There are many stories and various explanations behind the question ‘what does a bell on a motorcycle mean?’ The bells adorning the handlebars of a bike are sometimes called ‘Ride Bells,’ or ‘Lucky Bells,’ or ‘Guardian Bells’ or simply ‘Legend Bells.’ Each name has a story behind it.

So, here I am trying to share them with you…

Different names for motorcycle bells

‘Ride Bells’ are those bells that motorcycle riders present to other motorcycle riders as a token of their friendship. They are called ‘Lucky Bells’ because they bring good luck to the bike riders and prevent any harm or danger occurring to them when they are alone while riding their bikes on a lonely and strange road far away from home.  To keep away evil they are sometimes called ‘Guardian Bells’ and are called ‘Legend Bells’ when it is the result of a legend that circulates among motorcycle riders.

What does a Bell on a Motorcycle mean?

Origin of bells on bikes

It’s said that a group of motorcycle riders formed a club known as the ‘Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club’ in South Dakota Hills. They started a racing competition among the members of the club on a dirt track which was half a mile long. Initially, there were only a few onlookers who shouted encouragement to them as they raced down the dirt road.

Club gave small bells to each participant as a token of entry into the race which used to get pinned onto their shirts. This race later came to be known as the ‘Sturgis Motorcycle Rally’ and the bells pinned on the shirts of the motorcycle riders became famous.

Motorcycle bells used for commemoration

The bells are also called ‘Commemorative Bells’ sometimes. It has become a tradition for motorcycle riders to tie a bell to the left handle bar of the motorcycle in memory of a comrade who had passed away. Every time the handle is moved the bell tinkles and reminds the rider of a lost friend, companion or loved one.

The bells have various shapes and sizes. Some of them look like small church bells while other look like acorns made of metal with a small metal ball inside them making the tinkling noise. Even motorcycle companies sometimes make these bells with the enterprise name inscribed on them for riders who want to buy them.

Legend related to the Motorcycle Bell

The most popular belief among bikers is the legend that has been passed from one motorcycle rider to another by word of mouth and provides a story to the question ‘what does a bell on a motorcycle mean?’ The legend revolves around an old biker who was returning home from a trip to Mexico. Motorcycle riders believe that road gremlins await at dark nights around every dark bend and in lonely parts of the path towards waylay lone bike riders. They are thought to be evil creatures who love to put the motorcycle rider in danger of their lives by creating some disruption or other.

This old motorcycle rider was carrying saddlebags full of toys and gifts for the children of an orphanage near his home. The night was cold; there was no other soul to be seen and the motorcycle rider was lost in his thoughts. As he reached a bend in the road near the border, he thought he saw something in the beam of his motorcycle’s head light but wasn’t sure what it was. Soon he realized that they were nothing but road gremlins who descended on him in large numbers causing the wheels of his motorcycle to become jammed and malfunction.

The old rider was thrown off, and the saddlebags flew off as the vehicle skidded on the road and came to a stop as it fell. The old man could see the road gremlins dancing on the fallen motorcycle in joy and some of them started approaching him with evil intentions in their movements. As he lay on the road helplessly, he looked around for something to take up to defend himself. He found one of the saddlebags lying near and grabbed it. He took out the toys and gifts inside the bag one by one and started throwing them at the gremlins approaching him.

But soon he began running out of the contents and started waving the saddlebag at them to keep them at bay. As he waved the saddlebag, he heard a ringing sound coming from inside it from some bells attached to the toys remaining inside it. He was surprised to see the gremlins cover their ears with their hands at the sound of bells and wince in pain. He immediately understood that they were afraid of the ringing sound and pulled out the bells and started shaking them furiously. The noise of the bells not only kept the gremlins from attacking him but also attracted two motorcycle riders who had bedded down for the night beside the road a small distance away.

Guardian Bells

The two motorcycle riders appearing suddenly on the scene was a blessing in disguise to the old man under attack. They scared away the gremlins, helped him to his feet, pulled up the motorcycle from its fallen position and helped the old man to start it. Together all of them went to the place where the two motorcycle riders had set up a campfire. They spent the night together huddled in the sleeping bags around the fire and safe from the gremlins who would never approach a fire. The next morning they went on the separate ways.

When the old motorcycle rider wanted to pay the two motorcycle riders for their help in his time of distress, they refused to take any money. Realizing that they would not accept any money for saving him from untold misery, the old man thought that he should show some way of appreciation for their help in his time of need. So, he broke off two strings from the tassels of his saddlebags and tied a bell to each of the handlebars of their motorcycles. The tinkling sound of the bells could be heard above the noise of the engines as they drove away. Since that time the ‘Legends’ Bells’ became a token of friendship and help amongst motorcycle riders.

Motorcycle bells for camaraderie and friendship

The feeling of camaraderie and friendship between motorcycle riders is shown by the presence of bells on bikes. There are many versions of this legend, and it has been narrated differently at different times by word of mouth by various people. But the central theme of the question of ‘what a does a bell on a motorcycle mean?‘ is the close ties that the motorcycle riders enjoy among themselves whenever there is any danger around that may harm them.

The bells are a show of protection that they always offer to each other. You can buy a bell and hang it on the handlebar of your motorcycle, but if you receive one from somebody, then it means that you are blessed.

Featured Image Credit: American Legend Rider