While riding a tandem bicycle on a multi-use path, the ability to announce your presence is absolutely essential. Tandems are big, relatively heavy, hard to maneuver and fast, so a polite “On your left!” as you’re about to pass someone will not reliably prevent a collision. And tandems do a lot of overtaking; they pass almost everybody else under human power. My search for a sound that’s loud enough, but not too rude or abrupt led me to the Japanese-made Crane Suzu bell:
One loud ring from about thirty yards back will generally do it. Do they look back, or move over to the right to acknowledge that they heard? Usually, unless they have headphones in their ears with the volume cranked up, or even worse, are actually talking on cell phones, in which case another ring is necessary. Never more than that. The rings are easy to hear, which is why you don’t wait until you’re closer – the loud ring close by combined with an onrushing tandem might be enough by itself to startle the unsuspecting into doing something foolish instead of smoothly moving over. We cheerily thank them for their courtesy as we hurtle by. It’s not like we’re demanding they get out of our way. Oh, and of course it works just as well with a single or “half bike,” as the tandem people like to say.
The Crane Suzu is an attractive object with a great design and the bell tone will remind you of your childhood. Sometimes we ring it in tunnels just to hear the reverberation. It’s durable and will fit almost any handlebars in your choice of orientation. The brass gives it a vintage, almost industrial look that is even improved as the metal gets a little dark and tarnished. Or you can keep it polished, if that’s what you prefer.
Available from Amazon for under fifteen bucks.