Sonic Bike

Invented by Kaffe Matthews, the Sonic Bike has evolved over 12 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 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 specific locations using this system, each one made in fragments and linked to different zones across cities or landscapes, each zone set to trigger a different sound as the bike rides in and then departs.  These zones can be layered and organised into vast sound works mapped 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, rider and the pedestrian passing by anywhere in the world.

We have also made several Sonic Bike variations that build on the original design but add for example live music making for the rider by how they ride/wobble? (Sensory Bike); a reclined vibrational and immersive experience for one or several passengers (the Buzz Bike), and most recently the EnviroBike that makes music live from the air pollution of the space it rides through.

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The original Sonic Bike. The BRI and arts venues around the world have fleets of Sonic Bikes that most of  our projects are created for.

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The Sensory Bike is a recent adaptation that transforms the Sonic Bike into an instrument to be played by the cyclist.

Enviro bike at Lisboa Soa

Enviro Bike makes sound and music through live sonification of air pollution as you cycle.

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The Buzz Bike adds vibration and immersive audio to reclined passengers of any age or ability.

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.

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Hardware:

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.

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Software:

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.

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

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

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