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In the winter, I often ride with mittens and find it impossible to use my standard bell (the one where you bend the clapper and let it hit the body), because my thumb touches the body and mutes the sound. Even in normal gloves I find it difficult to ring the bell. What types of bicycle bells work with winter gloves?

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    Your voice. No legal bicycle bell is loud enough to get pedestrians to react early enough, only your voice can do that. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jan 4 at 12:25
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    This might be a cultural point, but I'm not expecting people to react well to yelling at them. – ojs Jan 4 at 12:58
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    @Carel YOU ARE WRONG AND GET OUT OF MY WAY! – ojs Jan 4 at 15:00
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    @ojs That depends on whether I'm carefully early-warning pedestrians on a cycle way that I'm coming, or screaming abuse at someone opening a car door in front of me. I wrote an answer about using your voice because I seriously think it's the best solution. – Nobody Jan 4 at 19:20
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    @ojs Depends on what you yell. I have made the experience that pedestrians react much more positively to a "ring, ring" than to the sound of a bike bell. Some still react miffed, but I guess they would react miffed at any sound you can make. The frequency of annoyed pedestrians is lower with my shouting than it ever was with my using a bike bell. Also: With shouting, you can adapt your volume and message to the situation. "Ring, ring" from far away to prompt pedestrians to clear the bike path, a quiet "may I pass, please" at short quarters, "attention!" for reacting to something dangerous. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jan 4 at 21:19
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I personally have found that anything with a lever that moves the internal clapper works best. Unfortunately, those seem to only come in large size.

Here's a photo of the one I have lying around:

Lever-operated bicycle bell

I thought the spring in the internal mechanism had worn out which is why I wasn't using it, but now that I looked at it again it turns out it just needed a bit of oil.

Here's what the insides look like:

Clapper's attached to the lever with a spring

The clapper's attached to the lever with a spring so any contact with the lever won't dampen the clapper's movement.

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  • I’ve found that the problem with those in winter weather is that water gets inside, iced up, and then it doesn’t ring — either the mechanism freezes or the bell has too much ice to resonate. – RoboKaren Jan 4 at 18:27
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    barely audible from inside a car, as are most bicycle bells. I don't understand why we should use cute and polite bells rather than big car horns. Those signals are supposed to be used in case of immediate danger anyway, and this type of bell sounds like "I'm sorry to ask you this, could you please maybe not kill me today, if that's not too much bother, thank you very much", when it should sound like "WATCH OUT!" – njzk2 Jan 4 at 21:02
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    @njzk2: Bicycle bells are used to warn pedestrians. Also, you can't make a muscle powered bell or horn that you could ring while holding on to the handlebars. You'd have to have a battery or compressed gas powered horn, with a large battery or compressed gas canister on the bicycle. – JRE Jan 5 at 13:18
  • @JRE Cars don't have pedestrian-oriented warning mechanism and don't seem to need one. Bicycles still need a way to wake up the occasionally oblivious driver. – njzk2 Jan 6 at 0:53
  • @njzk2: Bicycles might need something to get the attention of car drivers. They ain't got it yet. The bells are to get the attention of pedestrians. – JRE Jan 6 at 6:35
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I ride a lot on busy roads, and given that modern cars are too well insulated for a petite "ding ding" noise to penetrate, or the vehicles are doing 80+ km/h, I find an airhorn to be an excellent solution.

I happen to own four of these AirZound horns, one for each of my regular rides. They're mounted for actuation by the left hand, because my right hand is used for front brake and rear gear changes.

I wear leather gauntlets in the winter, somewhat tending toward motorbike gloves, and have never had a problem actuating the white lever with a thumb. Rain, wind, darkness, sleet and hail have all done their worst. I've not tested it in snow yet, still holding out for a good snow dump.

For next winter, I intend on making some pogs (overbar mitts) for the bent from some treated slink skins. These will completely encase the brake lever and handlebar grip, and the horn lever on the left, and the gearshift on the right. I will leave the horn mouth exposed though.

I NEVER EVER use this on pedestrians - its too loud and would give the elderly a heart attack, and would provoke a fight/flight response in anyone. Here I simply use my voice, in a non-threatening manner.

Own work
This is the better photo showing the airhorn's noisemaker. This one is mounted upside down because that's how I hold these bars. This position will hold water so in a heavy rain it may gargle and spit a bit.

Own work
Here's the same airhorn mounted more conventionally on a drop bar road bike. This one drains properly so won't hold water.

The whole unit looks like this: Stock photo

Downsides

  • the air reservoir takes up a bottle cage. On my bent which has no cages, I have it taped to the underside of the frame with double sided tape and a couple of cable ties, its not a heavy bottle.
  • Its loud - really loud. To the point that car drivers hear it with the windows up and their music playing. One might think this is good, but it does limit the times where one might reasonably sound the horn.
  • The hose is nonadjustable for length. You can either coil it up or make-do.
  • No pressure indicator - its good for ~50 short burst or maybe 10 seconds continuous, so I top it up when I do the tyre pressures.

Postitives: No batteries, and the whole thing is surprisingly light. Only needs a schrader pump to charge the tank, and can hold ~100 PSI.

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    OK once I did sound it at a particularly lippy guy who was already mouthing off at me about not paying for road registration etc. But that was a once-off and he deserved it. – Criggie Jan 4 at 22:45
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    Another downside: May not be legal to have attached to your bike. I am not a lawyer, but I would bet on those horns being outlawed in quite a few countries. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jan 4 at 23:10
  • @cmaster-reinstatemonica Fair enough. Possibly would fall foul of some kind of "don't dazzle or distract another road user" law, if such a law exists in your location. Its certainly not-louder than a truck airhorn, and substantially quieter than a train airhorn. I'm unaware of any "maximum permitted volume" laws for anywhere, though they might exist. – Criggie Jan 5 at 2:15
  • @nobody yes - a regular track pump is all I use. A minipump would probably work, but would be a lot of work. – Criggie Jan 5 at 2:16
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    Nice idea. Unfortunately, Horns are not allowed on a bike in Germany. I also never needed to ring at a car, probably because we have split pedestrian/bicyclist sidewalks (most are mandatory to use - you are no allowed to ride on the street). – fvclaus Jan 6 at 20:12
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I tried multiple ones and the only thing loud and reliable enough is my voice. I usually use the word "Attention" ("Achtung"). The vocal a is good because it's easy to do loud with little practice.

Use cases:

  • Pedestrians: Make sure to yell early enough and to reduce loudness if you get nearby without them noticing. Once you are just behind them and slowed down already, just talk at normal loudness.
  • Moving cars: People in cars won't hear a bicycle bell at all, or just barely. Shout at the top of your lungs. The trick is to open your mouth wide and to spend time only on the vocals exactly as if you were singing. If you are doing it right, pedestrians within at least a 50m radius will turn their heads to see what the problem is, but that should be none of your concern, car horns are much worse for pedestrians.
  • Stopped cars: Slap your hand against the chassis instead of yelling. If you are in a good mood, politely knocking as if on a door works too.
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    Nice to hear that I'm not the only one who routinely uses the voice. I usually stick to using the more neutral "ring, ring", though, as I'm usually not trying to alarm anybody when I try to make myself heard. That's when I'm trying to prompt a pedestrian to clear the bike path (usually when I'm still about 3 seconds away - 1s for them to hear, 1s for them to react, 1s for me to react to a botched reaction...). The word "ring" serves quite well to inform the pedestrians that it's a cyclist who's calling. "Attention" is reserved for more dangerous situations with me. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jan 4 at 21:10
  • @cmaster-reinstatemonica "ring, ring" doesn't sound bad, now that I think about it maybe I could try using the local equivalent at some point. But I usually don't shout at pedestrians much, it's concerning cars that I have a short temper. For pedestrians I often just slow down enough so I can talk to them normally, or use a proper road if I'm in a hurry. – Nobody Jan 4 at 22:30
  • There was a Finnish politician that made the news a while back when he slapped a stationary car's side mirror clean off, so I'd just keep a reasonable distance away from a stationary car. – HAEM Jan 6 at 17:49
  • @HAEM Yeah, if I'm knocking a car's side mirror off with my hand, that's going to be on purpose. :D I.e. I can't imagine slapping a car so hard it takes damage. It's pretty clear from the context of the answer that the intent is make an audible noise, not damage the car. And it's really easy to do that without damaging the car. – Nobody Jan 6 at 19:14
  • Hello fellow German cyclist! Its a regional thing I guess. At least here in Munich, I feel like this kind of behavior would be regarded as rude. I also feel that a bell is a more elegant way than yelling at people and people here immediately respond to the bell. – fvclaus Jan 6 at 20:17
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I had the same problem originally and found that the easiest solution was actually to have better fitting winter gloves that have the glove tips snugly against my own fingertips, rather than having a flabby bit that extends significantly beyond.the fingertip.

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  • Exactly. Proper cycling gloves are thin and warm at the same time and allow you to operate brakes, shifters and bells easily. Some are reflective to make turn signaling more visible. – Erlkoenig Jan 5 at 21:58
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There are bells that are designed mostly for MTB that ring on their own. They are meant to work like "bear" bells in that the roughness of the terrain causes the bell to ring and alert hikers up the trail.

On smoother terrain, the bell does not ring as much but you can make it ring by shaking the handlebars slightly. Personally, even on a "road" bike this is my favorite bell. Very easy to get a sustained ring that gets attention.

The bell works well for pedestrians, but I can't imagine any bell that would work to alert car drivers.

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