What is the Timber! Bell
You may be asking yourself why we have written a review of a bicycle bell? Bells aren’t cool and you rarely ever see them on a mountain bike. Well, the Timber! Bell is different and I’ll tell you why in this review.
The Timber! Bell is a bicycle bell that attaches directly to your handlebar. The latest version (Version 3 which is what I tested) has a clamp which allows you to securely fix the bell onto your handlebars to become an integrated part of the cockpit, whereas the previous version uses bands which still work great but not quite as secure as the new version. You can order the Version 3 model with a band if you prefer this over the clamp design I review here.
Timber! features a switch allowing you to enable and disable the bell. This is great if you want to mute the bell on certain rides making it more versatile as a product. When the bell is enabled via the switch it will make noise as you ride rather than you having to manually ring it like traditional bicycle bells. This means that as you are riding a trail the bell constantly makes sounds alerting others around you to your presence. This is great to alert walkers and other riders to your presence much earlier than perhaps with a traditional bell or no bell.
Why use the Timber! Bell?
As Mountain Biking becomes more accessible, people are riding mountain bikes more than ever and the number keeps on increasing. With many MTB trails official and unofficial sharing land with hikers, walkers and families conflicts are also on the rise. Just put yourself in a walker’s shoes. You’re out on a nice peaceful stroll then out of nowhere a mountain bike comes hurtling past at high speed. This is likely unpleasant for those that are startled and this will give them a negative opinion of mountain bikers.
The bell alerts those around you sooner and more efficiently than a traditional bike bell. It also works much better than using a loud hub or shouting “coming through!”.
The bell is also helpful, perhaps even life-saving in countries where there are certain wildlife species you may want to scare off such as Bears and mountain lions. Timber! is particularly popular in countries such as the USA for exactly this reason.
To review the bell I decided to test it over 2 weeks at multiple locations with different types of trail features from cushioned loam to rough rocky trails. I also wanted to test the bell in locations with different levels of foot traffic. The thought process being that those quieter areas may make it easier to test if the bell alerts others sooner and large traffic areas to see how effective the bell is at alerting groups people.
First impressions of the bell were that is was made from high-quality materials and looked great. The gloss black of the bell metal in contrast to the matt finish of the plastic mount looks nice. It’s compact form factor also doesn’t look too cluttered on the handlebars.
The bell lever feels really sturdy and has a satisfying quality when using as it has just enough resistance to make it feel high quality without affecting the usability.
Installing the Bell
Installing the bell is very simple to do. Just remove the Allen bolt supplied and slide the bell and rubber sleeve over your handlebar to the desired position and then reinsert the bolt and tighten to the required torque setting. Ideally, to avoid damaging the bell mount you may want to remove your grips to slide onto your bars, however, I was lazy and just stretched it over without the bars. There was no damage caused so I was happy to do it this way.
Using the Bell
With the bell now “correctly” installed I could move onto testing so I cycled to my local loam trails to see how the bell would fair. At the top of the trail, I moved the switch into the enabled position and noticed the bell started ringing over each bump or as I moved the bars. The sound was loud but not too loud.
As I rode down the trail I felt like I was at a World Cup with the hecklers cheering me on as the bell rang all the way down. If anyone was nearby they would certainly hear me coming.
Next, I headed to some other trails that are rough and rocky. The bell handled in the exact same way previously and with the bolt-on mount securely fixing it in place there was no chance of the bell coming loose.
Does it make a difference?
Yes. People do notice you sooner. Riding down a fire road I spotted a group maybe a 500 meters away. I enabled the bell using the switch and the group instantly turned around. I decided to keep the bell on and find an area with heavier traffic. I chose an area where I knew there would be lots of people who have completely forgotten about social distancing having picnics and meeting in large groups. I think every single person knew I was there and I had no issues passing anyone on the fire roads. Even coming off of trails onto a fire road where people were wasn’t an issue. Usually, a mountain biker flying out of a forest can take people by surprise but the walkers could hear me coming, Success!
Will it improve MTB and general public relations?
It certainly made my presence known and made it much easier to pass walkers on fire roads. I had no issues of startling anyone or getting stuck behind any groups. However, leaving the bell on all the time will draw attention to riding trails that perhaps are not exactly sanctioned. That’s what is so great about Timber!, it has an off switch. Just use it when necessary and then turn off when you want to be incognito.
The Timber! bell certainly works. It’s easy to fit and is well made. The on/off switch is a really nice touch making this bell far more enticing than a standard bicycle bell.
Walkers and the general public are alerted to your presence far sooner pretty much eliminating the chance of startling someone.
Where I think the bell could be improved is the form factor. Even though as a product it looks great and is quite subtle it is still quite obviously a bike bell. Something more subtle may appeal to more people.
What do you think of the Timber Bell? Would you put one on your bike? Do you think it will help ease the conflict between walkers and mountain bikers?
Let us know your thoughts and comments below.