History of the Bike Bell

Last Updated on November 23, 2020
written by Cycle expert Alex Bristol
Topics we've covered

Origin

It is not known whether John Richard Dedicoat was the one who first created the bicycle bell, but he was certainly the first man to ever patent it, back in 1887. He was a British inventor, a James Watt apprentice who became a bicycle manufacturer and inventor of several gadgets, including the pencil-sharpening machine. Although that first bell looked different from those we see today, its work principle and mounting have remained unchanged: a bell cap was mounted on the handlebar – usually on the left side, for front brakes on bikes are usually placed on the right hand – and was activated by a lever.

Evolution

In the 1910 – 20, in addition to traditional single-cap bell, other solutions came on the market: several bells had two caps, in order to make a dual sound; in another variety, the pressing button made the cap (or caps) rotate fast, to produce a longer and denser sound. Another solution was used back then, and it was totally different from the one we’re used today. Such a bell was usually mounted to the front fork, operated by pulling the rope extending to the handlebar, which activated the hammers hitting the bell cap against the front tire. Such a bell made a loud ring similar to the phone ring of these days, and its loudness depended on the speed of the bicycle. Fun fact: such bells were banned in Estonian traffic in the late 1920s as they agitated the horses.

During the 20s, sirens were also used on bikes. They were mounted on old-type front mudguards, which did not extend further than the front fork (very common in the 20s, but not later), and they made a very loud noise.

Bicycles could also have horns in addition to the bell: the same typical rubber bulb horn common as an automobile and motorcycle component was also frequent in bicycles.

Today

During the XX century cities have changed very much, and roads with them. Somehow riding a bicycle through the traffic became less safe than it was in the past. Riding a bike has become a way to work out rather than a way to go from one place to another, so that city bikes and bells went out of style. Things are changing today. Bicycle paths are becoming more and more frequent in our cities, and we care more about safety, so bikes are coming back on our roads, and safety has become an important issue. As a result, bike bells are back in the market. Technology is being applied even to them: you can find electric, USB-rechargeable bells, electric or air-rechargeable horns with nothing to envy to a car horn, and, why not, in some case you can also consider them a luxury accessory for your bike.

With more and more people considering purchasing the best bicycle bells, they are becoming much more stylized to create a perfect look.

Sources:

1.Bicycle bell facts and history – Post by Bicycle History

2.The history of the mandatory bicycle bell – Article by GGWashington

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