Winter can be a hard time to get outside. It's dark, it's cold and (at least in the South West) it's often wet too; not the most appealing conditions. But as much as I'd like to I can't hibernate at home (except for the occasional glorious frosty walk) for the whole season so go outside I must.
It's a 30 minute walk for me to get to my office and an hour walk for the husband (his extra time, he reminds me, is up a massive hill too) and although it's a very pretty walk along the riverside with the chance of kingfishers, long tailed tits and cormorants we often find ourselves easily convinced to walk the five minutes up to the bus stop instead. Despite the bus having a higher top speed with waiting times and so much traffic in Exeter this journey actually isn't any quicker for me than walking!
One week last November we realized that we hadn't walked once, in either direction. So five days ended without any exercise worth mentioning, and having spent roughly £16 (£1.60 each way) each on unnecessary transport. Enough was enough, that Saturday we visited our local Halfords and spent some of our wedding gift money on new bikes, helmets, high-visibility jackets, lights, panniers and locks. I'm very pleased with my new helmet; it's high-vis green!
I won't pretend that this was all cheap. There are some things you don't want to be stingy about (for most of the safety equipment and locks you get what you pay for) but while we took the easy option of buying everything new and off the shelf a quick Google search of "second hand bikes Exeter" reveals loads of places where starting cycling doesn't have to break the bank. See here, here or here. Also, we found that when we compared the price of bikes to how much we would be saving by not taking the bus it didn't take long before we were breaking even!
So with all this new kit and the excitement of my first brand new bike since I was ten the initial few days were easy. Speeding down the riverside looking out for wildlife we were amazed as how much quicker our journeys were. I quickly gave up taking a change of clothes to the office, as the extra 5-10 minutes it took to get changed meant I was still leaving as early as if I'd walked and after a week or two I wasn't really sweaty or out of breath enough to need to change. It only takes me 15 minutes to cycle now so we also get an extra 30 minutes each day which means more sleep and more spare time in the evenings.
Since the new year we've been tempted by the buses twice. Once due to extreme weather (so windy we were literally peddling to stay still) and once because we were going out in the evening after work and didn't fancy cycling home separately (it's hard to chat on single track paths). But that's not too bad. We're getting 30 minutes exercise most days and although cycling actually uses less calories than walking at the speeds I'm going at least I'm doing the activity rather than sitting on a bus. The fresh air makes a difference too. We've both found that cycling home helps us clear our heads, when walking or busing found us still mulling work problems over dinner.
It's not the first time I've blogged about cycling (see here and here) but I've already kept it up for longer than ever before and after two months we're both still firm bicycle fans. We've been adventuring along the local cycle routes at weekends too discovering that pubs and favourite nature spots are within easy reach and most have cycle racks which we'd never noticed before. I've even found that cycling to my local choir is quicker than sitting in evening traffic! The speed, fresh air, cheapness and small amount of exercise cycling provides all add up to a great reason to swap the bus or car for the bikes this winter, and if you can get through the winter enjoying the outside just think how good spring and summer will be!
Speaking of the seasons, this weekend is the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch and I'll be spending an hour with friends discovering the wildlife in a garden away from Devon. Come back next Monday to find out where we were and what we saw. Don't forget to count the birds in your garden this weekend too!