Review: Timber Mountain Bike Bell

In these crazy times of social distancing and trails getting more and more crowded with a mix of hikers, runners, horses, unicyclists, jugglers, unicycling jugglers, and other mountain bikers, we feel it is time to make our presence better known to others. It is not so simple anymore to just shout out “Behind you” or “Rider back” because doing so can still startle others. In this thread on sharing trails with hikers and horses, one topic discussed the best way to alert other trail users; the consensus from a biker's perspective is the Timber Mountain Bike Bell.

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We tried to find these bells locally, but like most cycling-related products, inventory is depleted. This left us no choice but to reach out to the company itself. In the interest of transparency, Timber supplied us with two Timber 3.0 bells for review: the Quick-Release and the Bolt-On models. Installation is straightforward for both. The Quick-Release has a choice of two bands and obviously is quicker, hence the name. The Bolt-On takes about a minute or so longer and requires the use of a 3mm Allen wrench.

During our initial research, we found no consensus that mounting the bell on one side is better than the other but Tricia did end up having a preference. With the Quick-Release, I can easily move it and try both. My initial impression was that the Quick-Release holds the bell on snugly, but not as tight as I think I want it. The assembly rotated on the handlebar when I tried to activate the bell. After a ride, my concerns were well-founded. The Quick-Release did well, on par with other accessories that use a similar band-type method of attachment. It is adequate but as far as the connection, the Bolt-On is better … obviously at the cost of convenience.
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Phil's experience on the trail:
My maiden voyage was on a Sunday when there were more than a few people out. My hope was to come across hikers as well as other bikers, and I was in luck (other than a complete lack of juggling unicyclists). In every case where I saw someone ahead of me, I activated the bell, and as soon as I was within earshot, I could see their posture change and immediately look back (or up). The difference from before was that they weren't startled.

Tricia's experience on the trail: I have the Timber 3.0 Bolt-On model on my bike. First, Phil installed it on the left side of my handlebars, but I moved it to the right because I'm right-dominant and feel I have enough to fiddle with on the left. On my first ride, I was in a heavily wooded area in Tahoe City, approaching an intersection where riders coming from the other trail could be surprised. I engaged the Timber bell coming into the intersection. My friend riding behind me asked, "What was that loud ringing?" A rider coming into the intersection from the blind corner did hear me and yielded. I asked if he heard the bell, and he asked about it -- and now is considering buying one for himself.

Conclusion: If you are looking for some type of “active notification device," a Timber bell should be on your short list. The design is simple and functional. I don't think there is a need for the different tone levels; the differences were at most minimal.


  • Why choose the Quick-Release? You have multiple bikes and you want one bell to move from one bike to another.
  • Why choose the Bolt-On? You have one bike and are happy to “set it and forget it.”
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About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

I bought my first Timber bell a couple years ago. I have found the newer quick release models don't seem to be as snug as the ones I bought a couple years ago but since I mainly use the bolt on model (now that its available) that's not a game stopper. I initially purchased the bells because bears move into the mountains surrounding Bozeman in late summer looking for food. I've never encountered a bear since I bought the bells but I've only encountered a couple bears in the 2 decades I've lived here so I can't vouch for the bells effectiveness with bears. On the other hand, we ride many mix use trails with lots of hikers and runners. The bells have been great for letting them know I am coming well before I see them. That is especially helpful on windy trails in dense foliage. I highly recommend this product for people that ride in the woods.
 
Our trails are windy, and Minnesota woods are very dense with undergrowth.
We are fortune te here in Duluth to have 100 miles of singletrack in town, but they are two way, multi use trails, so a bell is a must.
I use a Regular bell mounted by my shifter, so I can hit it often and easily, with my thumb, just like I would my shift lever.
might give the Timber a shot though.
 
I bought my first Timber bell a couple years ago. I have found the newer quick release models don't seem to be as snug as the ones I bought a couple years ago but since I mainly use the bolt on model (now that its available) that's not a game stopper. I initially purchased the bells because bears move into the mountains surrounding Bozeman in late summer looking for food. I've never encountered a bear since I bought the bells but I've only encountered a couple bears in the 2 decades I've lived here so I can't vouch for the bells effectiveness with bears. On the other hand, we ride many mix use trails with lots of hikers and runners. The bells have been great for letting them know I am coming well before I see them. That is especially helpful on windy trails in dense foliage. I highly recommend this product for people that ride in the woods.
IMHO, the Bolt on is a better option if you are going to leave it on the bike.

In my recent experiences on the trails, hikers really apprecate being able to be warned gradually.
 
I am very happy with my Timber Bell, but leave mine on all the time. One, I can’t imagine trying to fiddle with activating and deactivating it multiple times while on a dirt trail, and two, I find it’s equally as useful while climbing. Our trails don’t have the sight lines than other parts of the country, maybe. Also, I like it wild riding Targhee because BEARS.
 
I got my timber bell a little over a week ago. It is the bolt-on model. I first put it to the left of my dropper activator but it was in the way and would inadvertently get activated when using the dropper. I then moved it to the right of the dropper activator. It is a little more difficult to select between off, low and high setting on the right side of the activator, but on and off are easy. I also don't turn it on by mistake.

The quality of the bell is excellent. It is solid brass so rings with a pleasant, yet strong peal. So much nicer than the cheesy quality of most bear bells. The lever to adjust from no to lo to hi is not easy to manage but it turns off and on reliably. I usually want all or nothing so that isn't much of an issue for me. I have to micro-adjust the location, no tools required, if I move the bell to be in contact with my brake lever. It modifies the sound of the bell if it isn't free of contact.

People give me the thumbs up and/or say 'like the bell' when I pass them. If you have difficult sight lines or more than negligible traffic on your trails, the timber bell is a really useful addition. I had some near accidents so using it is a no-brainer for me.
 
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One of our readers and product testers, @AmyPJ's recently expenrienced a mountain biking collision, discussed HERE, and it got me thinking. Coincidently on my last ride, I actually had a near collision that was similar to what happened with Amy. I was climbing and another rider was coming down hill at a higher rate of speed and we met at a blind corner, unlike Amy's situation, we were both able to stop. Here is where the difference lies, we both had Timber Bells and both were activated. But... neither of us heard the other Timber Bell over our own. This made me think about Amy's collision. even IF the rider that hit her had a Timber Bell would she have heard it over her own and if she did, how long would it have taken her to discern that the ringing was not her bell and still react that a bike was indeed coming the other direction considering that it was a blind corner and that he was riding faster?

I don't think the rider that hit Amy having a bell or not mattered in this situation but..Amy having one possibly could have, if he might have been attentive and aware of the surroundings but again, this was a blind corner and sound does not go around corners. But as anyone reading this knows that when ascending on a bike, you are focusing so much with your eyes and for your ears to hear a bell that could 50-75 feet away (again around a blind corner) over suspension noise, rocks bouncing around and other noises that the bike is making, is tough to overcome.

Timber Bells are a great and IMHO everyone should have one but there are limitations of the product and cannot be relied on 100%. IMHO, where they have the most value is on multi use trails where there are hikers, I know I have been thanked numerous times when I have passed hikers on the tail and secondly, coming up behind another rider. I do think the limitation is when a rider is coming from the other direction especially with blind corners. This is where all riders need to be aware especially decending on trails that have two way traffic and while it can be "fun" going fast, you almost have to assume that someone might be coming in the other direction.
 
^^ I don't entirely disagree that I wouldn't have heard his bell had he had one, but I tend to hear them from a long way away on trails with switchbacks in particular. This trail also runs along a reservoir, so the noise would have echoed off the water for quite some distance. My bell is not super loud while I'm climbing and especially on this trail that is fairly smooth but also because I have it in the "low" position. I can't say that I've ever not heard someone's bell as they were descending while I was climbing. When I hear them, I yell out until I'm sure they are aware that I am there. Now, someone descending absolutely might not hear another person's bell, which is why I don't rely on it while descending to plow the trail clear, so to speak.

And yes, they are a very effective communication tool for people on foot for sure.
 

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