Basic Live On Bike Setup

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.

StitchCraft LoB

Heather Normandale of StitchCraft sings to the rolling throngs at the first Vancouver, B.C. BMF, 2009. Aaron from Aaron’s Bicycle Repair pedals the long-haul style bike. Note: powered speaker with mixer, antenna for FM transmitter, me behind carrying a linked speaker. Inside the bucket with her is a car battery and an inverter for power.

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.

One comment to “Basic Live On Bike Setup

  1. The look on my face is there for a reason!
    A mile or so into the ride one of the pedals stripped out of the crank.
    Someone had not properly torqued it or I AM the man of steel! Either way, it was a fun ride toting Heather the rest of the way. I don’t think she even knew. I had a great time, none the less. Every single BMF I have ever been to has been life changing. For the better, I might add, and I have been to a few now. Life just keeps getting better…..thanks to the musicians!

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