Rock The Bike: BLOG

Fantastic pedal power social dynamics in the BBC’s powering-a-house experiment

Jan 12, 2010Posted by

I love how the pedalers get grossed out as they see the father of the house preparing to take a shower. It’s always cool when you can let the pedalers get the best seat in the house at a music event or let them in on a secret.  At Rock The Bike’s Pedal Powered Stage events, we serve up smoothies to the pedalers, bike blended of course. We’re thinking of putting the pedalers on a raised stage and lighting them at our Feb. 5th event.

The other moment that’s just classic about this video is when people continue running into the room to add more power and bring the system voltage back to the green. At first, they’re wearing the nice uniform: red jersey and cycling shorts. But as the system voltage continues to get clobbered by the energy hogging electric shower, the producers themselves run into the room wearing street clothes.

And you gotta love the cheering from the crowd when they successfully bring the voltage back from the brink.

A hot shower is, of course, one of the hardest things you can possibly pedal power. Apparently it takes 70 people to do so, (approximately 6000 watts!) Music is just the opposite. 1 person pedaling can get generate about 50-80 PDW (people dancing wildly), reminiscent of how an ant can carry 50 times its own weight in food.

Why is music so efficient? Is it just a coincidence that pedal powering music is easier than pedal powering lighting (even LED lighting), projecting a movie, or cranking out a smoothie, in terms of the number of people who can enjoy one person’s effort?

I think not. Think back to the ancient roots of music: drumming in the Savannah of Africa or the plains of North America that would bring people from a wide distance to gather at the fire. Music and dancing may be a cosmic gift of our evolution, a tool for humans to form communities, and therefore better band together, meet challenges, and fight external threats. This is the theory put forward by Barbara Ehrenreich in her book “Dancing In The Streets: A History of Collective Joy”

Thanks Urban School!

Jan 9, 2010Posted by

We had a blast last night at the Urban School, pedal powering their first dance of 2010. Thanks to Lucy, Lucas, Catherine and all the students and teachers.

As with any Rock The Bike event, we invite people at the event to pedal. The kid in the foreground is pedaling the Choprical Fish, which is powering the lighting at the dance.

Justin’s pedaling the Mundo 1000 during the sound check, one of our two bikes equipped with our Grasshopper generator system.


Despite their abundance of energy for gogo dancing and freaking, the Urban School students were a bit hesitant about joining in the pedal power effort. I felt good that we had shown up with a 6 person crew, including Adam, Masha, Hugh, Justin, and Ally.  But we were doing 90% of the pedaling. Normally, the GP (general public) does more like 40-50% of the pedaling. I tried pulling students in and there were a few cool students who kept pitching. But honestly the freaking on the dance floor was so prolific, that it was obvious that’s where their minds were. So after a while, I stopped walking out into the crowd using a Down Low Glow like an airport landing guide, and just pedaled. I thought back to David Butcher and how he holds it down at festivals, pedaling away on the Prime Mover. I found new time trial position I liked on the Fender Blender Pro, and entered a crank, sprint, lactic acid! cycle. Out of saddle sprint! Lactic acid. Two students get on, both girls. I adjust the seat for one of them and the indicator on our inverter already drops into the red.


“Pedal hard! Go for it. ”


I look around for crew and don’t see any one. The LED is floating in the red, occasionally hitting blinking red. I know I’m going to need to save this party. I hate having to be intense with the pedal power coaching, but I was yelling, “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal!” every time I saw that blinking light. I was trying to get in a hamstring stretch, but I kept having to coach the girls on the bikes. And my communication with the DJ wasn’t to the point where I could make eye contact with him. He was killing it anyway, and I liked the fact that we were driving the PRX hard. Screw the stretch. I tap out with one of the girl and go into another sprint on the FB Pro.


Justin’s back! The other girl taps out and we bring the LED back to orange, and green. It was kind of like that all night. Three electrics would have helped, but really we just needed more from the students. I think some type of introduction would have helped. The students probably didn’t know what the function of the pedal power bikes was, other than to climb all over them and have a blast. No, they knew, but the hormones were too strong. Freaking trumped!


Rock The Bike has left the building.


We only brought one of our PRX speakers this time. The other is in the shop on a pedal power integration project.


See more photos from the night on Flickr.

Both Sunday Streets and Maker Faire post their dates for 2010

Jan 8, 2010Posted by

Last year’s Dolores Park to Maker Faire Social Ride. Photo: dustinj

Maker Faire is back May 22 and 23 at San Mateo Fairground. Rock The Bike is aiming to make the Pedal Powered Stage event more fun this year and once again host the Dolores Park to Maker Faire Social Ride starting at 9AM on Saturday May 22.

Sunday Streets going huge in 2010.

Above: Sunday Streets’ founder Susan King taking us through the route maps for the 2010 season.

This year, all Sunday Streets days will go 10-3 instead of 10-2. The extra hour is key as it will help the Rock The Bike crew sleep in a bit and still bring out the Pedal Powered Stage. Many thanks for this compassionate update to one of our favorite events.


  • March 14: Embarcadero, starting at Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39, south to China Basin and Terry Francois Blvd.
  • April 11: Along the Great Highway, coinciding with World Health Day’s “1,000 Cities, 1,000 Lives” international event, as one of thousands of cities hosting simultaneous car-free events worldwide.
  • April 18: Bayview, along 3rd Street from King and 4th (Caltrain Station) to Bayview Playground.
  • May 23: Bayview, in conjunction with the 3rd Street Corridor Project and Bayview Merchant’s Association’s “3rd Street Festival.”
  • June 20: Mission, along Valencia and 24th Streets. The day after Bicycle Music Festival. Epic weekend in SF!
  • July 11: Mission.
  • August 22: Great Highway/Golden Gate Park.
  • September 19: NEW: Western Addition, exact location TBD.
  • October 24: NEW Civic Center/Tenderloin, exact location TBD.

Hosting Pedal Power workshop at Pure Austin Fitness Jan 18, plus Thursday Night Social Ride 1/14

Jan 8, 2010Posted by

Tell your friends in Austin, invite Lance if you know him… Rock The Bike is coming to Austin.

I’ll be working with Pure Austin Fitness on a new Pedal Powered spin class. Along with the gym’s founder Beto (also a bicycle maker), we’ll be converting the Pure Austin’s 2 Fender Blender Pros to electric generators. If all goes well, this roomful of spinners will have loud, clear pedal powered music.

On Monday the 18th, at Pure’s 5th St. location, I’ll hopefully be putting the finishing touches on wiring up a Pedal Power Utiltity Box. If you come to this workshop, you’ll learn about how to create a Pedal Powered Stage, and how to host pedal powered events.

Gym Address:

907 W. 5th St.

Austin TX 78703

Time: 5-8PM

I’ll also have the new V3 Yuba Mundo. Come test ride this awesome cargo on a wee social ride to follow the workshop.

Speaking of social rides, I’ll also be out at the Thursday Night Social Ride next Thursday the 14th. Please tell your Austin-based friends to say Hi. I’ll have friends-price Down Low Glows with me and a Mundo for test-riding.

Chicago has a long, tall history of innovation in the field of tandem tall bikes

Jan 8, 2010Posted by

El Arbol will not be the first tandem tall bike. Check out this lamplighting bike from Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Read the Full story here:

Or how about this family contraption, complete with treddle-powered sewing machine:

Thanks Flickr friend Whymcycles

More recent but also notable, from Chicago Critical Mass, via Georgeaye. The photo has been viewed 4500 times on Flickr.

New Year’s Eve at Sera Phi

Dec 31, 2009Posted by

Posted by fossilfool
12/31/2009 – 21:00 – 01/01/2010 – 02:00


Pedal power one of SF’s best underground sound systems, with a full lineup of dance worthy musicians.
NYE Lineup

The headliners will be Band Of Mystics, who have played for Rock The Bike at Sunday Streets, West Fest, and other occasions this year.

Also, experience Sera Phi founder Ananda’s performance on the subsonic healing sound floor, and get quenched at the organic juice bar.

Event details:

Sera Phi:

1117 Howard between 8th and 9th.

9PM start.
$20 to get in.
Night ride to begin at approx 1-2AM.

Flyer: Katopop and Leifcycle


Jay pedaled! National TV debut of the Fender Blender Universale

Dec 24, 2009Posted by

To our delight Jay Leno climbed on a stylish white and orange step-through cruiser with a properly installed Fender Blender Universale bike blender (FBU) and blended what appeared to be a daiquiri, about 15 minutes into his show as part of the Last Minute Gifts segment. He pedaled for about 15 seconds, though to be honest I was too busy celebrating and making rock signs to count accurately. Jay had a medium-slow cadence and seemed very comfortable on the bike, smiling his trademark chinny grin and joking as he went — “for the active alcoholic!” Although his leg extension wasn’t optimized for power output, he had no problem crushing ice. He did not tuck in his pant leg prior to pedaling.

Watch the segment on Jay’s site: fast forward to 25:00 if you’re in a rush.

Above: The Fly Stick Van De Graaf effect levitation wand, one of the cooler toys on the segment.

Of the 13 products he selected, only three — the FBU, the Fly Stick Levitation Wand, and Snow To Go instant snow — fell into the category of positive, educational, or amazing. The others were novelty gags.

Six of the products were off-color: a stripping, singing Santa, a pole dancing alarm clock, and two products that involved sticking something (a pencil to be sharpened and a beer bottle to be opened) into the backside of an animal.

Two were personal care products gone awry — a head massager and a facial treatment system.

At $249 The FBU was the most expensive product on the segment.  The others (apart from the Deer Rump bottle opener) were all in the $30-and-under price bracket. All of the products were available through the internet. Not a single mainstream store such as Target was mentioned.

When the producer emailed today to say that Jay had selected the FBU for the show, I had to think for a minute where I’d be able to watch it — there hasn’t been a TV in my place for two years. Luckily Adam had one and was willing to host a viewing party. Four of us from the Rock The Bike crew, plus his two housemates, were there to take it in. At the top of the show, we took bets on whether Jay himself would pedal the bike, or an assistant. Heading into the segment, 4 out of 6 in our SF viewing party thought he’d do the deed. But at the last moment Grace changed her bet and it was 3 and 3.

above: Adam updating Facebook status to “Jay Rocks The Bike” moments after Leno cranked out a frozen cocktail.

When the show first contacted us a few weeks ago to request an FBU, we offered to send it to them complete and built up on a Jamis city bike. We figured that they’re busy TV people, not bike people, and they’d probably rather have us install it. No thanks, they said, just send hthe boxed FBU. Clearly installation was straightforward for them. The rack was perfectly level and the pitcher sat directly over the rear wheel.

above: the FBU installed on a classic Stumpjumper with Sweetskinz tires.

Invented in 2006 by Nate Byerley, the FBU is our most affordable bike blender, and it’s the one that a lot of schools, nonprofits, and summer camps buy. Earlier this year our engineer Leif redesigned the FBU so that it goes on and off a bike without tools (once you install the aluminum rack). When the blender base is removed, you’ve got a strong, light, functional rack you can use to commute, carry groceries or boxes. Every FBU we sell is adding carrying capacity to the bicycle fleet of America!

Bike blending is the most approachable, affordable way to demonstrate human power at an event or school. It’s a great conversation starter —  literally an awesome ice breaker — and one of the few products that can raise environmental consciousness without a guilt trip. It gets people pedaling at events, which reminds them how awesome bikes are. Kids love it! Check out the awesome testimonials we’ve posted for the product.

We also recently came out with a human power generator that’s compatible with every Fender Blender we’ve ever sold, so that a school that bought one, say, in 2007 can now add the generator and use their FBU to make power for a music system, lighting display, etc.

Many thanks to Jay and the producers for helping to spread the cheer and magic of Pedal Power at the holidays.

Yuba’s factory team takes first in the two-wheeled division at food-hauling cargo race “Supermarket Street Sweep”

Dec 8, 2009Posted by

Team Yuba’s Ben Sarrazin hauled 330 pounds of food, mostly rice, to a food bank to win the two-wheeled division of the “Supermarket Street Sweep. Rock The Bike ran support for the race.


The overall race winner, Jeremiah Ducate, hauled 900 pounds on a Reuben Margolin cargo trike. Together the riders in the load-carrying race brought in over 8500 pounds of food to the San Francisco food bank.

The required cargo on the manifest weighed only 30lbs, which is nowhere close to the Mundo’s 440-pound payload. So we stopped in Chinatown to load up 300 pounds of rice. The price went up $4 during our visit. Thanks to Geoff for pitching in.

Yet another good chance to “ride long distances, carry heavy loads.”

We had a crew of eight supporting one rider. A bit overkill, perhaps, but a nice way to spend a Saturday.

As you can see in the video, carrying the rice on the Mundo was, for the most part, quite stable. I was able to surf on top of five sacks of rice, which was a bit more scary than other forms of bike surfing.


The view from the Choprical Fish on 3rd St.

After the race we picked up Adam’s girls and went on a dusky sunset cruise.

How to surf a Mundo

Dec 7, 2009Posted by

Here’s a very clear demonstration of the technique.

See how the calf muscle hooks the front of the saddle? That’s how you control the bike. The rear foot plants forward of the axle.

Repeating our warning to check your Down Low Glow system for signs of insulation breakdown and bare copper.

Nov 25, 2009Posted by

The battery output wire on the Down Low Glow has a certain amount of insulation. But with repeated flexing that insulation can break down.

Please look at the battery in the picture and compare it to yours. The black insulation has kinked and separated where it exits the pack, and you can see the white and red insulation of the inner two wires underneath. This is a result of repeated flexing of the wire. It is worse in cold places where the insulation can be brittle.

Our goal with this announcement is to keep you riding safely with the Down Low Glow, and to prevent needless short circuits. In our experience, most of these short circuits happen because the type of wiring damage shown above has escalated to the point where the white and red wire jackets have also crumbled, and bare copper is visible. If a customer continues using the battery at this point, the output wire may twist, bringing the two coppers into contact with eachother. When copper touches copper, a short can start at any time, but it still may take days or weeks of use before it happens, if it happens.

Short circuits are scary and can create lots of foul smoke and possibly a few seconds of a small open flame. They can melt surrounding plastic objects like nylon backpacks. You certainly wouldn’t want to hold one in your hand. But in our experience they are unlikely to start a fire. We shorted five batteries outside our workshop underneath a newspaper, and none of them ignited the newsprint. The sputtering, smoky part lasted about 2-3 minutes on average before the pack had dispensed most of its energy.

About a year ago we tried to recall batteries from a specific, problematic production period in 2008. But since this type of failure invoves wiring, and all Down Low Glows sold to date have wiring, we are asking that you simply check out your system to see if it has this type of wear.

We want to replace batteries that show this type of wear. If you have one that’s showing signs of wear, please either follow the DIY steps to prevent further wear on your battery, or send it back to us for replacement or service.

We worked with our battery manufacturer on this issue and are now selling batteries with a thermal fuse that prevents short circuits.  We’ve also beefed up the strain relief on the wire leaving the pack. Down Low Glow systems sold today are much less likely to fail in this manner.

We have a reputation for excellent customer service and for being generous with warranty periods. If there’s something bugging you about your Down Low Glow system, or anything else you bought from Rock The Bike, please let us know.

Are all Down Low Glow systems destined to fail in this manner eventually? No!

New units have better tapering strain relief.

Tapering strain relief.

All DLG systems can last if you follow these Dos and Don’ts:


Yank the wires when disconnecting the battery from the charger or from the light tube(s). Yanking puts unneeded strain on the wiring.

Don’t carry or swing your Down Low Glow battery by the output wire:


Do hold your battery pack by the pack itself:

Use two hands to pull the main power connector apart. Same for removing the battery from the charger:

DIY repair:

Pinch output wire as shown to prepare for taping step.

1. Pinch output wire as shown to prepare for taping step.

Wrap tape over one side of the loop.
2. Wrap tape over one side of the loop.

3. Wrap tape over the other side of the loop. The tape prevents yanks and tugs from creating strain on the wire where it exits the battery pack.

The mod shortens the battery’s output wire a bit.