Another new year approaches, and instead of looking back, I’m looking forward. The mood at Specialized in recent weeks has taken a new and fun turn, one that’s tough to describe without living inside the biosphere we inhabit there. But I’ll try. We’re a culture of racers: of wins, of trophies, and finish line triumphs. We arrive at work very early in July to watch the Tour stages live in the theater. We stay late to get race reports on the website, often in a rainbow of languages around the world. We build some of the very best bikes that are made, and we strive to obsolete ourselves all the damn time. We are a bunch of ambitious, competitive, relentless, driven, and often sleep-deprived bike-riding maniacs. And we love it that way.
Here comes the “but”. Ready for it?
But, we sometimes can’t see things – important things – when they don’t involve a number plate and a cadre of European athletes, on dirt or on pavement. We sometimes can’t fathom an idea such as riding bikes for pure transport. It can be as if you’d just started speaking Italian – we’d understand the basics if you gesticulate enough, but we’d miss the romance. We sometimes don’t see the simplest, most common, most fundamental aspects that cycling can offer. And this isn’t an apology – any photographer will tell you it’s impossible to focus on everything. But we do often wish for longer days, longer weeks, more time to do more stuff (even if we’d spend most of it riding).
Through the hard work of a few really fantastic people, we recently saw a big shift happen, something foundational. And it’s one of those “important things”. It was as noticeable as the smell of fresh paint; it’s something you first become aware of when you walk in, and you just know it’s there, immediately. The whole place seems brighter. We’ve committed to a new and focused approach to our advocacy. Specifically, we’ve tasked ourselves with getting kids on bikes. When we announced this, it was like that moment when you wake up as a kid in the summer, no school, and the sun is already warming the windows. People just understood, immediately, and it made sense – they could relate to that feeling, the feeling of what it’s like to be a kid with a bike. Or even better, to be a kid with their first bike. We all remember it. This was not an “A-ha” moment. This was an “of course” moment. Of course we should focus on kids. We all started as kids, and look where we’ve ended up.
I’m thrilled with our new website for this project; we were able to build with the help of some very talented people. I’d like to invite you to check out, it’s here. But this website is just the start – we’re not done, this is just where it all begins. With a place to talk about what we do, we’re now able to actually do more real stuff, instead of spending time trying to figure out how we increase participation and awareness of the causes we choose to support. And even more critically, we’ve hired a pro to do this full time. Advocacy isn’t something we do when we’re not busy. This is something we do because we’re busy. That’s a critical distinction. And we’re fueled up to be doing a lot more than we’ve ever done before, because we are going to find ways to get lots and lots of others involved. It’ll never be big if it’s only us doing it, so we’ve found some clever ways to make it easy for you to join in. Yes, you. We’ve got a lot of ideas for how this can grow, and what we can do to make it something bigger than just us. We’re excited about all of it. I hope you are too.
And that’s the best bit. it’s not just one or two people here at work. The excitement about this…it’s in the paint. It’s everywhere. I hope you feel it too.