The trail ahead came to a fork. Donald had dropped me. Again. I had resigned myself to this cat and mouse game and had accepted the fact that he’d always be waiting up ahead of me on the trail somewhere. I hadn’t expected the fork. This could be a problem. The larger path led to the left and seemed to be the more obvious route to take. I was just about to veer that way when I heard the sound of his bell as it carried on the wind through the woods. The bell rang loud, clear, musical. It’s chime hung on the air and seemed to linger indefinitely. It came without a doubt from up ahead and to the right. I now clearly knew which way I should go on the morning’s ride. I had recently attached a bell to my handlebars after long resisting the utter Fred-ness that a bar-bell represented. I reached over with my right thumb and flicked the hammer in response. I don’t know exactly what I expected when I flicked that hammer, but whatever it was, it wasn’t what I got. What I got was a dull hollow clanging sound that did not travel. It hung briefly in the air then died among the leaves. That’s when I developed the first pangs of Bell Envy and I had to have what he had. I wanted that sound.
The Spur Cycle Bell
Right out of the box, this thing is beautiful. It comes in raw finish or a black one. The raw is prettier (personal opinion) and cheaper, but the black disappears on your bars better, draws less attention to itself, and aids in my goal of obtaining a clutter free cockpit. It attaches to the bars via a metal strap (no dinky rubber bands here). You choose one of two lengths based on your bar diameter. It’s a little tricky getting the metal band around the bar and into the slots beneath the bell (especially if you’re installing the bell as your wizard staff grows), but once that’s done you simply tighten the 2.5mm allen bolt at the top of the bell and it clamps everything down to a very stable mount. It’s a rock solid attachment and does not accidently ding every time you hit a bump or rooty section on the trail. The hammer has a solid springy mechanism that responds consistently. I never had a misfire when I attempted to ring the bell and could not get a ring. The bell really shines at that moment when the hammer strikes the bell. The clear sound that resonates from the bell is amazing. It’s just the right frequency to announce your location. It’s pleasing and not annoying. It hangs in the air indefinitely. At times I will have to touch the bell to stop it from continuing to carry long after I need it. It’s also made in America if that matters to you and it’s currently my favorite bell. The company started with a kickstarter two years ago to raise money to redefine the bell.
The Crane Bell
I like the Crane Bell a lot too. It’s loud and it’s clear and the sound resonates and hangs in the air for a solid 10 seconds after the hammer strike. It’s made in Japan and has a solid following for all these reasons. Compared to the diminutive Spur Bell, it’s very big and thus goes against my clean cockpit Feng Shui. In an attempt to improve the aesthetics of the bell mounting, I opted to mount it to the down tube shifter boss. I don’t know if this voids the warranty or not (do bells even have a warranty), so do this at your own risk. I took the bell apart, attached the bracket to the down tube shifter mount, then put the bell back together. It’s a greater mounting position and keeps my cockpit clutter free. Reaching to ring the bell is not bad. It’s no different than using down tube shifters, but it does involve letting go of your handlebars with one hand. If you can grab a water bottle out while you ride you can ring the bell in this position. A quick reach and a flick and you’re announcing your presence to the multitude of joggers, dog walkers, roller bladers (even the ones with headphones on), and baby stroller moms on the path that you’re about to KOM on your Strava Commute.
The Other Crane Bell
Not all Crane bells are the same. The classic has a large solid hammer with a stiff and definitive engagement. This one has a lighter spring attachment. It provides an easy actuation that a quick flick of your thumb can provide. The weight of the spring however, does limit the amount of force the hammer can deliver and thus limits the volume of the ring. It’s not a bad sounding ring, but it does lack the volume and it dissipates a lot more quickly than the other two bells. This is a mounted on the handle bars with a standard clamp. It does occupy a good bit of space on my bars and will one day be replaced.
Right now, I’ve got my eye on the Knog Oi Bell which should come out this August and I have contributed to their kickstarter because I have a problem. I have Bell Envy. I’m dying to ring their bell.