Jingle Bells, Bicycle Bells!
Bicycle bells, they’re not just for Christmas, especially if you ride off-road.
Ho, Ho, Ho! While an acceptable Yuletide greeting, won’t quite cut it when trying to alert dog-walkers, podcast walkers and rambler herds to your approach. While I generally make do with a cheery “hello” some trail-users need something a little louder to get their attention. Yelling is never a good option, unless it’s an emergency, so I thought we’d take a look at what bicycle bells are available.
While I’ve never used a bell on my road bike, off-road they make a lot more sense. You’re sharing sometimes quite narrow paths with other users who are often concentrating on other things. While the iPod wearing dog-walker is blissfully unaware of his surroundings, that’s no excuse to blast past them without some kind of warning.
Then there’s that downhill, over-gown single-track section that’s just so much fun. However the family that have decided to walk up it need some kind of warning of your approach, don’t they?
So let’s put a bell on our bike, but which one? I don’t want anything too dorky! Also, I want to be able to remove it when I go racing, no need for it then. So I’ll want something that’s easy to fit and remove, maybe even swap between bikes.
Another issue I have with bicycle bells off-road is where they’re positioned. Traditionally they sit inboard of your brakes, so you have to take your hands off the controls to ring it. That’s not what I want to be doing on a rutted downhill stretch!
A few bicycle Bells
A quick whizz around the internet brings up some options when it comes to bicycle bells. You have your traditional style bell that sits on your bars and needs you to reach inboard from your levers to ring it. Among the options are some beautiful options like the UK made Lion Bell, made from brass and with a lovely “bing” sound.
Alternatively you could go for something a bit more modern looking with the Knog Oi. This minimalist looking bell is designed to take up as little space on your bars, which is good. However you’ll still need to take your hands off your bars to get it to work.
If you don’t want people to know you’re the kind of person that uses bicycle bells, take a look at Close the Gap. Their HideMyBell range hides the bell under your computer mount. You can choose from out-front, over the stem or flush-mounted versions, for that aero look. It’s not just the bell and computer though, you can attach lights and cameras as well. Team Jumbo-Visma liked it so much they use them on their bikes; not sure Wout is ringing his bell in the peloton though!
Hands on bars
The next two options look to be more useful for me when riding off-road. These two will allow you to keep your hands on the bars while ringing away. A much safer option when you need to keep your hands and concentration and alert other trail-users. First up is the Trigger Bell.
The Trigger Bell is a UK made bell that sits close to your controls, allowing you to ring and remail in control. That sounds just what I need for my off-road rides, The only issue I can see is that it’s not a very elegant solution, as it’s zip-tied onto the lever. It would look neater if the mounting could be hidden beneath the hoods. If that is an option, then that would make it a top contender.
Next we have the OSAKA Roadie Clip Bike Bell from Japan. This clever little bell attaches via a clamp that allows it to be attached to many different parts. You can clip it onto the edge of your hoods, or even the bar tape. This will keep it close to hand and allow you to operate it without taking your hands off the bars. The only issue is getting hold of one if you’re in the UK. You can order it from the US or Australia, or scour eBay or Amazon. Despite that, it’s a clever design that is very discreet, it is very small though. I’d like to try one out to see how loud it is. Take a look at the video from the guys at Path Less Pedaled to get an idea of that “ting”!
Now we come to another type of bell, these are adaptations of something I’ve run on my bikes off-road previously after Christmas. Usually I end up throwing out a load or wrapping paper, but one year there were a load of little jingly bells mixed in. Rather than chucking them out, I attached then to the front of my MTB and had my own little jingle bells. Cute though they were, they weren’t quite loud enough to alert walkers.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that sticking a bell on your backpack so you didn’t surprise bears is a common thing in the US. Although I did wonder if in fact you were just ringing a dinner bell for the hungry ursines! MTBers then took the idea and used them to alert others of their presence. The only problem having a constantly jingle bell can be a bit irritating, so the makers of bicycle bells came up with their own versions.
From the US we have the Timber Mountainbike Bell, which comes in bolt-on or quick-release versions. Both versions work in the same way, you have a stealth or ring mode. In stealth mode the bell’s clapper is held in place so that it can’t ring. Flip the switch and the clapper is free to swing, tinkling away and letting others know you’re there.
Bicycle bells are aggressive?
While some people might find a normal bell a little ‘aggressive’, in that it reminds them of a car horn’s “beep, get outta da way!” The constant tinkling of the Timber bell will slowly creep up on them in a less abrupt manner. Again it’s another bell that requires you to take your hands off the bars, but as you can leave it merrily ringing away, that’s not such an issue.
Another ringer, but this one has a bit of both worlds, it’s the Granite Cricket Bell. This clever little bell sits under your bars and can be flicked when you need to alert someone. However, take it off road and when you get to a section where you need to alert others and keep your hands in place, it reveals its secret mode. Pull the bell down and it can now swing freely, so as you bump along it starts a ringing. Hands-free warning for all trail-users. Like the Timber bell, the nice thing is the sound will creep up on others gently, giving them time to make space.
So there you go, some bicycle bells to peruse while you plough your way through the mince pies, enjoy! We’ll try and get our hands on some of these little ringers and let you know how they perform.