12 February 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Trail Bell

As much as mountain bikers enjoy the solitude of the backcountry, the reality is that many of us share our local trails with other users and user groups. Given that our trails are a shared resource and the potential for user conflict that exists, it helps all of us when riders are friendly not only toward one another but also to runners, dog walkers, equestrians and whoever else happens to be out there. Here in Albuquerque, we are fortunate not only to have an extensive network of bike paths but also a quite good trail network abutting the Federal Wilderness that forms the city's Eastern edge. When snows drive users down from the mountains and on particularly pleasant days, the Foothills can actually get somewhat crowded.

Because walkers and runners travel much slower than cyclists, any given runner is likely to see far more mountain bikers on a given hike than other pedestrians. They'll even come across more mountain bikes than the mountain bikers themselves. When walking at 2-3mph, even a mountian bike traveling at 10mph seems quite fast and can seemingly come out of nowhere. In my experience, the best thing a mountain biker can do to keep from startling a pedestrian is to see them before they see you- and to slow down, smile and say hello. The second best thing? Get a bell.

Using a bell to announce one's presence is much more pleasant than shouting "HELLO!" at someones behind and tends to carry a bit further. Hardly a ride goes by when another trail user doesn't thank me for using my bell when coming up on them- a decent bell can be used from about twice the distance as a shouted greeting and gives hikers a bit more time to prepare for and react to an approaching cyclist. It's also is much easier to summon a 'ding' than a shout when gasping for breath on a long singlespeed climb. Available for $5-10 at most bike shops, the type of compact bell shown here is plenty effective, provides another opportunity to coordinate your accessories, and goes a long way toward keeping the peace out on the trail.


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