Breakout of Lockdown2 ride on National Cycle Network Rt7 and The Coig Rt1 from Irvine to Ayr

Basking in the sun at the start of our ride at Irvine with Ailsa Craig showing just above my front saddle!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew had a superb Breakout of #Lockdown2 sunny tandem ride on The National Cycle Network Route 7 and The Coig Route 1 from Irvine to Ayr and back – with a small measure of gin thrown in too!

There has been just over a month of enforced inactivity for Team Matilda as the “old gal” was finally able to return to her hairdressing salon as Scotland slowly emerged from Covid #Lockdown2 and not surprisingly faced overwhelming demand from customers who have gone without haircuts since the end of last year. This meant working crazy hours of effectively 8am till 8pm six days a week, so there was no time – or energy! – for pedalling. And obviously that has meant no blogs for me to write either!

Selfie time for my dynamic crew delighted to be returning to action on a bicycle made for two!

But after five weeks, things calmed down a bit and my dynamic crew were keen to get back on my saddles for some much needed exercise on a Breakout from #lockdown adventure. With restrictions on travel across Scotland lifted, the “old git” decided the schedule would be to head to one of the “old gal’s” favourite #tandem rides – along the Ayrshire Coast Cycleway. The start point would be the Coastwatch Scotland car park in Irvine, with a picnic lunch at the turnaround point of Ayr beach.

The Ayrshire Coast Cycleway forms part of Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt7 and is also a key part of Route 1 of The Coig – which is Gaelic for five and is a new tourism initiative comprising five cycle friendly routes around Ayrshire and the Clyde islands.

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

But before we get to the pedalling, I want to tell the story of how I have been passing the period of enforced inactivity by helping the “old git” making my own blend of tandemers gin! Yes you heard that correctly! A Scottish gin called “Matilda’s Merry Mix!”

You see, my dynamic crew are partial to the occasional artisan gin and the “old gal” bought the “old git” a gin making kit. He bought a bottle of unflavoured vodka and added the juniper berries and then a few days later added the mix of botanicals.

Matilda’s Merry Mix – the very exclusive self brewed blend of tandemers gin!

After infusing for around a week, and a filtration, the result was an amazingly tasty lightly spiced gin. The “old git”, being the creative type, came up with the name ‘Matilda’s Merry Mix’ and created a suitable label for the bottle!

The gin is highly exclusive of course – a bit like me! – as the recipe created just a single bottle! It it is unlikely to last long as a collector’s item … but it sparked a bit of fun!

So to our ride … My dynamic crew were up at very early o’clock to drive to the west coast but were rewarded with a beautiful sunny morning on arrival in Irvine – allowing for some great sun-kissed photos before rolling out on our adventure.

The “old git” getting ready to roll in the stunning morning sunshine at Irvine Beach.

The “old gal” surveying the amazing vista and stunning sky before the off.

My dynamic crew were pleasantly surprised to find they were not rusted up and remembered how to pedal and set off with great gusto! A mild tail wind and pedalling along some almost motorway-smooth tarmac on long sections of the cycle path saw us quickly pass thru Troon and onto Prestwick Promenade in what seemed like no time – buoyed by the (almost warm but not quite!) sunshine. A loo stop was called by the “old gal” where she discovered that South Ayrshire Council has recently implemented a 30p charge on all public loos! Or as the “old git” quipped: “30p to have a pee!”

Time for photos with the “old gal” sitting on a bench with a fabulous view – looking towards the island of Arran, known as Scotland in miniature, in one of those colourful sea meets sky pictures – with almost unnatural shades of blue! It is worth clicking on the images to see it in a larger size!

Bench with a view! What a fab vista looking across to Arran from from Prestwick Promenade.

Ahoy there! The “old gal” looking out across the Firth of Clyde to the island of Arran.

The Ayrshire Coast Cycleway is well signposted and easy to follow – ideal for newbies to the NCN and The Coig – with dedicated painted cycle lanes on stretches along the promenades at Troon, Prestwick and Ayr. Pedalling onwards, the route took my dynamic crew into Ayr – which was hugely busy with people desperate to escape the recent lockdown and get some sea air. But it was good to see that nearly everyone was keeping to social distance rules.

With the sky turning a bit cloudier, my dynamic crew found a sheltered bench in gardens just off the promenade to enjoy their picnic lunch – and signature prosecco toast, naturally! – while enjoying the stunning views out to Arran and Ailsa Craig – aka Paddy’s Milestone. Great brain food to go along with the sustenance food!

Prosecco picnic time at a secluded garden spot at Ayr beach giving protection form the chilly wind.

Is it OK to leave bicycle tyre tracks too? says Matilda, asking for a friend!!

With the sun having disappeared temporarily behind heavy cloud, the “old gal” decided a coffee was required to heat up a bit – and fortunately the easing of Covid restrictions now allowed my dynamic crew to sit inside to restore body temperature.

Suitably revived, the sun started to re-appear and there was an opportunity for a couple of photos of my dynamic crew’s new dayglo orange sunglasses – which just so happen to perfectly colour coordinate with their bright shiny cycling helmets!

New dayglo orange sunglasses for my dynamic crew made their first appearance!

Smile! The future is orange! Very orange! At least my dynamic crew won’t get lost!

A quick pedal of the full length of the promenade saw the “old git” spot one of several NCN Millennium signposts dotted along the route pinpointing distances and directions.

Millennium signpost on NCN Rt7 at the far end of Ayr beach, with Arran in background.

The wind had picked up a bit so the return journey was a bit of a battle – but still highly enjoyable. The “old gal” in particular liked the stretch between Prestwick Airport and Troon where the broom was in full yellow bloom – which traditionally signals a warm summer is on the way!

Plenty of yellow on the broom – a traditional sign that summer and warmer weather is on the way!

My dynamic crew then blasted back to the start point at Irvine for a re-fuelling coffee and cake at the Small Talk Coffee and Gift Shop which looks out on to the harbour.

Back at Matildas Transport, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a superbly pleasing total of 24 gongs given my dynamic crew’s rustiness due to a lack of pedalling – made up of 5 personal bests, 9 second bests; and 10 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 36.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph – which given the inevitable coastal winds was perfectly acceptable – while the elevation was 550 feet due to the route mainly running along the edge of the sea. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,530 calories and produce an average power output of 132 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so click here to view or on the image below.

So with Scotland on a clear route map out of restrictions, my dynamic crew’s NCN Rt7 and The Coig Rt1 pedal clocked up a final 36 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer, taking the total to 327 miles from the 14 rides completed. The “old git” and “old gal” feel this is a pretty reasonable mileage given the fairly severe winter weather around Matildas Rest which hit almost as soon as #lockdown was announced.

There were hugely positive feelings from the breakout of #Lockdown2 ride – with obvious signs that things are looking brighter on the pandemic front. My dynamic crew continue to feel lucky, fortunate and blessed that they have been able to be able to keep healthy – mentally and physically – with our madcap #tandem adventures on a bicycle made for two during the enforced restrictions! Lets just say my spokes are firmly crossed that there won’t be a #lockdown3 any time soon.

Meantime this “old lady” tandem is uber excited about my next scheduled ride when I am hopefully going to get to meet my namesake! yes amazingly there is another Matilda tandem out there – tho she is affectionately called ‘Tilly’ for short!

You will remember that Team Matilda was featured in the March issue of BIKE Magazine Europe – over 5 pages in glorious technicolour! Well it was read with interest by Linda and Jon Reed – who are based in Suffolk – who have been riding tandems for 25 years! They loved the article and reached out to say hello given the coincidence of the name! Their granddaughter shortened their Matilda to ‘Tilly!

The other ‘Tilly the Tandem crossing into Scotland with crew Linda and John.

Now ‘Tilly is a Viking Serengeti and is Linda and Jon’s third tandem – and is a bit more experienced than me! Her crew do lots of touring and ‘Tilly has notched up a staggering total of nearly 40,000 kms and been to no less than 48 countries.

Apart from the same name there are other coincidences – as ‘Tilly also has a stoker who doesn’t like hills – just like the “old gal”! And Linda and Jon also have a blog in which they recount their adventures on ‘Tilly the tandem, and “Ten Tonne Taffy” – or “FatTaf” for short – their “beast” of a motorhome.

Team ‘Tilly are currently on a Breakout from Lockdown tour – a “slow pedal north to Scotland” from their Suffolk base. And on Sunday –  as long as weather gods play along – I am getting the opportunity to meet ‘Tilly as the “old git” and “old gal” are meeting up with Linda and John as they pedal thru nearby Bridge of Earn, and ride together into Perth. The tandem crews will catch up over some food and drink while us tandems will have a good natter! How exciting is this all going to be?! I can’t wait!

Lockdown2 Ride8 – Retro Ag2r jersey-clad reprise of Mill of Drummond loop with arty DIY coffee stop at Muthill and Matilda discovers another ‘Tilly!

The retro AG2R Team jerseys made a (brief) appearance from under the hi-vis jackets at Muthill!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew enjoyed a fun #Lockdown2 Ride8 #tandem adventure with a retro Ag2R Citroen Team Le Tour de France jersey-clad reprise of Mill of Drummond loop with an arty DIY coffee stop and photoshoot at Muthill. There’s also news of this “old lady” tandem amazingly discovering another tandem called ‘Tilly!

The “old git” and “old gal” were keen to get back out in tandem taking advantage of calmer conditions and a break from the recent dreich weather for their eighth fun #lockdown adventure – while adopting Cycling UK Scotland‘s #cyclingfromhome mantra in #tandem in rural Perthshire, mainly on Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network routes.

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

But before we get to the pedalling, I want to tell the story of how delighted this “old lady” tandem was when I got a message on my Facebook feed saying: “I’d like to say hi to my namesake and look forward to following your blog!” Amazingly there is another Matilda tandem out there – tho she is affectionately called ‘Tilly for short!

You will remember that Team Matilda was featured in the March issue of BIKE Magazine Europe – over 5 pages in glorious technicolour! Well it was read with interest by a couple called Linda and Jon Reed – who are based in Norwich – who have been riding tandems for 25 years!

Linda said they loved the article in the magazine and wanted to reach out to say hello given the coincidence of the name! Their granddaughter shortened their Matilda to ‘Tilly!

She added: “‘Tilly is a Viking Serengeti and is our 3rd tandem. Over the years we have modified her with lots of bits and pieces, bespoke built wheels and a Rolhof hub – which have been great for touring. In normal times, pre Covid, we normally tour 2 or 3 times a year and ‘Tilly has notched up 39,000 kms and been to no less than 48 countries.

The “other” ‘Tilly the tandem – enjoying a more exotic climate than Scotland!

Linda continued: “Until we get back to more normal times, like you we’re out and about as often as we can making use of roads a bit closer to home … but in our part of the world it’s a bit flatter than where you are! And this is another stoker who doesn’t like hills!”

The remarkable number of coincidences continue as Linda and Jon also have a blog in which they recount their adventures on ‘Tilly the tandem, and “Ten Tonne Taffy” – or “FatTaf” for short – their “beast” of a motorhome.

Tilly’s blog ident!

And this social media shout-out may lead to me meeting “the other” Matilda as Linda and Jon are currently planning and mapping their next tour, a post Covid “slow pedal north to Scotland.” If they get near our area – they are keen to link up with the “old git” and the “old gal” to give the two Matildas the chance to meet up! How exciting would that be?! I can’t wait!

The “other” ‘Tilly is a Viking Serengeti and weighs about 22kg naked and unloaded!

So to our ride – it was a real joy to be out on beautiful rolling countryside on quiet farm roads. And the best part of the trip was that despite a rather iffy weather forecast, Team Matilda successfully managed to dodge the showers. Fortunately not a spot fell on my dynamic crew – despite the evidence of rather wet roads on the last few miles, showing that there had been heavy showers.

It was fairly cloudy as we set off from our home base town of Auchterarder, tandeming out of town past Gleneagles and on towards Braco. At the junction with the A822 we turned right pedalling to the highest point of the ride – where a quick stop for a breather saw us capture (just) a huge flock of geese which decided to descend as the “old git” took a photo of the “old gal!”

Spot the geese! A huge flock of geese decided to descend as the “old gal” posed for a photo!

Beautiful rolling rural Perthshire countryside… and even a spot of blue sky!

Then a left turn at the Mill of Drummond signpost and a reprise of a wonderful 4.5 mile route thru local farms on amazingly well surfaced rural roads. This is part of the route used for the Muthill Sportive– but in reverse!

It is quite undulating but also quite adrenalin-inducing in a roller-coaster kind of way with some steep downhills – especially hurtling down past Muthill Golf Course before having to brake before re-joining the main road! The “old git” managed to get the Strava speedometer to register 38.7mph … despite the loud screams from the back! So obviously the target the next time on this route is to hit the 40mph barrier … but shhhh! Don’t tell the “old gal” just yet!

My dynamic crew stopped in the centre of the village of Muthill for an arty DIY coffee stop at the fascinating Muthill Old Church and Tower– which dates back to the 1100s and is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. Here the “old git” decided to express his inner artist and get a shot thru one of the ruined arches to a carpet of snowdrops.

An arty shot at Muthill Old Church and Tower … spot the snowdrops!

There were also some fun photos of Team Matilida where they (briefly!) removed their hi-vis jackets to reveal their retro Ag2r Tour de France cycling jerseys!

It’s always better when we’re tandeming together! Ag2r photoshooot laughs!

It’s the smiles not the miles that count for Team Matilda! More Ag2r photoshoot fun!

Photo shoot over it was jackets back on quickly to keep out the cold chill – and enjoy the welcome DIY coffee and cake! Then a breeze of a tandem cycle back to Auchterarder – including the masochistic pleasure of recording a personal best at the steep Machany Bridge sector. My dynamic crew also took 21 seconds off our time from our last effort on our personal nemesis of Easthill. Just another 20 seconds to go for a new PB there!

Great feelgood factor on returning to Matildas Rest from the exercise – which clocked another 22 miles onto the #Lockdown2 milometer taking the total to 181 miles from the 8 rides completed so far.

And the day got even better when the “old git” checked Strava to discover that my dynamic crew have been awarded the “Local Legend” accolade for no fewer than FOUR different sectors on the route! This causes the “old git” and the “old gal” much amusement given the fact that they are so very far from “local legend” status cyclists!

But a “Local Legend” accolade is an accolade no matter what – and they are quietly chuffed at the same time. Naturally their combined 4 stone weight loss is obviously a contributory factor – but probably more so is the fact that the roads they were pedalling on are clearly “roads less travelled” by local cyclists as the accolade is given for the most efforts on a particular segment over the last 90 days.

Strava officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 13 gongs – five personal bests; four 2nd bests; and the four “local legends”! The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.6 mph despite the ever present wind! Elevation was 1,285 feet. The maximum speed was 38.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,431 calories and produce an average power output of 204 W.

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

Once again there were hugely positive endorphins from #Lockdown2 Ride 8 for my dynamic crew – underlining what fun it is being out pedalling on a bicycle made for two in our rural Perth and Kinross Cycle CampaignPerth and Kinross Countryside TrustAuchterarder Community Cycling and Love Perthshire area.

Roll on the next fun spirit-lifting #tandem pedal! And of course roll on that potential meet-up with the “other” ‘Tilly!