Met Office employees Lez Hall, left and Margaret Rudd MATT MINSHULL EE080609_MM02_04
GET more out of life by swapping four wheels for two is the key message behind this year's Bike Week.
To encourage people to get back in the saddle, a variety of free events is being held in Exeter and the surrounding area from Saturday, June 13, to Sunday, June 21.
The choice ranges from cycle training and Dr Bike sessions for novices to commuter challenges and group rides.
Bike Week is the UK's largest mass-participation cycling event, which aims to promote cycling as a source of fitness and fun and as an alternative form of transport.
Cycling has seen a rise in popularity locally since Cycle Exeter was launched four years ago. The project, delivered in partnership with Devon County Council and Exeter City Council, has already created over 20km of new cycle routes and achieved a 37 per cent increase in cycle trips across the city's network of cycle routes.
Met Office employees Margaret Rudd and Lez Hall are among the city's new cyclists. To make use of the pool bikes and cycling equipment the company provides, the pair signed up for the council's subsidised Cycle Exeter lessons a couple of years ago and are now confident riders.
It is especially a big achievement for Margaret, 47, from Okehampton, because she had never ridden a bike.
"I was very bad to start with," said Margaret.
"I had bought a bike but couldn't ride it. I would fall off quite a lot. The cycling scheme gave me a lot of confidence and Lez and I now go for bike rides at lunchtime. I also go out on my bike at weekends."
Lez, 49, from Torquay, said: "At first it was hard physically, but it's surprising how your stamina and fitness improve.
"When I was younger I rode a bike, but when I passed my driving test that was the end of it.
"Getting back on a bike appealed to me, but unfortunately Devon is not flat! I take my bike out occasionally at weekends and go to the shops on it.
"Learning to ride has also made me more aware of cyclists while driving."
During Bike Week there will be plenty of chances for Margaret, Lez and everyone else to go for a bike ride.
Kicking off the first weekend of events is the fifth Axe Valley Pedallers Bike Week Ride in Seaton on Sunday, June 14.
Starting from the car park by Seaton Tourist Information Office at 10am, a short family ride, a mountain bike ride, medium road ride and a longer road ride have been organised.
Riders will then all get together to cycle along Seaton seafront and stopping off along the way for a picnic.
Haldon Forest, near Exeter, is hosting a Bike Bash on Sunday, June 14, from 10.30am to 4.30pm, when bike fans and their families can enjoy test rides, a bike clinic, treasure hunt, competitions, demonstrations and more. There will also be an opportunity to try adapted bikes and trikes.
Cycle Sunday, taking place on June 21, is a celebration of cycling for all the family with the chance to take part in charity bike rides or free activities from 10am to 5pm at Flowerpot Playing Fields, near Miller's Crossing on the River Exe.
Many business will also be taking part in Bike Week. Employees of Elsevier in Bampfylde Street, Exeter, will be taking part in Solstice Cycle 2009 by cycling 150 miles from Exeter to Oxford on Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20, to raise money for Devon-based charity Farms for City Children. If you would like to join them, telephone 01392 285849.
For more information, visit www.bikeweek.org.uk or telephone 0845 612 0661.