After well over a decade of riding almost everyday for leisure, racing and commuting I have finally broken down and bought my very first commuter geek item: A compressed air horn. And me say just say that I am digging it.
I was inspired after my recent trip to Central America. There everyone use their horns all the time, everywhere they can. At first this would lead to a may-lay of horns, but to my surprise the opposite was quite true. It turns out, as opposed to North America, most people actually use horns to communicate useful information rather than use it as a way to say "fuck you".
For example, due to the high walls in many Latin American cities most intersections have low visibility and it is not clear who has the right of way. Anytime someone approaches such an intersection they will give a number of honks to let anyone else in the area know that they are on there way. Similarly if someone is deciding to blow through an intersection or blow around other drivers they will lean on their horn to let the other drivers know that the shit is about to hit the fan.
Needless to say I got it so when I returned I headed on over to mec to plop down $17 CND so I too could join in on the fun as I blast my way around Vancouver.
The style police
Now I could be labeled as a "power commuter" for the distance I ride everyday (I have been know to happily ride 100km+ everyday), but I am definitely would not classify myself as one of the commuter warriors you see out there with pollution masks and a zillion gadgets hanging off their bike.
I personally do not want to look like Mad Max, and as a result I am fairly discerning when it comes to what I choose to put on my bike (i.e. gears... what gears). That said, I think the horn is definitely worth it if you ride a lot in the city.
For the fashion conscious out there (i.e. all you fixie riding hipsters) the horn is fairly small. Sure it looks a little on the dorky side, but man does it wake up those sleepy, stop sign running motorists. And to me my life is easily worth a little slide to the dork side.
It took me less than 20 minutes today before I found it useful. I was riding along the Frances/Union bike path toward Willingdon (MAP) when some dingle berry decided to roll the stop sign and drive towards me. [Video below]
I hate these situations. Do they know you are there? Have they missed you and are they about to squash you. Are they some vindictive ass hole trying to make a point?
I saw it coming a few seconds ahead of time which gave me enough time to give a blast to let him know "Hey, dingle berry wake the fuck up!"
Proactive Vs Reactive
This is where I really like having a horn, despite the fact it mares the lines of my simplistic fixie. Quite simply put it allows me to take more of a proactive role in my safety. If I see things unfolding I give a good blast to try and get the perpetrator's attention, rather than simply waiting to react to their actions.
And at a deafening 120 decibels this definitely wakes people up. Not only that it also has a very distinctive sound that is different than a car horn. I think the distinctive sound is a good thing because if it sounded like a car horn other drivers might instinctively look for a car and miss someone on a bike. Being loud and funny sounding may make people look around even more, which will hopefully wake them up to the fact they are about to run over another cyclist.
For $17 smackers can you really go wrong? Even if you hate it, it still makes a great noise maker so that you can scare the piss right out of your roommate if the desire should so strike your fancy.