Rock The Bike

Highlights from 2010 Earth Hour community party

Thanks to the fans, roadies, bands, Market Bar, and the city’s Neighborhood Empowerment Network.

4 people on El Arbol!

El Arbol had its Pedal Powered Stage debut. My cousins were crawling all over it. Here my 220 pound cousin Jonah and a girl pedal power stereo right while two other girls play on other parts of the tree.

Gear haul mission.

Five of us handled the late afternoon gear haul mission. Jeff and Geoff high fiving on 3rd. It was a pretty easy haul. No real hills.

Hauled the pedalometer on El Arbol.

Hauled the pedalometer on a newly fiberglassed El Arbol.


Roadie and bandleader Justin Ancheta’s helped me with the flberglassing alot over the past week so that the Arbol would be in shape for the gig.

Stopped to pick up the band's gear.

Loading up Guella’s gear at Audio Box studio.

Rock The Bike roadies and Guella's lead singer on the way to the gig.
Rock The Bike roadies Kai, Geoff and Jeff, and Guella’s lead singer Dave on the way to the gig.

Setting up the gig at Market Bar.

Setting up the gig at Market Bar. Photo: Kai.

Guella rocking out.

Guella rocking out under pedal power. Two of our best generators, the Electric Mundo and the Electric Fender Blender Pro (at stage left) powered all of the band’s instruments, the mixer, one JBL PRX, and lighting.

Big Todo puppeteers.

Big ToDo puppeteers treated us to a bike rap!

Late night gear return mission.

Late night gear return mission. Aufdencamp surfs in the distance as Leif tows two Fender Blender Pros behind a Mundo.

Crew of Junk Raft to rock a Soul Cycle on their ‘Junk Ride’ West Coast ocean advocacy tour.

Junk Raft.

The name alone arouses curiosity. A Junk is a type of Chinese sailing vessel that dates back to the Han Dynasty. And they were used for extensive ocean voyages.

But what is a Junk Raft? In the case of eco-mariners Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal, The Junk Raft is an ocean vessel crafted from junk plastic bottles, a Cessna 310 airplane fueselage and various other ‘junk’ materials.

The Junk Raft recently sailed from California to Hawaii to protest the growing pile of trash in our oceans. These plastics end up in the bellies of Albatrosses – things that really shouldn’t be floating out there, like lighters and toys. They don’t break down, not in the albatrosses and not in the ocean itself.

And it’s that very durability of plastic that has made the Junk Raft’s courageous voyage possible. Marcus and Joel literally netted up 15000 bottles from the waste stream of Los Angeles, forming two pontoons that floated them all the way to Hawaii. And what a journey it was.

Now Marcus and Anna Cummins, another plastics crusader, are teaming up, in more ways than one, and hitting the road, biking from Vancouver to Baja on the Junk Ride. To help them tell their story, we created Bike Speak.

Marcus and Anna wanted a small, self-contained thing they could carry with them on their tour, that would allow them to host cruiser rides, and do pedal powered slideshows and presentations at schools and parks. At the same time it had to pack enough punch to address a reasonable size crowd both indoors and out. They already had a Fender Blender X, so they we made an Xtracycle-compatible cabinet and a generator attachment that can be used with the Fender Blender base, without requiring tools to switch back and forth to smoothie mode.

With the human power module, a volunteer can pedal the system to run the amplification while Marcus and Anna give their talk. And with the Fender Blender bike blender system, they can serve up fresh smoothies to the crowd after the talk while enjoying great sounding music pumped out by the system’s internal rechargeable NiMH battery, good for an estimated 14 hours of light and music.

With each custom Soul Cycle that comes out of Rock The Bike, we try to push the envelope a little further. A few of us had been sketching hinged cabinets with two modes: stereo for cruising, and unidirectional for public address. Hence the flip-up action. We followed the snapdeck aesthetic, following the curves at the head and tail. The curve at the tail is functional. It matches the Fender Blender base. We used an ultra efficient amplifier for amplification and four Pro Audio full-range speakers. These speakers are small and extremely lightweight with alloy housings and neodymium magnets, weighing only 1 lb each! A crossover protects the tweeters. The entire finished cabinet, with speakers, amplifier, battery, mixer, voltage regulation system, microphone, and integrated lighting weighs in at a only 12 lbs! By far our lightest Soul Cycle to date.

A two-channel mixer is built into the controls. This stereo mixer will enable Marcus and Anna to play background music from their laptop’s slideshow program, while speaking through a lightweight microphone we provided.

We came up with a custom voltage regulation circuit to protect the internal battery, mixer, and amp from the motor. The circuit also taps a little power to trickle charge the battery. We also added a separate noise suppression circuit to mute static from the generator.

When the cabinet is flipped up, the user has access to a small “cubby” door. Inside the door is a small storage compartment where the microphone, cords, and handlebar mount can be stored when not in use.

The handlebar mount will accommodate an iPod or other mp3 player and features a battery fuel/voltage gauge. This gauge will tell the user the current charge state of the battery while also giving the human power pedalers an indication of how their pedal power is affecting the system.

Be sure to check the Junk Ride schedule for news about Marcus and Anna’s latest educational adventure and the Bike Speak system. During the Spring and Summer of 2009 Marcus and Anna will be touring the West coast. SF-Cruisers can expect a Junk Ride social ride with Anna and Marcus when they come through San Francisco. Like the Junk Raft’s epic sail to Hawaii, the Junk Ride mission is not easy. At last check Marcus was mentioning that he intended to tow a raft so that the pair could ford rivers. Rock on! Send them fanmail on their blog, and please stay tuned for more on that social ride.

Carbon Neutral press conferences

SHAKE YOUR PEACE!’s Gabe Dominguez pedal powers a press conference of Salt Lake City’s mayor Rocky Anderson, opening their Live Green festival. May 2007.

Below: Rock The Bike’s Paul Freedman pedal powers a press conference for San Francisco’s Wade Crowfoot, announcing the city’s endorsement of pedal power.

Thanks Earth Hour Pedalers and Bands, for rocking it at the 2009 Debut of the Pedal Powered Stage!

Pedal Powered Stage 2009 Debut at Earth Hour SF
Pedal Powered Stage 2009 Debut at Earth Hour SF. Photo: Steve Rhodes

Thanks to everyone who came down to the Earth Hour celebration at Market Bar in downtown San Francisco, where Rock The Bike had the 2009 debut of our Pedal Powered Stage. We biked in all the gear and pedal powered all the lighting and sound equipment and smoothies, making Saturday’s event Carbon Negative. A Carbon Negative event is one that has such an inspiring effect on participants that it causes individuals to reduce their carbon impact in the coming months and years.

Big thanks to Guella and Justin Ancheta, and Fossil Fool for their performances, to Raul and the Market Bar crew for their hospitality, and to Mayor Newsom and the Neighborhood Empowerment Network for sponsoring the event. Check the  Video from CBS news.

We debuted two new Mundo-based Pedal Power bikes: the Electric Mundo and the Lunar Lander. More photos and info to come on both those projects.

The Rock The Bike community came out strong for the event. Here’s a shot of art bike creator Jay Broemmel cruising on his Schwinn Broom:


Happy Earth Day!

Just in time for the busy Earth Day and bike-to-work advocacy season, we set up our Fender Blender to be easily towed to events behind another bike. Now clients won’t have to throw it in an SUV if they’d rather bike it to their event.

That’s like 8 bags I didn’t bring into existence.

Lately I’ve been carrying sturdy plastic bags with me to waterproof my Xtracycle.

So when I headed to the market to buy supplies for Bike Blended Smoothies on a rainy night in SF this past weekend, I just grabbed the bag I had with me.

As I went through the produce section, I started putting all the separate fruits in their own bags, which I then would put in my basket. Then I started thinking, “so many bags”. So I just put everything in my sturdy plastic bag, as an experiment. It all made it back fine to my place, though checking out took a little longer than usual.

1 bag not 9

Planned Obselescence

After seeing The Story of Stuff on a couple of my friends’ gmail status messages, I saw the 20-minute online movie and got motivated to take myself out of the loop of planned obselescence.

Then a week later I made the mistake of putting my iPod in my pocket next to a magnetic toy. The iPod hard drive was dead instantly. The toy was fine.

I thought about replacing the iPod with one of the newer ones. But I’ve had it for almost three years, and it’s never had a problem before that couldn’t be fixed by resetting it. So I decided instead of spending $300 on a new one I’d buy a replacement hard drive for $70 on eBay, and a screen protector.

I followed the excellent video instructions on and fixed the iPod in about 15 minutes. I didn’t have a non-marring pry tool handy so I used a small electronics screwdriver. It left a very small mark on the one side from prying. Then I applied the screen protector, basically a clear sticker, to the ipod screen. I bought it thinking that it would prevent further scratches to the iPod screen — that my screen wouldn’t get any worse than it was. But when I applied the screen protector, the screen instantly took on it’s original glossy look.

None of the scratches accumulated during 3 years of ownership were visible any longer. I have a suspicion that a lot of people throw away electronics simply because they look old. If more people knew about screen protectors, maybe they could save their money for other things, or spend less time working and more time having fun riding bikes.


Support your local environmentalist

Oil Spill SF header

About a week ago, when San Francisco Bay suffered its worst oil spill in 20 years, Jon and Adam took their boat out, saw that no one was doing any cleaning, and started wondering what ordinary people can do to fix a problem as massive as a 50000-gallon oil spill.Earlier this year, they bought a 50-foot steel-hulled sailboat to turn into a research and design vessel, the Magnet.

They went out on the Bay to look at the damage to the bridge piling.

Adam observed that the shape of the concrete ‘bumper’ on the Bay Bridge supports “looks awfully similar to the blade on a can opener.” Expecting to see glassy reflective pools of oil covering the water, they instead observed huge clumps of spongy oil. They were able to pull some of these into their craft using a fishing net with holes the size of limes.

That night they were over my house for a pot luck dinner with the Ginger Ninjas. They were showing me their photos from the day and were really shaken up by their day on the bay. Apparently the Coast Guard had raced over to their boat and shouted through a loudspeaker to get away from the bridge, even they were just out there scooping up oil and taking pictures. I helped them start , a blog of their research and DIY efforts. Did you know you can get a blog up and running with its own URL in about 25 minutes these days?

As bike people, you and I may not think too much about the waters adjoining our commutes and pleasure rides. I commute underneath the bay on BART twice a day, and didn’t notice the oil spill, or even hear about it in the news, until Adam called me to ask if I wanted to go out on the Magnet and help.

If you owned a boat and cared about the oceans, and a cargo ship crashed into a bridge in your bay, what would you do?

Let’s Greenwash this city

Greenwashing is this guy.

Why, when suggesting that riding a bicycle is an important part of building a ‘greener’ city, does PG&E pick a recumbent bike with a big flag sticking out the back? Why not an everyman’s bike that readers will see and say to themselves, “Oh yeah, I could do that.”

Why is he all alone, trying to stay between the MUNI rails, with a car about to pass him on the right? Isn’t this the exact situation that my friends have in mind when they say “I don’t feel comfortable biking in the city”?

Why do they say “Green is this guy”? They might as well write “Green is that guy”. ‘This guy’ puts him at a distance from us, the mainstream reader.

What if, instead, PG&E chose a younger, sexier — no offense — model, maybe a woman, on a stylish city bike, in one of the bike lanes that SFBC has fought so hard for, with three other bikers flanking her in the background (as is often the case on Market St. in the morning hours)? Instead of saying “Green is this guy,” they could personalize it by saying “Green is Karen Jones”.

If you’ve seen “Who Killed the Electric Car?” you know that, just because a company advertises a product, doesn’t mean that they necessarily want people to buy the product. In the case of the electric car, there’s strong evidence that GM and Toyota wanted to kill their electric car programs and were only advertising them to fulfill the legal requirement in California.

In the case of PG&E’s Let’s Green This City campaign, they are advertising individual action such as bicycle riding, but obviously not doing it in the most persuasive way they could.

Counter PG&E’s PR

sakura saunders | Wed, 01/31/2007 – 8:47pm

Hey! I am part of a group of people that set up a website with a lot of facts that counter PG&E’s deceptive greenwashing campaign. It’s called, so I thought that you might enjoy it!

here’s a couple of facts from the site:

PG&E owns 0% solar and 2% wind facilities

PG&E’s ClimateSmart program is a bandage solution to climate change, it is a consumptive response to climate change (it has customers pay to plant trees to offset their emissions) and does nothing to address the root cause of global warming. Also, their stated goal for this program is a mere 5%!

go to to read more.