Sonic Bike

Invented by Kaffe Matthews, the sonic bike has evolved over 10 years of international projects, and continues to be researched and developed to expand the compositional potentials and unique listening experiences it creates.

The sonic bike is an instrument that plays site related sound pieces for it’s rider and those that it passes. It is simply a bicycle with frame mounted speakers performing different sounds and music dependent on where the cyclist goes and how they ride, using our location sensitive soft & hardware system.

Compositions are mapped to locations using a bespoke sonic bike mapping software. Created in fragments, sounds are mapped into different zones across a city or landscape, each one triggering a different sound or instruction when the bike rides in.  Sound works can be mapped anywhere in the world therefore, along a road, across a park, over an entire city, a hillside, a park, enabling multiple routes for a cyclist to take, and endless compositional to experiences.

The sensory bike, new in summer 2016, is an adaptation, evolving the sonic bike to become an instrument. Bike mounted sensors manipulate the sound playing according to how the rider rides – handlebar movement, speed and pedal motion all affect and manipulate the sound that plays. The sensory bike is a unique new form of instrument to be played by the rider, audience or performer, creating new movement-generated sound works and a performative cycling spectacle.


Current Sonic Bike Design

The sonic bike kit and its configuration have been developed and adapted with the practical and creative requirements of every project. This section details the current hardware, software and design systems in use now.

The current design is based on a two wheeled adult bicycle. The two speakers are positioned on a steel bar under the handlebars, facing the rider at a specific angle and distance apart. This positioning immerses the rider in the speakers’ soundfield, as well as dissolving or embracing the passing streets’ soundscapes as the rider goes. Speaker cables run along the bike frame to the kit box that is attached to the bike rack.



The sonic bikes currently perform from a Raspberry Pi2 computer with GPS receiver attached, audio playing through two self powered speakers plus sub. The system is powered by a LiPo battery transformed down to 5V for the Pi. Everything is stored in a waterproof box secured on the bike frame or back rack. TECH SPEC.



The sonic bikes use two types of software –

1. The mapping software which enables the drawing of zones of sound on streets, paths, parks, anywhere, creating a sound map score. TECH SPEC.

2. The system software, which runs on the Raspberry Pi2, enables the bike to locate itself on this sound map, so triggering specific music fragments to play in certain ways at particular locations, creating the sonic bike experience. TECH SPEC.

Design variations:

The harware has also been developed to fit a child’s bike and small tricycle, so as to welcome other sized and aged riders to sonic biking.  The speakers have also been flipped upside down to create a performance for passers by rather than the rider. TECH SPEC. All areas of the design are always being considered and reworked as necessary ~ from the type of bike that is made sonic, to the listening experience it creates. Read more in Research.

New Sensory Bike Design

The new sensory bike is an adaptation of the most recent sonic bike. Sensors fitted to multiple areas of the bike manipulate the sound playing, enabling the rider to control what they hear by how they ride. The sensory bike becomes a perfromative instrument – with riders choosing to go slow, go fast, to hop, zig zig, circle creating their own unique sound piece that speeds, reverses and changes pitch, while dancing on their bicycle.

The current design used the same kit on sonic bike design (left) but includes four additional sensors that can be used to manipulate the sound playing:

Sproket Sensor: currently measuring a pulse – capturing the motion of pedalling, forwards or backwards, fast or slow, used to control speed & direction of the track. 

Dynamo Sensor: measuring bike speed – currently controlling note change.

Brake Switch Sensor: Activating the break triggers a switch – currently used to modulate the tone.

Sense Hat on Raspberry Pi & Handlebar Sensor: Together they measure the tilt of the bike from lean and turn – currently used to filter the sound.


The sensory bike comes with a newly design speaker bar, made from recycled bike frames and features adjustable speaker heads – so as to position the speakers more accurately for each rider.

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The sensory bikes performs on the same hardware at the sonic bike but with additional sensors. A full TECH SPEC is coming soon on our WIKI.


The sensory bike uses the same software as the sonic bike but also uses PureData for the new data streams.

The Wiki

TECH SPEC links take you to our WIKI which contains all technical information as described above. Please explore, contribute and sign up to discuss future plans.

Plus anyone is invited to make a sonic bike and adapt or edit it as you choose. Do get in contact with us though as we’re happy to help and would like to know what your up to.

History of the sonic bike

What a sonic bike is, is constantly evolving. The History of a sonic (coming soon) bike details this journey, charting the development from the Marvelo bike in 2008 with it’s saddle-bag handbags, to our present day design.

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