed of 14.1 mph. This was well over 4 minutes behind our previous best – but blame the wind as on the day we set the personal best, conditions were much calmer and the average achieved that day was 15.8 mph. Still, it was a respectable time so the “old git” and “old gal” were pleased despite not making it a double record breaking day.

After a much needed refreshment my dynamic crew headed to the Harbour Restaurant for a meal. Fans of Matildas Musings will know that this is the restaurant of choice for the “old git” and the “old gal” on Millport. The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! Just what was needed to restore energy levels.

After the meal it was time for the final pedal – four miles back to the ferry slipway. And amazingly – and quite surprisingly – the wind which had been blowing all day had disappeared which resulted in Team Matilda recording their fastest times of the day on the ride to catch the ferry!

On the short crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 12 gongs – 2 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 6 third bests. Given the changeable wind conditions my dynamic crew were pretty pleased with that outcome!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.9 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 1044 feet. The maximum speed was 20.8 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1887 calories and produce an average power output of 153 W.

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

Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards from the ferry terminal saw us back at Matilda Transport and in just over an hour we were all back at Matildas Rest after another fabulous day out full of fun, laughs, sunshine (albeit with a bit of wind!) and great tandeming!

Which left my dynamic crew pondering that there can’t be many better ways and places to chalk up their 3000th tandem mile landmark.

Roll on the 4000th mile – and smile – celebrations is what I say!

Tandeming the dens dells and delis of Dunkeld

Ready to roll in the warm sunshine – with Dunkeld Bridge in the background.

Now as you know this “old lady” likes to try something new every now and again – so when the “old git” came up with the idea of tandeming a new route around the ancient Cathedral “city” of Dunkeld in Highland Perthshire, it seemed like an exciting plan!

And when the “old git” mentioned that we passed a couple of coffee shops and finished at a new deli which we also did tapas early evening, the “old gal” was immediately on board too!

The addition of the deli word gave the “old git” the joy of coming up with some of his favoured alliteration in the title of the ride – adding to the dens and dells of Dunkeld! Simple pleasures!

Now for those who are not au fait with Scots dialect a “den” is a long and narrow valley while a “dell” is  a hollow and there are plenty of both in this area … but (whisper it) that also means it is lumpy!

The 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.

The sun was already high in the sky creating a perfect day for our tandem ride as I was unloaded from Matilda Transport at the Tay Terrace Car Park handily placed beside the river just after crossing Dunkeld Bridge. After kitting up – and applying the necessary factor 30 – Team Matilda pedalled off along the A984 which runs east out of Dunkeld to Caputh.

This follows the route of an old military road built by Major William Caulfield in the 18th century. It is a lovely road to cycle with mild undulations and and some great views over the majestic River Tay.

Just after Caputh is the hamlet of Spittalfield which is home to the cyclist and walker-friendly Walkin’ Cafe. Opened a year ago the welcoming cafe specifically targets cyclists and walkers who frequent the area. For many years the building was the village store before being transformed into a cafe to keep it as a hub of the village.

The cafe has lots of cycling-related aftefacts to catch the eye – and don’t forget to look out for the French-designed poster showing all the different kinds of bikes which have been produced over the years … in the toilets! Glad to say that a tandem was featured among the drawings! The “old git” and “old gal” quickly polished off a coffee and scone from the appealing treats on offer.

The Walkin’ Cafe is a real oasis for cyclists and has lots of bike artefacts.

The Walkin’ Cafe is ideally situated on the A984 at Spittalfield to attract cyclists and walkers.

Refreshed we pedalled on for around four miles to a local landmark of the Meikleour Beech Hedge which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest hedge in Britain and the highest of its kind in the world. It is is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the Meikleour Beech Hedge – the longest hedge in the UK.

Our route took us left at Meikleour on to the A93 towards Blairgowrie – and although it was quite a busy road cars gave us plenty of space as we pedalled along. Just before Blairgowrie centre, we turned left again on to the scenic A923 which would take us back to Dunkeld – with the promise of enjoying the views over no less than six lochs along the way.

We quickly passed Rae Loch and Loch of Drumellie before the “old gal” decided it was time to stop for one of Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! She fortuitously called stop at beautiful Loch of Clunie. Although it was busy – due to the sunshine – with families enjoying the shallow calm water she found a spot on the beach to allow my dynamic crew to sunbathe and enjoy their picnic goodies. And the sit was made all the more comfortable by our fab new fold-up pads which our good cycling friends John and Jane had given my crew on the recent mini Tour de Perthshire.

Sun-kissed Loch of Clunie provided the perfect stop for a prosecco picnic.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew enjoying the warm sun on the loch’s beach.

Chillin – the “old gal” relaxing in the sun on our new picnic pads.

Back on the road and maybe it was just the effects of the relaxing picnic, but my dynamic crew noticed the gentle incline as we headed on past Loch of Butterstone. We took a short diversion to the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve – a near 100 hectacre site where the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. We had actually spotted the huge wingspan of one of the magnificent birds doing a spot of fishing for food for their chicks in one of the lochs earlier.

The Loch of the Lowes reserve – famous for its ospreys – is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

From the last of the six lochs – Loch of Craiglush – there is a steep climb and my dynamic crew had to work hard to keep my wheels turning. A long winding – but welcome – swooping downhill stretch returned us to Dunkeld with some time to explore the town. First stop was the eye-catching Atholl Memorial Fountain in the Market Cross area. The Fountain was funded by public subscription and built in 1866 ‘to the memory of George Augustus Frederick John 6th Duke of Atholl’ who had introduced a piped water supply to Dunkeld.

The “old git” at the Atholl Memorial Fountain in Dunkeld.

By now my dynamic crew were ready for a re-fuel and had some fabulous cake sitting outside on the sun drenched terrace at the Spill the Beans coffee shop.

Next we took in some of the Dunkeld Heritage Walk (or cycle!) which takes in many of the restored 18th century merchants houses in Cathedral Street – which are now looked after by The Little Houses Improvement Scheme – in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. This includes The Old Rectory which is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house. Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns and Fiddler Neil Gow entertained here in 1787.

I feel like a young thing beside Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house!

Cathedral Street – not surprisingly – leads to Dunkeld Cathedral whose history can be traced to the ninth century when it emerged as an important religious centre for the early Celtic Church. No building of this period survives, the present Cathedral dates from 1318. Partly destroyed during the Reformation (1560), the choir is roofed and now serves as the parish church for regular Sunday worship. The rest of the cathedral is ruinous, but is preserved as an Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who are also responsible for the grounds.

Cooling in the shade in the grounds of the historic Dunkeld Cathedral.

The cathedral’s grounds give great views over the River Tay and Dunkeld Bridge.

The grounds of the cathedral give great views over the majestic River Tay and the historic Dunkeld Bridge which was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1809.

After all the miles and the local history it was time for us all to return to Matilda Transport. I was safely loaded back inside while my dynamic crew got changed for a refreshment stop before dinner.

Over a nicely chilled glass of white wine, and enjoying the warm sunshine on the decking of the Atholl Arms overlooking the river, the “old git” checked Strava which showed no gongs as this was our first time on this route. But the detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given a couple of sharp hills while the elevation was 1178 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1528 calories and produce an average power output of 185 W.

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

Suitably impressed by that data my dynamic crew ended their day out in style with a mouth watering tapas meal at the highly recommended The Scottish Deli on Dunkeld’s Atholl Street. I am told that the prawns in garlic and the manchego cheese and serrano ham platter were particularly impressive!

Replete it was time for the 30 minute return drive to Matildas Rest and soon time for some zzzs after a memorable sunny day out as we tandemed the dens, dells and delis of Dunkeld in glorious Perthshire!

A Musings Special on mini Tour de Perthshire with Team Travelling in Tandem

Cheers! The Nutty Tandemers Club having one of their signature prosecco re-fuelling stops!

Early in June we were scheduled to be taking part in our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed.

But my dynamic crew did manage to meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for a couple of days for a mini Tour de Perthshire.

John and Jane – dubbed Team JayJay for the trip – kindly re-organised their holiday schedule in light of the postponement of the HebWay trip. Plan B saw them book a few nights at a local caravan park in Perth to allow us to meet up again for a couple of rides.

The two tandem teams had previously enjoyed two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year.

The Nutty Tandemers label came about from John and Jane having similar views as my dynamic crew on not taking tandeming too seriously and having lots of fun on a bicycle made for two!

Day 1 – Nutty Tandemers Club sunny fun ride around Tibbermore Kinkell Bridge and Trinity Gask

The Nutty Tandemers Club line-up for a group photo near Kinkell Bridge.

Great excitement as Team Matilda were heading to meet up with John and Jane – aka Team JayJay – for the first of two planned rides. And for this “old lady” there was the excitement of teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird.  Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies!

We all met up at Noah’s Ark Caravan Park in Perth – and after warm greetings we pedalled off on a route which would take Team JayJay round some of our favourite local spots.

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

After negotiating our way down from the caravan park and enduring a busy junction of the A85 over the A9 we were glad to turn off onto a much quieter road towards Tibbermore. The sun was shining and we managed to pedal a whole four miles before stopping for tea and cake and a much needed catch-up at Gloagburn Farm Shop!

Recharged we tandemed onwards thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent to our first point of interest – the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable venue for the first Nutty Tandemers photo stop! After all we only had two days to get 12 good photos for next year’s calendar!

John and Jane – making up Team JayJay – taking in the views at scenic Kinkell Bridge

Kinkell Bridge is just 3 miles from the “old git” and “old gal’s” home base.

Give way! The Nutty Tandemers ready for more pedalling at Kinkell Bridge

After Kinkell Bridge we started the climb away from the River Earn in an area known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall.

Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770 before it was time for one of the Nutty Tandemers Club signature prosecco re-hydrating stops! And naturally I had helpfully carried the bottle of fizz in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Time for one of the Nutty Tandemers Club signature prosecco re-fuelling stops!

Jane making sure the “old gal” doesn’t spill a drop of the obligatory prosecco!

Group selfie time! Prosecco cheers for Team Matilda and Team JayJay!

Time for a breather – and a welcome refreshment – for my dynamic crew!

Refreshed we continued to climb before re-emerging on to the Tibbermore road where my dynamic crew decided to show Team JayJay the fascinating historic Tibbermore Church which is now in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. Dating back to 1632 the characterful building ceased being a parish church in 1986 before being transferred to the trust in 2001.

Apart from being worthy of a visit in its own right due to its unusual layout, and its history, the church has another more recent claim to fame – which sees it visited by people from all over the world – as a recognised stop in the VisitScotland tour of Outlander filming locations.

Now it needs to be said that John and Jane – like the “old git” and the “old gal”- are one of the few people on the planet who have never watched an episode of the popular hit show Outlander. But clearly the mystical and spellbinding series has caught the imagination and is a ratings winner in around 40 different countries. The series, filmed in Scotland, is particularly popular in America and Europe and is now seen as a goldmine for attracting tourists by Scotland’s tourism agency.

John Jane and the “old gal” at the archway entrance to Tibbermore Church.

The church was used as a film set for the infamous witches trial – series 1 episode 11 called ‘The Devil’s Mark’. Over 10 days in June 2014 Tibbermore Church was the focal point for 120 crew and 200 extras involved in the production – transformed into the fictional Cranesmuir Church.

For the many fans of Outlander, the witches trial is one of the most memorable. The plot line sees Claire and Geillis Duncan accused of being witches – for which the punishment is being burned at the stake. The design of the building particularly lent itself to the key trial scene with the pulpit serving as the dock. Despite a spirited defence things don’t go well for Claire and Geillis – and in an attempt to save Claire, Geillis confesses to witchcraft. The “old gal” and Jane bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene!

The “old gal” and Jane recreate the infamous witches trial scene!

Escaping that drama it was an easy pedal back before a final uphill stretch back to the caravan park. Me and Siggy were safely locked up before the tandem crews had a quick change before heading to the nearby Glover Arms for a very welcome bar meal and a hospitable and entertaining evening.

On arrival at the Glovers Arms – while having a celebratory refreshment and perusing the menus – there was time for the “old git” to check Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 5 personal bests; 2 second bests; and 3 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew – accompanied by Team JayJay – tandemed a distance of 28.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 21 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1015 feet. The maximum speed was 31.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1498 calories and produce an average power output of  159 W.

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

Day 2 – Nutty Tandemers Club windy ride to Forteviot Bridge of Earn and Dunning

John and Jane – Team JayJay – at Bridge of Earn prior to Storm Hector arriving.

For the second ride of the Nutty Tandemers Club mini tour Team Jay arrived at Matildas Rest by car for another local route favoured by my dynamic crew – to Forteviot and Bridge of Earn.

The weather had sadly deteriorated from the day before – being a bit colder, breezy and also a bit of drizzle, but not bad enough to stop the ride.

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

With a nice tail wind we were soon approaching Dunning and had our first stop and a piece of local history at 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 in Scotland to be burned at the stake.

The “old git” decided this was a suitable venue for what has become a tradition of the Nutty Tandemers Club tours – a recreation of the three wise monkeys ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ scene. During the 2016 tour it was at the side of Loch Katrine and last year it was on the Isle of Wight.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – The Three Wise Monkeys 2018 version!

The new version captured by a photo we rode on thru Dunning and on to our next history lesson at Forteviot. The open roads allowed Jane to capture the “old git” and “old gal” in action, wearing their newly branded Team Matilda hi-vis rain jackets, especially purchased for the HebWay.

An shot of Team Matilda in action – with newly branded rain jackets – taken by Jane.

Despite the lack of sunshine it felt good to be out on the quiet scenic country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling. Soon we all tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

The tandem teams had a stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Thumbs up from the Nutty Tandemers at the new centrepiece stone at Forteviot.

The eye-catching stone carving – called ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

Back on the road and with both crews enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs the miles seemed to whizz past. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top. The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn where we had a suitably nutty photo shoot at the bridge over the Earn.

Time for a Nutty Tandemers photo shoot at the bridge at Bridge of Earn.

The “old gal” and “old git” having a laugh despite the less than perfect weather.

Back views can often be better! But a good shot of my dynamic crew in their new jackets!

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the fact that we were now battling a pretty fierce head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog!

Approaching Dunning the “old git” made a call for a stop at my dynamic crew’s favourite friendly country pub, The Kirkstyle Inn. One of its appeals is its range of artisan Scottish gins and this offered the ideal opportunity for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The Kirkstyle Inn at Dunning was a perfect spot for a reviving gin for the Nutty Tandemers!

During our gin stop the weather took a further turn with conditions becoming both a bit wetter and a lot windier as Storm Hector gave us an indication of what was in store the next day. This made the final few miles back to Matildas Rest pretty tough going – but it was still a good ride.

Out of the rain and wind the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 21 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; and 6 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed both crews tandemed a distance of 27.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 22 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.4 mph given the hilly terrain and the weather conditions, while the elevation was 1256 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1590 calories and produce an average power output of  167 W.

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

After being a bit battered by the weather the “old gal” produced a welcome pasta dish which was naturally washed down with some prosecco during a jolly evening of suitable nuttiness!

It was really a great mini break for my dynamic crew to be able to spend a bit of time enjoying the company of  John and Jane – who yet again proved to be real kindred spirits to my dynamic crew!

Regrettably it was not the grand adventure that was originally planned, but plans are already underway to to reschedule the Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge for next year. And I for one can’t wait!

Sun-kissed tandeming at Muthill Sportive 2018 – yellow route

Team Matilda – kitted out in eye-catching King of Mountain gear – at the Muthill Sportive.

There was much excitement at Matildas Rest on a recent Saturday as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official competitive bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2018. This would only be my second ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

Those of you with good memories may remember my Sportive debut a year ago when the “old git’s” son Niall took up a role as substitute stoker as the “old gal” was working. Team Matilda hadn’t planned to be taking part this year as the date was scheduled to be the penultimate day of our Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way Challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed. So my dynamic crew decided on a last minute entry.

The Muthill cycling event has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – which was basking in bright sunshine, in stark contrast to heavy rain of last year.

The idea of the Sportive is to raise funds for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project which will create a safe route along the 4 miles to the Strath capital, avoiding the busy A822 road. Phase 1 of the project is complete – a 1 mile off-road route from Muthill to Templemill, which links with other core paths and quiet country walking and cycling friendly roads. Just over two years ago when it was opened, I was the first tandem to ride the new cycle path. You can read more about the project in my blog of that ride.

Ready for the off- with my official ‘158’ sportive competitor number!

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. I had my start number of 158 firmly attached to my handlebars and the “old gal” volunteered to attach my snazzy timer chip to her ankle – even tho it did look like she was wearing an electronic monitoring tag!

No comments about the “old gal” being used to wearing a tag! This is the official timing chip!

Then it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes. I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway!

At the start line – ready for the hooter!

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

The “old git” and the “old gal” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. This turned out to be a bit of a “killer hill” so soon in the route – which is perhaps no surprise as a later check measured the incline at 10.3%.

I think the joke turned out to be on my dynamic crew who thought that wearing their King of the Mountain cycling shirts would be a big joke! But after a bit of a push (literally!) we reached the plateau and then the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable and we soon picked up speed again.

The ride was well signposted with big yellow arrows marking directions at every possible junction to ensure we couldn’t get lost – and there were marshalls at any intersections with busier roads. The route developed into a gently undulating ride, along well maintained farm roads before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

We crossed the Auchterarder to Crieff road before the route took us along the roads around Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalisinly there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct road for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy.

Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of a climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had actually completed a sportive as they crossed the finishing line. A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of  just under 1 hour 31 minutes.

Hi-fives at the end – the “old git” and “old gal” happy at the end!

The friendly nature of the Muthill Sportive was underlined by the amazing hospitality on offer back in the church hall. An army of volunteers had been busy and yummy home made soup was on offer, along with tasty filled rolls, followed by a fantastic selection of home baked cakes. The fact that they even had gluten free cakes was quite literally the icing on the … well you know what I mean!

So after some much needed re-fuelling it was time to head back to Matildas Rest where the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – 5 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 2 third bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew another 3rd best ever gong – meaning that our time of 6 mins 49 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the 2.3 mile section ‘Machanay Road only’. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 9th best ever time too! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.3 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 31 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1036 feet. The maximum speed was 31.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1229 calories and produce an average power output of  202 W.

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

My dynamic crew both agreed that The Muthill Sportive was a great event and fun to be part of! Apart from living up to its reputation of being one of Scotland’s friendliest sportives, it certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre.

Lets hope the event raised lots of money for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project and that I will soon be blogging about new developments and an extension to the existing first stage of the route – including a large span bridge to cross the River Earn at Crieff.

Team Matilda is certainly planning on being on the starting line next year!

Team Matilda are already planning to join Scotland’s friendliest sportive in 2019!