Crane Bicycle Bell

by Chikashi Miyamoto

The Karen brass bicycle bell from Crane is beautiful in its simplicity, finishing and the way it sings.  It is lovely to behold and pleasing to the ear.  It is the most suitable bell for a vintage lugged steel bike.  In fact, whether in brass, copper or alloy, Crane’s Karen bell ought to be de rigueur for lugged steel bikes.

In Flanders cobblestones are just a fact of life.  Wherever one cycles, there is bound to be a pavé stretch somewhere.  Sometimes short, sometimes rather longer than expected.  Some relatively new and evenly and closely placed, some with a long history and deteriorated.  Boneshakers.

It helps to ride a bike with relaxed geometry and longer wheel base, fitted with slightly wider tyres.  Even then, the vibration level is considerable.  The vibration makes the striker of the Karen bell, mounted to the bell stem by a coil spring, strike the bell in sustained, rapid succession, a bit like the fire brigade from a century ago dashing to the scene of the fire, particularly if one is pedalling hard towards the next stretch of smoothly tarmacked road.  Consequently, the coil spring of the striker is subjected to a significant level of strain and stress in a very short period of time.

The coil spring on my bell simply broke after about one year.  I lost my striker.  I purchased the bell from Velodrama so I contacted them to see if they sell spare strikers.  They do not stock spares, but they offered to give me, free of charge, a striker from a bell that was installed on a display bike.  I was frankly stunned and delighted by the offer.  Completely unexpected.  I was told that it is a used part, but I did not care whether it is new or used.  This sort of gesture fosters repeat purchases.

Unfortunately, the replacement lasted only about two months after being subjected to the same cobblestone abuse.  I think the lesson here is about choosing the right equipment for the job.  Clearly, the Karen is not suitable for the sort of riding I do in this neck of the woods with pavé galore.  I suspect that the right Crane bell for me is the Suzu with a lever strike.

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