The Bell Joy Ride Program began with a small group of women in Santa Cruz, CA, called Girls Rock, headed up by the former executive vice president and general manager of Bell, Jessica Klodnicki. Girls Rock was an energetic, community-driven group of women who met monthly for mountain bike rides and were beyond stoked to have even a handful of other women to rub tires with. As Girls Rock evolved into a significant gathering of die-hard mountain biking aficionados, Bell decided to take the idea and turn it into something even larger, and Bell Joy Ride was born.
Since the launch of the program in April of 2016, over 2,400 women have attended at more than 50 rides spanning North America. Astonishingly, these women riders range from 12 to over 60 years old.
“2016 was hugely successful and Bell is now doubling down on their program resources,” says Heather Cooper, Bell's Brand Director for Bike and Powersports, who is currently heading up the program. “The Bell Joy Ride had the strongest media presence of any Bell brand marketing effort last year and is now a pillar for the Bell marketing strategy. The Bell Joy Ride program is very stable and will continue to grow with even more financial backing and greater interest from the other Vista brands, including Camelbak, Blackburn, and Bollé,” adds Cooper.
Bell has now expanded the program from eight to 12 locations for 2017. Six new ambassadors and four new regions have been added. “We’ve chosen locations that aren’t already popular mountain biking destinations and may not have existing infrastructure,” says Cooper.
Jaime tries on her new Bollé shades.
For the upcoming year, Bell vows to offer even more support to the ambassadors, giving the women extra gear for volunteers and a stipend for attending festivals and events. They’ll give the ambassadors open, more frequent communication and transparency about the company structure and status of the Bell Joy Ride Program.
Cooper explains, “The program is moving the product line forward through the development of social media, video, sponsored athletes, expanding awareness of women riders, and our presence in bike shops. We encourage the rides to start from bike shops – how else can a bike shop get 100 women in their store all at once? And they get to know the shop owner and employees, the shop’s product line, and feel a more personal connection to the shop.”
Bell wants to involve the ambassadors in providing feedback about helmet design and features, investigating whether there’s a “real” way to make helmets more specific to women. Bell is open-minded toward the development of new activities the ambassadors hope to pursue. The marketing team will check in with each location with a monthly phone call and aspire to attend a Joy Ride at each location. There’s also more encouragement for connecting the group of ambassadors to share what they’ve learned about logistics, strategy, and new opportunities.
There will be a larger push to connect the ambassadors to Bell sales reps, bike shops, and companies like Ibis, Liv, Juliana, Bolle, Camelbak, Qloom, and Blackburn to open up each program to more support and the potential to reach a broader region, even traveling to new locations for destination rides. Bell leaves it to the individual ambassador to choose which products interest their group.
The Bell team will spread the joy by representing the Joy Ride Program during events like Crankworx and Sea Otter, along with the Bell Bike Park Tour, running from June through September with 5 stops, complete with a booth, demos, parties, and giveaways.
Heather adds, “It’s incredible, the ambassadors want to do more than just a monthly ride. They’re really passionate about the Bell brand and inspired by the tools they have access to, which opens up possibilities of what they can create in their communities.” Bell is very mindful in allowing the women to have ownership and exercise the freedom to modify the program to suit the needs of their specific location.
So, what does it take to be a Bell Joy Ride Ambassador?
This year, over 100 hopefuls submitted their application videos from all over North America to be the next Joy Ride Ambassador. The marketing team sought out personalities that echoed the obsession with dirt and an understanding of the challenges in event planning; women who simply needed support for the efforts they were already making.
The women selected were those who recognized that they could use extra help from a high-profile brand like Bell, but they had the supporters, friends, and volunteers in position to get through the challenges of organizing the rides and events. They are the champions of their biking community – seeing a need, committing to a vision, and being a motivator for others to join in.
There was also a sit-down portion of the training where the ambassadors were introduced to their 2017 Bell Joy Ride Ambassador Toolkit and got a real grasp of the resources available to them and what the expectations are. Above all, the emphasis was on fun and making sure ride attendees are having such a good time that they want to return to each month. According to Heather, program success is measured in positive feedback, friendships formed, community-building, and shared libations.
To wrap up camp, ambassadors got to experience the famous Girls Rock ride firsthand. This is the inspiration to propel them as they develop their own local program. Heather Cooper was careful to express that the Girls Rock ride is not “the bar” of expectation for the ambassadors.
Braving relentless, poison oak-lined climbs with skyrocketing heart rates will make fast friends out of any group. Happily, the Santa Cruz Mountains deliver ocean views, ageless redwoods, and hysterical descents to make up for it. The new-ambassador-jitters were completely annihilated on the Ibis Cycles demo ride.
Without a solitary doubt, the ambassadors have whole-heartedly embraced the spirit of this program. They ended the Joy Ride camp in Santa Cruz with enough goosebumps, inspiration, and momentum to share the joy and perma-grins with their own mountain biking communities and beyond.
Photography by Josh Sawyer and Betty Gilbert.bellhelmets.com/joy-ride-program