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Sure, there might be other ways to get people’s attention. A honk of a horn or even a quick, friendly “hello” will do. But, here at Discerning Cyclist, we think there’s nothing quite as classy as the ring of a classic brass bell.
Inspired by the designs of the early twentieth century, these polished pieces of kit add elegance to any bike, and since manufacturing often takes place in the UK, you can support British industry too.
Below, we address some common queries about vintage bells, and round up the four best products currently on the market….
Ready to ring the changes?
Vintage Bicycle Bells
Vintage-styled bells are increasingly attracting shoppers looking to inject some poise to their morning commute. The reasons for this are two-fold – durability and design. Firstly, an all-brass bell produced by the likes of Crane can withstand far more rides than a flimsy plastic model. Secondly, the retro styling enhances the look of any bicycle. They’re an extremely elegant nod to cycling’s rich and varied history.
Think of the beautiful Royal Mail-issue bikes, or the sets of wheels you see zipping along Cambridge’s Kings Parade, and you can see why so many people are inspired by bygone wheels.
Do Brass Bike Bells Rust?
The bells listed below are celebrated for their elegant vintage look – but the last thing you want is your new purchase looking like an actual antique. Thankfully, brass is a durable metal alloy, which means it will never rust .
However, don’t expect your new purchase to be pristine forever. Brass does contain copper and zinc, and so will eventually undergo a process called oxidation. Over time, as the brass is exposed to the oxygen over the air, it develops a blue-green tinge on its surface. This is a ‘patina’, or tarnishing.
Luckily, there are plenty of people who consider patina aesthetically pleasing. For many, it’s the mark of a well-worn and well-loved piece of kit. A patina also does nothing to affect the sound of the bell. It will still announce your two-wheeled presence loud and clear.
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Best Brass Bicycle Bells [Top 4]
- Crane Suzu Bicycle Bell [REVIEW]
- Crane Japanese Talisman Bicycle Bell [REVIEW]
- Crane Riten Vintage Bicycle Bell [REVIEW]
- Crane E-Ne Bell [REVIEW]
Best Brass Bike Bell
Size: 50mm diameter
There’s nothing worse than striking the hammer on your new bell, and being met with a pathetic little brrrng.
With the gorgeous Suzu bell, you’ll run into no such problem.
Crane claim that Japanese commuters can recognise one of their bells from its chime alone, and we can certainly believe it.
When the elegant lever-strike hammer is released, the result is a bright, enduring ring that cuts through the sound of busy traffic. It sustains for up to fifteen seconds, and is much more melodic than most of the rings we’ve encountered on our cycle paths. One London-based reviewer even said ringing the bell made passing cyclist break out in a wide grin.
It can be sampled on the Crane website.
The timeless retro design is also gorgeous on a visual level, not to mention highly practical. The Suzu’s secure teel-plated clamp prevents any knocks to your frame when installing it, and installation can be done with a simple Phillips screwdriver.
For a mix of ease, style and function, the sleek all-brass Suzu is our top choice.
Japanese Bicycle Bell
Size: 45mm diameter
Visit a Shinto shrine in Japan, and you’ll be met by hundreds of silk amulets called ‘omamori’. Containing prayers and inscriptions, they’re used to bring good luck to the bearer.
They’re the inspiration for Crane’s brass Talisman bell.
Each bell is beautifully hand-calligraphed. Of course, there is no religious or protective significance to the design, but a cyclist can choose from six different characters: ‘exploring’, ‘good luck’, ‘protection’, ‘safety’, ‘speed’ and ‘strength’.
Crane also give a nod to their heritage by continuing to assemble and manufacture in Japan, using time-tested methods.
This makes the Talisman bell high-quality. Its clamp can also be widened to accommodate a wide range of handlebar diameters. This makes it an option for road cyclists and mountain bikers as well as commuters.
The only downside to the Talisman is the fact that it’s made from aluminium. We’d love to see this design in all brass.
Copper Bike Bell
Size: 57mm diameter
A fan of Peaky Blinders or Downton Abbey? Then, you might just want to consider the Riten Vintage bell.
Heavy in the hand, with a delicate rotary action mechanism, it’s the result of a unique Japanese-British love affair.
Crane, the Osaka-based manufacturers, have drawn deeply from the UK’s cycling history. Using quality all-metal parts, they’ve produced a beautiful, dome-shaped bell that would blend in easily on the set of any period drama.
Measuring 57mm across, it is the largest of all the options here, but quality Japanese craftsmanship means it’s far from unwieldy. It adds flair and interest to nearly any handlebar.
It’s not the ideal choice for a rugged downhill track, admittedly, but there are ample options out there for those rides.
Some users do mention that the metal tarnishes over time, but this is to be expected. With a little care and attention, we reckon you’re looking at a future antique.
Vintage Mini Bicycle Bell
Size: 37mm diameter
Let’s face it. As much as we admire the stately step-through bikes of the Netherlands, they’re not always the most practical option.
Increasingly, commuters are turning to folding bikes that can be easily stowed on a busy train or packed bus. A compact bike calls for a compact bell, and that’s where the Crane E-Ne Bell comes into play.
The E-Ne is, you guessed it, a teenie bell measuring 37mm across. It’s little enough to be attached to, say a Brompton, without affecting the folding mechanism – but powerful enough to be heard for metres down the cycle path. That sweet, snappy bell hammer more than packs a punch.
Made of solid brass, this little gem comes in many colour ways, but we liked the chrome-plate. It gives your utilitarian ride a touch of vintage elegance.
What’s more, it can also installed on the top or front of the handlebars, and so, can fit on unconventional frames.