Cycle and cruise in tandem with Loch Tay Safaris

Team Matilda were invited to boat-test the new cycle and cruise offering at Loch Tay Safaris.

Sunday dawned and although there were menacing dark clouds about, my dynamic crew were up early and energised as Team Matilda had been invited to road test – or that should really be boat-test! – another of Scotland’s top tourist attractions for my blog!

This time the invitation was to try out Loch Tay Safaris new cycle and cruise offering – which allows people the ultimate fun way to explore Perthshire’s largest loch on an exciting adrenalin-fuelled combination of two wheels and a fast RIB boat.

So we headed off to the pretty estate village of Kenmore – parking in the Loch Tay Safaris car park right on the edge of the loch beside their private jetty and pontoon – to get ready for our adventure.

Ready for the off! At the Loch Tay Safaris car park in Kenmore right on the edge of the loch.

Adding to the excitement was that this ‘old lady’ had been under repair and had a whole new gear mechanism fitted – including chain set, crank, mech and gear selector. So all three of us on Team Matilda were keen to get out on the open roads of Highland Perthshire to see how my ‘new bits’ performed! There are some pics and some technical stuff at the end of this blog post which details the work I had done to my ageing frame!

We decided to follow one of the suggested routes for the cycle and cruise itinerary – a near 14 mile loop from Kenmore to Aberfeldy and back on scenic roads which straddle both sides of the River Tay.

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

We left Kenmore on Sustrans Scotland NCN Route 7 crossing the bridge and turning right onto the quiet B846. The route immediately takes you up a hill on the edge of the Tay Forest Park, but my crew found this much easier than normal due to my new gearing!

A great long flat stretch soon had us building up speed before crossing the River Lyon just before it joins the Tay. Turning right and less than 2 miles later we found ourselves in the wonderfully named Highland Perthshire hamlet of Dull – where it would need to be said the weather wasn’t very bright! See what I did there?!

The weather wasn’t very bright when we reached the wonderfully named hamlet of Dull.

But locals – clearly with a sense of humour – are keen to make the most of the unusual name and promote the road sign as a tourist attraction in its own right. It helps that Dull has been twinned with Boring – a small town in Oregon USA which also has an etymologically-similar name.

Naturally my dynamic crew had to stop for the must-do selfie with the sign and discovered that Dull and Boring created the League of Extraordinary Communities in 2013 and made Bland in New South Wales Australia its first member – giving them a Dull, Boring and Bland tie-up!

Dull is twinned with Boring in Oregon, USA. Can’t describe my dynamic crew as dull and boring!

Dull’s other claim to fame is that it is the base of Highland Safaris – the parent business of Loch Tay Safaris. It is quite an operation and as winner of the Best Visitor Experience in Scotland offers exhilarating Land Rover Safaris, a red deer centre, inspiring walking and mountain biking activities, Perthshire’s only gold panning centre, and a cafe.

We were soon in Aberfeldy – marking the half way point – and headed west on the A827 to complete the loop back to Kenmore. This is more undulating but even the long climb near the end didn’t present my crew – and my new gears – with too many problems.

The welcome freewheel downhill saw us return to our lochside base and there was plenty of time for a fun photoshoot with me and the Loch Tay Safaris boat called Iolaire. Even though I wasn’t actually going on the cruise, the ever-cautious “old gal” did kit me out with a lifebelt … just in case I fell in!

Got my lifebelt on my handlebars at Loch Tay Safaris! Can’t be too careful around boats!

You can’t miss the signs for Loch Tay Safaris at Kenmore – the ultimate way to experience the loch.

After the photos there was time for a picnic lunch of smoked salmon and spinach wraps and fresh fruit salad which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel before they took to the water!

Then I was safely locked up at the lochside before my dynamic crew donned their life jackets and had a full safety briefing before boarding for their 90 minute cruise!

Loch Tay Safaris is a new venture only launched last summer. As the blurb says: “Our modern, custom built cabin RIB is safe, comfortable, fast, dry and guaranteed to raise a smile!”

Although Iolaire can seat up to 12 people my dynamic crew were fortunate enough to be the only people on board so effectively had a fantastic private charter!

Ahoy there! The “old git” and “old gal” up front on the fast Loch Tay Safari RIB.

Not long into the cruise the “old git” and “old gal” were given the chance of sitting up front by expert skipper Alex while the superbly informative tour guide Norman took us on a journey through local history, nature and folklore. Points of interest included the old piers where steamboats plied their trade in years past taking day-trippers on the water until 1939; and the so-called Loch Tay Fault Line.

The interesting route taken by the comfortable Iolaire RIB on the Loch Tay Safari ride.

The RIB’s versatility makes it perfect for getting in close to the inaccessible banks of the loch and exploring the unique landscape from the water. About half way, at the deepest point of the loch, just off Ben Lawyers, our tour guide Norman regaled us with stories about Loch Tay’s very own Kelpie lair describing the supernatural mythical white horse which lured people to its lair deep in the waters.

My dynamic crew know a think or two about Kelpies, having visited the magnificent metal horse sculptures near Falkirk, including filming one of my Matildas Musings video clips – featuring three iconic steel structures – for my Youtube channel. The “old gal” was offered the chance to feed the Kelpies – with some appropriately named ‘Kelpie Food’ masquerading as oats!

The “old gal” was invited to feed the Kelpies – with Kelpie food, obviously!

One of the highlights of the cruise comes near the end when its stops just beside the Scottish Crannog Centre – a unique reconstruction of an ancient loch dwelling which recreates what life was like on Loch Tay some 2,500 years ago in the early Iron Age. Here in Highland Perthshire the prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles or stilts driven into the loch bed.

The Loch Tay Safari boat cabin has comfy seating for 12 passengers – all with their own binoculars.

All too soon the cruise was at an end and we returned to the pontoon at Kenmore – thanking Alex and Norman for a brilliant sail. Loch Tay Safaris is certainly a highly recommended way to explore the loch if you are in the area – not just by the “old git” and “old gal” but by the great reviews on Tripadvisor.

Returning to terra firma – buoyed by the exuberance of the cruise – my dynamic crew quickly found their land legs and we set off on our second tandem circuit to complete our cycle-cruise-cycle agenda. And I am delighted to report it was even quicker than the first – with the miles literally flying past.

Soon we were thru Dull again (still not much brighter!) and passed Menzies Castle – the seat of the Clan Menzies. It dates back to the 16th century and Charles Edward Stuart stayed here for two nights before the fateful Battle of Culloden in 1746.

A quick dash thru the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Weem took us to our second crossing of the impressive Wade’s Bridge which spans the Tay. It was built in 1733 by the architect William Adam – son of the better known Robert Adam.

A blistering downhill finish into Kenmore saw a first for Team Matilda – as we set off a “slow down” warning as we flashed past one of these new digital speed signs which registered us at 33 mph! Shame it wasn’t a speed camera!

The “old gal” made a shout for a drinkie stop after we dismounted so we headed to the Kenmore Hotel – which claims to be Scotland’s oldest inn. Certainly our national bard Robert Burns was a visitor back in 1787 and wrote one of his famous poems on the plaster on one of the walls.

The historic Kenmore Hotel made a great spot for a celebratory refreshment for Team Matilda!

Over a most welcome refreshment – and me back in Matilda Transport – the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – with 7 personal bests and 7 second bests. Certainly worth of a celebratory libation!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 27.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph – thanks to the changes to the gears – while the elevation was 1185 feet. The maximum speed was a dizzy 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1676 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

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

Team Matilda had a scenic drive home taking the single track route out of Kenmore high over the moor and through Glen Quaich. Coming over one of the many blind summits a brightly coloured rainbow appeared filling the glen with light. It seemed a fitting mark to end a spectacular day out in Perthshire and naturally the “old gal” had to take a photo!

The impressive rainbow and the view across Glen Quaich.

So lastly, as promised, the techno bit – and some photos – of my repairs which were expertly carried out with tender loving care by my personal surgeon John at JM Richards Cycles in Perth – who went above and beyond the call of duty to find a solution! I have no hesitation in recommending them if your set of two wheels needs a repair.

Now this “old lady” makes no secret of my age – and the fact that I am older than either of my dynamic crew! So it was perhaps no surprise that my gears had been suffering from a bit of wear and tear.

Proud to show off my shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech.

I am delighted to report that I am now proudly sporting a shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech. And to make life a bit easier – and to ensure my gears engaged every time the “old gal” shouted at the “old git” to throw a gear at it – I now have a new gear shifter on my handlebars to ease my gears into the front gears!

My Captain now has a new gear shifter to ease my gears into the front gear wheels!

And the good thing that replacing my old bits – which were more than a bit worn – was totally painless! And the result of the repairs just goes to prove that there’s still plenty of life in this “old lady”!

The old and the new! Replacing my old bits, which were a bit worn, was painless!

The “old gal” has re-named John as ‘Saint John’ due to the fact that life going uphill is now significantly more bearable – and amazingly our average speed went up by nearly 2 mph over the day. At times we were flying along so easily that the “old git” was heard to say that we could do with an extra gear!

But he was joking – right?!

So many, many thanks to John and I know my dynamic crew are now convinced they had been battling old gears for some time without realising. The outcome is that all three of us on Team Matilda are now looking forward to the Hebridean Way attempt in early June with renewed vigour!

Just need some sunshine now and everything will be perfect!

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No pedalling but new business cards and blog gongs!

I am very chuffed with the trendy new logo for Matildas Musings – which has been cleverly designed to look like a tandem!

New business cards and blog gongs are the focus for this blog as there has unfortunately been no tandeming due to yet more snow and freezing temperatures courtesy of the ‘Beast Fae The East Part Deux’. Gosh it’s been a long winter and I have to say that all three of us on Team Matilda have been getting a bit of cabin fever (or garage fever in my case!) of late with not being able to get out for a ride.

That however meant by dynamic crew could turn their attention to administrative matters on my behalf! And I am very excited and chuffed to say I now have a new business card promoting my Matildas Musings blog. The “old gal” decided the previous one was well past its sell by date you see – in particular because it showed the “old git” as somewhat younger looking than he currently looks!

The card has been drawn up by a Andrew, a graphic designer and ex-work colleague and friend of the “old git.” And what a brilliant  job he has made of the artwork – with the back of the card including a trendy new logo for Matildas Musings which has been cleverly designed to look like a tandem! Kudos to Andrew!

The front side of the glossy promotional card features three photos of Team Matilda on tour plus a short description of Matildas Musings as the UK’s only blogging tandem!

The front side of my shiny new promotional card – complete with a short description and pics of Team Matilda.

The “old git” sent the new design away to a printers and the glossy new cards arrived back at Matildas Rest. And I am chuffed to say they look fabulous and will be great for my dynamic crew to give out to people who stop and ask questions about this “old lady”! And an added benefit is that the new cards features my Matildas Musings Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds.

My new promotional business cards are now all printed up and ready to give out to interested onlookers!

If that wasn’t enough to have me blushing as red as my ageing Jack Taylor frame, then the next development had me positively agog with surprise … and pride!

I am delighted to report that my Matildas Musings blog has received not one, but two prestigious gongs – with the honour of having been named in two different lists of top cycling blogs.

The first listing is the “50 Best Pro Cycling Blogs Beginners Should Follow” by ApexBikes.com who said: “It’s really an informational and valuable blog for beginners.”

The blog gong from ApexBikes

The second gong is being listed in the “Top 100 Cycling Blogs Every Bike Fan Must Read” compiled by Feedspot. It really feels good to see my blog receiving such recognition – and it is great for raising the profile of the joys of riding a tandem. I am now proudly sporting badges for both awards on the sidebar of my blog!

and another from Feedspot.

Now all this administrative stuff and gongs are an interesting divert – but what I really need to do is find some half decent weather to get my dynamic crew of the “old git” and the “old gal” back out on the open road, so I have some real tandeming to blog about!

Out of hibernation on a rusty flutter to Forteviot

The new stone in Forteviot is inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the Dupplin Cross.

My dynamic crew decided they could wait no longer for the temperature to start rising. And much as the “old gal” likes some warmth, there was a resounding acceptance that Team Matilda had to emerge from their winter hibernation before rust and inactivity seized up all our joints!

Our last outing was just over two months ago – back before Christmas, with a short ride to Carols at Tullibardine Chapel. So, with the weather forecast giving dire warnings of the Beast from the East blasting freezing temperatures and lots of snow at the start of the week, the “old git” decided it was a case of now or never!

Ready to roll for 2018! Emerging from my garage at Matildas Rest!

My crew wakened to bright sunshine but the temperature was still stuck on zero as they fuelled up with a hearty but healthy breakfast. Next task was getting kitted up in multiple layers of winter cycling gear before I finally emerged out of my comfy garage at Matildas Rest for the first time in 2018.

After the “old gal” in her role as “chief mechanic” gave me the once over to check all my bits were lubricated and in working order, we headed off.

The “old gal” – half of my dynamic crew – wrapped up against the elements!

The “old git” had chosen a run that would be a pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and then on to Forteviot, covering a distance of just under 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test their fitness after a long lay off.

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

With the sun on our faces my dynamic crew tentatively pedalled off into the glorious Perthshire countryside towards Dunning. Despite initially feeling like tandem novices all three of us were quickly back into the way of it.

It probably helped that the first stretch involves a steep downhill which saw us record a speed of  just over 25 mph within the first three minutes of leaving Matildas Rest! Let’s just say that speed wasn’t beaten for the rest of the ride.

But the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” soon kicked in and we quickly picked up some speed, with all three of us perfectly in tune! It was great to be back out and feel the fresh air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

We had travelled the near 8 miles in 50 minutes – which wasn’t too bad considering it was our first ride of the year – and the village was looking its usual pretty self in the sunshine. The village “square” (or green to be exact!) has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

Time for a welcome cup of hot coffee for my dynamic crew at the new Forteviot stone.

As my crew enjoyed a cup of hot coffee – which the “old gal” had thoughtfully added to a flask before departure – they discovered a fabulous new centrepiece to the village since Team Matildas last visit.

A new carved stone now stands proudly – 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. It is now housed in the nearby St Serf’s Church in Dunning and looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

There is no plaque in place as yet to tell you about it, but a chat with some locals saw my dynamic crew discover it is called Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba and is a new Pictish stone celebrating Forteviot’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The new stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – 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 kingdom that became Scotland. The new contemporary Pictish sculpture is being formally unveiled on Saturday 17 March at 12 noon.

The “old git” in his not remotely colour coordinated winter kit! But he wasn’t cold!

While enjoying the warmth of the coffee the “old gal” noticed that the old green wooden bus shelter was being rebuilt – and went over to speak to the workman who was cutting and sawing wood. This turned out to be local forester Jim Thomson who runs his own Woodland Craft business.

Forester Jim Thomson is building a new bus shelter as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership project.

Jim has been contracted to build a new eco-friendly bus shelter in Forteviot as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership funding for the area. It was certainly one of the best built bus shelters my crew had seen!

The new environmentally friendly wooden bus shelter taking shape in Forteviot.

It was great to see such activity in the village – which will hopefully provide a flow of visitors keen to find out more about the Pictish history of the area.

Bidding farewell to Jim, and before we got too cold, we headed back on our return journey – passing another historical site worth visiting in the village – Forteviot Church of St Andrew where archaeological studies indicate that Christians were first buried in the graveyard in the 6th century.

My dynamic crew pedalled furiously to create some heat – and were in buoyant mood as they discovered that there was (for once!) no headwind to battle. Despite a few hills climbing out of Forteviot we were soon tandeming into Dunning – a village which is also rich in history having been burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.

Here I am parked up outside the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning – need a loo stop they said!

It is also boasts a great friendly country pub called The Kirkstyle Inn which my dynamic crew have been known to visit from time to time! It provided the ideal place for a loo stop – which the “old gal” then decided would be a good spot for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The “old gal” decided a small libation would help the ride home!

So after a lovely Scottish artisan gin, it was time for the last four miles home. Gosh it had suddenly turned a good bit colder – wonder if that was anything to do with the cosy pub and the gin!? Surely not! We pedalled off quickly and didn’t stop at the the last piece of local history on today’s trip – 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 to be burned at the stake.

The return trip to Matildas Rest took just 10 minutes longer than the outward journey – which given the hills and my crew’s rustiness is a commendable effort. While having another warming cup of coffee the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … amazingly we recorded a personal best and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 15.7 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.5 mph and the elevation was 633 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 801 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the first outing of 2018 now ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are hoping some warmer weather is on its way soon for sunny tandem rides!

Brr! the “old gal” shivering on return … hoping for sunnier tandem days ahead!

A coffee table book of my Musings and lots of tandeming Christmas gifts!

My new Matildas Musings blog book outlines my latest European tandeming adventures!

Excitement reached fever pitch at Matilda’s Rest on Monday when Christmas Day finally arrived! The “old git” – who should really be re-named Santa over the festive period! – made sure everyone had their ‘ho! ho! ho!’ on, whether they wanted to or not!

On Christmas Eve the “old gal” even put on her Christmas jumper to signal she was in the mood for Santa’s arrival! She had whispered to me that I was getting a present or two all for myself so I could hardly contain myself!

And I knew the “old git” had been planning something with my blog as a present for the “old gal” so it was an exciting time! I could hardly sleep and I am sure I heard Santa’s jingle bells as he and Rudolph delivered his presents around rural Perthshire …. presumably in #tandem!

The “old git” was up early on Christmas morning making sure that Santa had arrived – and he certainly delivered … filling the “old gal’s” stockings to overflowing … and he even dropped a few presents in the “old git’s” stockings too! (Yes he does have some …. weird or what!)

Then it was time for my dynamic duo to tear open their presents. The thing the “old git” had been secretly scheming away about was turning all my Musings about our tandeming  tour adventures across Europe during September into a beautiful hard-back coffee-table style book.

My Musings of our European trip turned into a glossy coffee table book.

I must say even I was impressed at the what the “old git” had achieved – and you know I’m not easily impressed! … and as for the “old gal” well she thought it was brilliant! There was even a wee tear in her eye as she read the “old git’s” soppy dedication at the front of the book! Awh shucks!

Each page is in glossy colour and the book is essentially a full record of each day of my blog – including all the photos – as they appeared on my on-line blog! A great permanent record of a fabulous trip! And great fun to flick through and bring back those memories of my dynamic duo’s days in my saddles in warm sunshine … oh and not forgetting those amazing picnics and wines and champagnes!

And as a special festive season treat for readers of my blog you can take a look at the complete book (in a pdf version) by clicking on the title of the book here: Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem

I do hope you enjoy re-reading it all again, as much as me and the “old gal” did!

A bundle of tandeming presents from my good friends John and Jane.

So then it was time to open my presents, and the “old git” and the “old gal” made sure Santa delivered a bundle of presents from my dynamic crew’s tandeming friends – and fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! They have a stable of no less than three tandems – Siggy, Henry and their original Bluebird.

The presents included a fabulous cushion cover which captures the good life my dynamic crew enjoy en France! Perfect! There was also a lovely Matilda sign – ideal for the garage door at Matildas Rest!

The garage at Matildas Rest now proudly bears my nameplate!

The “old git” said that I must have been a “very good girl” as I am reliably informed that only “good girls” get presents from Santa! And there was more in the present from John and Jane! My handlebars now bear a pretty mini vase – especially for bikes!

Tulips from Amsterdam! My new handlebar vase proudly in place!

Regular readers of my blog will remember that Team Matilda enjoyed magnificent hospitality from team Bluebird during Le Tour de New Forest back in July, which followed an equally memorable Le Tour de Perthshire the year before.

So naturally my dynamic crew had organised a present on my behalf for Team Bluebird and designed a personalised Nutty Tandemers Club 2017 calendar – with each month having a great memory from our wonderful week together touring the New Forest.

Calendar time – our European Tour on the left and Le Tour de New Forest on the right.

Now these two tours have been such a success that Team Bluebird and Team Matilda are already planning a joint Le tour de Hebridean Way in June 2018. This will be an attempt at completing the Hebridean Way  – a simple matter of 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. I may need some lucky white heather in my new handlebar vase for this trip!

John and Jane are riding Siggy the tandem on this trip – and it looks like the Outer Hebrides won’t ever have seen anything like the two tandems as we will both be carrying that highly sophisticated must-have accessory for tandems – eye-catching and very French La Bouclée wine carriers.

You see my dynamic crew have long been extolling the virtues of  La Bouclée to Team Bluebird – as Scottish ambassadors for the product no less! So they decided that it would make an ideal Christmas present for John and Jane – complete with a bottle of champagne specially selected and brought back from our tour of the Champagne area!

Henry the tandem sporting his new la bouclee wine carrier!

John and Jane were so impressed with the product that they immediately attached it to Henry (Siggy was too dirty it seems!) – well they did after watching the Youtube video how to do it! It’s only easy when you know how!

There were lots of other presents to open with a special one for me from the “old gal”! It was a replacement gel saddle cover for my front saddle as the “old git” had worn thru the previous one!

My new gel saddle cover – a replacement for the “old git” to sit on as Captain!

My dynamic crew even bought each other tandem t-shirts! The “old gal’s” had the wording: “It takes two to tandem” on it while the “old git’s” said: “Complete Tandemonium” They will certainly catch the eye on future trips!

My dynamic crew happily wearing their new tandeming t-shirts!

Now you know that my stoker, the “old gal”, has a bit of a quirky sense of humour … well she excelled herself with one of her presents for my captain – the “old git.” He was delighted to receive tandem cuff links … but not just any tandem cuff links – specially commissioned hand-made silver cuff links … the only ones in existence!

The “old git’s” very exclusive specially commissioned hand-made silver tandem cuff links!

Another present for the “old git” which he loved were a new pair of trainers to match the “old gal’s”! He had secretly coveted her day-glo orange trainers ever since she bought a new pair for our European tour. And when he delved into his stocking a pair was there for him!

So now my dynamic crew will not only be matching but totally unmissable! I guess he must have been a good Captain throughout the year then!

The “old git” got a pair of day-glo orange trainers to be a match with the “old gal”!

Last but not least was some wonderful soft bamboo silk socks from seriouslysillysocks – complete with bicycle patterns.

Great soft bamboo silk socks with cycling patterns.

Matildas Musings Strava

As the year comes to a close my dynamic Matildas Musings crew have had a great time during 2017 in #tandem! Our Strava app recorded every one of our 43 tandem adventures during the year – which incredibly saw us clock up approaching 1,000 miles.

The nice people at Strava have compiled a little video which pulls together all our statistics which is fun to view. Just click on any on the images below to watch – it only takes 60 seconds!

The blog is great fun to write – and I am delighted to report that over the year that according to host WordPress, my Matildas Musings blog has published 35 new posts which has attracted nearly 5,000 views from nearly 60 different countries around the globe.

The most popular countries are the UK, followed by France then the USA. But my worldwide appeal sees my blogs being red as far afield as the Philippines, Mexico, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.

So, to everyone who has read a blog post – a huge thank you!

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds. If you want to follow me on social media hit any of the images below to access my pages, and then hit follow or subscribe.

Matildas Musings Facebook feed

Matildas Musings Twitter feed

Matildas Musings Youtube feed

Team Matildas Musings sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

Finally for the moment, I hope all readers of my Musings had a lovely Christmas and that Santa brought you and your tandems what you wanted! If not then the only explanation is that you were on the “naughty” list!

And if we don’t speak until after the bells – on behalf of Team Matildas Musings – let me be one of the first to wish you all the best for 2018 … and many happy tandeming miles together for you and your team!

Here’s to more adventures in 2018 for Team Matildas Musings as “it’s always better when we’re tandeming together!”

Cheers!

Here I am at Matildas Rest waiting on the weather to improve to get put on some 2018 adventures!

Christmas greetings to fellow tandemers who know its always better together!

Jingle bells, jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
On a tandem made for two …. !!! 

With the big day fast approaching and thoughts turning to turkey and tinsel and mistletoe and wine this “old lady” decided it was time to wish readers of my Matildas Musings blog, and fellow tandemers everywhere, (and even solo cyclists!) a very merry Christmas on behalf of Team Matilda.

The “old git” being a huge fan of the Christmas period is in a festive frenzy – while the “old gal” is enjoying the festive spirit (and wine!) while trying to exert a calming influence!

However my dynamic crew are hoping to squeeze in at least one ride over the festive period – including a potential “blow away the cobwebs” tandem trip to welcome in the New Year in the first couple of days of 2018. So stay tuned for that! Weather and temperature permitting of course as I have to protect my extremities!

In the meantime my dynamic duo – the “old git” aka my Captain and the “old gal” aka my Stoker – would like to thank you all for reading my Matildas Musings this year and following our adventures in #tandem, naturally!

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings Facebook, Twitter or Youtube feeds.

Team Matilda sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

With a bit of luck – and no major mechanicals concerning my ageing frame or the fitness of my dynamic crew – there will be many more rides and Musings during 2018.

This hopefully will include the build-up to – and the day-to-day reports of – an attempt on the Hebridean Way in June – a 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. The trip is planned to be a joint Le Tour de Hebridean way with fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane of  who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! So special festive greetings to them and thanks again for their magnificent hospitality during the Le Tour de New Forest back in July.

For anyone wondering, the Christmas card front image at the top of this blog post is a snow-sprinkled image of me and my dynamic duo from our Team Tandem Ecosse 2017 Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem – which included some memorable tandeming along the dykes of Holland and the Alsace vineyards and canals, as well as some unforgettable climbing in the mountains of the Champagne region of France.

As a Christmas treat here’s another chance to see Team Matilda’s musical montage of images from that great tandem trip – split into three parts. Just click on any on the images below to watch.

So here’s to a wonderful festive season to all. And on behalf of all captains and stokers everywhere – lets hope Santa fills your Christmas stockings with all the good things you have put on your present list!

Mind you, that does make an assumption that you are on the “good tandemers” list rather than the “naughty tandemers list!”

And remember: It truly is always better when you’re together on a tandem”!!

So have a “twice the fun” Merry Christmas from Matilda, Colin and Diane!

Ho! ho! ho!

Matildas carol singing reprise – in dulci jubilo 2

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. My dynamic crew make a point of going – and it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by candle light and torches.

In a reprise of last year the “old git” decided it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and my twinkling festive lights! And I even had the extra addition this year of sporting a pair of Rudolph reindeer antlers and a very fetching flashing red nose!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers and flashing red nose!

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 second 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! My dynamic crew 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 out walking and 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 back out in the fresh air.

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 was 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!

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their arrival – which as luck would have it was recorded on video which you can view here:

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 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 who 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.

So after the practise – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving and 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 singng carols by torchlight!

The “old gal” and the old git” enjoying the carols at Tullibardine Chapel.

My duo had got a bit chilled sitting inside the chapel as the temperature dropped, so after the service we quickly pedalled off in a bid to warm up! My crew tandemed at a rate that Strava later confirmed was their 3rd fastest time on the tough Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder!

The Carols by #tandem trip was a great way of getting Team Matilda into the festive spirit!

A rapid pedal then took us downhill and  we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up – accompanied by some very tasty sloe gin mince tarts.

Warm coffee and yummy sloe gin mice tarts helped my dynamic crew thaw out!

While thawing the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … a 2nd bests and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of just 6.2 miles with a moving time of 51.2 minutes – but as always it is the Smiles not the miles that count. Average speed was 7.3 mph and the elevation was 340 feet. The maximum speed was 21.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 444 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had fun – and felt it was a great way to get into the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” from her bath!

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

Back at Matildas Rest and a chance to show off my Christmas lights!

Hurricane Gert ride around Loch Leven and burger at Larder

The “old gal” and the “old git” at the viewpoint at Loch Leven … with a special guest!

*WARNING* this blog contains images of a red poncho which some readers may find alarming!

So with the weekend approaching the “old git” – ever the romantic – asked the “old gal” if she fancied going out for something to eat on Saturday evening. He explained that he had heard that there was a summer weekends pop up burger bar at Loch Leven’s Larder – a recommended foodie farm shop-cafe just a few hundred yards from the banks of Loch Leven.

But there’s no flies on the “old gal” – that should be there are no midges on her! – and she got it right away … she was going to have to earn her burger with a 13 mile tandem ride round the loch first!

But gamely she immediately agreed! And that’s why at about 5pm we were cycling away from the car park – right into the full force of the entrails of Hurricane Gert! Let’s just say there was a bit of head wind to start until we got into our stride – or before synchronicity kicked in!

Fortunately the route is relatively flat. Built at a cost of £3 million – it is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

We set off on a clockwise loop and it wasn’t long before my crew encountered the dreaded midges. On a stretch along some stagnant water there were thick swarms of midges everywhere. The “old git” was literally coated in the nasty little blighters as he took the full blast as my Captain! He was muttering something about it was due to the fact that we were going so fast that there were so many on his body! We didn’t believe him of course, but the “old gal” helpfully took a picture of his forehead to show how many midges were about! (after removing his crash helmet, of course!)

Midges everywhere! Fortunately the Smidge worked wonders and meant they didn’t bite!

Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

My crew were picking up speed – perhaps to try and leave the midges behind – and we soon we tandemed past the interesting RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve at Vane Farm before pedalling up the only real inclines to the viewpoint area battling more strong Hurricane Gert headwinds!

My dynamic crew against a backdrop of blue skies at the viewpoint overlooking scenic Loch Leven.

At the viewpoint the “old git” whipped out his portable extendable tripod and bluetooth camera clicker which allows him to take pictures of both of my dynamic crew together and took  a few arty shots to show the blue sky overlooking the fantastic vista of the loch.

Now today’s trip brought back memories of exactly a year ago when Team Matilda hosted John and Jane of  Team Bluebird to our area for a memorable week long Tour de Perthshire – which included a somewhat wet loop of Loch Leven. As the heavens opened Jane donned some “high fashion” waterproof protection – forever to be known now as “the fetching red poncho!”

Flashback to a year ago – Jane with the fetching red poncho!

So as a friendly wheeze the “old git” decided that Jane would be introduced into our ride as a special guest – courtesy of a large photo of her wearing said fetching red poncho! It was actually a bit windy and the flimsy paper print kept flapping about in the (hurricane force) winds! But my dynamic crew persevered to get the shot … just to show the three of us were thinking of Jane! Oh how we laughed!

The “old gal” saying ‘wish you were here’ to Jane in honour of the red poncho!

The “old gal” had to dissuade the “old git” from attaching the photo of Jane in a plastic wallet to the big round rock at the viewpoint and adding her email in case anyone wanted to buy a similar fashion statement! And after many smiles at the gentle ribbing, and at great memories of tandeming with wonderful friends John and Jane, we pedalled on.

The strong wind was behind us for a bit which offered some relief – but then, as always happens, it turned in direction and blasted us as a viscous side wind. Any as you know, I am a long vehicle so when the wind catches me it can be mildly scary for keeping our balance!

We negotiated a trip off the path through the car park at Kinross Pier, and a wooden boardwalk section, before rejoining the path just in time for a great view of Loch Leven castle  in the middle of the loch – which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

The last section took my dynamic crew back into the forest for a final coating of midges before we sped back to Matilda Transport and the end of our loop.  Feeling healthy after the ride – and wiping off  what seemed like hundreds of dead midges – my crew then retired to the sanctuary of Loch Leven’s Larder  and the pop up burger bar to enjoy some decadent pleasures.

Time for a well earned burger and a wee glass of prosecco – in tandem naturally!

While looking over the burger menu there was time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 6 personal bests and 3 seconds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 13 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 17 minutes. The elevation was a minimal 252  feet which allowed a healthy average speed of 10.1 mph. The recorded top speed was 38.9 mph but that had to be a Strava glitch  – which makes a change from an ‘operator error!’ – as the old fashioned handlebar speedo recorded a much more realistic top speed of 17.8 mph.  Team Matilda managed to burn up 629 calories and produce an average power output of 121 W.

Cheers! Time for a wee cheeky alfresco prosecco on the decking awaiting the burgers!

Certainly something worth to toast there with the obligatory prosecco – as if my crew needed any excuse! The “old gal” ordered a sharing platter which consisted of a yummy selection of perfectly barbecued burgers – beef, salmon, chicken and portobello mushroom with a giant frankfurter thrown in for good measure.  It was all served with bowls of healthy fresh crunchy salads and tasty dressings and it really hit the spot.

Restaurant with a view! My crew’s table overlooked the nature reserve at Loch Leven.

My crew were really lucky with the weather as the hurricane winds had all but disappeared and the sun was out! It really made it an idyllic spot – with the restaurant decking overlooking the nature reserve at Loch Leven. The “old git” lost count of the number of flights of geese he saw taking off – flying in perfect v formation over the water!

We were lucky with the weather – but clearly it isn’t always sunny!

As I say, my crew were lucky – but clearly the weather isn’t always wonderful however … if the cheeky sign above the exit to the outdoor area is anything to go by … with the wording: Sorry but sometimes the weather here is pants” … written on large pairs of bloomers!

After the burgers there was just enough room it seems for the “old gal” and the “old git” to squeeze in a slice of caramel shortcake with a strong coffee before heading home exercised, fed and watered! Another great #tandem ride to show the amazing scenery of the Perth & Kinross Countryside TrustPerth & Kinross Council and Perth City Centre area! #perthistheplace for cycling!

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So back at Matildas Rest and I was unpacked into my garage, with my dynamic crew reflecting on yet another memorable ride full of laughs – emphasising that its the Smiles not the miles that count. What better way is there to spend a Saturday evening?!