Monday, February 23, 2015

For whom the bells toll! (Or the start of a long-term test)

Sunday, 22ndth February 2015: Well I have managed to write another post without a gap of several months. My previous habit was to take pictures every time I went for a ride, whether for business of pleasure and then Blog about it, along with anything else, cycling-related, that cropped up in the world and caught my attention.

I am.changing my approach a little, there are still things that catch my attention and still pictures taken on my travels that I want to show, but I am going to cut back on the same-old-same-old. Mind you that is easier said than done. My previous blogging habit provided a routine that meant I would load my pictures and start my blog post based around those pictures, the post might have taken a wee while to then get published but it did sit there to remind me. I have yet to start a new habit that will provide the same “nagging” window to get something done.

This means that although I have thought about several things to blog about, ranging from the accident figures that show a sharp rise in cycling casualties to transport strategy (or rather the lack of strategy in transport planning) through to my new bell, I have yet to even start the posts. Until now.

Last week I found myself working in the centre of Cambridge on four days of the week(Monday to Thursday) in two different locations. Now for me I reckon that most/all of the time, using a car is a bit of a non-starter in Cambridge, particularly when you have to travel during the rush hour and cannot be late.  The snag though is when I have to be “reasonably” smartly dressed.  I have yet to turn up at someone else’s office and have a shower so it means that I have to be careful about what I wear to cycle and how fast I cycle. Which translate into allow plenty of time.

Cycling to a work situation makes me pay more attention to the weather forecast with rain, wind and temperature being my mine careabouts. I also tend to wear my smarter (aka newer) cycling gear – it is less smelly!

Last week was unusual in that on the 8 rides, 4 in and 4 back, I got wet on 3 rides. Although only one of those was on my way in.  That is quite a “fail” rate, if I have even a small amount of leeway rain in these parts can be avoided more often. On the day I went into Cambridge in the rain I wore my cycling cape, it is pretty good and I find I don’t get so hot compared to a waterproof jacket and leggings, but it does act as a bit of a sail and hand signals are much harder as well. It does mean that the bottom half of my trousers – lower shin, do get wet.  The cape works well when wearing shorts – it was a tad cold for that though.

I did have a slight mechanical during the week, the pinger fell off my bell. I much prefer to cycle away from traffic if I can.  The trouble is despite Cambridge being perceived as being cycle-friendly much of the cycle infrastructure has been built on the cheap.  Lots of the shared-use paths are really far too narrow, or swerve around 90 degree blind corners and I find a bell to be invaluable.  The same is true when cycling on NCN51, although it is a Sustrans city to city route it does pass through some rural attractions such as Wicken Fen.  At the weekend Wicken Fen gets very busy and it is pretty muddy at the moment and some of the visitors seem to resent making way for a cyclist, far less trouble to control their dogs.

So all my bikes have bells. I prefer single-pingers to multi-pingers and normally a couple of reasonable tings as I approach people does the trick. As I was cycling through town the pinger broke off. I don’t remember how old the bell is – but it has seen pretty good service. I reckon it has seen 10 or 2o thousand miles of riding.

Here it is in its pingless state.  It feels odd cycling without a bell, every blind corner becomes a threat.  So as I was on the east side of the city I decided to pop over to Ben Hayward Cycles in Horningsea for a replacement. Fortunately the shared-use paths were unusually clear – perhaps because it was half-term?

The bell was pretty good – but occasionally the bell bit would catch and the ring would muffle and die out pretty quickly.

Pingerless Bell

Pingerless Bell – released from active service

So I wanted something similar in terms of size and ability to locate it close to my left thumb on the handlebars. After all when you need a bell you probably also need the brakes. However I wanted something a little louder if possible. On another bike I have a bell that sounds long and clear with quite a pure tone, unfortunately I am not sure that  people twig that it is actually a bicycle bell.

After some consultation in the shop this is what I ended up with – the “Incredibell Omnibell”.  It is slightly larger and the “bell” bit has holes with all work to give it a louder ring, there are also some harmonics that help to distinguish the sound. The pinger can also be rotated to make it easier to reach.

As is common nowadays the bell attaches by means of a stretchy band rather than requiring a screwdriver.

Incredibell Omnibell

The Omnibell in position – although I hadn’t twisted the pinger round. It was easy to fit and I reckon that the bell bit will probably not catch like the other bell.   Here is a review – it gets 10/10.  I will wait and see. One thing I have noticed is that the bell isn’t as close to the brake as the last bell as the rubber strap is thicker. This means that I have to be careful when I hang my thermos flask next to it when heading out into the cold fens. 

Omnibell in position

So far so good. It works in the town and I have alerted a horse rider without scaring the horse too much either.  It didn’t ring so loudly in the rain, but I wasn’t paying too much attention so I will check that out the next time I am cycling in the rain.