Nov 30, 2016Posted by fossilfool in Blog | Comments Off on Interview: RTB’s support of the 2016 Pleasant Revolution tour
In summer 2016 we supported and rode with the Pleasant Revolution bike music tour of the West Coast. Here’s an interview in which Kipchoge Spencer, the founder of the Pleasant Revolution, asks RTB’s founder Paul Freedman ( a.k.a. Fossil Fool) about the experience. The photos are Paul’s.
KS: What made you want to join the tour?
PF: I’ve been taking myself on increasingly long summer bike tours for years and have always found it to be a high point of the summer. I knew I wanted to join for week or more when I heard about it. Just to be on bike tour was my main motivation. I also wanted to back up their purchase of our pedal powered gear.
KS: How long did you ride, days/miles? From where to where?
PF: I joined the crew on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia—they were already on tour. I met them at the Farmers Market when they were setting up for a Biketopia Music Festival. I stayed with them for two weeks, until Seattle, and then joined them again on the Sonoma coast of California for another stint. I think our biggest day of riding was 50-55 miles approaching Seattle. I felt it on the train ride home, I could barely walk!
I always like combining public transportation with bike touring. To meet up with them the first time, I took Amtrak to Seattle, a ferry to Victoria, B.C. and then biked from there to the Salt Spring ferry. The second time I was able to take a bus from San Francisco to the coast to meet up with them.
KS: You’ve toured with the PleasantRevolution before, in 2010 in Spain. Except for Heather Normandale, one of the artists, this was a completely different crew this year. How did this one compare to the PleasantRevolution that the Ginger Ninjas led?
PF: Two of the main differences were the consensus decision making process and the stated goal of it being a women led tour. (Although that seemed a little contradictory—being consensus on the one hand but “women led” on the other). In Spain I had seen you leading the tour and everyone else playing their supporting roles.
The level of difficulty seemed lower this time to me on the parts I was on. But that’s not a fair comparison because when I joined in Spain you were in the heart of the Pyrenees and had been riding for months.
There were a lot of first time riders, folks who’d never been on a bike tour before, who began as musicians much more than bike riders. A really strong value was that the tour be a group uplifting process. It was more nurturing and focused on empowerment of every rider.
Daily meditation practice in Port Angeles. Note the huge logging truck!
I felt that in the participation at the shows, where there was a strong value that everyone should have a voice and a purpose. Like, for instance, there was a dedicated MC (Nate) and there were circus elements and clowning for non-musicians (Nicky and Mega).
When I joined in Europe there were some particular days when I felt like it was a really athletic endeavor. Like the day we went probably 60 miles, mostly on dirt, through twelve pitch black old railroad tunnels and over a small mountain and I had lots of flats, too. That time I had a fully loaded cargo bike with sound equipment and group gear, and this time I had a pretty easy experience with a titanium road bike and very little group gear, since I knew the the tour had the load carrying bases covered without my help.
Playing shows in North America was really different than Europe. More organizing and pre-planning was needed here, whereas we did more impromptu gigs in Europe where we’d just show up in a city square, set up and play. I think that was both because of the personalities on this tour and the laws. This crew didn’t want to get hassled or forced to stop playing and they did the pre-work to get permission and make sure it didn’t happen.
KS: Favorite day of riding?
PF: I had a couple. The favorite moment was moving towards Port Townsend, Washington in the evening, on the 20.
Dusk ride toward Port Townsend.
I volunteered to go in back because I had a strong taillight and we’d been warned about truck traffic on that road. The group was staying very tight, moving steadily up a 4 mile hill together. There were some big logging trucks that passed us; they were all pretty respectful but it was a big deal when we got passed as it took them a couple minutes to pass us all. During that time you’d hear them rumbling and you’d hear the group calling out to each other to stay safe. I was feeling the teamwork and the human powered nature of what we were doing, and the comparison to the fossil fuel and car culture directly to our left. Then the truck would drop out of site and we’d be riding through a quiet forest at dusk again.
KS: Hardest day or moment?
PF: There was a time in Port Townsend when I didn’t really want to be in the show environment. It was really cold, and I was wondering why we were trying (succeeding) in entertaining these five people, but as a visitor I didn’t want to be telling them what to do or trying to lead. I lost my travel wallet containing my passport and cash and I think it happened at that show somehow. But except for that one moment the whole experience lived up to the “pleasant” promise.
KS: How did it strike you that this new crew was also called the PleasantRevolution.
PF: I had helped facilitate this by encouraging you [Kipchoge and the Ginger Ninjas] to share the name. It reminded me of the Princess Bride and the Dread Pirate Roberts and how people can step up and use a name that has certain character associated with it. I was proud of you because it’s unusual to pass a name to something or someone else, when you’ve worked hard to establish it and grow its reputation. But I thought it worked well. The group definitely boosted up the name and used it a lot, and attracted people because of it. I think it will benefit whoever uses it in the future from the point of continuity.
KS: Rock the Bike lent a new Yuba Spicy Curry mid-drive electric cargo bike to the tour. How did it perform? [Paul is a minority owner of Yuba].
PF: I had a hunch that it would be helpful. It really shined in dealing with people’s health and injuries, enabling people switch to it when they needed to. They appreciated how intuitive it was, how auto it is that it just senses effort and helps you and thus has a really simple learning curve. Other than that, it carried a very heavy load. The battery range was a little short for some of the days on tour and sometimes the primary rider, Nate the sound engineer, would stop at a cafe and add some juice and then catch up. He called this ‘adding cayenne to the curry.’ There were some times when he really had to baby it to make it all the way to camp without the battery dying. I think next time they’d bring an extra battery, which is a small amount of weight compared to what they’re already hauling. Electrically and mechanically it worked perfectly. Mixing e-bikes in with the PleasantRevolution is a cool tradition that will probably continue. In Europe I had the [Yuba Mundo] Blue Whale and Thomas [Spellman, the Ginger Ninjas guitar player and pedal power system engineer] had the Stoke Monkey on his Big Dummy.
KS: Favorite gig?
PF: Not a gig, but a campfire jam on the Olympic Peninsula (same night as that epic hill climb I mentioned) was my fave. Gigs wasn’t my purpose for joining. Pedal powered shows often feel like work for me now, rather than expression. None had huge audiences, which is always important to me in a Pedal Powered show. I think it’s just inherently difficult to promote a show when you’re not in the town. In Spain we had nice audiences because of the dense downtowns where passerbys would just see us and stop to listen. On the West Coast it’s more spread out.
KS: Favorite campsite?
PF: The one I mentioned before, outside Port Townsend, was the one night we did pure wild camping. In was on a timber farm; we just ducked into the woods and slept under the big branches and stars. When it was time for a fire looking for wood was a joke. We were surrounded by it and making a campfire was more a matter of trying not to have wood in it. I also enjoyed being hosted by the couple who was part of the Victoria bike kitchen. In Europe when we stayed with people (versus wild camping) it was usually at squats—huge concrete floors, no cabinets or trim or heat. This tour was more pretty plush, home-wise.
KS: Did you unplug from the office or stay connected?
PF: I didn’t unplug for very long. There happened to be a pretty big sales inquiry while I was on tour, from the Democratic Convention, and I went for it with gusto, even talking to them on my headset while riding a couple times. I was excited by it while it was happening. I felt accepted by the group for doing my business even though I was the only one who wasn’t completely present with the group experience. I think people appreciated that I was overall generous with my time and energy, you know cooking, fixing bikes, and all the things that make a good Pleasant Revolutionary. I also felt good bringing in a big gig for the team back home, and I’d consider doing this again. Bike touring in general has become much more of a connected experience—the navigators this time were using Google Maps, for instance, and last summer on my Colorado tour we used YouTube to watch some ATVers’ footage to decide if we could do certain routes. Everything is just more connected now. I definitely did not try to disconnect.
KS: How did RTB support the tour?
PF: We donated a FBU Stationary Kit to the crowdfunding campaign, loaned our Spicy Curry, gave them discounts on their system and some other stuff like cam straps, and did some customizations that were unique to the needs of the tour,
like Xtracycle-specific Roll Up generators. When the tour did a homecoming at First Friday in Oakland, RTB showed up huge and brought out a stage lighting rig, El Arbol, and a bunch of Generator Pros.
Homecoming show at First Friday
I brought out El Arbol to help draw people to the homecoming show. Note Molly on stilts!
We also took the opportunity to bring a new level of engineering into their Pedal Power Utility Box, and achieved what I think is the holy grail by combining the efficiency of the DC-modified JBL loudspeakers with the simplicity of having everyone pedaling into the same energy bank. In the past we’ve had to have separate groups of riders for separate power inputs and that can be challenging to manage. The upgrade required a pretty fancy circuit called that we call the Decida, because it “decides” where to send any given electron coming its way from a pedaler based on which of the circuits (positive rail of DC, negative rail of DC, or AC) needs the energy at that moment.
Secret hilltop sendoff party. The Utility Box is next to the first bike’s wheel. The lid (open) has a Pedalometer inside that shows people how hard to pedal.
The system was completely stable for 30 shows, the entire tour, and achieved the efficiency we were hoping for. Four people could supply all the power for a subwoofer, all the AC needs of the instruments and two 15″ speakers.
Dara towing the subwoofer, which took on the name Subrina.
It’s the first time that any band has bicycled with a subwoofer, something Adley was proud of, and it really brought the sound to a higher level than any tour to date. The fact that it still only took four bikes to power it and that it never broke down is a true milestone that would amaze anyone who’s ever been on PleasantRevolution tour before.
KS: Why did you support the tour?
PF: I thought their motivation was pure — bringing pedal power to the people. Also Rock The Bike isn’t biking to nearly as many of our shows right now and I want to really support that
as it also speaks to our roots and core principles.
Also, my friends were doing it: Adley, Heather, and Carolyn, and I just wanted to support them!
KS: Does it benefit Rock the Bike?
PF: Hard to say, in terms of $ or exposure to people in the towns that we passed through. No one has said, Hey I saw you guys in Ashland and want some Pedal Power for my daughter’s school,
but in terms of building and supporting the community of
bike-powered artists and musicians it’s more tangible. It’s good for Rock the Bike’s name to say we’re supporting the PleasantRevolution as it continues to evolve.
To some degree I did it in faith that together somehow all of us are going to bring Pedal Power to a new place and look back on it with pride. I hope that through tours and awesome outreach and RTB’s innovation and willingness to have larger set of gear we’re going to break out and have a wider audience. Being part of the various efforts is a way of continuing that possibility.
KS: Any other inspirations? Songs? Life? Inventions?
PF: I felt inspired to create a new brand or a expand Rock the Bike to become a bike touring trainer and outfitter for people who don’t have all the gear or know-how. Like, we’d offer low carbon vacation packs with curated route maps, a lightweight tent, down sleeping bag, front packs, waterproof panniers, touring bike, etc.
I came up with a little snippet of a rap, about having a good system for where you put your stuff:
Put it where it goes,
You could lose your mind later.
Put it where it goes,
You could waste your time later.
You could make your friends mad.
Dropping what they’re doing cuz they’re trying to help you look
For that thing that’s already in your bag,
Put it where it goes!
KS: People who know you know that much of the inspiration for what Rock the Bike makes and sells has come from your personal passion for bike power, bike travel, bike community, and performing. Most of the early music-related Rock the Bike products had their origins in your and your friends’ street shows.
What’s your relationship to performing like these days?
PF: I’m definitely taking a break and not seeking the mic right now, and enjoying other forms of creativity. Technically, I’m in a migration between my Cardboard Box beat machine and the laptop and I haven’t made the full transition yet. I enjoyed performing a couple times on tour as a guest. It’s a good feeling to have memorized rhymes, to share them with the bike community and carry a messages with humor and funk.
KS: Anything else you’d like to add?
PF: The visit to the Yuba Bikes HQ in Petaluma was really sweet. It felt the way that I’d hope, wanting to link this new generation of mostly younger riders with the bike culture business community. We had a circle with the Yuba team for product feedback and mutual appreciation that made for a really sweet day. I’d like to continue doing that kind of diplomacy and advocacy.
A Recharge Bar is a combination of a Recharge Stationand a DJ Rig. It’s more than just a place to recharge phones; it’s downright groovy! It’s a place to relax, pedal, get your heart going, meet others, and send great music out to a larger space.
Conferences are all about the sharing of knowledge and connections between people. Lately, both of those things involve mobile technology. People share knowledge and connect to each other with the devices they hold in their hands, and those devices require power. At the Pedal Powered Recharge Bar, each bike has its 8 USB ports capable of charging up to 8 or more phones at once. (more…)
This latest video, shot by our friend and partner, Natan Lawson of Wheely Good Smoothies in Baltimore, shows how eight of our rental activities created a large cohesive space with a large exhibit at the recent Democratic National Convention in Philly.
Producers of large events are used to working in large spaces. Spaces that are typically empty and in need of shape, definition and life when they arrive. Just as it is the job of the wedding producer to remember the flowers, it is the job of our customers and rental clients to plan for both the visual impact and the function of everything in their spaces. (more…)
If you are located outside of the United States, you can still order a Fender Blender Pro from us! However, perhaps you might want to check for an official Rock The Bike dealer near to you! Use our interactive map to find a dealer in your home region!
“Whereas, Rock The Bike, located at 6323 San Pablo Avenue in North Oakland, and founded and owned by Paul Freedman, cares deeply about motivating others through fun activities to take action to help with the ongoing climate change crisis . . . . Whereas, everyone who pedals out a smoothie on a Fender Blender gets to feel the thrill of converting their muscle power to usable energy . . . . and Whereas the Oakland City Council wishes to recognize Rock The Bike, outstanding Oakland small business for the key role that they play in keeping our economy strong; now, therefore, be it . . . resolved that the Oakland City Council sincerely appreciates and extends a heartfelt thanks to Rock The Bike, and to all the small businesses located within the City limits for their investment in Oakland.”
Every year, as part of National Small Business Week, the Oakland City Council recognizes an exemplary business in each of the council districts, and this year Rock The Bike was one of them. (more…)
Rock The Bike is pleased to announce it’s umpteenth year involved in creating Pedal Powered Music offerings for multiple days at the Maker Faire of San Mateo. This event has grown to be one of the largest Maker Faires in the country, boasting ten’s of thousands of participants per day, and new technology and inspirations to make your mind bend. Rock The Bike has been a huge part of creating and inspiring innovation at the Maker’s Faire and Bay Area, through pedal powered concerts that make us think of where our power is coming from, and how we might want to use our time and energy more efficiently as an individual or community. So let’s get to it! Here is the line-up and details of the Bike ride down to Maker’s Faire 2016: (more…)
Feb 11, 2016Posted by fossilfool in Blog, Featured News | Comments Off on Dominique Christina performs “The Praise Poem” at Bicycle Music Festival 2015
It was one of the first spoken word performances at a Bicycle Music Festival and the first we’ve featured in a highlight video. The performance of a poem about being a woman is poignantly set on the Climate Justice! banner, a reminder of how our movements are connected.
If you love the poem as much as we do, check out Dominique Christina’s other videos and web site.
The Pedal Powered Stage was loud and clear that day with 24 Generators in beautiful rainbow formation. The volunteer crew of Bicycle Music Festival transported all the gear you see (with the exception of the elevated stage) by bicycle. The video shows a few short snippets of this huge bicycle roadying effort.
The Dubai Municipality’s Environmental Awareness Team took it to the people on Kite Beach as part of Car Free Day, an effort to pull over 30,000 private and government cars off the roads on February 21. Their custom branded Fender Blender Pros were the focus of their well-organized activation, drawing in people to experience the joy of pedaling, and then drink the tasty results of their efforts. The man on the left raising his hand is a ‘coach‘ — a crew member responsible for helping people on and off the bikes, pulling them in to the activity, raising or lowering the seat so they get maximum efficiency from their muscles, and cheering for them when they put their all into the pedals.
Sitting on the stool on the right side of this photo is an unassuming white form, but push the lever on it and you have a beast of a challenge — match the energy needs of an electric toaster by pedaling your hardest on an efficient bicycle generator. (more…)
Nov 25, 2015Posted by fossilfool in Blog, Featured News | Comments Off on This holiday season, we’re thankful to be participating locally in the Climate Justice movement
Photos by Marlon Aldana
As the weather turns nippy in Oakland and the Rock The Bike takes a breather from work to get in the holiday spirit, we wanted to take a moment to share this note of gratitude.
We are thankful to all our customers who have helped us grow our business and find a stable location in Oakland. You have given us the foundation and stability to make a difference in our local community, to say yes when a local Climate Rally needs a sound system and doesn’t want to rent it from ye’ olde diesel powered sound co. (more…)