Honk if you're Horn-Envious

If the price were right, and installation was easy and unobtrusive, I’m still not sure I’d want a horn on my bike (or anyody’s bike) that sounds like a car horn.

Sound Safety: 'Loud Bicycle' Horn Lets You Honk Like a Car | Wired Design | Wired.com
The ‘Loud Bicycle” horn | Screen shot: Wired.com

I’m wrestling with the idea (perhaps the same way I wrestled with e-bikes just a few years ago, and came out okay with them, while still deciding that I’d rather not have one of my own).

To me, most aspects of carishness seem so… gross when transferred a bike. And what could be more obnoxious to adopt from a car but those obnoxious sounding horns? How about the raw lethality of cars? That would be more obnoxious.

And it’s that raw lethality of cars which provides the justification for bike horns — according those who use and/or sell car-like horns for bikes.

In this article on Wired.com, Jonathan Lansey, the designer of Loud Bicycle says, “When you honk a car horn, though, [motorists] react immediately, even before they see where the sound is coming from.”

Perhaps I’d get used to one really quickly and start to feel vulnerable without one — which is how I now feel about my helmet-mounted mirror and headlight.

I doubt it.

Something about this dilemma reminds me of the issue of whether to allow passengers to use cell phones on airplanes in flight.

I know that I’d use my cell phone responsibly on an airplane. I’d keep my voice low, and my calls short. It’s what other people would do with them that worries me.

The ratio of jerks to decent people on bikes probably mirrors the same ratio among cell phone users — and society at large. The problem is that jerks on bikes are more memorable — especially to non-cyclists.

Air horns that run on compressed air have been around for years, such as the Airzound horn, and more recently the Biologic Blast. Both of these put out 115 decibels. And for those of us who don’t speak in decibels, that’s almost as loud as a jet engine.

Biologic Blast Airhorn |  | Bike Tech Shop
Biologic Blast Airhorn

Think of those schmucks on bikes who give us (mostly) civil cyclists a bad reputation. Now imagine them with air horns.

What do you think? Good idea or Good God no! Maybe you’ve already given into your horn envy. How did it change you?

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15 thoughts on “Honk if you're Horn-Envious”

  1. Kwin says:

    No honking here — not envious in the least. I find that my voice is faster, more effective, and allows me to keep my hands where they belong.

  2. I ride with an AirZound and very much like having it. I don’t use it often, but particularly when I’m pulling kids in a trailer, I want to be able to alert drivers that they are doing something stupid and dangerous when I need to.

    If I weren’t quite loud with my voice, I’d probably have a regular bell as well for MUPs and whatnot. That being said, with both bicycle riders and joggers wearing ear buds that almost make them deaf, I’ve twice resorted to using the air-zound with them.

  3. Audrey Wagner says:

    I’ve been thinking horny thoughts lately. I commute in a college town and would like a loud enough horn for when I see drivers looking down at their phone while driving. Maybe it’s fantasy, but being able to say to them “I see you!” seems like it could only help.

  4. bg says:

    I’ve been using the AirZound horn for almost 20 years! It is a life saver. I use a bell for pedestrians, and the horn for cars. I can’t recommend it enough.

  5. Pete says:

    I used an AirZound for about a year.

    At first I enjoyed it, honking at cars that cut me off, etc. But once I got that out of my system, I seldom used it. I’m a very safe rider and can anticipate most motorist errors, and those I can’t anticipate usually happen too fast for me to get a “honk” out.

    The final straw was when an elderly driver looked like he was about to pull out of a parking lot onto the road as I was approaching the driveway.I gave him a blast of the AirZound to alert him but he pulled out anyway and started a left turn 6 feet in front of me.

    We both skidded to a stop. I ended up stopped about a foot from the driver’s window. I asked him if he had heard the horn and he said yes, but he didn’t see any other cars so pulled out!

    I decided the horn was unneeded clutter on my bike and removed it. I still have a nice brass bell I “ding” to alert pedestrians when needed on rare occasions. It has a nice sound and doesn’t scare anyone.

  6. JP says:

    My fear is that now these obnoxious things have been invented it will lead someone to get it into his, of course his, mind to connect it up to the bike-equivalent of a car alarm. Won’t that be fun? What the world needs is less noise, not more.

    Geezer harrumph over.

  7. Paul in N.W. Gorgia says:

    I have been using air-zound horns on all of my bicycles for years. My bicycles are, to me, my cars. I would not operate a motor vehicle without a horn for safety reason. Nor would I with my bicycles. The same goes for a side view mirror. (yes, I do turn my head, but a side view mirror adds safety, too)

    All my bikes have bells, too. They work for most pedestrians and a few motorists with open windows. But having a very loud horn has saved me from collisions where motorists who were failing to follow laws more times than I can count. They also help with earphoned jamming pedestrians who are clueless to what is around them.
    Sure, I could ride much slower, but I use my bicycles for transportation only and I cannot take 6 hours to ride to or from work all they time.

    My only complaint with air-zound horns, they need a bigger air tank for more horn time..

    It amazes me how many motorists are giving drivers licenses when they are clearly dangerous.

  8. BluesCat says:

    I don’t have bells or a horns on my bikes. I doubt if any of the pedestrians or motorists I encounter would hear them: the motorists all have their windows rolled up and their air conditioning going full blast, and the pedestrians all have iThingie buds embedded in their ears.

    The only thing which has worked for me is to glide up slowly behind some person afoot whose iGarbage toys have eliminated their ability to hear much of anything in the real world … and do my best imitation of a Zombie Apocalypse Victim Scream.

  9. norm says:

    My current peeve is oblivious pedestrians with headphones walking in the bike lane – and not facing oncoming traffic (didn’t any of these people go to kindergarten?). I need a horn for them, as they can’t hear my polite and friendly little bell. However I like BluesCat’s approach – how about a horn that makes a Zombie Apocalypse Victim Scream?

  10. John M. Hammer says:

    In New York, a bell or horn is mandatory equipment. On my recumbent, I have both a nice bell (a Mirrycle Brass Duet – ding ding!) and an AirZound. I also have a fully-functional voice and I use that in preference to, or at least before, the bell or horn whenever possible and I keep my use of the horn to an absolute minimum because it is truly obnoxiously loud.

    I’ve become very used to both the dual rear-view mirrors and the AirZound on my recumbent to the point where I miss them when I toodle down to the very nearby stores on my older hybrid. I’ve tried mirrors but my helmet mirror works better for me on the hybrid, and I can’t justify the cost of another AirZound for the short and infrequent trips I take with the older bike.

  11. Chris J. says:

    I ride a recumbent with an AirZound and it saves my life about once a week.

    Lately I’ve been at intersections where I have the right of way, the car coming from my right has a stop sign, and they don’t look left before attempting to make a right turn. A quick blast from the AirZound makes them instinctively hit their brakes and allows me to pass through the intersection unharmed.

    I agree that one’s loud voice works as well, but the horn seems to blow in a frequency that short circuits the driver’s brain and makes them hit the brakes. I think that’s because it makes a cyclist sound like a larger vehicle, and the way car drivers often communicate with each other is through the horn.

    I find when I yell at drivers it is more likely to head toward confrontation because I’m not able to censor myself and usually say what I’m thinking — which is not too friendly.

    The AirZound offers a neutral way to give the message: I have the right-of-way, get the frack out of here!

  12. LAL says:

    Using an Airzound on a trike. I do not use it often, more the standard bell for pedestrians. Of course, voice may also be faster, but I still find useful to ‘get ready’ and use it with cars.

  13. Eric Johnson says:

    I have been hit 6 times in Massachusetts, where the roads are poorly lit, beat, deer paths with no shoulder and telephone poles in the damn road! I have smashed mirrors, pounded on cars, and even keep broken up porcelain chips from spark plugs in my cheeks to spit at tempered glass windows to shatter them and yell at the deaf jerks running me off the road, I think a horn is more polite in such a last resort scenario… It’s definitely worth a try!

  14. Fatima P. says:

    I find my Airzound more effective on attacking dogs than pepper spray. First, charging towards me, in a heart beat, they’re fleeing for their lives and I don’t even need to take my hands off the handle bar.

  15. Miron says:

    I live in los angeles and I’ve been commuting to work for over fifteen years. About two years ago I decided to get an airzound system because of all the close-calls I experience on my daily commute. Sure I can be a bit on the obnoxious side with it, but I don’t only use it to get the attention of drivers who cut me off but also to alert drivers that I’m approaching when it’s obvious they are not paying attention. Also my voice alone does not compete well against buses and delivery trucks. So, a good blast with the the horn gets their attention. I have also noticed that most drivers appreciate the heads up. I’ve even been told that if I didn’t blow that horn they would have come into my space. A short friendly blast differs from a long angry one. And I do get a kick out scaring some jacka## in standstill traffic chatting on their cell phone. Or the occasional coffee shop filled with hipsters on the patio. I know I know…. But it’s innocent fun and no one gets hurt.

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