I’ve long been meaning to get a bell for my bike – or rather, every time I find myself inadvertently startling a pedestrian, or end up cycling at walking pace behind a slow moving group of people on the shared river path in Bigtown, I’ve found myself thinking ‘I really must get a bell’ and then I’ve got home and forgotten all about it. I did have a bell, but it was a cheap rubbish one I got as a freebie that rusted solid within about a week (you’d think the Chinese would know how to make sturdy bike bells, but I suppose they don’t bother selling those ones to the foreigners). And I’ve also been a bit of a bell sceptic, if I’m honest. I don’t want to use it to get the pedestrians out of the way, just to warn them that I’m coming so they don’t get a fright when I pass them – I do make every effort to cycle politely and considerately when I’m sharing with people on foot. But I’ve found that the Brompton bell doesn’t seem to make much difference and have mostly just resorted to saying something friendly to people as I approach, although that doesn’t make much difference either – normally I end up passing the person while they’re still looking in every direction but the one I’m coming from and still end up leaping a foot in the air.
And then a post in a bike forum gave me the right nudge at the right time and I ordered a Crane Suzu bell before I could change my mind. It arrived promptly and all I had to do was get it onto the handlebars of my bike. Simples. It’s not as if it had a very complicated fitting, just a simple brass screw that even I could work out how to use once I’d ransacked the other half’s shed for a phillips screwdriver. In order to make the bell send out its loud yet somehow extremely polite note, you have to give it a bit of welly with your thumb and you have to make sure the striker has room to move. I cleared off some of the redundant light brackets and other gubbins that had accumulated on the handlebars over the last few years and attached it thus
Which seemed to work except when I took it for a test ride I realised that the striker was nowhere near my thumb, which meant that moving from the brakes to the bell and back quickly – a pretty key manoeuvre when you’re interacting with pedestrians – was going to be difficult, so I decided to move it somewhere else. I won’t embarrass myself by detailing exactly how many options I tried that worked even less well before I realised that the bell was handed and all I had to do was move it onto the left-hand bar and all would be well:
I think you’ll all agree that, user error aside, it is a thing of beauty, and it sounds lovely too (I did try recording it but my phone doesn’t really capture it). And it works. So far it seems to warn people just enough that a bike is on its way that they look over their shoulder and see me coming, without it acting as a peremptory order to get out of my way. They just magically move over and continue on their way and I continue on mine. A win all round.
*when the idiot in question is, of course, me