Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Safety in Loudness

One of the very cool things about riding a fixed gear is that they can be almost perfectly silent. One of the reasons that Monday's post was so late was that I was doing an overdue chain replacement on my fixed gear bike in the early evening. A clean fixed gear with a new chain makes about as much noise as a whispering ghost on Valium, which I can assure you is very quiet indeed. You know how a perfectly tuned geared bicycle can be super quiet as you pedal along? Fixed gears can be even quieter since they have no derailleurs or freewheels of any kind. Thanks to this quietness, I need to take special care to announce myself as I come up behind people on a path, because otherwise I may startle them badly, and startled people jump around in sometimes unexpected ways:




The silence thing scares me when the silence is on the four wheeled side too. A world full of nearly silent electric cars may pose some new risks. I forget whose blog I read it on, but apparently in some parts of the world electric cars are being fitted with noisemakers of some kind for precisely this reason. I rely heavily on my ears when I ride and use my eyes for confirmation when it comes to overtaking traffic.

So far I have used my voice (or human honking) for all of my audible communication needs. I don't really like bells, not sure why. Some cyclists use whistles, but I don't want to ride around clenching anything between my teeth other than a bubble pipe.


Yes, the pipe thing just screams high society style, but unfortunately it doesn't make any noise. Those insanely loud air horns seem like "startle in a can" to me, which I don't want. Maybe I'll just hang some pots and pans from my handlebars...

image source

What freaks me out sometimes is that just about any nonsense I can think of has been photographed and posted online by somebody, somewhere. It reminds one of how many stinkin' people live on this planet. Let's hope we don't all honk at once.


Keep It Cranked,


R A N T W I C K

13 comments:

Ham said...

I had an experience a couple of weeks ago. I spent the afternoon on Sunday fettling and jibbling my commuting steed, and ended in satisfaction as I wafted on my test ride in mechanically efficient silence. Then on Monday I had my blocked ears cleared out and discovered I had no need for pots and pans.

Mighk said...

C'mon Rant. Embrace The Bell. It's a happy sound!

Rantwick said...

Ham - I had to read that several times to figure it out, but good for you, and enjoy your recently cleared ears.

Mighk - I know. Too happy. Deep down I've always wanted to be a badass, I think. It is not working out.

Steve A said...

Rantwick, running out of things to complain about. What's wrong with a happy little song?

Rantwick said...

Steve - I was out of things to complain about, but then you showed up.

heh,heh,heh...

Apertome said...

I have always thought that those squeezy-horns were a lot more manly than a bell. I think I'd go with one of those.

Like this.

They even say, "Issues a melodious (and attention-getting) squonk with the squeeze of the black rubber bellows." Now who wouldn't want a melodious squonk?

Hmm. I may have just talked myself into one of these ...

Rantwick said...

Apertome - That thing would go pretty damn well with my bubble pipe! I would be the sexiest cyclist ever!

cafiend said...

You just reminded me of a rude but hilarious thing I did to a coworker many years ago. Stuart lived about three blocks form work. He walked. I lived about 4 or 5 miles from work. I rode my fixed gear. Every morning I would pass Stuart on the street a couple of blocks from work. One morning, seized with a fiendish impulse, I unleashed a primal scream from about 2 yards behind him. He leaped and turned in midair with a look of horror. Ashamed as I was, I still burst out in uncontrollable laughter which he, fortunately, shared. On subsequent days I would ride by and say in a conversational tone, "aaah!" to which he would reply with equally flat affect, "eek." Then we would both bust up into idiotic laughter.

He could just as easily have decided to kill me.

Rantwick said...

Cafiend - That little scene played out very nicely in my mind. I'm going to start scaring people. There's nobody I know on my route, so I'm just gonna give strangers heart attacks.

Marrock said...

For years I've been using a Fox40 whistle, they're rather effective at cutting through closed SUV windows and cell phone conversations.

cafiend said...

Rantwick! Put full comment moderation on old posts! You're getting spammed and it relays the spam comments to your previous commenters!

S'il vous plait.

Rantwick said...

Cafiend - Understood and taken care of... I don't remember that option being available when I set this thing up, but perhaps I just overlooked it the first time.

Thanks for the heads up.

cafiend said...

No problemo! It started happening to me a few months ago, so I knew what it was right away. The amazing thing is that it overcomes the captcha. I think that means some actual human is going to the trouble of doing this. Wow: anti-spam provisions creating jobs. Economy is a wondrous thing.

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