Rock The Bike: BLOG

Activist rapper Boots Riley’s spoken word at the People’s Climate Rally Oakland, Rock The Bike’s biggest event ever.

Oct 22, 2014Posted by in Featured News, Modified JBL Loudspeakers, Pedal Powered Stage Gear | Comments Off

Thanks to the 350.org Bay Area organizers, volunteers, and attendeeds, and Rock The Bike crewmembers who came together for the People’s Climate Rally this past September 21 on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland. A major highlight of the event was Boots Riley’s spoken word and song during the peak of the event when at least 2500 people were in attendance. Skip ahead to 5:15 to hear the poem (warning, language!) Check out the awesome dance moves of the pedaler on the Tree during the song Ghetto Blaster (at 3:12). It’s inspiring to hear an activist talk about people power while using a people-powered PA system.

In this second video, Rock The Bike’s Fossil Fool induces an outage in order to reenforce the message of people power:

It was our largest audience size to date by more than double,  the previous being the 2013 San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival in Golden Gate Park at about 1000.

The crowd size meant lots of new information to take in about live sound. While our 16-bike Pedal Power system functioned flawlessly, delivering a steady supply of power to our amplifiers (note the green Pedalometer in view under the speaker in the photo above), our audio system was at its limit.  We were simultaneously getting complaints from some people in the front row that the sound was too loud and requests from organizers for the sound to be heard in the kids zone on in the back corner. Interestingly the problem was only happening during speech, not during music. Music is a full-spectrum audio signal with bass, mid and treble. while speech is more concentrated on a specific frequency range. It was the peaks of the speeches that were hard on the ears of the front rows.

The way that traditional audio companies handle a situation like this is with taller line arrays in which more of the speakers are aimed at the back. But this uses lots of power. The other way to deal with it, and our plan for large events in the future, is to position repeater stations mid-way through the audience with a time-delayed audio signal so that the sound from the stage and the sound from the repeaters arrives at the same time to the ears of the people at the back. The cool thing about the repeater stations is that they could be powered by bikes right by the speakers. We would probably use our standard One Bike / One Speaker system for this. Then people in the middle of the crowd won’t have to walk all the way to the front to pitch in some Pedal Power!

Speaking of Pedal Power, check out the beautiful color theory array of Generator Pros in our Biker Bar below:

We were proud to set the stage with the taller elements of the bamboo tripods and El Arbol, the Bike Tree. The organizers had focused on organizing —  inviting the many groups and coalitions of activists and environmentalists that made the day a success — and didn’t have a plan for the feng shui of the stage. No problem! Rock The Bike is happy to help create a sense of theatrical presence at our events. Look how the tall components frame Boots Riley during his spoken word below:

Another element that made the People’s Climate Rally a win for us was the volunteer roadies.

We requested that 350 Bay Area hook us up with 4 volunteer roadies who could help us transport our entire system to the event without cars and trucks. You can see some clips of the roadying in the second video above. We put our trailer wheels in our Generator Pros and installed them behind volunteers’ bikes. We rode with music into the setting sun. The ride was about 5 miles, and was pretty flat. The rides are a great bonding experience for volunteers and crew and we thanked riders with pizza back at our Oakland shop.

 

Old and new Fender Blender Pro seatposts. If your old one is causing your seat to slip back, we want to get you a new one.

Sep 17, 2014Posted by in Featured News, Fender Blender Pro, Generator Pro | Comments Off

We are offering a free upgrade to anyone whose Fender Blender Pro seatpost looks like the one on the left and is experiencing seat slippage:

Old seatpost on left doesn’t hold angles well.

The issue is that the older style, sold in 2012 and 2013, can lose the knurling that holds the seat angle you set. Once it has slipped a couple times, the problem gets worse. Even if you tighten its bolt with good torque, your seat may slip back and up, looking like this:

The seat should be flat, not pointing up like this.

The new seatpost has better clamping force and more pronounced ridges that hold angles better. Check it out:

The new seatpost (on right) has better grip on angles.

To take advantage of this offer, call us at 888-354-BIKE (2453) or email us through the contact page.

Using Pedal Power with larger crowds.

Jul 28, 2014Posted by in Featured News | Comments Off

From our vantage point the events world seems to be ever growing, and out of passion for spreading our bike message and in the interest of providing the best gear we can to our customers, we continue to test our activities with larger crowds. In this post we’ll share some of what we’ve learned about bringing Bike Blending and Pedal Powered music to larger events.

When we work at this scale we now go through a complete process that includes applying for a temporary health permit (ideally 2-3 weeks ahead of time to avoid late fees). The Health Permit process will vary in different cities, but in Oakland, it involves bringing a 3-bin wash station, a hot water insulated jug, enough cooler space to separate servable ice (ice that goes in smoothies) from the ice used to keep other ingredients cold. The enclosed tent shown above is also required. It also helps draw attention and support the beautiful hand-sewn sign.


Above: we set up our smoothie booth at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Our crew of 3 served about 400 smoothies in 7 hours. Above: Carolina gives the ‘countdown’ to a teenager, encouraging him to crank out 5 more seconds of high energy pedaling.

Across the Bay, our crew of 4 entertained thousands of runners at the finish line of the SF Half Marathon, with a 5-bike, 4-speaker sound system.

Getting it there: On our smoothie booth, once all the extra smoothie jugs and coolers are accounted for, it gets harder and harder to bike it there. While Rock The Bike prides ourselves on replacing car trips with bike trips, we no longer use cargo bikes to transport the ingredients and supplies to our largest events. We now use the pickup truck, which can easily haul a full day’s supply of gear and food, and transport the crew as needed. You could probably do it with a station wagon too.

We shopped for this event at CostCo and got the bananas donated by Whole Foods, who were sponsoring the event. CostCo now sells a variety of organic and conventional foods and allows us to get close to wholesale on our ingredients cost. We spent about $300 on the smoothie ingredients and brought in about $900. Smoothies sold for $5 or $4 if you brought your own cup. We brought 2 Fender Blender Pros used a total of 6 of our professional grade Vitamix pitchers.

The crew of 3 included 1 chef to prep the smoothies, 1 coach to take money and help people on and off the bikes, and a third floater to wash the pitchers or help coach.

By making tradeoffs like substituting pickup trucks for cargo bikes, and heading to CostCo versus the farmers’ market, we have been able to increase the number of smoothies we sell, giving many more people their first taste of Pedal Power. Stepping on a bike, pedaling, and accomplishing something awesome is an experience that has the potential to transform the way people think about their health and their energy use. Our priority at events is to provide this experience to lots of people, so that they feel great about what they can do with their own power.

On Sunday morning we were up before dawn to set up a 5-bike Pedal Powered DJ rig for the finish line of the San Francisco Marathon’s half marathon race.

Golden Gate Park was a perfect fit for Rock The Bike and El Arbol. The runners stayed, stretched, danced, took selfies, and pedaled all morning long. We even made a bike blended smoothie with the womens’ first place finisher. DJ Izzy Wise had a great ‘Global Bass’ set, very different from the Top 40 sound that runners may be used to at other races. Very San Francisco!

The fact that they had only run 13 miles, not 26, meant that the runners had more energy for us than when we have done the full marathon finish line. By using our Lithium batteries in combination with Pedal Power, we were able to vary the effort level so that runners got a satisfying ‘cool down’ from our bikes.

Technically speaking, we benefited greatly from having a large meadow to ourselves, i.e. having very little sound bleed to and from other activity areas. The sound from the Tree was able to reach out to all the runners getting their medals and reconnecting with family. And the announcer at JFK was over 100′ away and was still able to speak to the finishers without our music bothering him. El Arbol is essentially a Modified JBL PRX 635 and 612 in one. We coupled it with a Modified JBL PRX 618 XLF subwoofer, and then provided one more 612 to Izzy as a monitor.

I found the experience of being at the halfway point really energizing. I was at once experiencing the sweet celebrations of the 13-mile runners, and also rooting for the full marathon runners who were streaming by so beautifully.

Moberi entrepreneur survives Shark Tank, reps Human Power

Mar 27, 2014Posted by in Featured News, Fender Blender Pro | Comments Off


Ryan Carpenter gets the Sharks pedaling healthy smoothies as he pitches his Pedal Powered smoothie carts on National TV.

Click here to watch the full episode. Ryan’s appearance is at the beginning.

In a sense, Moberi’s Shark Tank segment was the perfect microcosm of the current debate between environmentalists and pro-business voices. The conservative sharks grilled Ryan about his ability to grow his biz without electric blenders (fossil fuels), while Ryan insisted that his customers want a more organic experience of life, and prefer to pedal their own smoothies, using Bike Blenders purchased from Rock The Bike.”Do you have a normal blender back there you can use if the line is long?”

“No,” said Ryan “that’s the beauty of it!”

Well said!

Having produced large smoothie booths at events ourselves, we know that Bike Blending doesn’t hold you back from quenching the thirst of a crowd. You just need to have an efficient system, a good team, and plenty of spare pitchers. Although Ryan didn’t lure the Sharks into making an investment, he successfully defended Pedal Power!

Wonder what those smoothies taste like? Visit Moberi in Portland OR. Or use our map to find a Fender Blender in daily use closer to you.

We’re moving! Open house April 3. (Reprint of National newsletter).

Mar 27, 2014Posted by in Featured News | Comments Off

It is with great hope and excitement that we invite you to the Open House of our beautiful new headquarters in the Golden Gate District of Oakland, CA. The occasion will also mark the celebration of our 10th Birthday.  We have been in business since September 2003 and are in our 10th year of providing products and services that combine our love of bikes, music, the earth, food, community, and education.

As our new decade begins we continue taking part in the environmental transformation and awakening happening right now on the planet. How can we resist environmental degradation and transition to a sustainable future? What types of changes do we need to make? We believe that our offerings are helping everyday people ask and answer those questions with joy, humor, and physical involvement.

We enter our new decade with a solid foundation and a commitment to serve our key constituencies: Event people, bike people, educators, entertainers, health and food advocates. Our bike blenders are increasingly dependable, affordable, available, and supported by a lively community of co-entrepreneurs and personalities. Our Pedal Powered Stage is ready for 3000-person concerts and is undergoing a rebuild that’ll make it more beautuful and suited to travel. The circuitry we use in our Pedal Power Utility Boxes is now Open Source. In short, we are seeking to make our highest impact, now!

We say YES to green entrepreneurs and food brands, activists and event planners, gyms and insurance companies, schools and individuals willing to examine where our food comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our fun comes from!

We say YES to music, to the amazingly talented collaborators who have grown alongside us, some of whom will be performing at our Open House.

We say YES to our loyal team putting their lives into this effort.

We say YES to the old school customers who still read our emails, even if they’re just hoping for some news on the long-awaited Down Low Glow.

To all who have been part of our story, come check out our new space on April 3, the first Thursday in April. We invite you to tour, celebrate our 10 year milestone, and enjoy great local music, local beer, dancing, Ice Cream and more.

As of April 1st our office and workshop will be open at:
6323 San Pablo Ave Oakland, CA 94608.Please update your records to reflect this change. Our 510 number may change but no change in our toll-free number: 888-354-BIKE.

Facebook open house invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/739110252788575/

Chobani Team USA Spin Class video going viral. Here’s our behind the scenes look.

Feb 22, 2014Posted by in Blog, Featured News | Comments Off

With viewcounts racking up, Chobani’s Team USA Experience is officially going viral. 30 everyday athletes are introduced into a new environment and invited to pedal to power an incredible spin class that unfolds before them with live music, interactive LED art, and a huge hillside projection.  Rock The Bike produced the Pedal Power Spin Class system and the interactive lighting: per-bike LED strips that  responded to individual pedaling effort, and a 16′ LED mandala. The 4-speaker sound system was the same we use at our Pedal Powered DJ events and medium-sized concerts. You can see the all important Pedalometer (the light tube that shows pedalers how hard to pedal) and two of our generators: the Generator Pro and the Generator Wheel and stand combo.

Here’s a Behind-the-Scenes look that shows our experience of producing the Spin Class. You can follow the captions and dialogue to see how we recognized and overcame one of our main technical challenges: too much power. With 30 athletic pedalers, there weren’t enough output power devices connected to use up all the power. Whether we’re setting up a 1-bike music system, or a 20 person Pedal Powered Stage (music concert), the goal is the same: to create an energy environment where the pedalers are challenged or at least engaged by keeping a certain device ON. You have to anticipate and set up enough bikes to share the load.  At the Chobani shoot, the challenge was the opposite: we needed enough load to deal with the power from the bikers. On the practice day (pedalers wearing their normal workout clothes), we faced numerous overvoltage trips.  An overvoltage trip happens when a Pedal Power Utility Box disconnects pedalers from its electronics to prevent voltage from climbing to dangerous levels. Although this is a safe method for dealing with high power moments, it’s a bit unpleasant for the pedalers. They suddenly feel pedaling get easy, which is especially awkward if they’re being asked by a Spin Class instructor to pedal hard! We needed a way to keep them in middle of the voltage range, so the next night we dropped a ‘halogen bomb’ on the spin class: 900 Watts of DC power that we could flip on in 300-Watt segments. Whenever the Pedalometer was approaching the white at the top, we’d turn on the dummy load and bring it back into the middle level of the green. Pedalers never tripped our system.

Interestingly we found that we only needed to use the dummy load in the first half of the class. By the second half, the lighting and music were challenging enough that we no longer needed to burn off power. We’d successfully worn out a 30-person Spin Class!

Brainfood promotes Nutrition and Health with a Bike Blender

Jan 16, 2014Posted by in Blog, Featured News, Fender Blender Bike Blenders from Rock the Bike, Fender Blender Universale, Media, Reviews | Comments Off

A look at the workshops the Community MVPs have done with Brainfood‘s very own bike blender.

As the President/CEO of Youth Service America said, “The smoothie tasted even better knowing that I contributed to it.”

Brainfood is a non-profit youth development organization in Washington, DC. Using food as a tool, Brainfood builds life skills and promotes healthy living in a fun and safe environment. They are using the Fender Blender Universale Stationary Kit for their workshops.

Highlights from Ecochella at UCLA

Jan 5, 2014Posted by in Blog, How to produce a Pedal Powered event, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Ecochella was a student-produced live music event on the UCLA campus that was completely bike-powered thanks to our Pedal Powered Stage. We drove down to LA in a loaned pickup truck, carrying with us a 12-bike system ready for an audience of up to 1000 students. 

 

The size ended up closer to 500, but the cool part was how engaged those students were. We had solid Pedal Power, great music, and a climactic all-up-front closer, the Dustbowl Revival. Hats off to student organizer Rachel Woods-Robinson for wanting to bring a human powered concert to UCLA. Check out the videos below.

Many colleges and Universities produce some type of Spring Fling concert on campus. By involving Human Power, the campuses can take advantage of a huge learning opportunity. Above, a dynamic sign shows how much Wattage has been generated by students so far.

More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rockthebike/sets/72157633641398367/with/8813100129/

More videos:

Holiday Greetings (reprint of newsletter)

Dec 21, 2013Posted by in Blog, Featured News | Comments Off

Bike Blenders growing in popularity and variety. 

Above: Wheely Good Smoothies in Baltimore continues to dazzle at farmers markets with their customized Fender Blenders. The newest is their Rainbow Fish (using the Fender Blender Pro as the base).

 

Bike Blenders continue to be a force for good, both out in the world and in our business. Good for business because of the amazing outreach that happens each time our customers use their blenders in the community. Thank you, we really appreciate it! We’re seeing strong interest and even fellow human power entrepreneurs, i.e. competition, in the UK and Australia. There is an increasing acceptance among event people and educators that bike blenders work: they’re reliable, fun, engaging, and educational, and you get to nourish people with thick, healthy, tangy smoothies and other treats. 

It’s an exciting time for innovation on Bike Blenders at RTB as well. We’re stoked to be working with BlendTec on a new Fender Blender (BlendTec) line. High performance, American-made, and with a mission that resonates with ours, the Utah-based company (both manufacturing and design / HQ) are pedal powering their very own Fender Blender Pro (BlendTec) and raving about it.         

“We’ve been getting an awesome response all around internally and externally!” sayeth BlendTec. 
 
We hope to be selling all of our Fender Blender models with a BlendTec upgrade option this coming spring. We will continue selling the Vitamix and Oster-compatible versions of all our Fender Blender models.  
 
Got a business, school or event in mind for the Fender Blender? Make a referral and we’ll send you a T-Shirt.  

 

3000 Person Concert System fits in a briefcase

 

We got inspired at this year’s San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival, where for the first time our audience hit 1000. One of the pleasures of that day was the relaxed feeling of Pedal Power. With over 20 bikes and new aerial-rigged speakers, we had no outages and great festival-grade sound all day, all the way out at the road.  
human powered bicycle music festival
SF Bicycle Music Festival. Photo: Erin Sanchez.
 
We want to do more concerts at this scale and beyond. We believe our ultra-efficient PA and Pedal Power system is ready for 3000-person audiences, and we want to share it in new places. We’ve started rebuilding our PA system with a translucent stacking / nesting / Russian Dolls design, to reduce its storage and shipping volume by 60%, while improving its beauty at night. The project is off to a promising start. Below, demolding wave guides. Photo: Mike Cobb.   
 
pedal powered concert  
Got an exciting connection for a large Pedal Powered concert? We would appreciate your referrals to anyone in the concerts field. If it leads to an event we’ll say thanks with a Rock The Bike T-shirt or hoodie.   
Down Low Glow: Don’t call it a comeback!  
 

Above: Adam and Sophie know the value of a good safety light in the short days of winter. 

 

Many of you have been wondering if the Down Low Glow is ever going to come back. We’ve even wondered ourselves. But the story is changing because we have passed a major milestone on our Side Visibility street glow light: the first rideable prototype. The flat lithium battery, power switch, and circuitry are all protected in a single tube. No more wires! The light looks just as good, and it turns on fast in cold weather. Unfortunately still no ETA. But this project is happening and is moving forward. Thanks for your ongoing support!

Last few highlights from 2013:   
 
- First year with full-time employees at Rock The Bike (Brittany and Laird). The main benefit has been faster shipments, fewer out of stock periods, and better order accuracy.      
 
- Operation Freedom Grinder video goes viral. We rescued our stolen cargo bike with a Pedal Powered angle grinder to an offending U-Lock, using our own Pedal Power Utility Box to power the tool.     
 
Bicycle Music Festival fans ride together.

Above: Bicycle Music Festival LiveOnBike audience caravan. Photo: Volker Neumann. 

 

- Great rides! Final ride of the year is this Saturday

Thanks for your support and happy holidays!

 
Fossil Fool and RTB 
 We send updates like this a few times a year.  Click here to get on Rock The Bike’s national email list.