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Old 02-27-09, 02:01 PM   #1
Rick@OCRR
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Who uses bike bells?

Article by my friend Bob Allen, Madison, WI about bike bells. How 'bout you?

Originally published by Sustainable Times

Photos by: Mikael at Copenhagenize

Bicycling For the Rest of Us - Ring That Bell! by Bob Allen.



There was no pleasing the boss at a bicycle shop I worked for years ago. I could sell one of the most expensive bicycles in the place and come off the sales floor to be greeted by a scowl.

Selling a bicycle, even an expensive one, was never enough. You had failed unless you also made sure the bicycle rolled out of the shop bristling with accessories. “Sell bells!” the shop owner would exhort.

Accessories offer a much better profit margin than bicycles. Bicycles don’t have much markup. After paying shipping costs and investing significant time to properly assemble and adjust a machine, financing overhead expenses and the time spent finding a buyer for the thing, it’s a wonder many bicycle shops can keep their doors open.

Many could not survive without the profit generated by their service departments and accessory sales. And herein lies a conundrum.

Bicycling is inherently simple. All you really need is a bicycle. You don’t need fancy add-ons. You don’t need special clothing. All you need is a bicycle and the will to make it move.

In providing a dazzling array of doodads, the bicycle industry is indeed creating potential profits for local bicycle shops. But it also is making a simple thing seem more complicated than it needs to be.

Does this discourage potential riders? I suspect that anything that makes riding a bicycle seem more out of the ordinary than it already is perceived to be might be counterproductive. If, for example, people feel they need to get fully kitted out in the latest bicycling attire before venturing out, how many actually venture out? How many fewer bicycles get sold if people think buying a bicycle means equipping an entire new lifestyle?

Without question, high tech clothing designed specifically for bicycling can help a serious or competitive rider go faster and farther in greater comfort. But for the rest of us, everyday clothing works just fine.

Civilian clothes are better, in fact, if you are riding someplace where you will end up mingling with non-riders. There’s just something about wandering around in clickity shoes and bright tight Spandex that makes one stand out in a crowd.

There are many useful things that can be added to the basic bicycle. Baskets, racks and bags make it possible to bring home the groceries or carry an extra layer of clothes for changes in weather.

Fenders or mudguards can keep a rider caught in the rain a bit more comfortable while keeping debris off the bicycle. Lights can stretch riding time and are especially useful given the short daylight hours of a Wisconsin winter. A good lock is advisable for any bicycle left exposed to the criminal elements. A few basic tools can help keep you going out on the road.



And bells, ah bells. The old bicycle shop owner was right on this one. But it’s not about ringing cash register bells. A good bell is a civilizing addition to any bicycle. Not necessary, but nice.

None of these add-ons is necessary for traveling around on a bicycle. I just took a perfectly comfortable 20-mile ride with temperatures in the high 30s wearing the kind of plain old clothes that allowed me to blend right into the crowd of bluegrass fans at my destination.

If you have a good coat, or enough layers, and some good gloves or mittens, a warm scarf – essentially what you need to get through a Wisconsin winter anyway – you have all the clothing you need to ride a bicycle in the winter. Summer, of course, is easy. Ride as you are.

Rejection of bicycling-specific clothing is a first step toward reining in the “otherness” of bicycle riders. This simple stance rises to high fashion at the fabulous Danish web site www.copenhagencyclechic.com. The site’s curators have the curious belief that the everyday act of riding a bicycle doesn’t require you to look like a space alien. In fact, they chronicle example after example of ordinary people looking quite marvelous while riding bicycles.

Copenhagen, of course, is a city where bicycles are more ingrained in the culture than here in the upper Middle West. Bicycles seem to move freely throughout Copenhagen without many of the dreary little controversies that stalk two-wheelers here.

Many of these stateside controversies seem to be stoked by an “us versus them” mentality -- drivers versus bicyclists -- bicyclists versus pedestrians. When “us and them” blend, it’s much harder to point fingers.

Of course, it’s not so simple. Some of the finger pointing, even the middle finger, can seem well deserved if you are the offended party.

Some drivers subject riders to needless danger through inattention or malicious intent. These road hogs don’t understand that bicycle riders have an equal right to the road. Likewise, too many bicycle riders don’t realize that along with that right guaranteed by law comes an obligation to follow that law.

And even well intended and otherwise polite riders sometimes seem oblivious to how the simple act of breezing by a pedestrian on a trail can startle the heck of the unsuspecting biped.

And here is where the simple bell saves the day. A bell allows a rider to announce his or her approach in a gracious, non-threatening way. A nice bell gives the kind of cheery warning to a pedestrian that is almost always appreciated. I have a beautiful little brass bell on my three-speed that sustains its note for seven seconds. It could double as a call to meditation. I’ve even had people complement me on the sweet tone of this bell.

Contrast such warmth and appreciation with the reaction of somebody who has just been startled by a bicycle silently swooshing by at speed. The startled pedestrian probably doesn’t feel very warmly toward bicycle riders at that moment.

Communication works wonders, and it is not limited to rider-walker interactions. It is also a common courtesy, though often overlooked, for a faster rider to alert a slower rider who is being overtaken. A bell isn’t necessary for communicating with pedestrians or other riders. A simple announcement of “passing on your left” will do. But there’s something about a bell that makes the interaction sound more pleasant and less like a declaration of dominance.

Communication is not just common courtesy. It’s the basis of safe riding in traffic of any kind. While a little bell won’t help a rider in dealing with motorists, clear hand signals and riding in a predictable straight line – in other words not making the motorist guess -- will make sharing the road much more pleasant for all involved.

A simple bell will not change the world and make lions lie down with lambs. But the courtesy of using a bell -- or hand signals, or the directional signals in your motor vehicle -- surely can’t hurt. It’s a start.

Last edited by Rick@OCRR; 02-27-09 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 02-27-09, 02:16 PM   #2
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I do. All 6 bikes.
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Old 02-27-09, 02:23 PM   #3
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One of my bikes has a woody. No kidding:
http://www.mirrycle.com/woodpecker.htm
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Old 02-27-09, 02:27 PM   #4
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Agree totally! Going to find a friendly bell as I will be riding mostly on bike paths...used to ride in NYC traffic 30 yrs ago but people weren't on cells and texting!
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Old 02-27-09, 02:28 PM   #5
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Only on my mountain bike.
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Old 02-27-09, 02:50 PM   #6
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I like using a bell. It's just as good as "On your left" and it is as good as a nod when passing someone going the other way.
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Old 02-27-09, 02:53 PM   #7
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I have bells on all of mine, and I, too, have a woodie on one. It's a good looker, but not much of a bell.

As far as being a good bell, the Incredibell Silver is very good. I like the looks of the brass one better, but the silver one has a great tone.

The people that I pass, yes I do pass a few people - pitiful as that is, (well, some are walkers) like my bells. I've received many positive comments on them.
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Old 02-27-09, 03:21 PM   #8
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On 3 of 4 bikes. My American Eagle/Nishiki 10 classic 10 speed does not.

I find a bell is more understood than "On Your Left". And in Little Rock, cycles are required to have a device. I think that the voice would qualify, but members of the local advocacy group do not, so I go with them.

My Giant Stiletto chopper is mostly ridden in parades, so it has a loud, classic-style bicycle bell, while my road commuting bikes go for the more minimalist Zefal "ping" bells.
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Old 02-27-09, 03:28 PM   #9
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I bought my first bicycle bell last summer and just took it off over the weekend. It seemed much more civilized than bellowing "on yer left" and people, and, as we've discussed on this forum before, "on yer left" seems to startle and disorient people. However, the bell never seemed to work (at least for me). People didn't seem to react or hear it at all.

I'm back to bellowing...
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Old 02-27-09, 03:28 PM   #10
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I have them on a number of bikes. They are handy for signalling other cyclists or pedestrians.

I have had difficulty finding bells that fit on road bike bars.
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Old 02-27-09, 03:32 PM   #11
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I use a bell on my road bike. Having to warn people by yelling at them gets pretty old pretty quickly. They don't always react to a bell, but they don't to shouting either. It's also useful just let another rider know you're behind and passing. But I guess it depends on where you ride.
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Old 02-27-09, 03:37 PM   #12
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I have a bell, and I use it. You are required by law to have them, but afaik only in a few cities the police actually tickets bicyclists beyond not having lights.
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Old 02-27-09, 03:41 PM   #13
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My mostest favorite...chimes like a 50's doorbell...Diiiinnggg-Dooooonnnggg!

You can't really appreciate the huge size of this baby from the picture...



Most girly bell...I like the ones with compass added, too.

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Old 02-27-09, 03:53 PM   #14
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I love my little bell. People (non-cyclists) ask me why I don't take it off - " I like it "..
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Old 02-27-09, 04:11 PM   #15
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heh i got it set up the same way
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Old 02-27-09, 04:18 PM   #16
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Yap on all my bikes nice loud brass ones AND an Airzound for IDIOTS
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Old 02-27-09, 04:18 PM   #17
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heh i got it set up the same way


I think that's the best road bike setup.
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Old 02-27-09, 04:26 PM   #18
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I have a bell. I keep it in my pocket for throwing at the Bu**ers that don't hear me me yell out "Bike Behind" on the Mup's

I have a loud horn on the tandem. It is never heard and on one memorable occasions after some one told me I ought to get a bell- their next remark was "You don't have to use that language".
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Old 02-27-09, 04:50 PM   #19
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I wear a cow bell.
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Old 02-27-09, 05:00 PM   #20
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I have a bell. I keep it in my pocket
Something like this?
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Old 02-27-09, 05:11 PM   #21
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Take a look at the bells on this blog:

I have the baseball bell on one bike.
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Old 02-27-09, 05:14 PM   #22
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Here's another good bike bell
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Old 02-27-09, 05:20 PM   #23
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I have them on my mountain bike for obvious reasons but not on my road bike. A friend and I were talking about this last weekend - with all the bike path riding I do a bell wouldn't be a bad idea. People for some reason are more conditioned to hear a bell and understand what it means. Yell "on yer left" and people go in all directions, usually to the left!!!
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Old 02-27-09, 06:15 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jet Travis View Post
One of my bikes has a woody. No kidding:
http://www.mirrycle.com/woodpecker.htm
Which one is harder, the paduak or the cherry?
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Old 02-27-09, 06:26 PM   #25
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I bought my first bicycle bell last summer and just took it off over the weekend. It seemed much more civilized than bellowing "on yer left" and people, and, as we've discussed on this forum before, "on yer left" seems to startle and disorient people. However, the bell never seemed to work (at least for me). People didn't seem to react or hear it at all.

I'm back to bellowing...
Glad you wrote this as I have been thinking of a bell for when I ride the 5 mile part of my normal 20+ mile ride there are people walking and I ususlly do the "on your left" thing. It seems that most the time they seem startled and I was thinking a bell would be better.
However I also thought a bell would not let them know which way to go and I would still be wondering where they are going. I'm sticking with the "on your left" thing. As you said ,they might not even hear a bell.
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