It feels like almost every day, I read that more wilderness areas have banned mountain bike access. Recently, there was Ants Basin and Castle Divide near Sun Valley and closer to home, Byrne Preserve in Los Altos, CA. With the latter, equestrians complained that mountain bikers rode too fast around blind corners and scared the horses. Justifying their decision armed with erroneous Strava data from a couple of riders, the city council flat-out banned further mountain bike access despite heavy protest from the cycling community. As mountain biking continues to explode in popularity, we face the continued threat of having trails closed to biking. Part of the solution lies in improving the way we are perceived by other trail users.
This is one reason I have started to use the Timber mountain bike bell on all my mountain bike and gravel rides. Apart from Tamarancho, there are pretty much zero bike trails around Marin that are not also multi-use trails.
I find that the cowbell-like bell alerts others to my presence from far away, especially those wearing headphones, and a smile and a wave as I pass goes a long way to making everyone happy. I also always ask first if it’s ok to ride past a horse.
Curious as to the reaction, I stopped a few people to see if they liked hearing my mountain bike bell rather than me having to say “On your left” or “Coming up behind you.” All of them agreed that the sound of a bell was instinctual to know someone was coming. They found it less abrupt, as you could hear it from a distance, rather than being startled by someone behind them screaming, “On your left!”
I also find the bell great for alerting off leash dogs. When the dogs hear a bell, they stop and stare at you, versus startling a dog who may not know which way to move and dash out in front of you.
A simple slide button turns the bell on and off. As the constant noise can be a bit annoying on a long ride when you just want to enjoy a bit of nature, I turn it on for bike paths, blind corners, and sections of trail I know are crowded. It makes a nice gentle ring over gravel terrain but can get pretty loud as soon as you hit rocks or other rough terrain. So loud that I had to dampen it with my thumb a couple of times. Note: Be sure to orient it towards the ground to get a mellower sound. If I lived in bear country, however, I would want the bell on all the time and as loud as possible.
Will the Timber mountain bike bell change the world? I am all for any step towards making nice between trail users. I would also love to see more time and money spent on some sort of educational outreach for ALL trail users on how to get along with each other instead of figuring out ways to ban access to one group or another.
At $20, the Timber mountain bike bell is a no brainer. Who cares if other riders give you funny looks. You know they will be out buying their own bell the next day.