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Semple: Join my bike-bell revolution | Opinion

We had just staggered out of a cloudy cafe in Amsterdam and were spilling out onto the busy street when the cacophony of bicycle bells hit me like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

“Chang, chang, ching-chang-ching, chang!” Amid the fragrant canals, the grandeur of European architecture, fabulous Dutch locals on bicycles, and the incessant chime of bicycle bells, I could have sworn I was a Tintin comic book character.

Thinking back to that vivid memory of the summer of 1984 made me want to be some kind of revolutionary. I want to be an Aspen bike culture warrior and start a trend – a bike bell movement – a crusade so impactful that every time someone mentions Aspen in the summer, the phenomenon of people all over town and on local trails constantly ringing their bike bells comes to the forefront of conversation.

I want people to write letters to the editor complaining about how brash and unbearable all the bike bells are. I want that grumpy old lady who used to write letters saying how annoyed she was by people’s squeaky bike chains on the Rio Grande Trail to break a vein in her forehead.

I have two religions: skiing and cycling. One day I was walking west on Hyman Avenue near the Aspen Times office. The thrift store was being renovated, and store volunteers were temporarily selling second-hand items in a transitional storefront. The midday sun shone through the window and a beautiful book on display caught my eye: “The Great Religions of the World,” the title proclaimed.

I went inside and looked through it eagerly, looking for anything about my two religions, but alas – not a word about skiing or biking. Maybe someone tore up those key pages? “This book is nothing but a lemon!” I said to myself. I left empty-handed.

If Euro-ness is truly next to godliness, then we here in Aspen can answer the call of a higher power and ring those bells as they do in towns and cities all over the world. Europe. Yes, we are younger, but we have a rich and vibrant cycling history and culture here. I am preparing for the Tour de France this year. It’s a moment that really defines summer in Aspen for me: watching The Tour, then going for a bike ride.

I have three bikes: an “electric” electric mountain bike, an “acoustic” pedal mountain bike and a road bike. I have bells on all three of my bikes. I call them constantly on the trails all over town. If you ride the Rio Grande Trail frequently, chances are you’ve heard me greet you with my bike bell.

I spend a lot of time on the Rio Grande Trail. I live an easy frisbee ride from the old railroad line in and out of Aspen. The historical significance and seriousness of the trail’s importance is not lost on me. If I could sit in a time machine at the Jerome Bar and talk with the original builders and visionaries who designed this trail, I would thank them profusely and tell them how important and helpful it is to me. Trains had whistles, and now bicycles have bells.

You know what’s really hard for me these days on the Rio Grande Trail? People who use e-bikes that you don’t even have to pedal on. At least pretend to pedal. You make the rest of us pedal-assist, law-abiding e-bikers look bad.

The other day I did something I’ve always wanted to do: I road biked from my house on the Rio Grande to Glenwood Springs, ringing my bike bell every person I passed or met. People who walk or jog the trail always appreciate me ringing my bell before I pass. It was nothing!

It’s fascinating to me how many people have bells on their bikes but don’t use them. Interestingly enough, do you know which demographic of trail users reacts the most to my bike ringtone? They are not premises. It’s the tourists. Every time I ring my bell to an oncoming group to communicate and greet other trail users, I see them looking down at their handlebars to see if their bike has one of those cool things I ai, and when they locate the bell, they call it back right away!

Most of the local cyclists, ironically, look at me like I’m crazy when I ring my bike bell for them. I got used to this reaction. Ringing a bell is apparently more palatable than the local too-cool-for-school guy on Kleenex Corner slamming his ski poles and exploding inches from you and yelling, “On your left!”

If you have a bike, I implore you to get a bell if you don’t already have one. Use it often, as a greeting, courtesy, warning and ambassador for the sport of cycling. I urge all local bike rental companies to ask their customers to religiously use their bells. There are all kinds of cool bike bells these days. The City of Aspen Trail Department gives out bells for free, and that’s where I marked my three. There’s no excuse for not having a bell on your bike.

Maybe one day you will see or hear me on the local trails. If so, please call me back and be part of my European-inspired bike bell revolution in Aspen.

Happy July 14 everyone!

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