Rock The Bike

Spinning Wheels Power Tunes

This article features our 2 Modified JBL PRX speakers, 3 Mundo 500‘s, a pedal power Utility Box and the Biker Bar. Shaun O’Dell published this article in the Register-Guard on May 6, 2010.

Look for a bunch of music lovers on Saturday who plan to pedal — not peddle — on behalf of live musical acts.

Thanks to $10,000 in tourism grants, the University of Oregon Bike Program has been able to purchase equipment for this year’s Bike Music Fest that will help support live music acts by pedal power. The Bike Music Fest, which is incorporated into the Willamette Valley Music Fest, happens Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The larger music festival will continue until midnight.

Bike repairs, tutorials and other bike-related events will be happening at booths around the Bike Music Fest stage at the Erb Memorial Union amphitheater.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a music fest without music. And playing to so many people can require some serious amplification. That’s where the “Biker Bar” comes in.

Purchased with grants provided by Lane County Tourism, the Biker Bar is a bike trailer and human-powered electricity generator that provides anywhere from 150 to 250 watts of power at a time. The generator works on turbines that are spun by up to three audience members on their own bicycles. At the Bike Fest, it will be the sole source of electricity for the performing bands’ monitors.

The Biker Bar, built by Rock the Bike, a company out of Berkeley, Calif., works with just about any geared bicycle, so cyclists contributing to the cause can use their own two-wheeled machines.

“This pedal power system has the advantage of being a very democratic source of power,” said Paul Freedman, founder of Rock the Bike. “With the Biker Bar, anyone can bike to the event and the show crew can set up their bike on the rack.”

Freedman — who raps under the name of “Fossil Fool” when not proselytizing about bike-powered energy — said the Rube Goldberg-like machine often becomes a magnet for families to witness in action.

“You always see moms and dads walking up with their kids explaining to them how the transfer of power works,” he said.

The Biker Bar’s other function is as an equipment trailer, which will be used to carry speakers and other music equipment to and from the stage. But even with the Biker Bar’s aluminum frame, the weight of all that cargo can be tricky for a bicyclist to pull — especially on uphill trips.

Fortunately, the rest of the grant funds, along with $5,000 donated by Eugene Water & Electric Board through its Greenpower grant program, has gone to the purchase of two electric Yuba Mundo bicycles. The Mundo bikes have an electric rear hub that can help power a 500-watt motor to assist in hauling cargo. The bikes can also be used as a power generator to assist in providing electricity to amplifiers and other musical equipment.

In addition to its grant support, EWEB is lending a Sun Rover solar generator to help with powering band equipment.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, the Bike Music Fest will go mobile: Folks will bike away with the stage and provide live music at other areas of campus.


Friday: Paul Freedman of Rock the Bike will present a workshop about pedal-generated electricity and answer questions at 7 p.m. at Agate Hall on the UO campus, followed by a nighttime social bike ride

Saturday: Bike Music Fest will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on campus