Rock The Bike

Cruiser Ride Checklist

You will not want to miss the LiveOnBike performances on the bike ride between our venues. To truly experience a social ride, you have to take in a LiveOnBike performance! A LiveOnBike performance is an amplified music performance that takes place on a mobile stage in front of a large group of riders.

Cruiser Ride Checklist/Guidelines

1. Your Bike:
Pump air in the tires, put oil on the chains, tuck in your pants leg so you don’t get a stain.

2. Check your Quick Releases:
Learn how to use them properly, they are essential for bike safety. Many people get this wrong, so watch this video to see how to use a quick release.

3. Check it all over:
• Take a quick ride to check if derailleurs and brakes are working properly
• Inspect the bike for loose or broken parts; tighten, replace or fix them
• Pay extra attention to your bike during the first few miles of the ride

4. Supplies:
• Helmet, gloves, comfortable layered clothing, footwear, bandana (makes helmets more comfortable and absorbs sweat), hair tie for long hair.
• Empower yourself not to need help: a patch kit, mini-pump, a knowledge of tube patching and/or a spare tube. Patching a tire is a skill that comes with practice, but worth the effort. Then when a cute somebody is broken down you can help them out!
• Sunglasses/eyeglasses
• Lip balm, sunscreen

5. Safety:
• Lights (front and rear) should be in working order with fresh batteries.
• First Aid Kit – This is the type of item that is often neglected. My rule is = “Its better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

6. Hydration:
Bring WATER or your favorite beverage in a reusable container.

7. Food:
Snacks to share, an energy bar, Cliff bar, fresh fruit is always good, vegetables, nuts, trail mix, goodies of your choice.

8. Camera:
A great way to record and share your experiences! Shoot pics of riders, bikes, and the places your go! At the end of the event, be sure to add them to the Rock the Bike Flickr Group or on our Facebook Page!

We want these rides to be safe and law-abiding so that our festival keeps a positive reputation in the community. We will have experienced route marshals identified by patches and armbands, who will help keep our group together and safe.
Please follow these simple rules.

Cruiser Ride Rules

– Some of the bikes in our group ride will be carrying live performers. These bikes generally require more concentration to ride safely. Please give these performance vehicles extra space so that their riders can maintain focus on safely guiding them through our route.

– Look for Route Marshals who will be identified by BMF patches.

– Do not ride in the oncoming lane of traffic!

– When we are on a multi-lane street such as Oak, stay to the right, keeping one lane open to allow cars to pass.

How we handle stop signs: We roll through stop signs unless route marshals say to stop for safety or pedestrians. This reduces the amount of time our group spends in intersections and minimizes the delays we may cause to other road users.

How we handle red lights and major intersections: We approach red lights and major intersections slowly, gathering our group and waiting for a green light. We try then to ride through as a single group. If the light turns red halfway through, we try to continue moving our group through the intersection unless it is unsafe to do so. Please defer to route marshals!

– Be careful of car doors opening if you are riding close to parked cars.

– Please ride predictably and in control.

– Try to stay with the main group, it’s safer and more fun for everyone.


Rolling with 88 weighted keys — preparing for a Live On Bike performance

Some interesting scenes from the workshop this week, preparing for BMF. The musical part starts at 3:05. It was awesome to see the expressions on our neighbors’ faces as we cruised around West Berkeley with Janaysa singing and playing.

Folk / Soul singer Janaysa came by the workshop on Tuesday to test-ride the piano mount on the Mundo. She was initially ‘concerned’ but left on a high after a good try out.

Cruising with ElliptiGO inventor Bryan at sunset along the Embarcadero

Click “more” below to see the video.

I met Bryan at Maker Faire, and immediately got the idea to get some DLG under the foot platforms of his invention on a sunset cruise. It was the first time we’ve mounted the DLG in a way that it moves relative to the frame of the bicycle.

Bryan invented the ElliptiGO out of frustration with driving to the gym to use the Elliptical trainers.

Weird coincidence

This afternoon in the workshop I got a call from Joel, the drummer from Afrolicious and Pleasure Maker (Thursdays at the Elbo Room). I met Joel when we were on the 2-Mile Challenge tour together. He said,

“Sorry I couldn’t make it to your gig last week, I was working.”

“Doing what?”


“Moving? Like for cash?


“How much they paying you?”

“18 an hour.”

“Dang, I’d offer you work at Rock the Bike, because we need help with assembly and packing and shipping right now, but we normally pay only $12.”

“That’s OK man, I’d totally work for you, because I believe in what you’re doing.”

“Really? Thanks Joel.”

“No problem. And you should come by the Elbo tonight.”

“Thanks, I’ll try to make it around 11. Can you put me on the guest list?”

Then I got home, had dinner and got a text from Julia about an event at Cellspace.

“OK I’ll swing by, but I’m going to Elbo later.”

The exhibit at Cell Space was an incredible cardboard city about 20 feet by ten feet, with a miniature helicopter floating around. There was a miniature remote control helicopter flying through the skyscrapers of the cardboard city. It’s up until April 17. Gotta go see it!

Anyway, after checking out the city, I suggested a cruise so we left. It was me, Julia, and Tyson, whose chain sounded like a chorus of crickets. We had a great ride up to Billy Goat hill, and watched the city. It was late so I had to coax them to come with me to the Elbo Room. But it was a downhill cruise awaiting us so it wasn’t that hard. Three abreast on Cesar Chavez was really nice. Julia was saying we felt like a bike gang. The Plush Red Down Glow on my my mom’s Electra was sweet. Sometimes it’s good to ride a totally simple bike. I can see the appeal of fixed gear bikes. I just love me knees. Anyway, we roll up to the Elbo Room. The woman at the door let all three of us in. Sure enough, Joel was in his element playing along on traps with Afrolicious. During a set break I got to introduce him to my friends and catch up a little. We danced until 1 or so and then cruised. I sprayed Boeshield on Tyson’s chain and said goodbye.

I headed upstairs and parked in front of the computer like I normally do when I should be sleeping. I checked the What’s Hot page on Rock the Bike. I noticed a comment on my post about JoyRider clothing, entitled bicycle fashion:

“Bravo! A clothing line that is not centered around spandex! At Velo Vogue, we also applaud cycling in normal fashionable clothing. Clothing lines such as Joyrider will help de-marginalize cycling for transportation! Looking good!”

So I clicked the link and sure enough it’s a hip little blog about San Francisco bicycle fashion, with lots of fun photos. And there at the bottom of the page, ladies and gentlemen, was Joel Elrod, riding with a companion in Golden Gate park, wearing a black hat and a cool T-shirt:


Water bottle-based music systems help you hear (but maybe not feel) your music

A couple new products are helping bike people cruise with music this spring.

The Gadget Bottle is a functional water bottle that has no batteries or speakers, but its unique shape allows you to strap a cell phone with an internal speaker and listen to your MP3s as you ride. It fits inside a standard water bottle cage. At 2:35, inventor Steve Lach takes a phone call from his wife, holding the entire Gadget Bottle to his ear, with his flip phone securely rubber banded in place! No problem with one-handed use while cruising or training.


To up the volume a bit, the iHome2Go Cycler is a rechargeable black water-bottle shaped single-speaker music system that conceals an iPod and includes a handlebar mounted control.

Eugene, Oregon-based bicycle advocate and customer Shane Rhodes, a.k.a. The Bike Phantom, recommends it and says the volume is big enough for a small cluster of riders to hear the music. With a 3″ speaker, the Cycler isn’t going to deliver satisfying bass hits. It’s a basic law of speaker design that the smaller the speaker and its enclosure, the harder it is to get good bass response.

But how important is bass response on a bicycle? I think it’s essential, and Rock the Bike is obviously committed to the path of building bicycle music systems with cabinets large enough to deliver satisfying bass. With good bass, you and the people around you feel ‘in the music’. Without good bass, you can sing along with your friends to your favorite songs, which is a wonderful experience. But it’s a different experience than cruising in the music, which feels a bit like being in your own music video. Plenty of people disagree with me on the importance of bass response.

Others are more hardcore than I am:

How to take part in a cruiser ride 300 miles away without burning any fossil fuels

Kipchoge and Wild Johnny kept inviting me to the Pleasant Revolution tour stop in Redondo Beach.

I really wanted to cruise and perform with my friends, not to mention take part in a huge Xtracycle / Down Low Glow rally, but I didn’t have a way to get there. I haven’t had significant-other access to a vehicle since February, there wasn’t a carpool option, and the idea of flying or renting an SUV to get to a bike ride didn’t ziggle with my zooglea, as we say in the Kombucha business.

So ended I staying up all night Friday, making them a special Fossil Fool cruising mix in Ableton Live, complete with shoutouts, DJ beatmatching, and crossfades. We’re talking crossfades, people! Apparently it went over really well. See google chat transcript below with Kipchoge. (If that download link dies, please let me know.)

I’m really hoping that Rock the Bike can become a vibrant channel where local (or distant) DJ’s can get their music heard in the streets, and cruisers can get access to more interesting mixes than they’d come up with on their own. I have nothing against “Billie Jean” but when you’re talking about playing loud music in the streets, you have to bring a mix, not just the warhorse classics.




Kipchoge: really nice ride.

the mix was rad and super appreciated. I didn’t tell anybody before blasting it and suddenly everyone thought you were there!

me: Awesome!

Kipchoge: very cool every time your emceeing and singing came on.

me: I’m so happy to hear it.

I was looking for a way to take part that wouldn’t destroy my chances of getting a productive start to the week.

Kipchoge: yeah, super low impact traveling!

me: I actually had a real breakthrough on Ableton live on Friday night.

I’d been struggling with the basic concept of Live but it clicked on Friday.

So I stayed up till 4 working on the mix.

In the future I’ll be able to crank them out faster, but i was learning.

And having fun.

Passenger eye level, a little known subtlety of social biking

After helping Myles install the Xtracycle FreeRadical on his Cruz Bike recumbent, it got me thinking once again about the passenger experience. On most long bikes such as the Xtracycle and the Mundo, the passenger’s eyes line up roughly with the middle of the back of the rider. This limits the front visibility of the passenger and leaves them to simply trust that the rider knows what they’re doing.

By serendipity, Myles’ Xtracycle build offered a much different passenger experience. As you can see in the picture, my eyes as a passenger lined up with the top of Myles’ head, allowing me a nearly complete view of the road as we cruised. Another subtlety of the passenger experience on the Cruz Bike / Xtracycle combo is how close the rider’s and passenger’s heads are to eachother. This makes conversation so much more easy going. You don’t lose nearly as many words to the wind, and you can talk to each other the same voice you’d use in a room.

The Cruz Bike isn’t for everyone, so before you run out and buy one, you should know that, like other recumbents, it’s going to make it more difficult for you to climb hills. There’s no way to climb ‘out of the saddle’ like you do when you need a burst of power on an upright bicycle.

When I designed the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper, my goal was to provide both the powerful leg extension of an upright bicycle with the attitude, comfort, and passenger experience of a chopper / semi-recumbent bike.

Passenger and rider on the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper
Above: Lisa can see over my shoulders while cruising on the Choprical Fish, based on the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper frameset. Photo: Paul McKensie

Riding the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper in the upright position.
Above: When it’s time to climb a hill on the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper, the seat comes into upright position, allowing full leg extension for maximum power. Photo: Fast Boy.

Two YouTube videos capture the feeling of cruising with music

It’s hard to capture on video the feeling of a good cruiser ride, but these two come pretty close. The first video, made by ultradistance rider Paul McKensie, was used on the tourbus of Clif Bar’s excellent 2-Mile Challenge. It was shot with a handful of friends and Clif folks at my place in the Mission. It’s got a beautiful shot of Mafiosa and I cruising in front of Mona Caron’s Bikeway Mural.

The second was shot by Wild Johnny, who leads the South Bay Cruiser Ride down in Redondo Beach. This one was shot at Santa Monica Critical Mass from his Xtracycle with a backwards facing web cam. Despite the grainy video, it’s got some good, spirited footage. Check out wild dance sequences, especially the first few seconds of the video.

Although the video itself is set to some groovy rock music, all the people dancing in the video were getting their beat from John’s Soul Cycle Head Unit. There are a handful of cool testimonials about the product, including one from John.

While we’re on the subject of backwards-facing video shoots, last night I helped out a local electro pop band called The Rubies make a music video “I feel electric.” The Swedish director Mattias wanted to capture some of San Francisco’s bike culture and wanted to use bikes with the Down Low Glow.

July 4-eva 2007 SF Cruiser Ride

This bike ride was a transforming experience that forever changed my life and you should go to every one from now on. Diverse throngs of people cheered us on as we paraded through the city streets with Fossil Fool the Bike Rapper leading the way, and Gabe and JoJo providing the amplification of the jams. we danced with families to uplifting house-funk from an outlook in the golden gate park whilst delivering a message of true freedom and independence through bikes and music. we watched the Golden Gate Bridge fireworks from the beach at crissy field with barry white and opera from pucchini as the soundtrack. Pucchini received applause from the crowd when complemented by a fireworks spectacular. We had a freestyle session near the fisherman’s wharf with some radtastic 15 year old kids. These culture creating/transcending rides are not to be missed! love to you all, see you on the next social adventure-


A bicycle may be the perfect place to listen to music. But you have to think big.

Soul Cycle Slim at Halloween Critical mass

Soul Cycle Slim in action at Halloween Critical mass in San Francisco

Many have tried putting speakers on bicycles. And there are even a couple handlebar-mounted products on the market that amplify an FM radio or an MP3 player. The difference between a Soul Cycle and those other products is sex appeal and sound quality. The sound quality of these handlebar mounted units is always compromised by forcing full range music out of tinny sounding speakers in tiny plastic enclosures with no capacity to reproduce bass frequencies. They sound no better than listening to your music on a laptop at full blast from across the room.

So music lovers turn to headphones, which, in theory provide perfect stereo separation and plenty of bass. But in practice, the wind seems to whip between the headphones and your ear. The wires are constantly getting caught on your brake levers and yank your earbuds down into your aural canal when you rise to climb a hill. And you take a real hit on safety by isolating yourself from the noise of approaching vehicles and pedestrians.

But none of these annoyances even approach biggest problem of headphones — that you can’t share your music. How awesome is it to drive a car to the beach with four friends, all singing along to Hotel California? Those social experiences are not only possible on a bike; indeed they’re even better than they are in a car. Because there is so much engine, wind, and road noise to overcome, most car stereo systems can’t match the clarity and presence of music on a Soul Cycle . In fact, one of the most common reactions bystanders have to a Soul Cycle is “That sounds better than my car!”

Soul Cycle Slim at a recent Mission District Party

Soul Cycle Slim at a recent Mission District Party

On a bicycle, the listening environment is much more favorable than in a car. The background noise is 100-1000 times lower than a car, creating a black velvet background for your favorite music. And because the background noise level is so low, you don’t have to turn your music up very loud to experience the immersive effect of hi-fi stereo. You’ll be listening to music in a volume range where your speakers can show the true clarity.

Soul Cycle Slim -- immersive mobile audio for bicycles.
Soul Cycle Slim is lightweight enough to carry up a flight of stairs to a train platform unassisted.

The volume will be just perfect for conversation, either with your passenger or with a friend alongside you. But when you want a little extra power to enter a barbeque (or just a bar) in style, it’s there.

Fossil Fool teaches workshop on Hi Fi Bicycle Cruising Systems at Maker Faire May 20, 21

Fossil Fool teaches bicycle audio workshop at Maker Faire


At the Maker Faire ( May 25 and 26, Fossil Fool taught a workshop on how to make a one-of-a-kind bicycle audio system.


Topics included:

– Overall concepts

– Picking amps and speakers and batteries.

– Designing a wiring harness and front mounted controls. Jacks, connectors, wire gauges, switches, etc.

– Building a music cabinet. Overview of the different cabinet making options — wood, fiberglass, etc. How to deal with ports, calculate speaker volumes, and make airtight cabinets for good bass response. Also, a few topics on 3D design.

– Picking a good base bike (no, not bass bike). What makes a bicycle suitable for a Soul Cycle mobile audio system? We’ll review the options: Xtracycle Sport Utility Bikes, Side By Sides, Commuters bikes, etc.

I Love the Buddy Bike


So I’ve been thinking about the elements of a great cruiser ride. I won’t go into the obvious ones right now, but I want to share one of the ones that’s not so obvious.

Getting a lot of people into a small area.

If you’re throwing a party, you want to fill the room. That’s when the energy rises to that special point, and people start to dance.

On a bike ride, it’s the same. It won’t have that party ride feeling unless you’ve got a lot of people in a small space. But how do you do that on bikes without causing accidents? Well, you get tandems and rickshaws and fill them with people. Then you pick a relatively flat, easy route, and keep the speeds mellow.

The element of conversation is so much nicer when people are close together. And the music doesn’t have to be turned up as loud when everyone is close enough to hear it.

As long as you’re going to involve tandems in your cruiser ride, you might as well seek out a “Buddy Bike” or Side-by-Side tandem. I should be careful using the term “Buddy Bike” because it’s now a company making special-needs tandems (bikes that a ‘normal’ adult and a special needs kid can ride together.) “Buddy Bike” used to be a small company making side by side tandems. It’s an idea that has never ‘caught on’ but will, once there is a healthy bike cruising scene in every city and town in this country.

Thao and I rode a Side By Side tandem at the Oregon Country Fair and the experience was so much nicer than any other tandem I’ve been on. Yes, front-back tandems are fast and sleek, but they don’t give you that “Slide over baby” feeling. The people in the picture above seem like they have a death grip on the handlebars. But it wasn’t hard to ride with my arm around Thao as we cruised the outer grounds of the Oregon Country Fair. The tandem has two wheels, i.e. it is lots of fun to take turns and coast down hills. Some side-by-side tandems have three or four wheels. This may seem obvious to you, but bikes with more than two wheels aren’t bikes at all. So they may have great characteristics and they may be lots of fun, but they won’t feel like a bike. They won’t take turns like a bike. The side by side tandem may catch a lot of wind resistance, but it’s fun to ride. And when you’re cruising, fun trumps speed.

I am hoping to build up a side-by-side tandem in the next year and put a sweet little sound system on it for the SF Cruiser Ride.