Lockdown2 Ride3 – First ride in Tandem Club snoods after long snow lay-off and enjoying Sustrans publicity focus on Team Matilda!

Bringing out our inner Audrey Hepburn in the new Tandem Club anniversary snoods!

This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew finally got back on my saddles after a long months enforced lay-off due to heavy snow and ice with the “old git” and “old gal” having their first outing wearing their new Tandem Club UK snoods. It also features Team Matilda enjoying being the subject of a publicity focus from Sustrans, who look after The National Cycle Network.

A whole 34 days after the second ride of #Lockdown2 the weather decided to warm up a bit and finally thawed the heavy snow and thick ice which had turned our home area in Auchterarder in south Perthshire into a permafrost winter wonderland.

The snow lay to a depth of around a foot at Team Matilda’s Auchterarder base.

Now as tandemers and cyclists know, snow and icy conditions are not remotely conducive to pedalling so my dynamic crew were stuck in doors – looking out at the snow which lay to a depth of about a foot.

The “old gal” and the “old git” did make good use of their time by embarking on a major DIY “Changing Rooms”-style project at Matildas Rest – decorating every room in the house over a four week period!

The “old gal” in “Changing Rooms” mode – wallpapering the bedroom with a zebra mural!

But despite their dedication to the DIY – and becoming “experts” at painting and wallpapering! – my dynamic crew were desperate to continue their second #lockdown adventures – while adopting Cycling UK Scotland‘s #cyclingfromhome mantra in #tandem in rural Perthshire, mainly on Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network routes.

There had been a glimmer of of hope that we would be able to get out on a romantic St Valentine’s Day pedal on our bicycle made for two – but the weather sadly decided not to play Cupid.

The “old git” and “old gal” did however have some heart-warming loved-up tandeming publicity to keep them occupied over their hot #lockdownlurve Valentine date night as Sustrans timeously decided to feature my Matildas Musings blog in a question and answer feature in a bid to give romantic inspiration to other cyclists! Naturally it focused on my dynamic crew’s story of how they met – with the headline: “Love on the National Cycle Network: how a tandem-biking blind date brought a couple together.” Click on the image to read the article!

The Sustrans feature.

The amusing feature also focused on the on-going success of my status as the UK’s only blogging tandem bike, and how our fun adventures in tandem help Team Matilda to survive lockdowns – as well as why tandeming is growing in popularity, and our favourite recommended route on The National Cycle Network of Rt 7 from Callander to Killin.

It is actually the second time in recent months that my dynamic crew have been featured by Sustrans as they made a “starring” appearance in a promotional video made to mark the 25th anniversary of The National Cycle Network #NCN25th.

Click on the video below and see if you can spot the “old git” and the “old gal” in their fleeting appearances at 36 seconds; 56 seconds; and at 1 minute 46 seconds! Blink and you will miss them!

All this publicity has been going to my head a bit – as a quiet demure and reserved “old lady” tandem!! – so back to the pedalling! My dynamic crew decided on a simple route to get their legs free from enforced inaction – a Braco loop with (whisper it!) another DIY coffee stop! You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The ride gave my dynamic crew their first opportunity to wear their new Tandem Club UK neck scarves – known as snoods or buffs – which was a welcome free gift to all members to commemorate the Club’s 50th anniversary this year in 2021.

As you can see from the picture at the top of this post the “old gal” decided on a pose that brought out my dynamic crew’s inner Audrey Hepburn – the “old git” played along although he was a tad disappointed that they had to make do with “Breakfast at Auchterarder”!

Then “the old gal” promised to take the “old git” on a fun mystery tour after pulling the snood right up over his face so he couldn’t see! At least his sunglasses matched!

The “old gal” promising to take the “old git” on a fun mystery tour!

That nutty picture session continued as that pose was reversed which left the “old gal” looking like she had been kidnapped and forced out on a ride – but she went willingly! … honestly!

The “old gal” looks like she was kidnapped and forced out on a ride! She went willingly … honestly!

Incidentally, if you are a tandem rider, and not a member of the Tandem Club UK – what are you waiting for? Membership is great value at just £15 a couple. For more details of how to join click here!

After a more sensible shot with the snoods as neck warmers it was time for the serious pedalling – with all three members of Team Matilda feeling a bit rusty. It was good to see it wasn’t just me – as an “old lady” #tandem – who was feeling the pain after our enforced lay-off!

But we almost didn’t get to ride as just before we headed off the “old git” decided to test my gears and found my chain was completely clogged up with mud and grit from our last ride – and my pedals wouldn’t turn. Seems the “old gal” had “forgotten” to give me a spruce up after my return to the garage! While the “old git” did his usual panicking routine, the “old gal” took control and in her role as Team Matilda’s chief (and only!) engineer got to work with a hearty doze of chain cleaner and a toothbrush which soon had me back in action!

We headed up thru the high street of our home base town of Auchterarder (the longest high street in Scotland by reputation!) continuing up past the back entrance to the luxury Gleneagles Resort and out towards Braco. We then turned right towards Crieff where we had a rapid (standing!) DIY coffee stop! This “not a picnic” was much required by the “old git” and “old gal” to keep warm!

A welcome cup of coffee for my dynamic crew – but obviously NOT a picnic!

The weather had promised an almost Mediterranean 11C – but there was a fairly fierce wind which meant the temperature never hit those balmy double digit high spots!

We then pedalling back towards Auchterarder – riding thru the plush grounds of the all shut up luxury five star Gleneagles resort, which sadly meant no posh afternoon tea for my dynamic crew! It was however quite sad to see the playground of the rich all closed.

The luxury five star Gleneagles Resort all closed up – so couldn’t get posh afternoon tea!

A quick photo at a flyover over the A9 revealed the trunk road linking the central belt with the Highlands was virtually deserted due to #Lockdown2.

Very quiet during #Lockdown2 on the A9 trunk road linking central belt to the Highlands.

On the final couple of miles back to Matildas Rest there was great joy for my dynamic crew with a new Team Matilda record being flashed up on a speed camera sign coming back into town – at 25 mph! Simple pleasures!

Back indoors – and after finding that my crew’s legs did in fact remember how to pedal! – the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as as being worthy of 5 gongs – including one personal best and two 2nd bests! And amazingly the other 2 gongs were for being awarded “local legend” status on two separate sectors! So I guess the legs were not that rusty! This was definitely the cause for celebration and a screen grab of Strava had to be taken to be recorded for posterity!

“Local Legend” status on Strava!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 19.6 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3mph despite the fresh headwind! Elevation was 974 feet. The maximum speed was 32.0 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,241 calories and produce an average power output of 177 W.

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

The feel good factor from #Lockdown2 Ride 3 was a welcome feeling – reminding my dynamic crew that despite the vital Covid-19 restrictions, it’s great fun 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.

Team Matilda is hoping the Arctic weather has now gone for the winter so they can clock up more #lockdown miles on more fun spirit-lifting adventures!

The Tandem Club neck warmers are a welcome addition to my dynamic crew’s kit!

Lockdown2 Ride2 – Avoiding snow patches on Braco loop with DIY coffee stop (which wasn’t a picnic, officer!)

Wintry skies, and even a patch of winter sunshine, with wonderful views over the A9 valley.

This blog is the slightly delayed story of my dynamic crew identifying a much needed weather window and escaped for a local #Lockdown2 ride – dodging the patches of snow pedalling on a Braco loop with (whisper it!) a DIY coffee stop.

A week after the first ride of the new #lockdown the weather suddenly turned significantly more wintry, resulting in a heavy snow fall. Now as tandemers and cyclists know, snow is not conducive to pedalling so my crew were stuck in doors. The “old git” was so bored he was forced to take a photo showing the only true measure of the depth of snow – the depth it comes up to on a prosecco bottle!

The only true measure of snow depth – where it comes up to on a prosecco bottle!

But of course under the new Scottish Government lockdown rules, my dynamic crew are not currently allowed to have one of their signature prosecco picnics anyway! So obviously it just had to be opened inside!

But the “old git” and the “old gal” were desperate for their second 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.

Fortunately there was a bit of a thaw over the weekend which removed most of the ice, and the “old git” poured over the weather forecast and identified a weather window for Monday where the temperatures were predicted to hit a balmy 6C over midday. (As you can probably imagine – and much to the “old gal’s” chagrin, the actual temperature was nowhere near 6C!)

The “old git” did a recce by car of their planned route in the morning to check that road conditions were safe – adopting his new role as Team Matilda Health and Safety Officer! – and reported back that the roads were mainly clear of snow with none of the nasty and dangerous black ice.

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

The route was a loop up thru the high street of our Perthshire home base town of Auchterarder (the longest high street in Scotland by reputation!) continuing up past the back entrance to the luxury Gleneagles Resort and out towards Braco.

My dynamic crew had to avoid some fairly serious snow patches en route!

All was going well as we dodged the remaining snow patches – with the weather as forecast and even the added benefit of some winter sun – till about 4 miles into the ride when the sky suddenly darkened and my dynamic crew were hit by a squall.

Fortunately the rain only lasted a few minutes and the “old git” tried to make bright of the situation by pointing out the dramatic rainbows – tho I am not sure the “old gal” was equally as impressed!

A right turn on to the A822 and a pedal towards Crieff brought glorious views over the valley before an “essential” halt in an ice clad lay-by for a much needed DIY coffee and caramel cake stop – which was obviously not a picnic (officer!) as we didn’t sit down!! (It was far too chilly!!)

Essential DIY coffee stop which obviously wasn’t a picnic (officer!) – as it was too cold to sit down!

Again the views over towards the sun-kissed snow-capped hills behind Crieff were real lockdown brain food! And the coffee was essential for thawing out with the temperature on the handlebar mounted computer barely rising above freezing at 0C!

View from the icy (non picnic!) lay-by looking over to the sun-kissed snow-covered hills at Crieff.

Pedalling on before my dynamic crew turned to ice, there was a sharp right turn along a farm road to Machanay and then right again heading along the Crieff – Auchterarder road towards Gleneagles and back to Matilda’s Rest.

Great joy for my dynamic crew with new Team Matilda record being flashed up on the speed camera signs coming back into town – at 24 mph and 23 mph respectively.

Back indoors while de-icing at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as as being worthy of 5 gongs – one personal best and four 2nd bests – which was a bonus given the somewhat “iffy” road conditions!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 16.6 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 27 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.4mph despite the chill factor! Elevation was 876 feet. The maximum speed was 30.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,077 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

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

The feel good factor from #Lockdown2 Ride 2 was fabulous – and most definitely helped by a reviving bowl of steaming home made ham and lentil soup!

It just continues to prove that, despite the restrictions, it’s great fun being out pedalling on a bicycle made for two in our rural Perth and Kinross Cycle Campaign, Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust, Auchterarder Community Cycling and Love Perthshire area.

If only the temperature would rise a bit! Brrrr!

Outlanderish cultural tandem experience on ride to historic Tibbermore

The evocative grave yard at Tibbermore Church – film set for an episode of Outlander.

Summer has finally arrived at Matildas Rest and after being on our travels for the last few weeks Team Matilda decided on a hilly ride on our own doorstep this week as my dynamic crew build up the miles and elevation for our Hebridean Way adventure in early June.

Interestingly this ride had the added advantage of turning into a cultural experience with my dynamic crew receiving an education into the cult hit tv show Outlander. They are always impressed at the rich history they find right in Team Matildas own backyard – and in this case both real and fictional.

Summer had finally arrived at Matildas Rest – thus the t-shirts and shorts for first time in 2018!

Now a little word of praise to the “old git” and the “old gal” here. In a bid to improve their fitness they have lost 3 stones between them over the last 11 weeks by sticking rigidly to the healthy eating Hay Plan regime. I am most impressed – and grateful at the same time that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!

So with a combination of losing weight, and the forecast of warm sunshine – it was decided it was t-shirt weather. The “old git” even ventured into his shorts for the first time this year!

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

I am very proud to report that today’s ride started with a new Team Matilda speed record! On leaving Auchterarder we hit a nice long downhill stretch and soon picked up speed. the “old git” was really enjoying it – although I am not sure the same can be said for the “old gal” on the back! They both got into the spirit of things and bent low to reduce drag and do what is termed “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France.

And amazingly the data showed we hit a new all time record speed of 34.7 mph! Which is really all rather exciting for an “old lady” tandem like me! Kudos to Team Matilda! The big question now of course is can we break thru the 35 mph barrier?! I am certainly up for it!

After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a sudden jolt as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770. That was the first of several sharp hills around Gask and it certainly felt as if my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on those climbs!

As we reached the plateau my crew realised why it is so hilly as the area is known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which the “old git” discovered was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall. After the climbs there was some relief as Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot at Tibbermore.

Me and the “old gal” at the archway marking the entrance to the Tibbermore Church yard.

My dynamic crew decided to visit the fascinating historic Tibbermore Church which is now in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. Dating back to 1632 the characterful building ceased being a parish church in 1986 before being transferred to the trust in 2001.

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

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

The historic church was a perfect setting for filming of an episode of cult hit tv show Outlander.

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

Inside the church there is a display of information and photos from the tv production and it seemed only natural that my dynamic crew would try to recreate a couple of them – albeit not in period costume but in their hi-vis cycling gear! Whisper it, but I’m not sure they would be a ratings winner!

Claire and Jamie are reunited in an emotional embrace in the churchyard after the trial.

My dynamic crew recreate the passionate embrace – albeit not in period costume!

For the many people whose specialist subject is Outlander episodes, the witches trial is one of the most memorable. The plot line sees Claire and Geillis Duncan accused of being witches – for which the punishment is being burned at the stake.

The plot line for ‘The Devil’s Mark’ episode of Outlander filmed at Tibbermore.

The design of the building particularly lent itself to the key trial scene with the pulpit serving as the dock. Despite a spirited defence things don’t go well for Claire and Geillis – and in an attempt to save Claire, Geillis confesses to witchcraft. The “old gal” bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene.

Geillis confesses to witchcraft from the church pulpit at the trial to save Claire.

The “old gal” recreating the role of Geillis in the Tibbermore church pulpit used as the dock.

In one of the final scenes of the episode Geillis is carried from the church to her fate at the stake. Perhaps wisely the “old git” decided against trying to recreate that image!

Geillis is carried from the church to her fate – a scene my dynamic crew wisely didn’t try to recreate!

It was all very interesting and the “old git” and “old gal” certainly created a bit of a diversion for the international visitors ticking off another venue on their Outlander tour! It was good to see tourists from France and Spain visiting that day which just underlines the global appeal of the hit show. Which left me wondering if there was a potential role in a future Outlander episode for an “old lady” classic tandem! I am sure it wouldn’t present too many problems for a creative scriptwriter.

After the cultural overload of the Outlander venue, my dynamic crew felt it was more than time to overload on some goodies at Gloagburn Farm Shop just a few hundred yards away. No carrot cake today – just a tasty scone with some nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old gal” was so engrossed in eating she forgot to take a photo!

The farm shop is extremely interesting for foodies like my dynamic crew as it sells lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder. A few purchases were made – including supplies for the evening meal – and safely packed away in my panniers. I knew I was sporting them for a reason!

After the cultural overload time for a scone and coffee overload at Gloagburn.

Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and immediately started to pedal into a ferocious head wind! This was somewhat unexpected and made for hard going on the journey home. But we soon built up a reasonable momentum again and the “old gal” decided we would take a different loop home to add a bit of variety. So we pedaled past the road end that would have taken us back to Trinity Gask, heading towards Madderty and turning left to the picturesque village of St Davids. Another steep climb before we picked up speed on a nice descent back to Kinkell Bridge.

My dynamic crew again took a different loop back to base which saw us climb the steep incline from Machanay bridge before powering on up the slow steady energy sapping grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder.

Back at Matildas Rest, and a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; 1 3rd best; and encouragingly 1 Queen of the Mountain award!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 32.04 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 46 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1358 feet. The maximum speed was that new record of 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1825 calories and produce an average power output of 164 W.

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

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for the Hebridean Way in early June. Just 4 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

One thing is for certain – days full of fun and laughs are guaranteed on the Hebridean Way challenge! What is less certain is the weather conditions – but the order has been placed with the weather people for some nice warm sunshine and a helpful tailwind!