Bikers Power Festival's Sound System

San Francisco’s bicycle community once again took its love of the sport to a new level this year after hosting the sixth annual San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival, a free concert series completely powered by bikes. The idea is simple—audience members and volunteers pedal specific bicycle generators to produce enough energy to power the concert’s sound system. And that’s only the beginning: Everything, from the amplification of the sound systems, to the transportation of instruments (and musicians), to the blending of ice cream and smoothies, was completely powered by volunteers.
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San Francisco’s bicycle community once again took its love of the sport to a new level this year after hosting the sixth annual San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival, a free concert series completely powered by bikes.

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The idea is simple—audience members and volunteers pedal specific bicycle generators to produce enough energy to power the concert’s sound system. And that’s only the beginning: Everything, from the amplification of the sound systems, to the transportation of instruments (and musicians), to the blending of ice cream and smoothies, was completely powered by volunteers.

Because the success of each performance relies on the efforts of cyclists, festival founder Paul Freedman said the equipment was modified to work with the energy produced by the bikes. This year, Freedman’s company, Rock the Bike, provided modified JBL PRX 612, 615, 635 and 618XLF loudspeakers to support the performances.

“The 'modified' part is a special series of changes to the amplifiers that allows them to run directly off of Pedal Power (DC), not requiring AC power. This ups their efficiency by 20-30 percent,” Freedman said.

Freedman estimated one bike generator could be powered by 50 to 75 watts—an amount that one average biker can produce. However, to ensure enough energy is generated for the performances, Freedman said volunteer "Ringer Pedalers” (experienced cyclists) also help out, as they can generate up to four times more power than the average participant.

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Pedalers powering a 10,000-Watt JBL line array to run, seen in the distance hanging from its bamboo tripod. Photo: rockthebike.com

The event, held on June 23, 2012, started at the Golden Gate Park before musicians packed their equipment onto their bikes and rode through the streets of San Francisco to the second location at the Showplace Triangle on 16th Street and Wisconsin Street.

During the traveling portion of the festival, Freedman rode on the back of a bicycle while rapping, amplified by a Mini Line Array on the back of the bikes.

“Two people can haul this Line Array on two bikes, then set it up without winches or trucks. The sound properties, while perhaps not up to the rigor of a true line array, are a major step forward for our Pedal Powered events due to the J shape of the array and the elevation of the speakers,” Freedman said.

On the broader side, the intention of this festival is to promote sustainable culture and the bicycle community. If anything, it looks like a great day to get some exercise, meet other cycling enthusiasts and enjoy some music.

According to the festival website, www.bicyclemusicfestival.com, the San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival is the largest 100-percent bicycle-powered music festival in the world. The annual event always occurs on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice.