Rolling News. September 12, 2013.
Mooove over, Bessy. The recent sky-rocketing popularity of cycling combined with international trade issues has left many mid-western regions with an odd problem: a shortage of cowbells.
A staple at any cycling event, cowbells are rung long and loud as riders fly by in road races or finish up a tour ride. “Nothing spurs you on to the finish like a cowbell,” said local amateur racer Scott Richards. “However loud the crowd cheers. However much the sponsors pump up whatever pop-club mix through their speakers, nothing drowns out the cowbells.”
Except perhaps, complaints from Ranchers.
Local ranchers have been finding more and more cycling fans on their lands going on “cowbell hunts”. Still used on many ranches, cowbells are worn by freely roaming animals – usually cattle – so they can be heard if they wander off.
“There are fancier ways to track cattle these days: GPS tags and such. But ain’t nothin’ easier than cowbells, and there’s a traditional feel to ’em,” said local ranch hand Joe Burdans. Unfortunately, many of his bells have gone missing.
“People are breaking into the barns, looking for cowbells. They’re even out there stalkin’ the cattle, as bad an any wolves.” Break-ins and thefts increase dramatically the weekend before a large cycling event. When asked how they know it’s specifically cycling fans stealing the bells, Burdans replied, “They’re wearin’ all their branded clothes, like my cousin at NASCAR. You can’t miss ’em.”
“That’s absurd,” says long-time cycling fan Jillianne d’Silva. “If we were really stealing their cowbells, would we be dumb enough to wear cycling-branded clothing when doing it?” We tried to ask d’Silva more questions, but she turned away brusquely, pulling her Capo riding cap low and putting on dark tinted Rudy Project glasses. We noted a Castelli scorpion logo was on her left calf.
With the simple structure of cowbells, you might assume that they would be easy to come by. Unfortunately, most cowbells are not produced in the U.S. With trade issues arising with both the E.U. and China, our main sources for cowbells have been drying up.
Cycling fans are improvising, though not all successfully. At a weekly criterium series, fans can be seen carrying improvised bells made from metal tubs, large pots and metal spoons, and even a toy xylophone. There are apps as well that will turn your phone volume up to maximum while playing a ringing cowbell sound. This has lead to several broken phones, dropped when fans forget they weren’t holding real cowbells and began shaking them vigorously.
When asked if there are other items that can be used to cheer at these sporting events, local endurance rider Rob Bryson said, “Nope. Nothing can replace the cowbell.”
Some have tried. There have been sightings of people spinning towels above their head, much like at football games. These people are typically pushed to the back of the crowd, as their sub-maximal volume support is viewed as disrespectful to the riders. There have also been reports of several unfortunate incidents where fans who used vuvuzelas had them taken and were subsequently throttled with their own instruments.
In the meantime, ranchers are stepping up security measures, and locking away their cowbells at night until either cycling fans can be reasoned with or the cowbell shortage ends. “We can only hope the cowbell shortage ends soon,” said Rancher Burdans.