Ring My Bell

Awhile back I mentioned that I had put a bell on the mighty quill stem of my Rivendell:

If you’re a Bell Fred, please note that I stole this bell off my younger son’s bike, which has a shitload of bells on it. So if this bell doesn’t live up to your lofty expectations and you’d like to suggest a different one with a more mellifluous timbre or an aesthetic sensibility more in keeping with this bicycle, I invite you to insert that suggestion in your posterior. Anyway, it seems like a pretty nice bell, and it’s even made in Japan which seems appropriately Rivendellian.

So the reason I put the bell on the bike is that the once-empty trails and paths I ride on are now full of people. This is because everybody is on lockdown and so they walk around incessantly in order to stave off the crushing boredom. In the early days of the pandemic you could sense that people were enjoying these walks, but now they just seem doleful and listless, like inmates shuffling around the prison yard. But regardless of whether they’re delighted or depressed, it became clear to me early on that I needed to warn them of my approach.

I’ve written extensively on the subject of passing other trail users–which, as I type it, strikes me as an admission that I’ve been wasting my life–and while I cannot and will not abide the contemptible practice of shouting out “On Your Left!,” I admit I’ve also never been quite comfortable with bell-ringing either, because it feels like I’m summoning a footman. However, after some soul-searching, I’ve since come to realize that I’m simply pathologically afraid of drawing attention to myself. Moving through the world unseen, leaving behind only some faint tire tracks on the trail and some frivolous words on the Internet, is my preferred state of existence. That’s why I started a bike blog.

Nevertheless, it’s become abundantly clear I need to get over that, and so recently I’ve embraced the bell. It’s been quite effective, too. Most peple seem to appreciate it, and rather than feeling like I’m some sickly royal calling for my supper, I instead like to fancy myself a leper warning others of my approach–which is appropriate given the current state of affairs. (In lieu of the bell I suppose I could cough instead, but though that would no doubt result in dozens of fleece-vested suburbanites hurling themselves off of embankments.)

Of course a bell is mostly useless on a road bike, since you’re only “sharing” the road with drivers, and ringing a bell at a driver is like throwing a rock at a tornado. I also don’t think they’re all that useful in the city, since whether you’re on your bike or you’re on foot the most effective way of dealing with crowds is to silently weave your way through them. (Back when there was such a thing as crowds, that is.) Granted, I generally keep bells on my city bikes anyway, but only because it’s one less thing to get ticketed for should I run afoul of the NYPD. But now that there are fewer cars on the road than there were in 1910 and it’s just me and the walking wistful the bell is proving to be the ideal accessory.

Now I just need a rapid-rise bell to match my derailleur.

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