Do you need a $49 bike bell? Probably not.
Do I regret testing the Spurcycle bike bell, said $49 trinket? Absolutely not.
I get that to some people, the idea of spending half a C-note on a bike bell is silly. You could spend a tenth of that to pick up some generic one online. You do you! But if you believe it’s worth paying a little more for good design — made in the US with a human touch — the Spurcycle bell is one of the nicest little upgrades you can make to any bike.
The bell — the original version, anyway — is constructed of a brass alloy dome, a stainless steel frame, and an aluminum hammer. It’s built in the US and partly handmade, with parts like the dome hand-brushed and finished. The bell will fit just about any handlebar, ranging from 22.2mm to 31.8mm. It’s easy to install, can be pointed forward or upwards, and comes with a sturdy metal strap that tightens securely to your bars.
Once installed, it has never budged or rattled after hundreds of miles through bumpy city streets. Unlike some cheap bells that have come tock with bikes I’ve tested, the Spurcycle does not accidentally ping when I hit a pothole. And unlike some of the comparably loud bells I’ve seen, this one doesn’t take a huge amount of space.
Point is, it’s built well, and it feels like it could last for years. To that end, Spurcycle backs it up with a lifetime warranty. According to the company, if the bell ever “isn’t performing as expected or would like us to make it sparkle for you, just send it back to our shop for a complete factory overhaul.”
There weren’t many bells like the Spurcycle, so compact, stylish, and loud, before its Kickstarter launch in 2013. After that successful launch, the bell’s design has become so popular that there is a myriad of cheaper copycats that are nearly identical from the outside, but which can’t seem to match the OG’s quality.
So how does it sound?
I consider myself an audiophile. To me, that means caring not just about music, but about sound. But while I’ve gone through my share of speakers and headphone reviews, I never thought this obsession with sound would extend to something as simple a bike bell.
This little bell sounds beautiful.
It rings at a pitch high enough to get your attention without being annoying. It seems to go on forever if you let it — at least a good 15 seconds — echoing and undulating in ethereal harmonics that resemble a mini gong. It somehow manages to both be loud and peaceful at the same time — which to me is a metaphor for biking in NY during the pandemic.
You can hear it ringing in the video below, but it doesn’t do it justice to hearing it in person. It’s mesmerizing, and it feels like the most polite way you could tell pedestrians and fellow cyclists to get the heck out of your way.
Fanboying over a glorified chime aside, the Spurcycle really does feel like it hits a bit of a sweet spot. I’ve not seen a similarly sized bell quite as effective. Granted, I’m not going to claim I’m a bike bell expert, but compared to the stock bell on every ebike I’ve ridden, there’s no competition. The Spurcycle is louder, sounds nicer, and looks good doing it.
It’s also louder and rings longer than my Knog Oi, another stylish bell that had been my favorite until now. There are certainly much larger bells that ring a bit louder, but I appreciate the Spurcycle’s smaller footprint on my ebike’s crowded cockpit.
The Spurcycle seemed to grab the attention of most everyone I tried to alert with a couple of dings, including some people wearing headphones (the pitch is high enough to cut through many noise-canceling headphones). It was nearly as audible in heavy rain too, although it won’t ring for quite as long.
Importantly, the Spurcycle seemed to grab the attention of people further away than usual. Of course, that’s just a function of its tone and loudness, but one’s audibility radius is an important consideration for e-bike riders like me, or other fast cyclists. Passersby have less time to react when you’re traveling faster.
You might be wondering: If I’m riding an ebike, why not just get an electronic horn, which imitates the honk of a car?
Sure enough, when I first started riding ebikes, I’d assumed simply using the loudest sound possible would be ideal. I should have known better. In New York City, at least, people have learned to tune out car horns so much that many pedestrians actually ignore you. Unless you’re really close, in which case you’re just going to give someone a heart attack. So while the Spurcycle might not get the attention of people in cars — I’ve still got vocal cords for that — it does a much better job of alerting pedestrians to my presence than some louder alternatives might.
Yes, the Spurcycle bell is expensive, but it’s also practically flawless for what it is. For those who’d like to spend a bit less, Spurcycle does sell an even more compact version of the bell that’s made in Taiwan for $39, and it occasionally sells B-stock ‘Frankenbells‘ at a discount too — these carry the same lifetime guarantee. If price is no object, the company also is also now selling a limited edition ‘Sapphire’ Model for $69, $25 of which goes to a couple of non-profits: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Bend Bikes.
The Spurcycle is good enough that I plan to buy more of them, and they’d make a pretty sweet gift for a cyclist in your life too. It’s the nicest bit of functional bling I’ve gotten for a bike, it’s made in the US, it’s compact, it’s loud enough to be useful at e-bike speeds, and it feels like it’ll last forever. There’s value in buying something for life, too.
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