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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4 seasons in a day, 2 broken spokes, and 1 speedo error on HebWay training run.

Spot the blue sky! The “old gal” near Dunblane at half-way – with snow just round the corner!

The phrase “four seasons in a day” has been used by Scots people for years to describe the unpredictable Spring weather which the gods can cast down on us! And our recent sneaky Monday off tandem ride was a perfect example of where it was simply a waste of time trying to guess the best cycling clothing to suit the conditions!

My dynamic crew experienced all four key elements of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter rain, sunshine, wind, and even snow on their latest training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. In fact some would say it was just ideal conditions to prepare for the ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. The “old git” had decided it was time to test the “old gal” on a few hills on a canter to Dunblane, with the promise of a coffee and cake stop on the return leg at Braco – although to be fair he hadn’t quite calculated the total elevation involved of over 1400 feet … or the inclement weather conditions!

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 and its world-famous golf courses. Despite the thrust required for the incline, the “old git” applied the brakes when he saw a special road sign designed to protect red squirrels by urging motorists to drive carefully. Maybe the sign should also have said ride carefully!

The “old git” slowed down when he saw the road sign designed to protect the red squirrels.

After the Gleneagles summit my dynamic crew enjoyed a nice downhill stretch although a fairly blustery head wind meant the “old gal” had to keep pedalling as stoker when normally this downhill stretch allows for a bit of free-wheeling! Just the first of many encounters with the ever changing weather on this ride!

Pedalling on we tandemed thru Braco – with the “old gal” checking that the coffee shop was open as we pedalled past and headed up a few more tough inclines to just outside Kinbuck where the “old git” spotted a crop of Christmas trees getting ready for next festive season!

The “old git” pointing out my dynamic crew’s Christmas tree for December!

Oh how the “old gal” laughed when he joked that they could come and choose their tree in early December and could even carry it home attached to my frame! Well I think he was joking anyway!

A few pedals further on my dynamic crew 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 drool over what they may be serving up for lunch – but sensibly decided she wasn’t quite dressed for that kind of culinary experience!

A quick stop at our turning point on the flyover of the A9 just outside Dunblane for some water – and the chance to take in the blue sky which had suddenly appeared, and the views over to the sun dancing on the snow-capped hills in the distance.

Time to move on, and despite the pesky wind it was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire. For a welcome respite from the challenging weather conditions there was a pit stop at the bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop !

The “old gal” in heaven with scone, millionaire shortbread and a nice strong coffee! Perfect!

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and locals having decided to stop en route for sustenance. The “old gal” chose a scone and some yummy millionaire shortbread – all of which was washed down by lovely strong coffee – just the way she likes it! 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!

As my dynamic crew emerged from the coffee stop they were hit by a shower of rain – the third of the seasons after the wind and the sunshine – but fortunately the worst of the rain seemed to have fallen when they were inside. The four seasons in a day were however completed as the “old git” and “old git” battled the rapidly changing weather conditions on the return stretch from Braco to Gleneagles where in a shady hollow they came across snow lying on the ground! Yes snow!

Four seasons in a day – tick – snow lying on the ground in a shady hollow.

It was a hard grind for my dynamic crew on the return – but a welcome downhill brought about one of those moments of madness when the “old git” and “old gal” just have to laugh out loud! Pedalling as fast as they could the “old git” checked the speedometer – expecting to see it hit 30 mph if they were lucky … only to see it suddenly record a top speed of 91.5 mph.

They say the camera never lies! – evidence of the 91.5 mph recorded on the malfunctioning speedo!

Yes you read that correctly – a reading of 91.5 mph on a bicycle made for two. Despite the fact that the camera never lies and the photographic evidence of this never-to-be-repeated feat, my dynamic crew graciously conceded it clearly was a speedo malfunction!

Then just to compound the unpredictable nature of the ride, as we were heading down towards Gleneagles there was that unmistakable ping – which can only mean a spoke had pinged on my rear wheel! My dynamic crew ground to a halt and surveyed the damage – not one but two spokes had gone!

The rest of my wheel looked fairly sound – and despite a clear wheel wobble – the “old gal” took the decision as chief engineer that we could continue to pedal and limp home at a somewhat slower than normal speed, while the “old git” did his best to avoid any potential bumps. Looks like I am going for a visit to my personal surgeon John – bike wheel builder extraordinaire at JM Richards Cycles in Perth

Spot the two broken spokes! I need a visit to my personal surgeon to repair my rear wheel!

Safely back at Maitildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – which given the variable conditions is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 3 second bests; and 11 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.3 mph while the elevation was a hilly 1,444 feet. The maximum speed was officially 32.0 mph – not the rogue 91.5 mph! – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,691 calories and produce an average power output of 154 W.

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

So that’s another near 30 miles in the bag – and given the weather conditions, mechanicals, and the 1,444 ft elevation 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.

But obviously there’s 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?

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!

Matilda goes carol singing – in dulci jubilo in the winter sun!

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – “it might be more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing!” … but he was trying – very trying, as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century, and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. My dynamic crew make a point of going – as it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by torch light.

In a reprise of last couple of years the “old git” persuaded the “old gal” that it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats and Christmas jumpers! And I even got to join in the fun by having an extra addition this year of sporting a pair of eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers making me feel very festive!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the third time ever that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

Ready to roll! The “old gal” in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise!) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be out as we all enjoyed the unseasonably bright sunshine.

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

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there had been any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes (or so they claim!) … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

The beautiful and atmospheric Tullibardine Chapel dates back to the 15th Century.

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely more than lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their vocal arrival!

Tullibardine Chapel is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

So before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

The chapel occupies a scenic tranquil spot in the rural Perthshire countryside,

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing at Tullibardine.

So after the practice – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving, with lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singing carols by torchlight!

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere and after the carols my dynamic tandem crew emerged back outside to find that Team Matilda had been somewhat upstaged by someone who had arrived on horseback – as you do in the middle of the Perthshire countryside!

Upstaged by a horse who wanted to join in the carols – only in rural Perthshire!

After the service my dynamic crew pedalled off quickly in a  bid to warm up as the winter sun was setting and the temperature had dropped quickly. With the cold air the tough Easthill hill climb back to Auchterarder seemed tougher than usual!

But we were not heading directly home. My dynamic crew had an important stop off in Auchterarder with an invite to pop-in and say hello at a 90th birthday party for Betty Connell – one of the “old gal’s” long standing clients at her hairdressing salon.

Betty’s daughter Anne – a keen “half-bike” cyclist – had been told the “old git” and “old gal” would be arriving en-route home from the carol service but were told that didn’t matter! However two mad cyclists arriving wearing Santa crash helmets and Christmas jumpers certainly caused a bit of a stir – and upset the otherwise glamorous dress code just a bit! But with impeccable timing my crew arrived just as the champagne was being poured for the toast and the cake cutting! I am told that both were very tasty!

Darkness had fallen while we spend an hour or so at the birthday party, so the last mile was completed with all my lights on! It made for an interesting high speed downhill dash!

Safely back at Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing we had tandemed a distance of just 6.15 miles with a moving time of 37 minutes – but as always it is the smiles not the miles that count. The average speed was 10 mph while the elevation was a modest 322 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 347 calories and produce an average power output of 141 W.

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

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had great fun – and felt it was a great way to crank up the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” as she relaxed in her post-ride bath!

Team Matilda certainly had fun getting into the Christmas spirit – in #tandem of course!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post coming soon! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

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).

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!

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!