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The Ingenious Bike Bells you (Probably) Can’t Buy

by Ted Johnson

Check out this homemade bike bell system I came across in Madagascar.The owner of the bike — perhaps the inventor — was more than happy to demonstrate.I was visiting the Cold Water Geysers of Analavory. I was not commuting per-se; I was being a tourist.The geysers are not a natural phenomenon, but instead are related to aragonite mines in the area — which somehow makes me feel slightly better about this photo:

Cold Water Geysers of Analavory

Cold Water Geyser with Jackass
Photo: Ted Johnson

So… Now that you can picture the geysers, back to those bike bells.The bike belonged to a guy who worked the parking lot, selling popsicles and sliced papaya to tourists. If I could speak more than 12 words of Malagasy, I might have asked him more about the bells. But all I could say was misaotra (thank you) after the demo.The bells are controlled by a stem-mounted friction shift lever.

stem-mounted friction shift lever

Just like on your old 10-speed
Photo: Ted Johnson

A rubber wheel, which appears to have been made from a car tire, contacts the sidewall of the bike tire when the cable is tensioned.

Rubber wheel for Bike Bells

Where the rubber meets the rubber
Photo: Ted Johnson

Ingenious.This last photo, also taken near the geysers, gives a glimpse into how a mechanical aptitude for bikes is instilled into the Malagasy at a young age.

Kids with bike, Analavory, Madagascar

…or it could just be a gratuitously cute picture of a couple of Malagasy kids with a bike.
Photo: Ted Johnson

Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

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