The Sonic Bike is an instrument that plays sound and music that changes depending on where the cyclist goes and how fast they ride. It is simply a bicycle with speakers on the front and our GPS tracking audio system in a box on the back.
Compositions are mapped to locations using this system, made in fragments and linked to different user determined zones across a city or landscape, each zone set to trigger a different sound or instruction as the bike rides in and then departs. Sound works can be mapped anywhere in the world therefore, along a road, across a park, over an entire city, a hillside, enabling multiple routes for a cyclist to take, and endless compositional experiences for the maker.
A number of Sonic Bike variations have been created that build on the original design such as adding live music making by rider play/wobble? (sensory bike) and reclined vibration experience (buzz bike), making sonic cycling accessible to riders of all sizes and abilities.
The original Sonic Bike. The BRI and arts venues around the world have fleets of Sonic Bikes that the majority of our projects are created for.
The Sensory Bike is a recent adaptation that transforms the Sonic Bike into an instrument to be played by the cyclist.
The Buzz Bike is our latest design, adding vibration and multi channel audio to a reclined passenger welcoming multiple riders.
The Sonic Bike
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 Pi3 computer with GPS receiver attached, audio playing through two self powered speakers plus sub. The system is powered by a USB charged power pack delivering 5V to run 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.
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.
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
The original Sonic Bike was invented by Kaffe Matthews and designed and realised with Hive Networks for The Marvelo Project, commissioned by the first Folkestone Triennale 2008. DETAILS