I’ve been thinking about the comparisons between Bike Culture and Hip Hop culture. One of the cool things about Hip Hop is that it has four clearly defined elements: Rap, Breakdance, Graffiti, and DJ’ing.
It seems like Bike Culture could have similar pillars: tall bikes, critical mass, night rides with music, riding in the rain, fixing a friend’s flat tire, etc. Perhaps human power might be one of these pillars also?
Here’s a video shot in Austin at their annual Moonlight Cruise. We were at one of the rest stops, and I popped the Choprical Fish onto it’s beefy center stand and pedal powered some dance music. You can get a sense of how well attended this ride is, especially considering it began at 2AM!
On the 2-Mile Challenge tour, a specially customized schoolbus rolls into public locations — a college campus, a farmer’s market, or the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica — and rolls out the red carpet. Spectators walk on to the bus and see video screens of bike culture around the world, including footage shot at the San Francisco Cruiser Ride, and footage of bicycle use in East Africa, provided by Worldbike.org. As spectators move through the bus, they can punch in their address at a computer to see cool locations (cafes, bike shops, etc.) located within 2 miles of their home. They then make a personal pledge to ride, and learn about different bicycle options that will work for them — folding bikes, Sport Utility Bicycles, etc.
Outside the bus, the musicians extoll the bike lifestyle with clever lyrics and catchy tunes. The Ginger Ninjas, led by frontman Kipchoge Spencer, have been performing in Northern California for the past 8 years, and are about to launch a major bicycle-based tour to Mexico. The Bike Rapper, Fossil Fool, (yours truly) has recently taken his street-performing styles to the next level, hosting impromptu human-powered dance parties in his hometown of San Francisco.
The musicians engage directly with the audience, and pull them into the interactive 2-Mile Challenge bus.read more
photo: Faster Panda Kill Kill
So DJ Manny and I made the bold move of scheduling a social ride to debut the UMDJ on my last night in Austin. It was a major push, the fourth day in the workshop. We attached the bottoms of the main speaker cabinets, screwed the tweeters into their horns, created a wiring harness, installed a control panel with four switches into the rear of the right cabinet, mounted the amp on the underside of the DJ table, welded in a mounting bracket for the battery, and installed the lighting inside the frosted translucent polycarbonate cabinets.
The ride was scheduled for 8 O’clock. We connected the last wires at 7:45 and immediately blew the fuse in the amp. Wired the polarity backwards! What a basic error! That’s what happens when you rush. Miraculously, the next door neighbors had two new fuses. I fixed the wiring, hit the switches, and bam! Cabinet lighting works! Rear Down Low Glow works! Front Down Low Glow works! Amp turns ON!
Quick, load the UMDJ and the Choprical Fish… in the… Nissan Armada? Dang! I hate for the first journey of any new party bike to be in a fossil-fuel powered vehicle, let alone the biggest SUV ever made, but we were late for the ride. Sometimes you have to put people ahead of principle. Oh well, we can’t win every battle. And DJ Manny is planning to leave it downtown so he can ride it to future gigs. As we rolled up to the starting point of the ride, we saw 40 bikers waiting in the Whole Foods parking lot. I begged DJ Manny to park a block away so we could roll in under our own steam. My fingernails scraped the dashboard as he pulled into the lot. We were half an hour late and he just wanted to get there as soon as possible to be kind to people who were waiting. We opened the trailer and unveiled the UMDJ in all it’s glowing, mothership glory.
DJ Manny took the first spin on the rear-facing DJ table. Maintaining eye contact with the crowd as he spun tracks, he stoked the party energy. People rode directly behind the UMDJ, pushing it up hills, basking in the beat.
The music was hard hitting, dance worthy beats. My favorite track was the dance remix of “Just Another Excuse”, which came during DJ Big Face’s set. Bob Farr and I shot about 30 minutes of video of the ride. I’ll try to post it soon. I want you guys to experience it, even if through a YouTube window. It will inspire.
I was double-checking the address for a customer named John from Tokyo. I asked him how he heard about the Down Low Glow:
I’m a BMX street rider in Tokyo (from SF/ Bush St) and last night I was nearly run down (GTA style) by a Taxi. Same story different town, right? Well I knew that my lame head set light wasn’t cutting the job, so I had to find something that would really work and look cool too. After about an hour of searching the net, I found your photos on flickr.com. Man, once I saw your product and the cool photos I was 100 percent sold. And duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude, I can’t wait to hook up my lights and cruze the streets like Night Rider. I bet I’ll get lots of inquires about the lights too, so if you want some business coming from the East could you send in some stickers or something that I can pass out? You know if you have the time.
Thanks again man and all the best,
Amanda pedals the Choprical Fish at one of the stops on last night’s sweet moonlight cruise, which began at 2AM on a local pedestrian bridge. This annual ride was up there with the best social rides I’ve experienced. More pictures to come. Thanks Austin!read more
I’ve been posting these to You Tube for the last few years. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Three women sat at the top of the escalator. A roller blader took a hundred foot lead in, then cleared the women and took the escalator backwards.
2. I immediately went for my camera when I saw this woman. I had my friend Emily stand just outside the frame of this video so I could grab the action incognito.
3. I first met Austin at the Crissy Field pullup bar last year. He’s dope. What more can I say.
4. BMX pro Pete Brandt practicing at Embarcadero and Market in SF.
5. Bike Culture from San Francisco. Inventor Max Chen twists, chops, and distorts bikes to make a big visual impact. This pet squirrel is one of his simplest mods, but one of my favorites as well. (more)
6. Live Billboard Project. Dancers under the direction of Jo Kreiter transform a brick facade into a stage with beautiful acrobatics and great lighting and music.
DJ Manny and I are collaborating on the Ultimate Mobile DJ rig, a rickshaw-based 1000-watt DJ system with a typically ‘foolish’ combination of elegant wiring, neon regalia, and multi-person capacity.
Manny is a well-known DJ who has recently opened for Prince, Bob Dylan, Matisyahu, Thievery Corporation, and Sofa Surfers. He’s ready to take is act to the streets!
Now we’ve got 4 days to turn a pedicab into a party bike. It’ll be my fastest Soul Cycle effort to date. Fortunately, Manny’s welder Francisco is quite enthusiastic and capable.
I’ll leave from here on Tuesday morning to rejoin the Clif Bar 2-Mile challenge. It’s a bit Fossil Foolish to fly here. But I really wanted to take this gig. I loved Manny’s vision and I think he’s going to take the street party culture to new levels.
I brought my Choprical Fish with me to Austin. Last night in Vegas I had to hustle to pack into two boxes. (The airline only charged me for one.) I’ll be doing the Moonlight Ride tomorrow with Austin bike people.read more
Hey I know there’s a lot of people reading this who have friends in Austin. So please pass it on! We’ll be debuting the new UMDJ, DJ Manny’s new performance rickshaw, and cruising downtown. Here’s the flyer designed DJ Manny himself.
I’m trying to keep our Flickr account well stocked with process photos from Austin. Check back in with this page — it’ll reload a random selection of process photos. Click any of the photos to learn more of what we’re up to.read more