automotive-based system powered by 110ah leisure battery
Battery and amplifier mounted inside a bicycle trailer
Run time - 6 hours on one charge (approximately)
Music Player - Sansa Clip-Zip
Amplifier - Orion
Cobalt CO6002 Maximum output
into two PA speakers- 600W RMS
Speakers- Electrovoice SX300 300 watts
continuous, 1200 watts peak.
System is waterproof, has been operated in the pouring rain
considering building and operating a bicycle sound system
various aspects must be
1, Sound quality
3, Visual impact
4, Choice of music
Sound Quality Originally, the few bicycle sound systems that
we had heard
terrible, too quiet, poor reproduction, distorted and lacking bass
response. Often, in order to make up for a lack of power, the amp would
overdriven, a result of the source (CD player, MP3 player
etc.) being turned to full and the amplifier itself turned to full.
The result would be a horrible distorted sound. The
amplifiers would be underpowered; what is loud inside a house or car
can be ineffective outside.
When choosing a Hi-Fi system, the advice always given is 'spend as much
speakers as the rest of the sound system put together'. To a certain
extent, you can get away with a poor amplifier, and a cheap music
player if you have a top quality speaker. The other way round, the
music will always sound bad.
there are plans for DIY speakers out there, in our opinion
never as good as a speaker from a top manufacturer. When building this
system we wanted to
use the best speakers for the job and chose a pair of Electrovoice SX300 Speakers.
speakers are seen everywhere, they are virtually indestructable and
sound fantastic. They have a 12" woofer and they can take 300 watts
continuously and will take
transient spikes of 1200 watts. They are not cheap!
important component of a sound system is the amplifier. Domestic Hi-Fi
or public address (PA)
amps were out of the question due to the battering they would be
subjected to. A 12v car stereo amplifier was chosen, an Orion
Cobalt.These amps are
renowned for their robustness and excellent sound quality.
Here is a picture of the amplifier set-up:
The amplifier was mounted
above the 110 Ah leisure battery inside a covered ex-delivery bicycle
Mounting it all inside meant that the electronics were completely
shielded from the rain.
We originally used a Sony Minidisc player for the music source. However
we found the remote control to be unreliable. The most likely reason
because of the distance from the front of the bike to the player,
located in the trailer.
We now use a Sansa Disc Clip. These have the
advantage of being small and can play FLAC files. These files are far
superior to MP3 files in that they are lossless, unlike MP3s which lose a lot of information when they are created.
We believe this is
sounding bicycle sound system in the country.
Reliability With any prototype device that
is continually subject to modifications, the
possibility of a breakdown can be almost guaranteed! We have tried to
eliminate this with a careful choice of components and a 'belt and
important issue to take into account when constructing a mobile
sound system is vibration. Cobbles, potholes and speed humps give these
rigs a hard life. We have seen a few systems break down due to
connections and fittings working loose. We made sure when constructing
this system to fix everything securely; wood is glued and screwed,
have locking compound applied, the speaker connections are held
by double screws at the amplifier end and professional SpeakON
connectors are used to plug into the speakers. These lock on
and cannot come undone. All cables
are clamped securely and a professional gold-plated fuse was used.
A toolkit is carried along with useful items such as cable-ties, gaffa
tape, electrical insulation tape, spare inner tubes, bike pump.
Punctures on a rig like this can be a nightmare. We have tried to
minimise this by fitting Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres to
the bicycle and
trailer. Although not cheap,
so far we have not had any punctures.
very few exceptions, the bicycle sound systems in the UK are not good
to look at. For many events, looks are not that
important. Often seen is the matt black, 'hardcore' look,
for Critical Mass rides, not so good for public, festival type events.
As we have been involved in events for many
years we know very well that visual appearance can be more important
to the public than the actual performance itself. We are also
aware that if a customer has paid money for something, they will want
to get good value.
With very few exceptions the bicyle sound systems we have seen use
ordinary, often grubby
bikes that look like they have just come from the city commute. For a
public event they do not look good.
Originally we used
an old Marin
bike. The bike was ideal for pulling such an enormous weight. However,
due to the forward-leaning position, it was hard to look up and greet
and wave to people. After a while this caused neck-ache.
We changed the bike to a Dutch bike. This has a very upright riding
position which is perfect for waving and generally grinning at
Our latest towing bike is a restored, specially converted 1970's Dutch bike.
is immaculate and is colour matched to the trailer. As it is used only
for pulling the sound system it can be maintained in an excellent
The trailer itself,
as can be seen in the pictures, has changed over the years. In earlier
incarnations, the trailer retained its original colour of yellow
fibreglass. Another thing that has evolved is the cover for the
We also wear a costume, the latest, a type of ''Steampunk',
Here is a picture taken at the 2012 Manchester Skyride. The bike is an
everyday Dutch bike.
With just about every sound system we have
heard, the music played has seemed like an afterthought. Many times it
looks as the rider is just playing their own personal music without any
consideration to their audience. Often an entire CD of the same band or
genre will be heard. Another issue is short playlists. At
an event like Skyride that can last for six hours the same songs end up
playing over and over if the playlist is too short.
Having played in pubs and clubs for many years to a wide variety of
people, I know what sort of music to play. I know how to mix it up so
different genres follow each other, i.e. if the song being played is
not to your taste, the next one will be a different genre and you will
probably like it.
Our playlist lasts for about 240 minutes, is carefully edited so each
song starts as the previous finishes, so no gaps. It is always
changing; sometimes we will choose a song then realise it does not
'work' out on the road, skip it then remove it later.