Saying that Timber makes my favorite bike bell is a bit like saying Instagram makes my favorite image-based social media platform. Yeah, there are others out there, but get real. So, maybe this isn’t about how much better the Timber bell is than the cheap Velcro jingle bells your local trail group hands out. Maybe it’s about how much better it is than not having a bell at all.
Bells are sort of a regional thing, and that’s for a few reasons. In areas with well-organized, directional, bike-specific trail networks like Bellingham or Fruita, bells generally aren’t necessary. There’s unlikely to be any hikers or uphill traffic that needs to be warned of your approach. But there are also areas where bells just haven’t been widely adopted. Those hikers or uphillers are there, but they may not be numerous enough to justify every mountain biker descending with all the stealth of a Salvation Army Santa Claus. We still should have one, though. An encounter may be unlikely, but we prepare for far less likely scenarios without a second thought. If you carry multiple CO2 cartridges, tire plugs and a spare inner tube, but you surprise someone on the trail more frequently than you get a flat tire, logic should tell you that you also need a bell.
And you need this bell. If you’re not familiar with the Timber concept, a thumb lever allows you to fully retract the clapper for total silence, or release it for about as bearable and friendly-sounding a tone as you or your fellow trail users can expect. This is the bolt-on model, but there’s also a quick-release model that I also have on hand to loan out when I ride with out-of-towners. Recently updated to its 4th generation, the new Timber Bell got a beefier clapper cable, a reinforced connection between bell and clamp, and a stronger release lever, which I broke on my V3 Timber bell. It comes with a 22.2mm shim to mount the 31.8 clamp out at your controls, but I’ve never found a spot that doesn’t require me to slide my hand in to reach it. And it looks a lot cleaner butted up right against my stem, tilted out a bit. I do wish Timber had used this update to add a 35mm clamp option, but I’ve found the QR version to work on 35mm bars just fine.
Running a bell will not eliminate every conflict on every trail. It won’t solve the problem of encroaching wilderness designations. But it sends a message. Not just the obvious one, that you are barreling down the trail towards someone you can’t see, or who can’t see you, or both. But that you care. So often, my Timber bell has turned what I’m sure would have been, at best, a piercing stink-eye into a grateful “thanks for having a bell.” If there’s anything that the past year and a half has taught us, it’s that the number of trail users is only going to keep growing. It’s also taught us that we have to look out for each other.
Photos: Anthony Smith