Now that it’s cross season, I seem to find myself on the single-track trails a little less, and on the multi-way paths a little more. At the same time, I’m meeting a lot more folks out to get their exercise in a more bipedal fashion. Last weekend I was rolling along a gravel multi-way path, enjoying the morning sunshine, as I passed by 3 or 4 walkers/runners. Coming up to each of them, I slowed a bit, called out the required ‘biker on your left’, and then rolled by. Everything was cool. A little further down the trail though, I came up to a lady walking her dog. ‘Biker on your left’ I called, but she didn’t react. When I got up behind her I called out again, and yup, sure enough this scared her. She whipped around, yanking on her little dog’s leash as she clutched her balled fists to her chest and stared up at me, wide-eyed! I stopped to apologize, but she didn’t give me much of a chance. ‘Hey! You need a bell on that bike you know!’, she screamed pointing her finger right at me. ‘I’m sick of you guys always racing around on these trails. You need a bell! It’s the law you know!’ I was taken aback, to say the least, but managed a quick apology before I went on my way, and left her to cool down. Back at home that night, I put a bell on my bike. BUT, like everything, the bell has its own shortcomings, so my question to you is, is the bell as good as the yell? And, is it actually the law?

The Bell vs. the Yell

Both have clear pros and cons, so let’s look at a few for the bell:

  • I love my bikeThe bell, if it’s a good one, is pretty audible. I have an EVO bell on my mtb bike, which emits a singular, high-pitched ‘PING!’ that can be heard from a good distance away. I also know from experience, that it seems to be a sound that most trail users can easily identify. They don’t stop and look around all puzzled, wondering where or what that pinging sound is coming from – they know it’s probably a bike and so they move over. This is clearly a PRO – a recognizable sound that people understand is a signal that a bike is coming is a good thing.
  • I also like the fact that you can ring a bell repeatedly with little effort. If someone up ahead of you didn’t seem to hear you the first time, with a flick of your thumb you can easily ring it again, and again if need be, as you get closer. This compared to repeatedly yelling ‘bike on your left’ seems like a better option to me so it too is a PRO.
  • If the walker/runner is wearing earphones and listening to an iPod, there is no guarantee they’ll hear a bell. Most of the time, these people get startled and jump if you ride past them too closely. I admit, I may find a tiny bit of humour in this. But, I still have to call this a CON.
  • The bell is also, at least in racing, an unneeded bar-cluttering accessory that adds weight to your bike. This, is clearly another CON, if only through the sometimes narrow lens of the racer.

Now for the yell:

  • Yo!!! Biker on your left! First off, you don’t need to put a dorky bell on your handle bars.Let’s just get that one out of the way. This is an obvious PRO.
  • Calling out an audible ‘Biker on your left’, is a pretty clear message. You’re telling them that you’re on a bike and you’re passing them on their left side. Clarity is a PRO.
  • On a busy day in the valley, you may ride past 20 or 30 runners, and walkers. Do you really want to have to call out to each and every one? I have to call this a CON. I’ve gone out on a Saturday afternoon and literally found that I was getting a sore throat from yelling. Further to that, if you ride up on someone who didn’t hear you the first time, maybe because they’re listing to music, and you need to repeat yourself a few times, you may look like a screaming idiot to others around, ‘biker on your left’, Biker on your LEFT!’ ‘I SAID BIKER ON YOUR LEFT!!!!’
  • Going back to PRO number 2, calling out ‘biker on your left’ can actually sometimes confuse people. They hear someone yelling and hear the word left, and so just as you’re about to ride by, they of course move to the left. Ah… and begin comedy…

So, what do you think, bell vs. yell?