Reviewed: Ring-a-ding. In praise of the simple bell, and the story of how Lezyne won me around.

by Tom Hill 0

  • Tested: Lezyne Classic Brass Shallow bell
  • From: Upgrade
  • Price: £13
  • Tested for: 3 months

For as long as I can remember, bike accessories have never been cool. Practical, yes. Cool, no. Mudguards have left me dry-bottomed and smug as I ride through the grimmest of winter conditions, but never has another cyclist shouted, “sweet guards!” Equally, I’ve never congratulated another rider on their thoughtful placement of reflectors.

From commuting…

I fully accept that this may be a symptom of the inevitable passage of time, and staring down the barrel of the tail end of my 30s, but over the last few years, I have become to appreciate the kind of features that would have left 20 year old Tom recoiling in horror. I’ll cast an approving eye over a perfectly set up mudguard, arcing closely to the tyre, a uniform circumference wrapping the practical high-volume rubber until long flaps trail down to just above the ground. A perfectly horizontal front rack quickens the heart rate slightly, as does a colour matched frame pump, stretching from head tube to seat tube – once again, details matter. It must be absolutely parallel to the top tube. A few degrees out and the bike is dead to me. A tightly wrapped tool roll strapped to the saddle is somehow cool where a more easily accessed zip-up saddlebag is not. Cool has no logic.

Now, some of my bikes may have more “stuff” strapped to them than they once did. Until recently though, my bars were clutter-free, save the oft-present and frequently “oops I forgot to charge” GPS. I’ve never really got on with bells. This is partly because I’m not strictly a fan of the ping, ping; not when I’m the rider, nor as a pedestrian. I’d rather say (or hear) “hello”, “excuse me”, “evenin'”, “mind if I squeeze past on your left”, or more likely all of the above in one long sentence – almost a new word. “Hiyasorrydidn’tmeanttostartleyoubutwouldyoumindifIsqueezepastyoutherewhenyouhavechance?It’salovelyeveningisn’tit?Thankyoueversomuchbye!” More often than not, this is greeted with a smile, small talk and a pleasant experience for all. Occasionally I get my timing or volume a bit wrong and either go unheard, or startle my quarry. The result of this scenario tends to be garbled words in return. “OhI’msorryIdidn’thearyoutheresorryletmegetoutofthewayAlison!Alison!Cyclist!GrabOlive!Pleasedon’tmindthedogshedoesn’tbiteunlessshe’sstartled.Haveanicenightbye.” And on rarer occasions still this missive is postfixed by a, “you need a bell!” And every now and then, I’m inclined to agree.

To the hills

The thing is though, bells rattle. They ping when they aren’t meant to, don’t ping when they are. They fall apart or get gunked up when they are subjected to regular off-road use. They take up space on the bars, and well, they aren’t always that pretty. They might look the part on a hybrid or a commuter bike, but not my pride and joy.

The Lezyne Classic Shallow

I got this little bell at the Dirty Reiver, with a bundle of other Lezyne accessories. I was instantly drawn to the classic brass shape and the not-too-loud, not-too-quiet, crisp metallic ting (it’s definitely a ting, rather than a ping or ding). Popping it on for 200km of gravel, part of me expected to be tearing it off in frustration as soon as my wheels hit something slightly rougher than the freshly laid tarmac of the first 200 metres. You’ve probably already guessed that I didn’t do that. In fact, the bell was absolutely silent as I turned on to gravel. Silent still when gravel turned to rutted, rocky descending. Silent when I could probably have done with ringing it… it has taken me some time to adapt my habits and remember it is on the bars and available for use. When I have remembered to let people know I’m approaching, the Lezyne has done all I could ask. Responses on the trail have been universally friendly, and while – for me at least – a bell will never replace a “hello”, it feels more polite in general, and simply easier if that’s what fellow trail users expect to hear.

Shiny

The Lezyne is a relatively cheap investment at £13 and uses a rubber o-ring to attach to the bars, making swapping bikes a two minute job. It has stayed as solid as when I first attached it and kept its shine nicely as well. There’s been no corrosion or seizing up of the ringer and it is still silent until rung. The bell lever can be spun around the circumference of the bell, allowing it to be positioned in easy reach of an outstretched thumb.

Summary

I’m a convert to the way of the bell, and for a modest outlay, you could be too. You’ll hear me before you see me on the trail next time.

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