General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
User avatar
Posts: 5245
Joined: 29 Aug 2011, 10:25am
Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Re: Bells

Postby foxyrider » 22 Nov 2020, 7:27pm

IMO based on personal experience, is that bells are a stick with which others strike out at cyclists. If you use one you get accused of being impatient, in a hurry, a trail nazi - the list goes on, if you don't use one and instead use your voice, its always where's your bell, you shocked me and so on. I've had, on many occasions, sounded a bell only for that and subsequent verbal warnings of my arrival to go unheeded too, often my whole herds of pedestrians. Mostly these days i give a verbal warning, not a shout but at conversational level, when i'm close enough, 10/15m for the walkers/slower riders to hear.This seems to work about 95% of the time, they then get a cheerful thanks as i pass.

Of course there are always some nasty curmudgeons who seem to think that anyone moving faster than they want to should be held up for as long as possible, they no doubt block off the road so ambulances and fire engines can't pass when they are driving too. And then there are runners who won't hear anything because of their headphones or mothers with prams who are so tied up in their phone conversation with the friend they just left, that anything outside of that conversation, including their own children, is ignored.

As regards horses, the best advice and that which i follow was given to me by an experienced horse rider and subsequently confirmed by others. Oncoming horses, no issue providing you allow plenty of space, the horse can see you. From behind, a clear yell of 'bike' or 'behind' @ 50m away will alert both horse and rider to your presence before you arrive, this pretty much always gets a thank you from the rider. They don't like bells which often spook horses.
Convention? what's that then?
Airnimal Chameleon touring, Orbit Pro hack, Orbit Photon audax, Focus Mares AX tour, Peugeot Carbon sportive, Owen Blower vintage race - all running Tulio's finest!

Posts: 30833
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Re: Bells

Postby thirdcrank » 22 Nov 2020, 7:40pm

^^^^ That's it for me ^^^^

Re horses, I've posted before that the big problem occurs when the rider doesn't realise that the horse is getting concerned about what's behind. If the rider looks round to check, then all ok. The more the rider assumes the horse is somehow misbehaving and tries to control it, the worse things get. Sooner or later the rider will realise there's a cyclist behind and that's when the blame game sets in

User avatar
Posts: 4170
Joined: 9 May 2007, 1:06pm
Location: a cricket ground

Re: Bells

Postby simonineaston » 22 Nov 2020, 7:53pm

I've always preferred to whistle a cheerful tune. Horse riders, in particular, will hear that from hundreds of yards away, and it usually produces a very positive reaction and a good-natured exchange as I pass.
Funnily enough, I was out today, north of Bristol, near Hawkesbury Common and was ticked off good-naturedly by a girl on a pony, for doing just that. I should, she advised, simply sing out "Hello". Can't argue with that!
(rides: Brompton nano & ever-changing Moultons)

Posts: 80
Joined: 26 Sep 2017, 2:24pm

Re: Bells

Postby grufty » 22 Nov 2020, 7:56pm

I don't just ring my bell at 100 yards and that's it! I start off at that point and then try again every 20 yards or so until I'm within chatting range. If it's a busy road/track, I'll wait for a gap in the traffic (noise). I never ring for horses just start chatting a way back until the rider hears me then ask if it's ok to pass. My goal is to avoid startling people and animals (by talking to them in a normal voice, although the latter rarely reply).

Posts: 100
Joined: 16 Sep 2008, 9:00pm

Re: Bells

Postby GarethF » 22 Nov 2020, 8:02pm

Escalation according to level of ignorance....

around 40yds -tinkly sounding bar end bell - folk who acknowledge this qualify for a cheery good morning
if no reaction then Lionworks bell at 20yds (most folk stand to attention at this)
if still nothing then consider locking up the back wheel a couple of yards behind them or plan evasive manoeuvre (or both)

It's better in the rain, when the noise from my disc brakes is so bad I might as well be riding along blowing a trombone at full blast....

Posts: 30833
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Re: Bells

Postby thirdcrank » 22 Nov 2020, 8:13pm

The point with horses is that they have all-round vision ie they can see what's behind them and long before any sort of shout or audible warning are audible to the rider. That's not the case when they have a rider so they may swing their head a bit to see round the rider's legs. At that point, the rider who understand their horse looks round and all is well. If they don't things just deteriorate. Of course, if the horse is relaxed about cyclists, then if the rider is startled by the silent approach of the cyclist, they may jump and express annoyance.

I didn't get this till I discussed it with a colleague in the mounted branch whose short explanation was that a horse can see all round but riders cannot. Incidentally, I had that discussion because, like may cyclists, I wanted to do the right thing.

Obviously, if the rider is on the ball and twigs that there's a rider behind, then it's incumbent on the cyclist to co-operate with the rider in the interests of all concerned.

Posts: 70
Joined: 10 May 2013, 7:22pm

Re: Bells

Postby xerxes » 22 Nov 2020, 9:27pm

What's the point of a bell when you have a voice?

Posts: 5128
Joined: 5 Jan 2007, 10:01pm
Location: North Hertfordshire

Re: Bells

Postby drossall » 22 Nov 2020, 9:30pm

simonineaston wrote:Funnily enough, I was out today, north of Bristol, near Hawkesbury Common and was ticked off good-naturedly by a girl on a pony, for doing just that. I should, she advised, simply sing out "Hello". Can't argue with that!

Next time you meet her, certainly. But I wouldn't assume that that's the preference of all horse riders - all the ones I have met have been very happy about my whistling trick, and often they've said thank you. That's the issue, for horse riders and pedestrians alike; everyone is different, and they all assume that others have the same preferences as they do, and make statements on what to do for everyone.

Posts: 42940
Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Bells

Postby Brucey » 22 Nov 2020, 9:59pm

even if horses can't easily see you from behind (eg if the rider has wide legs) they can often hear you. If you make noise which carries a horse will usually hear this at long range. I have 'clicked' in the past and if this noise is made from far away most horses will assume it is meant for another horse, not them. But I suppose that if this sort of noise is made too close to a horse it may react (eg by breaking into a trot) if it has been trained to. BITD most non-aero brake levers could be 'clacked' and horses seem to hear this noise early on and are not usually spooked by it. Modern levers don't make a loud enough noise.

You can also ride to the other side of the road so as to give the horse every chance to see you. You will know if the horse has seen or heard you because it will normally prick up its ears at least, and an attentive rider will see this if they have not seen or heard you themselves beforehand.

Most riders know their horses well enough and know they have an even temperament before they take them anywhere near roads, cars, or random people on bikes. However some horses are, well, a bit mental; my younger sister went through a horsey phase and she told me that there were some horses she wouldn't be able to take some places. One horse was sufficiently bonkers that if there was a crisp packet in the hedge, it wouldn't go past it.

Bell = bike, so far as a horse rider is concerned. However I don't know how horses react to bells, so ringing my bell is not something I have done much around horses.


Posts: 356
Joined: 5 Aug 2015, 8:56pm
Location: Ayrshire

Re: Bells

Postby Eyebrox » 22 Nov 2020, 11:23pm

I generally call out if coming up behind a horse. However I bought this bell for use on our busier-than-ever cyclepath. It's a bargain at £4 from The Range stores. Loud but pleasant sound unlike the ping noise from so many of the flimsy bells now attached to new bikes. ... FDJNsXtog6

User avatar
The utility cyclist
Posts: 3607
Joined: 22 Aug 2016, 12:28pm
Location: The first garden city

Re: Bells

Postby The utility cyclist » 23 Nov 2020, 1:10am

Bells on bikes should be banned, they serve little to no purpose regards safety, bell ringers are no better than a motorist on the horn that shouts get out the way.
Onus should always be on you as the person wanting to advance to slow or stop and ensure its safe to get past.

Once you've slowed a polite excuse me is far far better, if they can't hear you for whatever reason a light touch on the arm should suffice to get attention.

Posts: 118
Joined: 27 Jun 2009, 12:20am

Re: Bells

Postby soapbox » 23 Nov 2020, 7:44am

I have bells on my bikes and my personal experience is overwhelmingly positive. I’m careful to ring the bell far enough away to be heard and give some time to respond, whilst also slowing down. Smiles and thank you’s help.
I’ve used them for years, and even my hardcore mountain bike mates, who rib me about using a bike bell, acknowledge their effectiveness.
In years of use I’ve only ever had one person ignore the bell and be awkward about things.

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7666
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Bells

Postby Tangled Metal » 23 Nov 2020, 7:52am

Bells are only as good as the willingness of others to hear them. Many reasons why they don't, often loudness of the bell isn't one of them!

Posts: 152
Joined: 22 Nov 2018, 7:58am

Re: Bells

Postby londonbikerider » 23 Nov 2020, 8:03am

Tangled Metal wrote:Bells are only as good as the willingness of others to hear them. Many reasons why they don't, often loudness of the bell isn't one of them!

That is true, indeed, as many other things in life. Mutual respect should be the basis of a civilized community, but often ignored.

But I have a question that is related to the OP: has anyone else experienced their bicycle bell becoming muffled or more quiet, when it's cold?
Two of my bicycles do have an uncomplicated, cheap bell with a metal dome about 2" diameter and simple plastic striker. They both work well, but will become noticeably less audible when the temperature drops below 5ºc.
The metal dome seems to be generic metal wqith chrome plating.

(edit: more info added)
Last edited by londonbikerider on 23 Nov 2020, 8:05am, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 13885
Joined: 2 Oct 2011, 8:55pm

Re: Bells

Postby pwa » 23 Nov 2020, 8:04am

We have had this conversation before and the conclusion I came to was not to rely on any one way of alerting people to your presence, just be willing to ring the bell, then speak, then manage the situation as if the other person is deaf (which they could be of course). Job done. And don't make too much racket or do anything sudden around horses.