Every single bicycle on Perham Street sported a bell on the handlebars, both for warnings and salutations to other riders. I had the coolest bike in West Roxbury, a fat-tire J. C. Higgins with more reflectors (some appropriated from other riders) and mudflaps than any other. I believe I also sported streamers from the handlebars.
Naturally, I had a bell, like everyone else. Who has bells now?
That question arose on the Down East Sunrise Trail (The few times I made it to Machias) when there were pedestrians or riders ahead. I am usually the slowest and coolest rider, riding regal on the trails, but I do occasionally pass some of the lame and broken- hearted. On the Withlacoochee Trail in gloriously flat Florida, I routinely pass pedestrians. Even I am faster than they are. You have to send a warning right? Sometimes they don’t listen and you scare the hell out of them when you finally approach them.
I need a bell.
Naturally my deliriously informative friend, Men’s Journal Magazine came up with perfect solution, a super-bright headlight (can’t have enough lights) for the handlebar with an electronic bell warning. The considerate folks at ORP provided a polite, low level bell, along with an air raid siren level to warn the hard of hearing, or potentially dead. Take your pick.
It was only after the device arrived that I learned the Legend of the Bell. It was related bya former police chief that purchased a magnificent Harvey Davidson to keep in his garage for the rest of his life. He just likes to say he has one, I guess. But he did know all about the bells and begged his daughter to buy him some handlebar bells. The legend is that the bells are twice as powerful if a loved one bestows them.
I would bet that the bell legend started in Ireland. I can’t prove it, but I don’t have to. The legend says there are gremlins along each and every road. That sounds Irish. If you place a bell on your left handlebar, the road gremlins with enter there and never get free. When there are too many gremlins in the bell, it falls of, taking the gremlins with them. Ever hear of potholes?
I had never heard this before this week. The bikers have their own ride bell legend.
Theirs started, it is believed at the now famous Sturgis bike rally, which started as a dirt bike race in the 1930’s, when 200 was considered a big crowd. Those who bought tickets were given a small bell to prove they paid. The biker legend circulated at Sturgis over the decades holds that a crusty rider was riding back from Mexico with saddlebags full of (It’s not what you think) toys and trinkets for an orphanage. As he rode, he thought he saw something in the desert road ahead, dancing on the highway. Road gremlins! Before he could stop, he rode right into the middle of the dancing spirits and his front tire blew. He woke up, hurting, lying on the road as the gremlins danced on his Harley. Then they saw he was awake and attacked him. He reached into his shattered saddlebag to find something to defend himself. All he found was a leather strap with sleigh bells. The more he rang those bells, the more the gremlins covered their ears, and then ran. When two bikers appeared out of the night and help him up, our rider attached a bell to their motorcycles, to protect them.
Hey, it’s a legend. Don’t you believe in leprechauns? Now, the spirit of camaraderie and brotherhood between bikers is what the ride bell encompasses.
Tomorrow, I will try to figure out how to install my new light-bell device. I will feel confident that it will keep the road gremlins from my Trek 750 Multi-Track.