Bells. Like reflectors, they’re those things that you take off your new bike the minute you get it home from the shop. They’re for kids. And rookies. And dorks.
I’ve said it before, but I’ve come to appreciate the bell. It’s use on paths is without question, with plenty of opportunities to be used on roads too.
Like mudguards, however, I don’t choose my bells with abandon. I’m not humble enough to forsake aesthetics. If I’m going to use a bell, it needs to be subtle, well placed, and easy to use.
Enter the Trigger Bell.
Trigger Bell is a new UK company that turned the idea of bells on its head. Or at least that’s the idea. Basically, they designed a bell specifically to be used underneath your handlebars, rather than on top, the point being that you don’t have to change your hand position in order to use it.
All of the marketing suggests that safety is the main concern, with the tag line reading, “A safer bike bell”, and “ping, brake and control” appearing in numerous places. Changing your hand position means taking your hand away from the gears or brakes, and though that may seem trivial for the amount of time you are actually using the bell, in reality it makes using the bell just that much easier.
I received one a few weeks ago, and this is what I have to say about it:
It’s not as cheap as a basic bell, but at £9.99 it’s not much more (if you live outside the UK, however, it starts to get a bit steep with the £13.99 international shipping charge…).
It comes with a small header card, and the bell itself certainly gives the impression of a well made piece of kit.
The strap is narrow and the bell itself hangs down a bit further on another narrow block of plastic, which brings it away from your shifters and brake levers a little, making it compatible with most set-ups and uses less space on the bars. The adjustable strap, with a really good quality, slotted screw that is a much better choice to avoid stripping it (as opposed to the standard Phillips-head screws), and the strap has held up well to multiple installations and removals.
How does it fit?
The Trigger bell is designed to be used under the bars, and this is easy when you are using drop bars or a flat bar with no shifter on the left (any bike with a single chain wheel on the front, of which there are more of these days).
This is how I have been using it on my commuter, which has drop-bars. Trigger Bell suggests that you can place the bell at the brake lever for when riding on the hoods, placing it either on the hood itself, or around the bars directly under the hood (for when riding in the drops). I actually found both to be rather impractical for both using the bell and for getting in the way of where you want your fingers to go. It would work, technically, but the point of this bell is to give you a really natural reach with your thumb so it’s “always within reach”, but that does still require at least a minimal amount of contortion and a repositioning of your fingers when not using the bar to accommodate the bell.
For road bikes then, in my opinion, the best place to position it is under the bars on the top section, next to the stem. This does achieve a very natural position for a quick and easy “ping” when riding on the top of the bars.
On that note, Trigger Bell suggests (on their website) that this bell will provide an increase in safety. To wit:
Trigger Bell’s trigger is always within easy reach of your thumb making it very quick to ping. This means for a cyclist traveling at just 10mph, you can ping your Trigger Bell between 8 and 20 feet sooner than a traditional bell, keeping you and your fellow road users safer.”
In the instance that you need to alert someone of your presence with immediate urgency, usually a bell is upstaged by a hefty dose of your voice. In any other scenario, simply ringing your bell a second sooner will suffice.
Now, for flat-bar bikes, there are a few options for fitting depending on what sort of shifters you have. No shifters? Put it anywhere you want, but the ideal position is below the bar and next to the grip, which does indeed provide the perfect location for a bell. The same would be the case if your shifters happen to be more than a few years old, and are located on top of the bars.
With grip shifters, your only option is to place it under the bars and as close to the shifter as possible, but in reality that will still require you to move your hand from its normal position anyway. Placing it facing forward and up (as pictured below) would be difficult due to the shifter cable being in the same space with this style of shifter. Still, this position under the bars is better than doing the same with a standard bell on top of the bars.
With trigger shifters you really only have one option, and that is next to the grip, and above the bar. No matter how you slice it, the shifter pod is in the same spot that the bell needs to be when below the bars.
Luckily it’s a decent position, made possible by how narrow the Trigger Bell is. As for the ease of installation, it’s a breeze, and takes about a minute (that’s mostly just winding in the strap with a screwdriver).
How does it work?
Pretty well. It’s a pretty solid unit, from the strap, to the “pinger”, to the dome, so I have no concerns about reliability. The dome is brass, and has a nice clear tone, though its volume is moderate. That was my second thought when I first used it on a ride: “not very loud, this”. Thing is, though, it’s loud enough. People won’t hear it a mile away, but they’ll hear it from far enough away, and if they hear it from close range they won’t have a heart attack. What isn’t very likely is that they’ll hear it through headphones, but people usually don’t anyway.
What works in its favour is its lingering tone, which helps it to both better register in people’s consciousness, as well as providing more information with which to locate the source of the sound.
My first thought was that, while the trigger feels sturdy, it also requires a more resolute strike to generate a sufficient ring. I’m only just now adjusting to the correct amount of force needed (switching between a more standard bell on the other bike), but still now and then give it a regular flick only to be met with silence until I try again. There isn’t much throw in the spring mechanism for whatever reason, which I assume is the main contributor.
What else can I say? It’s a bell, after all. It’s main job is to ring, which it does.
I like it. I like its sleek profile. I like it’s quality. I like it’s tone, and most importantly (because that’s kind of the point of the Trigger Bell), I like the ergonomics it caters for. I wish it has a slightly lighter action on the trigger (or maybe a slightly larger trigger would do the same job?), but other than that, there aren’t really any other criticisms.
Did it revolutionize the bicycle bell? I wouldn’t go that far (and I definitely don’t think that the standard bell has been the terrible threat to our safety that they make it out to be…), but Trigger Bell had a good crack at it and came away with a quality bell that, in many cases, is better to use than your standard fare.