History of bicycle bells

All modern bicycles are sold with a bell attached and in many countries and jurisdictions, it is a legal requirement that you have a bell installed on your bike. Here we explore the history and types of bell that are used on bikes today.

Ding ding

The most common form of warning bell is a thumb-operated system that rotates two discs inside a bell housing. These produce the 'ding ding' sound with which we are all familiar. Other simpler bells also exist that use an external clapper to strike the bell. These spring-mounted systems create a 'ping' sound. In the rain, the sound produced by this type of bell can be dampened.

Left vs right

In different countries, the bells are actually located differently on the bike. In countries that drive on the left-hand side of the road, the bell is mounted on the left so that the right hand is free to signal. In other countries the opposite is true.

The history of bike bells

The origin of the first bicycle bell is unknown, but the first patent for a bike bell was placed in 1887. British inventor Dedicoat invented the bicycle bell and a pencil sharpening machine too! The bell was created so that the rider can easily alert other riders or pedestrians that they are approaching. Commonly they are also used before blind corners or tunnels on walkways to warn others that you are about to pass through.

Upgrading your bell

While all bikes sold online will come with a mandatory fitted bike bell, the quality of this can often be poor. You can, of course, upgrade your bike bell at a low cost and there are thousands of designs that you can choose from. In 2015 there was a world record set for the loudest bike bell which can emit an incredible 135dB to warn people that you are approaching. The bell was never built to be sold as it risks injuring the user and others, but this amusing addition to the record books sets another marker for the bike bell in history.