Meet Kate Howell. She is quite an amazing woman – smart, experienced, honest and open. Who better to gently nudge you just outside your comfort zone and towards the pleasures of countryside cycling in Devon and Somerset?
Kate runs a business called Easy Bike Days. Her cycle hire service enables people to experience the beauty of the Blackdown Hills (on the Devon and Somerset borders) and the Mid/East Devon countryside from a bike. There is so much more pleasure to be had from two wheels instead of the usual four.
So what’s easy about Easy Bike Days? The concept is around the type of bikes that Kate supplies – they take away the strain associated with cycling hilly West Country lanes because they are electric bikes! If electric bike hire sounds appealing, speak to Kate.
A friend helped Kate to come up with the business name. At the time she and Vanessa were working as lifeguards and during breaks they threw ideas around coming up with Easy Bike Days – to emphasise the fact that electric bikes make cycling so easier and accessible for all.
Guided Tours On Electric Bikes
Easy Bike Days offer electric bike hire for independent exploration. If you want to hire a bike and go off cycling on your own, you can. But they also offer guided cycling tours for people who feel nervous about using bicycles on country lanes, or for those who want to explore the area without the hassle of map reading or fear of breaking down. There really is something to suit everyone. All the bikes for hire are from the Agattu range from Kalkhoff.
The bikes used operate on a Pedelec system. The motor can tell just how hard you are pedalling, and some of your pedaling energy is converted into electrical energy which drives the back wheel via the bicycle chain and gears. The result is an almost silent operation and brilliant hill climbing ability.
Cycling Since She Was A Child
Kate was born in London but moved to Saffron Walden in Essex when she was 2 years old. Saffron Waldon is a lovely market town. Kate remembers thatched houses in the high street, old school buildings, a tumble-down castle around which you could walk and climb, acres of fields and very welcoming people.
Kate and her brother would play in and around her parents’ house. But as she grew older she would ride her bike further and further away, over fields and country footpaths. Kate grew to absolutely love cycling. It represented freedom, independence and a closeup interaction with countryside sights and scents.
But later the family moved to London, to the commuter town of Billericay. Kate found that the children there tended to be more interested in gadgets than in sport and outdoor pursuits. So on Sundays at the age of 14, Kate would take to her bike to escape onto the country lanes around Billericay and ride for hours.
Living in Devon now gives her the quiet country roads and open spaces in abundance that she enjoyed so much as a child.
Sport Has Always Been Important
Kate was a sports enthusiast as a child. She would eventually play in most of the school’s teams and even played football in the boy’s football team. She also had a great love of mathematics and still does, but disliked French but wonders now if that was more to do with the teacher! She also loved history – the past interests her as she believes it reliably informs the present. We can understand who we are now and through history.
Kate went to university in her late twenties, studying for an Exercise and Sports Science degree. She started at Aberswyth University and then on to Pembrokeshire College to add outdoor activities to the degree. She completed the Honours portion of the degree at the University of Exeter.
Some Of The Cleverest People Are Dyslexic!
When writing her dissertation at Exeter, staff realised Kate might be dyslexic. She was diagonised as being moderately so at the age of 32! This gave Kate an answer as to why she had found written work so difficult and why she felt so much more at ease with outdoor activities. Thanks to the help she received from specialists at the University she was just 1% short of a first class grading for her dissertation!
Kate went on to try to train as a secondary school P.E. teacher and started her P.G.C.E at Exeter University. Unfortunately Kate was unable to complete the degree, but has found the training she received there invaluable nonetheless.
The Country That Made The Biggest Impression Was …. India
Kate has travelled extensively throughout the UK, but has also visited France and has cycled in Holland. She has rock climbed in Ireland, mountain walked in Spain and been on holiday to the Phillipines.
Kate spent 4 weeks in India where she visited Dehli, Goa, Kerla and Chandigarh. She found Dehli to be too crowded, Goa too commercialised, Kerla absolutely beautiful and the way of life in Chandigrai just awesome. Chandigarh is known as the most beautiful city in India!
In Dehli the sheer number of people was too crazy for my liking and I found Goa to be too commercialised, set up solely for the foreign traveller which isn’t my cup of tea. Kerla was beautiful with lovely mountains, tea plantations, sights and sounds. This is a place I would like to return to. Chandigrai was eye-opening. I saw the Indian way of life up close and it was good.
Kate greatly appreciated the diversity of religion in India given that the people managed to live in relative harmony. She says that after returning home she missed the cows wandering about in the streets, often in the midst of heavy traffic. Cows are scared to Hindus in India and they can go where they like. Not so here!
Before Bike Hire Kate Did …
Kate had a myriad of jobs before starting her own bike hire business. She had a franchise milk-round, a pet food business, she drove a bus, was a lifeguard, a swimming teacher, a carer and many office based jobs too. But the jobs she enjoyed the most have always been those that emphasised the outdoors.
She currently works as a self-employed cycling instructor when she is not leading bike tours. She adores the work teaching young children, adults and teenagers to cycle safely. It’s good to encourage children to be active and spend less time on computer games. After all, cycling in the countryside is such bliss, she says!
Our Cycling Queen Of The Road Enjoys …
Kate has taken on a rather over grown allotment this year (not a great idea when setting up a business she says, but allotments don’t often become free). She has worked hard on it and now has only 10 metres of weeds left to dig out. She enjoys the challenge and it helps to keep her fit.
I love to make bread by hand it tastes so much better and I can add what I like.
My favourite one at the moment includes, dates, seeds, lemon rind, honey and many more ingredients.
She has also made lots of jam and ice cream with the soft fruit from her allotment.
Kate enjoys reading a good book- particularly a thriller that makes you want to find out more – but not she adds, with too much gore. She likes reading autobiographies of interesting and inspirational people.
And Kate’s Pet Dislikes Are?
She dislikes inconsiderate drivers especially when she has 6 children out on the road for cycling training. Also she thinks too many green areas are being developed for housing. Kate feels strongly that we need to treat the earth and its wildlife with more respect and less greed, in order for it, and us to survive. She thinks too, that some people focus far to much on money.
The People Kate Admires
We asked Kate who she admired. She immediately mentioned Martina Navratilova due her achievements in sport and also, not least because Martina was open and honest about her sexuality, refusing to hide but proud to be herself.
This is especially poignant for Kate as it took her a long time to come to terms with being gay. She knows first-hand how important Martina’s public attitude has been, for all of us. Kate also admires Richard Branson for his success with business, and his dedication to his staff – not for once letting his dyslexia get in the way.
Why Cycle Hire?
Kate says she wants to help more people become more active. And not just for health reasons. If she can encourage people to go cycling – who otherwise might not – they will spend money in more local businesses such as bed and breakfasts, cafes and West Country attractions. For Kate it’s all about businesses working together to help each other.
Kate has funded the bike hire business herself from personal savings. She had planned to make use of funding from Making It Local to help finance the start-up as her job teaching safe cycling, does not pay amazingly well. But she missed that chance. She is passionate about the people who use her service, and by putting their enjoyment first, she believes that her investment in the business will be justly rewarded.
Easy Bike Days was established at the end of 2011. And the website was built in March 2012. Kate is working now to publicise the site and so attract more customers. She advertises widely in local parish pumps/newsletters, and nationally in various magazines. She leaves leaflets in hotels, guest houses, local cafes and tourist information outlets. She has also ventured onto Facebook and Twitter to further spread the word.
Kate operates training and tours from Mid-Devon out to Bampton, Witheridge and then in the Blackdown Hills as far as Chard and down to Ottery St Mary. Kate is looking into extending her tours to Beer and Seaton from Kilmington and Axminster in the future.
Cycle Hire In Devon And Somerset – The Easy Way
Easy Bike Days encourages people to be active who may never have considered themselves so. It is also FUN. People tend to wear broad smiles when they discover what they can do on an electric bike. It’s possible to enjoy the Blackdowns Hills and Devon’s undualations without necessarily increasing traffic and ruining the place.
Easy Bike Days are healthy, fun and sustainable. Kate delivers a personal service that is tailor-made to her customers of all generations and fitness levels. She very much wants to help us get out of our cars and start really seeing what is right under our noses in the countryside.
To build her business she will steadily increase the number of bike hires, guided tour rides and themed days out. She is looking soon to link up with Devon and Somerset Wildlife Trusts and visit their nature reserves as part of a new themed day out.
Kate also plans to start using these versatile electric bikes to transport tourists to and from local attractions. She also sees a benefit to local walking groups who could use the bikes to ride to areas where car parking is problematic. Kate adds that she wants the business to expand in a controlled manner so as not to risk losing the personal edge currently enjoyed by her customers.
Are You A Perfect Bike Hire Client?
Kate’s ideal client is someone who wants to try a new leisure activity – something completely different to an average day out. She attracts people who want to get up close and personal with the countryside, in an atmosphere of fun with like-minded people without having to be as fit as Bradley Wiggins.
Easy Bike Days Stories
Kate said she couldn’t think of any funny stories and then came out with this.
I enjoyed the sight of a hard-core Lycra-clad, muscle-bound cyclist hunched down on a top racing bike putting in superhuman effort to pedal up a hill. Meanwhile one of my group on an electric bike pedaled casually past waving and wishing the Lycra clad individual a good afternoon.
The lycra guy did not quite believe what he was seeing
Kate In Short
Kate’s philosophy on life is that you get back in buckets what you put into life. And she sums herself up with these three words, caring, inquisitive, determined and fun. Okay, four words.
You can reach Kate on 07522 449218. Her website can be found at www.easybikedays.com