Knog Oi Luxe bell review: Better in every way, but maybe not better enough

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Knog is stepping up its bell game with the new Oi Luxe, a much more refined and better-engineered version of the bell that took the crowdfunding world by storm in 2016. It’s still a very slick design, and is vastly improved in every functional way, but is that enough to win back the backers it lost, or for it to topple Spurcycle? That all depends.

The original Knog Oi made quite the splash when it first debuted on Kickstarter in 2016. It smashed its original AU$20,000 target with a final tally of more than AU$1 million in backer money and almost 21,000 backers after its 30-day campaign. Its design was unlike anything else on the market, with a very low-profile form factor that closely wrapped around the bar, a novel arc-shaped aluminum “dome”, and a trio of classy anodized aluminum colors.

It was a bell that you were supposed to be proud to attach to your bike, not one that you actively wanted to hide away.

The only problem was that it wasn’t very good.

The faux leather liner prevents handlebar damage, and also seems to provide some extra grip on problematic surfaces.

Knog ran into all sorts of problems with order fulfillment, but even when backers eventually received their orders, the bell was a functional dud. While its tone was pleasant, it was too quiet to be effective at any sort of reasonable distance. It rattled incessantly on anything other than smooth tarmac. The cheap plastic hammer was notorious for disintegrating.

In other words, it was the classic all-show-no-go.

Knog hasn’t given up on the basic design, though, and the original Oi has undergone some refinements, such as stiffer mounting springs and a stronger hammer that supposedly have improved both its tone and its durability. That Oi 2.0 is still in the lineup, but there’s also now the Oi Luxe, which boasts a very similar overall look but a more, uh, deluxe look and feel.

The base is now made of metal instead of plastic, the hammer is a sturdy bit of stainless steel with a barrel-shaped brass end, and although the aluminum chord is still attached with a couple of tiny springs, it’s nevertheless a sturdier setup than it was before.

Knog seems to have taken some cues from Spurcycle for the design of the Oi Luxe’s hammer, not to mention the generally premium look and feel.

To prevent damage to delicate carbon fiber or thin-walled aluminum handlebars, the clamp is now lined with a strip of faux leather. And as before, there are channels built into the clamp body through which derailleur and brake lines can pass through as needed.

Once again, there are two sizes available: one with a 22.2mm clamp diameter for use on mountain bikes, and another with a 31.8mm diameter for road applications. Whereas the original Oi was offered in four colors, the Oi Luxe is available in three: silver, brass, or black. Weight has gone up across the board, from 17g on the original small-sized Oi to 32g on this one, and from 25g to 47g on the large size, although design-minded buyers aren’t likely to care much about that.

Retail price has gone up as well, all the way up to US$60 / AU$60 / £35 / €40, putting it well within spitting distance of the highly regarded Spurcycle.

A much better effort

I’ll say this right away: the Oi Luxe is way, way better than the original Oi.

It’s noticeably louder than the old tinny-sounding Oi, yet its tone is still light and friendly-sounding. The metal hammer is far more tolerant of abuse, and honestly seems almost impossible to break under normal use. And by ditching all of that cheap-looking black plastic, the Oi Luxe looks a lot better than the original version, too.

I was originally pretty skeptical of the way the aluminum dome attaches to the Oi Luxe, but months of regular use on gravel road rides and plenty of burly trail rides have largely cast those aside. The Oi Luxe still rattles, mind you, but it requires just the right combination of rough road and calm conditions for it to be very noticeable. Even then, it’s lighter and a lot less annoying than was the case with the old one.

The neat design still generates a few admirers, but it unfortunately isn’t quite as audibly attention-getting. As before, the tone is gentle and pleasant, but it just doesn’t generate the sort of piercing volume or sustain that the Spurcycle does. In comparison, I liken the Oi Luxe to politely whispering to someone that you’re approaching from behind — which is arguably the preferred strategy in many cases, anyway.

But if you’re trying to give people more advanced notice from a greater distance, or if the person you’re trying to alert is wearing headphones and is clearly oblivious to their surroundings — a massive pet peeve of mine — the Oi Luxe isn’t nearly as effective as the Spurcycle, which can be shockingly loud if you want it to be, but also gentle and friendly-sounding with a lighter pull of its uncannily similar-looking hammer.

The once and future king

Given the newfound similarity in price, Knog is now encroaching on Spurcycle’s territory, which obviously begs the question: which one should you buy?

If your primary objective is design, the Knog Oi Luxe is tough to beat. Simply put, there’s nothing else on the market that looks anything like it (aside from copycat knockoffs, of course), and kudos to Knog for pulling off a genuine advancement in what would otherwise seem to be an utterly stagnant category.

As compared to the original Oi (right), the Oi Luxe (left) is a massive improvement.

However, if design is important to you, but you care more about function, the Spurcycle is still the undisputed champion, at least in my book. Although the design isn’t as clever, it’s still very eye-catching, and its sturdy construction has proven to be virtually indestructible (and even if something does break, you can send it back to Spurcycle’s factory in San Francisco for repair, which you can’t do with Knog).

Ultimately, Knog would have made a bigger impression on me had the Oi Luxe replaced the original Oi at the same price. But instead, the company has positioned it as a more premium option for those that want a little more … luxury? That’s all well and good, but that strategy would be easier to accept if the original Oi worked better.

My suspicion is that Knog will do just fine with the Oi Luxe on shop floors. Although pretty pricey, it’s got undeniably good curb appeal and it works well enough. But more value-minded buyers would be smart to look at something from Japanese company Crane (or even the old standby, the Incredibell). And as for those original Oi backers? Well, I suspect Knog has already lost most of those to Spurcycle at this point, anyway, and in my opinion, the Oi Luxe won’t move the needle enough for them to come back.

A fantastic effort, Knog, but arguably too little, too late.

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