Bells will be ringing at San Tan Regional Park thanks to the new project, Trailbells, started by Gilbert resident Jonathan Sacks.
The bells are available to mountain bike riders at no charge – though a donation is suggested – and offer a way to alert hikers without startling them on the trails.
Sacks, who is an avid mountain biker and has worked in the bike industry for over 25 years, said he got the idea to start Trailbells after moving to Arizona from California.
“A lot of trails outside of Arizona have them and I noticed it wasn’t that common here,” he said.
After seeing an increase in traffic on trails due to COVID-19, Sacks said he felt the need to help make a difference for both the riders’ and hikers’ safety.
“They attach to handlebars in seconds,” said Sacks. “The noise just clanks along and hikers can start to hear them from about 50 yards away. It gives people more time to respond.”
Sacks said the start-up process for Trailbells was a bit of a challenge as he tried to balance his full-time job while also spending time with his wife and children.
“There were a lot of late nights that I worked on promoting the bells while I was putting my girls to bed,” said Sacks, adding: “I’d drop bells off on my lunch or wake up early in the morning to go for a ride and leave some on the trail then.”
While the bells are offered to riders for free, Sacks recruited sponsors to help pay for the costs of the bells in exchange for the sponsor’s logo being displayed on one side of the bell.
“I’m hoping to get some bigger corporate sponsors in the coming months,” he said.
Getting the attention of park rangers was another thing Sacks had to do in order to get permission for the bells to be left on the trails.
“I would hunt down the park rangers, drop off information to them, and then circle back to get that ‘yes,’” he said.
Once the bells officially became available in February, Sacks said he has been marketing them to people every time he’s out going for a ride.
“It’s a lot of meeting people on rides and talking to them,” said Sacks. “If people like the bells I encourage them to give both me and the park rangers feedback.”
So far, Sacks said the feedback has been encouraging.
“One of the most rewarding parts has been reading the emails from people that I don’t know thanking me for putting Trailbells out,” he said, adding: “The hikers seem to be the most appreciative of the bells. Nobody wants a mountain biker plowing over them.”
While Trailbells is just getting its start, Sacks said he has big plans for it to continue growing in the months ahead.
“I’d like to see a bell box get added so riders can just grab and return the bells easily,” he said.
Right now, Trailbells are only available at San Tan Regional Park but Sacks said he hopes to have them at Hawes Trail Network and South Mountain Preserve soon and eventually at all the major trails through the Phoenix area.
“Really the whole goal for the bells is to avoid any bad interactions before they happen,” said Sacks.