Since you are here reading the PEARL iZUMi blog, it’s a pretty safe assumption you have a general interest in cycling and, therefore, you’d probably agree that cycling has a challenging reputation with the general public. There is a very us versus them approach on both sides that makes the gap hard to close down. If you ride urban roads on a fixie, if you ride rural gravel roads, if you shred single-track, if you pound pavement on skinny tires, or if you are new to the sport looking for your niche, you might find yourself in both very positive and very negative scenarios when it comes to the roads and trails.
We’ve found that sharing with our fellow riders how to be a positive ambassador comes down to giving practical advice. So we’ve asked our Ambador team to put together a few ways that they live out our brand and take ownership in changing the Us vs. Them narrative. We all believe this so much we signed a pledge to The Pact.
By the way, we here at PEARL iZUMi call our brand ambassadors “Ambadors.” Why is that? It’s because we are trying to take the “ass” out of ambassador. Here are 5 practical ways that our team does just that.
It’s amazing how a small act of gratitude can disarm people and bring them together. When you are out on a bike for a few hours on end it’s very easy to sense when a driver gave you passing room, waited for you to get over the hill before passing you safely, didn’t rush past you to quickly turn in front of you, etc… When a driver intentionally makes a choice to respect my safety, I try EVERY time let them know that their act was noticed and appreciated. My assumption is that when a driver knows they were appreciated, they will probably act that way the next time they have a chance to. I also saw a runner the other day slow down and give a high-five to the two people sitting at a bus stop. All three of them ended up laughing about it. How cool is that?!
Obey traffic laws
As a cyclist, it’s very easy to justify “bending” traffic laws. It can be more efficient, be faster, and honestly sometimes it can be safer for both myself and vehicle traffic. But that doesn’t make it ok. In the eyes of a driver, not following the rules is frustrating and makes us hard to predict. It also opens us up to easy criticism in the bike vs. car debate. Our take is again that despite my justifications for rule “bending”, it’s my responsibility to honor their frustration with me doing so. Stop at the signs. Wait at the lights. Stay in the bike lanes. Etc…If a driver wants to wave me on, let it be their call and I’ll wave in thanks if they do so. But if I’m going to change their perception of bikers, I have to follow the rules.
This one is a small thing that makes a big difference. It also should be a no-brainer for those of us that ride outdoors. I understand the temptation to not want sticky jersey pockets from your used gel packet but I view that as a small price to pay in order to be viewed as good stewards of our trails and our roads, and sometimes our neighbor’s yards. When we claim our spot as nature loving individuals, then we litter our trash all over, “they” are fully within their rights to view us a hypocrites. And who thinks highly of hypocrites? I, for one, don’t even want to give them that option and therefore it’s my responsibility to never toss any of my trash anywhere but in a trash can.
Clothing and lights
I have found that when I make an effort to be seen, drivers generally respect my intentions and respect my space and my safety. I often ride on road and gravel during dawn, dusk, and at night, so this came naturally to me during those rides. I’ve found that the sooner a car can see me, the more time they would have to be patient and make things safer for both of us. This low light strategy of always wearing high-visibility clothing pieces and using lights worked so well at night that I started using blinking bar and tail lights and rocking some iconic PEARL iZUMi Screaming Yellow orScreaming Green gear 24/7. Again, making sure I can be easily seen is a way to respect drivers and the space they need and I’ve found that this makes for a better relationship between us and creates more situations where I get the joy of waving in thanks as opposed to wanting to wave a finger.
Yield on trails
When it comes to trail use, there are several well-known rules of etiquette as well as some very vague and unspoken rules. Regardless of public knowledge of these rules, I again take the stance that if it is to be, it’s up to me. Whether it means I’m stopping for a climbing rider (have you ever tried to remount your bike going uphill? Try it, you’ll know why this rule exists), or calling out how many riders you’re with when you pass a hiker, I take the stance that it’s my responsibility to take the first action as an experienced rider. I and my friends are on trails every day and we know the rules. The woman walking her dog might not. The high school kid doing a trail run might not. The other biker might not. So as someone who is just out there to share the stoke and see as many people out in nature as possible, I always try to yield. I always announce my presence in advance. I always slow way down and make the first move to yield the trail (Let’s not forget to keep singletrack single, by using the Fruita Lean). I always smile, nod and wave and I always try to ride away from the moment with a, “Have a good time!”
We are constantly trying to keep the proper perspective about this whole riding thing. So few people are “elite” and most of us are just out there to have fun, challenge our personal goals, and share a sport we love with our friends. Anytime we take things too seriously, we just step back and remember why we are doing this. We realized a while ago that we wanted to make riding something that was fun and approachable for everyone. When it comes to being healthy, we’ve found no more enjoyable way to challenge ourselves and burn calories. When it comes to friendships, we’d be hard-pressed to find another way to spend a few hours with your friends that creates such great memories. When it comes to adventure, you’ll find it almost every ride. While the pro’s get the TV and ad spots, 99.9% of us are out there pedaling with smiles on our faces and endorphins in our veins. We’ve found that if we want to break down the barriers to the sport we love and share it with as many people as possible, it’s our responsibility to be an Ambador, not an AmbASSador.