Blogger: Jane Warren, Green Team member

Can you imagine cycling for nearly 5 hours over 91 miles to get to work in the morning? Our colleagues Mark and Jen Smart not only dreamed up the idea, but actually completed this epic journey last Wednesday. Their feat was part of Samsung Bike Week, which ran from 15 to 23 June. It is one of the UK’s biggest cycling events, encouraging over half a million people to join in, rethink their everyday journeys and switch to cycling as the most convenient way to get around. The event is a great way to highlight the benefits of cycling, both on a personal level for health and well being, but also for wider environmental reasons.

At the beginning of the week, I asked Mark why he and Jen had decided to cycle from Norwich to the RSPB’s headquarters at The Lodge in Sandy, Bedfordshire. He admitted that he had recently been asking himself the same question. He explained:

“Both Jen and myself took up cycling about two years ago and since then it has pretty much taken over our free time. We both race at various Eastern England based events, and are both very involved with our local cycling club, Velo Club Norwich. We are always keen to promote cycling in all of its aspect and this is just another great way of doing that within the RSPB. If it gives one or two more people the inspiration to start riding themselves, it will be worth it.

“There are of course the normal reasons for starting to cycle – health and fitness (let’s just say that there is less of both Jen and I than when we started cycling), greening and so on, which are all hugely important. But I think mostly for me it is the enjoyment of riding, the physical and emotional challenge of keeping those wheels turning whether it be on hills, wind or in rain, and the camaraderie that you have as a cyclist that keeps me going. Not forgetting, of course, the breakfast when we arrive at the Lodge...”

So, how did it go? Essentially their day started at 2.30 am, and they were on the road by about 3.30 am. Mark takes up the story: “When we set off, it was still dark with no wind – the cyclist’s worst enemy – and nicely warm at about 15 degrees, so we did not have to carry too many clothes. Overall the ride went well and by 7.30 am we were in Cambridge drinking a cup of coffee, waiting for our colleague Stephan to join us for the last part of the ride. Our average speed over the first 70 or so miles was about 17.5 mph, not too bad for that distance.

“After we picked up Stephan, the paced increased! Whenever you get three strong cyclists together this always happens. By the time we reached HQ, our average speed had increased to 18.5 mph with our maximum speed touching 35 between Potton and the Lodge! As you can probably imagine, we were pleased to see the HQ gates and the thought of breakfast spurred us on down the drive. A big thank you to Stephan for killing us, sorry, supporting us, over the last 20 miles. Next year we hope to get a few more people to join us as well!“

This is a great example of how people can change their behaviour. Whether it is for health benefits or the camaraderie, the Smarts have now welcomed cycling into their lives with wide arms. Have you ever thought about changing, doing something a little different? Going along to your local RSPB nature reserve for the first time, minding one of our pin badge boxes or even taking that step and volunteering with us? Well all it takes is knowing what the barriers are to changing and then blowing them away in a Dam Busters style manner. Let us know what you think and we might see you very soon.

The Lodge, home of our head quarters and set in the middle of our wonderful Lodge nature reserve & gardens. Credit: Jesper Mattias (