The humble bicycle bell is many things to many people. For a small child it’s something to ring as often as possible to annoy the adults. To a certain type of cyclist, it’s something unmanly, unnecessary and something they would not be seen dead with. To others it’s a thing of beauty, joyous to ring, to be polished, treasured and loved. To some the bicycle bell is just a strange object on the handlebars, mysterious, weird, never used and removed as soon as possible. But to others, and I hope turfers would be in this group, it’s an essential part of your bicycle, used when needed, even a life saver.
On this page I want to take a look at this amazing little gadget and how it can be used when turfing, helping us stay safe, avoid injury, a visit to A&E or even a meeting with Death himself. The bicycle bell can also speed our passage, save time and effort and make turfing by bicycle a joy to behold. So, let us get started.
First of all, get a bell if you don’t already have one. They only cost a few pounds, are easy to install and you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to use one. However, if you need instruction, Scott at Mutts Cycles will be able to assist. The key thing with a bicycle bell is to actually use the damn thing. Yes, use it. For you macho blokes out there, RING YOUR BLOODY BELL. Sorry to be shouting but I’m sick of the number of times I’ve used my bell, slowed down or stopped for some elderly people to gather up their dogs, only to have some dickhead Lycra-clad male speed past without warning on their carbon fibre drop bar gravel bikes. So annoying and really not necessary. Rant over.
Okay, you need a bell, what should you get? Well, any bell really as long as it works, can be heard from distance and is reliable. All my bikes have the same bell, as do my Swifty kick scooters. It’s a neat little bell that can be heard from quite a distance away. Bought on Amazon for about £12.00 they come in a range of finishes. I like the bright silver. I have found they stop working after a year or so but all that is needed is a drop of lubricant on the pinger pivot. I also have what is claimed to be the loudest bicycle bell in the world, the Hornit DB140. Check out the website for more info. Yes, at 140 decibels, it is very, very, very ear-splittingly loud. That’s louder than a UK emergency vehicle siren.
Now, when should you use your bicycle bell? A bicycle bell is used to alert others to your presence. My bell gets used most when turfing along cycle ways and footpaths and I strongly suggest ringing your bell whenever you approach any hazard from the rear and also when approaching from the front. People just don’t pay attention to what is going on around them. Any hazard would include pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, dogs and cats, wild animals, vehicles and so on. One point to note, always ring your bell well in advance of horse riders to give then plenty of warning of your approach.
Many years ago, I was a member of the IAM, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and later, the Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists. You are taught to plan your driving or riding for a range of different situation. These include what you can actually see, what you cannot see and what you might reasonably expect to happen. These also apply when bicycle turfing.
Using your bell for hazards you can see is fairly obvious, as noted above. Hazards you cannot see takes a little bit more thinking. A good example are blind bends and hidden corners. A good real-world example is the footpath between Eskbank Tesco and Eskbank railway station. There’s an alleyway with high brick walls along each side and at the access points vision very restricted. It’s also a very popular route for both walkers and cyclists. This is the ideal situation where use of your bell will alert any other unseen pedestrians, cyclists or whatever to your approach. Saved me more than once from a possible collision. The key is to ring your bell before you turn the corner and enter the alleyway.
In the third, what you might reasonably expect to happen, you need to get your thinking cap on. For example, if approaching a bus at a bus stop, that bus will possibly move off. Same applies to taxis, delivery vans and the like. If riding in the countryside where sheep are grazing and there’s a sheep on one side of the road and a lamb on the other, there’s a high likelihood that the lamb will wait until you are close than dash in front of you. If the lamp is called Shaun, expect anything to happen. Another is a vehicle waiting to enter the road you are riding along. You can reasonably expect that vehicle to emerge in front of you. Be aware, assume the worse will happen and be prepared.
Now, a few words about the elderly or hard of hearing. Some senior citizens may not hear the high-pitch tone of a bicycle bell. I actually confirmed this today when coming upon a group of elderly ladies out walking between zones MineMuseum and Newtongrange. They did not respond to the bell but did hear my shout of bike! I asked if they could hear the tinkle of the bell and they all said no. So, please be patient when you encounter groups of elderly people.
And to finish, people wearing earphones. I don’t understand why people need to constantly listen to music when outdoors. Why not listen to the sounds of nature. The birds singing in the trees, the lap of waves on the seashore, or the wind whispering through the trees? On some occasions I’ve been unable to attract their attention, even when shouting as loud as I can. I such instances I just blast past and usually give them a fright. Serves them right. One woman once shouting abuse at me when I did this and I stopped and told her what do you expect when wearing earphones? She actually agreed with me. Back soon.
Copyright ©2023 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.