As a runner who spends a significant amount of time on a paved/decomposed granite bike path, I have a Pavlovian reaction to hearing a bell. I keep my pace, but step to the side to make room for the swoosh of a passing cyclist.
Actually, now it may be a runner who’s dinging me out of the way, thanks to the Runbell.
I bought the Runbell off a Kickstarter deal a few months ago and have been using it for the past six weeks. It’s a strange piece of gear. I totally understand and appreciate the need for the bell, but it’s something that certainly needs to be used judiciously and in the right environment or you come across as a total jerk.
What is it?
Let’s get that out of the way. It’s a brass bell that’s worn on your fore and middle fingers with a spring loaded striker that’s activated with your thumb. Very well made and packaged like a piece of jewelry, it comes with a few plastic ring sizers to fit different fingers. Some people have remarked that it looks like brass knuckles, and I suppose if I were ever to get into fisticuffs with someone, the Runbell would come in handy. Probably not gonna happen though. Currently available in a few sizes and two colors. $25 online.
Just as bikes have bells, the Runbell is designed to politely alert other pedestrians and cyclists that you’re behind them.
For whatever reason, cyclists with bells is acceptable, but runners with bells has, let’s say, not been embraced by the general running public yet.
Who and Where?
I’ve used the Runbell on the bike path, street, and trail. Here’s what I found:
- Bike path. I’m generally running faster than other recreational runners, but still don’t feel the need to ding anyone out of my way. That said, when I encounter a group of ladies walking three abreast, a couple dings! gets their attention. Same goes for passing someone with headphones on. When an “on your right” falls on deaf ears, a sharp ding cuts through the headphones and they respond.
- Street. This is where I’ve found it to be pretty helpful and a place where I feel less awful about using it. When I’m running past a driveway with a car pulling out, passing cars with people opening and closing doors, or crossing a street with a driver looking the wrong way, a couple of dings does the trick. I’ve become pretty accustomed to using it on the 1 or 2 road runs I do each week.
- Trail. Not very cool. I’ve run with a few dozen people over the past month, and the overwhelming opinion is not positive. A few people have pointed out that it could be used when ascending a hill late in a race, and rather than gasping and panting “on your left”, I could save the energy and ding the person, but I won’t be doing that. In my opinion, the Runbell is not a good fit for singletrack.
- Best use: Run on the bike path with your kids in a stroller. Give them the bell to ring. No one gets mad at 3 year olds.
- Maybe one of the reasons I see it a bit more acceptable on a bike path and not acceptable on the trail at all is that for many, the bike path is used to get your run in. There’s a definite purpose to being out there—get your miles in, get your workout on. The trails are different. We’re generally out there because we want to be, and for whatever reason, that translates to a kinder, gentler attitude that doesn’t jibe well with a ringing bell.
- Similarly, most mountain bikers or CX riders I encounter on trails give a “behind you” rather than a bell more commonly found on the road.
- One prominent Bay Area runner and running specialty shop owner looked at it, asked what it was, then looked down, shook his head, and said simply “No. Just no.”
- When I’ve used it on runners, they look back and expect to see a cyclist. When they figure out it’s me, they’re confused. That’s generally followed by an apologetic remark from me about testing this product for review and asking them a few questions.
- This would make a great gift for either the person who’s always complaining about people walking or running too slow. Here ya go, now do something about it!
- Would you use a Runbell?
- How would you feel if you were dinged on a bike path? How about singletrack?
- Why is OK for cyclists to use them, but not runners?