Between bicycle music festival venues, the crowd and bands pedal around town on a big social ride. Two things that make these rides unusually cool beyond how cool it already is to pedal with hundreds of other revelers: recorded music and live music. In either case, it’s a bonus to have the music signal broadcast so that any rider with a receiver and a speaker can be part of creating the rolling soundscape. If the music is recorded, we call it Soul Cycling; if it’s a real-time musician or group, we call it Live On Bike.
Basic Components of a Live On Bike setup:
- musician(s): a solo guitar player is an obvious choice because you don’t need to mount the instrument; we’ve seen keyboard players, percussionists, and rappers; think what kind of music a cycling crowd would groove to—singalongs, anthems, cool covers; make sure you choose the right style of music for the time of day, e.g., downtempo for the late-late ride home—so the right mood is created and maintained throughout; mellow music during the high points of the ride is usually a poor choice; be attentive to the length of the set, too—just because the ride is an hour doesn’t mean you need to have live music the whole time; instead consider supplementing the live set with some Soul Cycling.
- bicycle to carry musician(s) and their instruments while a “driver” pedals and navigates: On the Northwest tour this summer, every bicycle music festival had a different kind of bike that we adapted for Live on Bike since we weren’t bringing our own with us. Most were 3-wheelers with different sizes of cargo platforms. But someone used a long haul, and a Mundo or other stiff longtail works. Anything that will carry a musician, instrument, mic, mixer and a speaker and/or transmitter. Rock the Bike has a Bikes at Work trailer attached to a motor-assisted Mundo. The trailer and extra juice enable a setup with up to three musicos
- microphone: this can be hand held, in a stand mounted to the bike, or a headset type
- mixer to mix vocals and/or instrument tracks: built into the speaker is a nice choice (see below); Rolls makes some compact, battery powered mixers that are also good for this application.
- transmitter to broadcast signal to other riders: we’ve used an FM transmitter and wireless in-ear monitoring system. The advantage of the FM system is that anyone with a radio can pick up the signal.
- receivers for other riders to participate in the system: these riders and their systems are called soundpods. They have everything they need to pick up the signal and blast it.
- monitor: the performer(s) need to be able to hear themselves. Although you can try to make sure a soundpod is always nearby, it’s much easier for the musicians if they have a monitor on the bike that’s carrying them.
- speakers and amplifiers: we like to use Class D self-powered speakers because then the amp and speaker are in one box and are efficient at converting the available electricity into sound. A speaker such as the JBL EON515 is a cool choice because it can be used as the speaker for your stage sound, live on bike, and soul cycling. It has a built-in 3-channel mixer meaning one less component to deal with for your LoB setup. It’s also possible to do this much cheaper and potentially more eco by using thriftstore speakers and a T-amp.
- electricity: the speakers, the mixer, and the transmitter all need electricity. This can be provided with a battery or generated on the spot if you have bike generators.
Of course, you don’t have to get all techy and equipment intensive to play music while riding a bike. Europe is home to many zany cycling musicians.