Bicycle Sound System

We have been building bicycle sound systems for many years. Mostly on commission. The system below is our main 'big rig'.

Bicyle Sound System

More pictures can be found HERE!

Specifications

12 volt 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



When considering building and operating a bicycle sound system various aspects must be considered:

    1, Sound quality
    2, Reliability
    3, Visual impact
    4, Choice of music


Sound Quality
Originally, the few bicycle sound systems that we had heard all sounded terrible, too quiet, poor reproduction, distorted and lacking bass response. Often, in order to make up for a lack of power, the amp would be 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 on the 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.

Although there are plans for DIY speakers out there, in our opinion they are 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.
These 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!

The next 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:

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The amplifier was mounted above the 110 Ah leisure battery inside a covered ex-delivery bicycle trailer. 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 was 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 that  lose a lot of information when they are created.

We believe this is the best sounding bicycle sound system in the country.

Reliability
With any home-made 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 braces' approach.
An 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, bolts 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.

Visual Appearance

With 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, great 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.

Our towing bike is a restored, specially converted 1970's Dutch bike. It 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 condition.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 speakers.

We also wear a costume, the latest, a type of ''Steampunk', top-hatted look.

Originally we used an  old Marin ex-mountain 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 everyone. 

Here is a picture taken at the 2012 Manchester Skyride. The bike is an everyday Dutch bike.



Choice of Music

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.

You can see the latest playlist HERE

The sound system has previously been booked for the following Skyrides:

Manchester (4 times)
Birmingham (4 times)
London (4 times)
Finsbury Park (twice)
Redbridge (twice)
Bradford

Here are a some Youtube videos of this sound system. You can see how the sound system has evolved over the years.

Birmingham 2010



London 2010. Warning, filmed upside down, best viewed on a laptop!



Manchester 2014


If you want to hire this sound system, or you would like us to build one to your own specifications, email  HERE. Or call 

07729 999152

Copyright 2014 CliveBritton.com