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With summer riding opportunities here, it may be time to look for a new bicycle bell for added safety. Personally, I prefer using a bell when approaching slower cyclists and people walking on the trail, just ahead of me. Rather than using my voice alone, with a tone that may vary. I find a bell noise from SpurCycle, with a quick statement of “On your left,” when passing, is more effective and appreciated. The Compact Bell is perfect and offers the same high-frequency ping as SpurCycle’s original bell, just smaller with fewer moving parts.
The SpurCycle Compact Bicycle Bell
In a recent test of the SpurCycle Compact Bell, I found the ring lasts longer than most bells. I found the high-frequency ping with a rich aftermath tone helps those, as you approach, of your on-coming presents.
The perfect brass bell housing holds a ring longer, starting with a very hard “ping.”
This compact bell is plenty loud for off-road riding and suburban commuting but won’t win against car horns and heavy street traffic in a metropolitan area. This bell’s true advantage is how long the ring lasts (or “sustains”), ending at the same frequency.
From its package, test out the high-quality ping this bicycle bell makes.
It’s great for commuters or mountain bikers because you can start the ring 10-15 seconds before passing a biker or pedestrian. Letting them know where you are and when you will be approaching. With the SpurCycle Bell, there’s no need to ring your bell 20-times like the inexpensive department store models. The initial ring offers enough of a shrill to get the attention of even the most hardcore earbud rockers, if you do choose to hit it repeatedly.
If your bike has a larger diameter handlebar (22.2 to 31.8 mm), consider the SpurCycle Original.
Mastering the use of your voice or the use of a bicycle bell
In a recent article published by CyclingSavvy, should you use a bicycle bell or your voice? For many, it’s a cultural issue. In this in-depth article, John Brooking discusses how you can use a bell or your voice to alert people and what to check for after sending an audible signal. He also touches on the other sounds bicycles make and how these extend your pre-ride safety check. Making it natural so your bell and voice, when riding, is a call-and-response. Musicians use this so the audience can sing along; you can use it, so your passage is predictable and safe.
Personally, as you can probably tell in this read, I prefer the bell to voice commands. Especially if you are in an urban area with heavy pedestrian foot traffic. Having spent time in Amsterdam on a bicycle made me a true believer that the bell’s sound was mightier than the voice.
On the front end of a bike/barge trip in the Netherlands last year, I added three days to explore Amsterdam by bike. Taking the extra time was a great choice, and using a bike as
my mode of transportation was by far the best way to see the city. This allowed me many opportunities to sample the fare this bike-friendly mecca had to offer. Winging it a bit, I rented one of the locally popular trekking bikes to roam alongside the canals like a true ‘Amsterdammer,’ even though I stuck out a bit wearing a bicycle helmet. I was comfortable navigating the bike lanes, even with motor scooters buzzing up from behind and pedestrians
stepping out in front of me. As bikes are an important part of Amsterdam, I felt like I was a part of the city.
Amsterdam is a bike-friendly place to ride, if?
Pedaling into one of Amsterdam’s parks over the canal.
The cool thing about using a bike to get around this city is that you can easily get anywhere quickly. Amsterdam is perfect for bicycles. The city has generous bike paths throughout; some even have specialized traffic lights, with the bicycle symbol illuminated. It seems Amsterdammers go everywhere on their bikes. They attach wagons and load them with cargo – sometimes their children. They also like to chat on their cell phones, run red lights, daringly weave in and out of traffic, and the vast majority of them do not wear helmets. Most of
the Dutch bikes all have the same basic look. Old fashion looking, reminiscent of bikes you would see in movies from the 1950s, with wide-set handlebars
Need a bike? Rental shop options are endless
One of the bike rental shops working on their fleet of bikes.
Looking on the web for a rental bike, there seemed to be an ample supply of bikes available around the city. I assumed that I could wait until midmorning to go out and rent a bike for the next couple of days, my mistake. Even though it was a midweek day, the best bikes in two shops I stopped at had most of their fleet checked-out. Only a few of their older, well used bikes remained. Luckily a bike was being returned that fit me well. So I was on my way, taking with me a valuable lesson in renting bikes in a popular tourist area. Unless you can reserve a bike ahead of time, get there early to get a pick of their best.
Navigating Amsterdam and what you can see
Pedaling along the bike-friendly streets in Amsterdam
Handy bike maps are available, free, at most hotels, and bike rental shops. With a couple of versions in my pocket for occasional review, they worked well for me. Pedaling the streets along the canals, there is way too much for the eye to see, from gorgeous architecture, charming flower boxes, crowded cafés, etc. So forget your iPod; your ride will have its own soundtrack.
Passing through the Red Light District in Amsterdam
Some of the sounds you may hear include the whirring of a canal boat’s motor, the peal of church chimes, the hum of motor scooters as they zip up behind you, triggering your brain to move over to the right to let them by, and the tinkle of a bike’s bell, maybe yours? I found that my right hand stayed pretty close to the bell on the bike’s handlebar, warning sightseers to move out of the bike lane.
My first day riding in Amsterdam
The City Center is packed with full designated bicycle parking lots.
As I mentioned above, I started late checking out a rental bike. Then getting acclimated to the designated bike lanes and tourists walking out in front of me. It was amazing how much I experienced in such a short time. I had no planned route; it was fun to get lost in the city with its maze of streets (straats) and canals (grachts). Of course, those maps in my pocket helped find my way back to my hotel. In the first few hours, I rode through Amsterdam’s finest sections, including the Jordaan District, which could be referred to as the city’s heart. Then I rode past the Anne Frank House, where I had a tour scheduled the following day. Next, I passed the house of Rembrandt and then by the awesome architecture of the Rijksmuseum. Finding my way back, I wandered through China Town and then the Red Light District before meeting friends for dinner.
Overcoming the intimidation
Locking your bike to a bridge in Amsterdam can be a hazard.
In just a few hours riding my bike around Amsterdam, my confidence was high … and so was my thirst. Meeting friends for a beer, several of who just arrived in town for the bike/barge cruise, there was some envy as I pulled up on my rental bike. Several asked as I walked in with my helmet still on, “where have you been?” I replied with an accomplished grin, “I’ve biked all over town!” As I shared with them my first day’s adventures in Amsterdam, touring the city by bike.
A full day to explore Amsterdam
Riding along with the street Cafes in Amsterdam
With a loose itinerary, only the Anne Frank Tour scheduled mid-afternoon and dinner plans in the evening, I was off. First, I found myself at Amsterdam’s bustling flower market, where crowds come to buy or just admire a wide array of flowers. After enjoying a cup of coffee and the fragrance of the market, I pedaled across a series of canals to one of the city’s street markets. Here, I found another Dutch treat, a herring stand. In warmer weather, vendor stands tend to spring up around the city, offering this delicacy. If you appreciate sushi or at least pickled herring, give it a try! You can order herring in a bread roll and eat it like a sandwich. Though “the Amsterdam way” is to eat the herring cold, with only diced onions and pickles as a garnish. It was delicious, and one of my favorite must-have snacks on the trip.
Enjoying Amsterdam’s street markets
Now pointing my bike towards the Central Station, up through the city center at the river’s edge, I took a ferry across Amsterdam’s north side. Following the designated bike route several kilometers, I found this part of the city was newer with many parks.
Another perspective of the city
Take the ferry across the river into North Amsterdam
After the Anne Frank tour, which was well worth the extra time of waiting in line, I was off to the east side of Amsterdam. With several blocks of modern architecture in-between canals, this area gave me another perspective of the city. I planned to take in a few more tours, but I ended up spending more time on the bike. On my way back through the inner city of canals, as late afternoon turned into happy hour along the way, the activities along the sidewalk cafés were entertaining to see.
Sure, you could see Amsterdam in other ways. But, in a city with roughly 250 miles of cycle lanes, over 140 bicycle rental shops, and estimated million-plus miles collectively pedaled by
bicyclists each day, why would you want to waste carbon fuel?
So, in my opinion, assuming you survive the pedestrians wandering out in front of you, biking here is the best. A half-million Amsterdammer’s can’t be wrong. Just be sure to look both
ways before heading out into traffic, and don’t be afraid to ring your bell!