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Knog has brought out a new posher version of its unique Oi bicycle bell. The original was launched via Kickstarter and I was one of the backers, buying two (my first Kickstarter purchase, in fact). The new model keeps the same form factor as the original, but replaces the plastic mount and dinger with some nice metalwork. The tone, when you ring it, is similarly charming: a semi-tone higher and with long sustain. If you ride somewhere in traffic or with other background noise, it's still not really as loud as you'd want.
Most bikes sold in the UK come with a cheap domed dinger bell fitted. Here's the bad news – spending £35 gets you a bell that offers no real functional improvement over the one that you got free with your bike. But the new Knog Oi does looks great, and it fits more easily on a handlebar alongside a GPS unit and a light than any conventionally designed alternative.
I still have the original Knog Oi on one of my bikes. It is very pleasingly unobtrusive and easy to fit on the bar, plus it makes a lovely sound. But it is too quiet to be of much use in the majority of situations when I might need a bell. If you are pottering along the towpath then you can leave it until you are close to pedestrians before ringing the bell, and then there's a good chance they'll hear you. If you are going quicker and hence need to alert people when you are further away, or you're approaching a group that is deep in conversation, the volume available is really not sufficient. In an urban environment among traffic, it rarely gets people's attention.
If, like me, you paid cash money for the first Oi bell then you can get an exclusive 25 per cent discount on the new Oi Luxe via a code available by logging into Kickstarter and visiting this page, although by the time you factor in shipping this might not save you that much compared with buying from your local retailer.
The Luxe version costs more than twice what the original "Classic" version is now selling for, positioning it – as the name suggests – at the upper end of the bell [careful! - road.cc public decency editor] market. Construction is quite different to the original design, which was all plastic except for the metal resonating bar.
Now the clamp mechanism that attaches it to the bar is made of nicely finished cast metal, and the dinger is formed from wire and machined brass, with a similar mechanism to that seen on the Spurcycle. There is an inner layer which fits around the handlebar, made – unusually – from what Knog describes as vegan leather. With neat stitching, it's a primo nod to a leather watchstrap, and does a decent job of gripping the bar without creating scratching. Would a rubber shim do the job just as well? Of course, but so would that free bell that came with your bike, remember?
Ringing the Classic and the Luxe side by side, I struggled to detect any consistent increase in volume thanks to the new metal dinger. The pitch of the Luxe is a semi-tone higher, and it does make a very pleasant and lengthy ding. Which is all well and good, but it is still just not loud enough.
In fairness, when George tested the original Classic bell, he found that even in central London it was loud enough to attract people's attention. It does depend on what your expectations are, and my primary need is to be able to alert people while still a way off, giving them time to react before I'm upon them.
The comparison with Spurcycle is a key one here. It's also – in many people's view – a ludicrous amount to spend on a bell (even more than the Oi Luxe), also beautifully made but significantly louder than this bell. If I was going to buy a primo bell, loudness would be an absolute requirement, and that's my only real reservation with the Oi Luxe.
Some other notes: the cast back half of the bell has recesses to accommodate cables. This works if your cables exit the bar tape in the right place, but it will also depend on bar shape. On my flattened bar, the bell needs to be installed close to the stem where the bar is still round, and that made it impossible to route the cables through it.
One of the annoyances of the original Classic version was that the screw and the spring rusted over time. Here, the hardware is stainless steel so that shouldn't be a problem. The Luxe is available in suitably luxurious gold, as well as silver and a stealthy all-black to suit your bike.
In terms of competition, I've mentioned the Spurcycle quite a bit, but at £45-50 it is priced higher than the Knog. The Crane E-NE has a pronounced resemblance to the Spurcycle, but at a lower price. There are no bells on the market that look anything like the Knog Oi range, though.
Sleek and stylish bell with a unique shape – posher than the original Kickstarter model but no louder
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Knog Oi Luxe Bell Brass
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
If you want a bell on your bike (which hasn't been a legal requirement since 1999) and want to do it as discreetly as possible, Knog's Oi is hard to beat. The new Luxe version poshes up the original, with all-metal construction and some unexpected "vegan leather". It is no louder than the original, though.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Weight: 47g (in large size)
Available in two sizes, to suit traditional and modern oversized handlebars. The larger size comes with a shim which - Knog says - makes it suitable for use on bars between 23.8 - 31.8mm.
The underside is injection-moulded stainless steel.
Improves substantially on the original cheaper version, which had a rather flimsy plastic hinged dinger, and metalwork which turned out to be prone to rust. The engineered sprung dinger here is similar to that of the Spurcycle bell (i.e. excellent). The "vegan leather" inner surface is an unusual choice, where silicone or rubber would be more conventional choices - one assumes it is there to convey "luxe" and it does a decent job of gripping onto handlebars without scratching them.
Lovely sound – rings clear and long. But still too quiet for many environments.
Much more solidly made than the original – should last for ages.
A similar sort of weight to many other bells with a simple dinger mechanism (many of which are much cheaper) but that's not why you'd buy it.
This sort of product is hard to score – it's unashamedly a luxury purchase, and looks really nice and makes a lovely tone. It's not loud enough, though, for most urban use, and that is hard to overlook at this price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Makes a lovely sound, looks cool, fits easily on handlebars with limited space. However, it wants to be louder in my book.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The tone is very pleasing, and I really like how it looks.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not loud enough.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
In the mix. It's a tenner less than the poshest bell on the block, the Spurcycle, and a tenner more than the Crane E-Ne. It is rather more than the original Knog Oi.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they lived somewhere quiet.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a lovely thing, and I'd argue that construction is sufficiently improved over the original to warrant the steep price hike, but I'm disappointed that it isn't any louder.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.