THE OPEN SOURCE MISSION:
To promote sustainable culture in general and bicycle culture in particular, by physically engaging and immersing communities in the magic of bike culture, and cultivating and nurturing networks of local sustainable musicians, through our staging of free, community participatory, bicycle-based music events.
It is our great hope that our festivals will inspire the advent of more pedal powered community events and to teach individuals how to transform their lives by using a bicycle for power and transportation! It is our intention to support this growth by sharing our knowledge and experience of the bicycle generated system, organization, and touring.
The Pleasant Revolution Bicycle Music Festival Tour follows in the tire tracks of the San Francisco BMF—”the largest 100% bicycle-powered music festival in the world”—and the Ginger Ninjas’ globe trotting bike music shenanigans. San Francisco’s free, all-day (and late into the night) event takes place annually on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice.
A Bicycle Music Festival typically features: a 1–2000 watt pedal-powered PA system, as many as 15 bands, up to 7 festival stops, outrageous Critical Mass-style bicycle party caravans between festival stops, and zero use of cars or trucks.
With its completely bike-haulable stage, the event is packed up and deployed numerous times: staged sequentially at different public parks and also on a moving “Live On Bike” stage which rolls down city streets.
The festival is run by a team of over 20 volunteers and is supported financially both by donations from the public (mostly gathered at the event), and through partnerships with hip companies.
The SF festival began in 2007, and has since doubled in size each year. Like Critical Mass (another SF-birthed bike spectacle) the concept has begun to be emulated around the world. We encourage you to start one in your city!
The first BMF – 2007
The only festival in the world literally hauling its own weight, the BMF possesses 4 distinctive qualities:
1) The human-powered P/A system, which besides being the most fun and green way to amplify a live concert, also transforms every song into an audience participation song, and radically democratizes the concert-goer experience (the power to amplify the people onstage rests entirely in the will of the people offstage; democracy at its healthiest you might say!).
2) Bicycle-mobility of the entire festival: the entire audience/band/stage/crew completely packs-up everything they bring (stage and musical equipment too) onto bicycles, and travels as a large group to the next festival stop. There are no sag-wagons or equipment trucks hauling the amplifiers and other heavy gear – everything is hauled by bicycle.
3) Pilgrimage-style sequential venue schedule: Unlike other festivals where bands are scheduled to play overlapping slots on stages that are set-up just around the corner from one another (often resulting in overlapping sound), the Bicycle Music Festival unfolds like a delightful treasure hunt: in a linear and adventurous journey-form, with only one meaningful development in the plot unveiled at a time, and stages located a full bike-ride away from each other.
4) Live On Bike mobile stage: Artists and bands perform while rolling down the city streets mounted on the backs of cargo bikes and bike trailers outfitted with microphones and amplifiers. The sound is wirelessly routed to “soulcycle” party bikes interspersed throughout the crowd, surrounding the crowd with sound.
The Bicycle Music Festival and its pedal-powered PA system are not only wonderful ways for the community to quite literally empower itself, but also a wonderful way to remind ourselves as we generate electricity with one another, shoulder to shoulder, where power is ultimately rooted.
Read our online organizational guide: How To Organize a BMF
Hugantic Shout Out!
San Franciscans Gabe Dominguez and Paul Freedman are perhaps the bike culture innovators to whom the Ginger Ninjas owe the juciest props. Together they were instrumental in creating the mobile human powered sound system that Gabe used on his first bicycle tour (of Utah) and which informed the Ninjas touring system; and they created the first bicycle music festival (that we know of), an evolving piece of art that continues to inspire our work. Much of this page was lifted from their site.
Audience powers the sound system:
Coupling super efficient digital amplifiers with generators attached to working bicycles (as opposed to purpose-built stationary bikes), this system allows a band to play off-grid anywhere, wall outlet or no, and to carry the system to a gig on two wheels. The band calls up members of the audience to pedal, up to four at a time with our current configuration.
How it works
- All of our rides are Xtracycle-equipped sport utility bicycles: like regular bikes except longer behind the seat to provide more room for and better handling when carrying gear.
- The Xtracycle system also provides for a dual-sided heavy duty kickstand that gets the rear wheel off the ground for stationary generation.
- A small DC motor with a 1” roller rubs on the sidewall of the rear tire, generating DC current. This motor is engaged and disengaged via a shifter lever, allowing for rapid setup of the band, and also enabling the rider to engage the motor while on the road (more on this below).
- This varying voltage DC pedaling energy is stored briefly in supercapacitors (“caps”), which shoot out a more consistent 11-15V. The buffering and storage of the caps supply amplifiers with both constant power and bursts. Our system demands about 160-200 Watts steadily, and up to 1000 Watts peak.
- An L.E.D. indicator on the handlebars tells the pedaler whether to pedal harder, keep ‘er steady, or STOP. Too little voltage will kill the sound and too much will actually ruin the cap.
- Each bike has its own cap, and each cap feeds into a common inverter. The inverter changes the DC current into 120 VAC with regular electric outlets, into which we plug all of our equipment: 2 x 500W speakers, mixing board, effects pedals, laptop, Down Low Glows, and chargers for the small devices we have on tour with us.
- Without efficient amplifiers, we would need 8 pedalers to get the same sound level!
- Our complete touring system incorporates flexible solar panels, small, eco-friendly Lithium Phosphate batteries, and on-the-fly generator engagement for all of our electric needs.
- We’re using bikes to power music, but you could use a similar generator to power most any household electrical device.
Equipment we use:
We have a range of bikes from different makers, including Giant, Schwinn, Bridgestone, Trek, and Surly, all equipped with the Xtracycle FreeRadical, a frame extending “rack”. We also have a Surly Big Dummy ( a complete long-frame bike that’s compatible with the Xtracycle rack system.) We favor mountain bikes for their cushy fat ground-loving tires and relatively strong wheels (smaller wheels are stronger than bigger wheels, all else being equal). We use quick-release seatposts so seat heights can be adjusted for different riders. To improve: we often find that none of our bikes are small enough for little kids who want to pedal at shows.
We fabricated our dual-sided kickstands ourselves, though Xtracycle keeps threatening to manufacture one for sale. We also glued and screwed little blocks to the undersides of our SnapDecks for the kickstand feet to rest in. This keeps the bikes more stable for pedalers, and also enables us to play on the grass without the stands burrowing in. To improve: current stands need both hands to engage (not really kickstands at all) so are very inconvenient for casual stops. Also, they have no leveling capability if the ground isn’t flat. Hopefully the Xtracycle stand will address both of these weaknesses.
We mostly use Schwalbe Marathon XR 2.25 tires, because they’re really puncture resistant, have cool reflective sidewalls and are great rollers. On the other hand, they’re fairly expensive and don’t seem to offer any more resistance than average to sidewall wear. Any time your roller wheel is insufficiently engaged with the sidewall, the sidewall will suffer. An tire can be ruined in one generating use without proper attention. (If you see little black specs on the floor, adjust your roller immediately!). Lately we’ve taken to using the cheapest MTB tires we can find since we haven’t yet figured out how to keep them from wearing out. To improve: find a touring tire that’s made specifically for a dynamo rub wheel.
Tip: as you start to notice your sidewall wearing, rotate your tires. On a set of two tires you have 4 potential sidewalls to use and with good roller and rotation management might be able to use the tires until the tread wears out instead of replacing otherwise good tires b/c their sidewalls have failed or are about to fail.
Caution: don’t put a tire with a bad sidewall on your front wheel! A blowout on your front wheel will most likely be ugly!
We use a generic motor that we order from McMaster-Carr, part number: 6331K13. It’s kinda expensive and only rated at 5 amps (at 3456 rpm; we produce upwards of 10,000). We’ve calculated that our system produces 7-10 amps often, meaning that we’re overdriving this motor and it’s lifespan is decreased. We built a plastic housing around our motors to keep them dry while riding in the wet. To improve: find a widely available 7-10 amp motor, optimally a common auto part such as an electric fan motor.
We custom built our mounts out of aluminum. They are designed to bolt into the bottom of a cantilever brake boss, enabling their use on most any modern adult bicycle without welding. They pivot in and out of engagement.
A cheap thumb shifter or downtube shifter (from a derailleur, often available from the old parts bin at your bike shop) mounts anywhere within reach of the rider and engages the motor against the tire. A simple, custom spring mechanism retracts it. To improve: optimally, the rub wheel would automatically engage the tire just the right amount always, so that there would never be too much pedaling resistance and never too little contact (and too much wear). This system would have to account for the likelihood of the wheel being somewhat out of true.
This custom made piece mounts to the handlebar. A small wire from the capacitor lights up either a yellow, green, or red L.E.D., letting the pedaler know whether to pedal harder, hold steady, or stop. To improve: our yellow L.E.D. doesn’t come on with super low voltage; if it did, you’d know that the system was working correctly even before you’d gotten it up to operating voltages. Sometimes people keep pedaling even when the red light is lit, either out of ignorance or bliss or both. The optimal system would have a safeguard that would not allow the cap to get overcharged (which burns it up). The catch is creating such a “shunt” or voltage regulator that doesn’t constantly draw juice. The mount could also be improved to be quicker and surer to attach to the handlebars.
58 Farad caps manufactured by Maxell. Part number: BPAK0058 E015 B01. To improve: as stated above, it would be nice to have some overload protection for these expensive beasties. It would also be nice to find a used or generic source for something a bit less expensive, though the investment isn’t bad if you don’t destroy them!
When the system voltage (as determined by the highest reading cap in the chain) goes over 15 something, the inverter overloads and turns off the music. We have a little tool that plugs the offending cap into a resistor and sheds voltage down to the useable range. To improve: it would be nice to know which cap of the four was the offender. Sometimes you can tell be looking at each indicator, but sometimes you have to unplug each individually and check the voltage with Mr. Watty before draining the one that needs it.
A little electronic meter that connects, in-line if desired, into the wire coming from the cap to the inverter to tell you what the cap voltage (or current) is. To improve: the deluxe system would show you the digital voltage of every incoming line without needing a special tool and would have built-in voltage drain feature.
Power cables between capacitors and the inverter are varying lengths, from about 12 to 20 feet, since we want to minimize cable weight while allowing for bikes to be set up in different places. Heavier gage wire minimizes line losses, but it’s called “heavy” for a reason… Neutrik connectors are used on both ends. To improve: do some math or testing to optimize gage; Neutrik not always reliable; clean up cable routing to avoid accidental tire rub.
Our amps are rated at 1000 Watts peak (combined), so we thought we’d be fine using consumer-grade off-the-shelf inverters rated at 500 W continuous/1000 W peak. We tried lots of brands, Coleman, West Marine, Vector, etc, burning them all up in turn and deciding that our use demands something more robust. We settled on a 1000W unit from Xantrex, makers of professional grade alternative energy equipment. It lasted a couple months before becoming quirky; they replaced it on warranty with an 1800W model. We think that the 1000W unit was up to the task but just a bad piece, but haven’t checked another one. The 1800W model has worked flawlessly. It has the option of hard wiring in an additional cable or outlet, and we did. So our long amp/speakers’ power cables are wired right into the unit.
We wanted a system that would be loud enough for 3-400 people, carryable on two wheels over the long haul, and powerable with four generator bikes or fewer. We knew that we would be putting all the instruments and vocals through the mains: no bass amp, no guitar amp—everything direct. We spent a lot of time researching different speaker weights and looking at state-of-the-art amp technology. Most amps are Class A or B or A/B. These amps analog amps are about 60% efficient on average—the other 40% of energy in ends up as heat. Lately, a Class D amp technology has become digified and applicable to live sound reproduction. We had decided to have a Danish dude build us a custom DC (no inverter required) digital amp, when we discovered that JBL had just come out with a killer sounding cabinet that already had a digital Class D amplifier built into it. We bought two of these PRX-512s. Each is a two-way speaker, with a 12” woofer and a horn. They weigh about 42 pounds each and fit perfectly on the back of an Xtracycle. We had found lighter speakers, but none that had amps inside. If we weren’t using Class D amps of some sort, we need almost twice as many bikes to get the same volume! It’s a really good lesson in reducing your demand before you work on the supply side—even if you know the supply is going to be “sustainable.” As an analogy, you’d want to replace your incandescent bulbs with CFLs before trying to run your house on solar panels. To improve: it would be nice if amps didn’t draw at all when there was no signal, to minimize storage loss in the cap when the band stops. It would also be nice if the speakers weighed less! We’re thinking about trying to re-make the cabinets out of fiberglass.
We use straight tripod stands for lightness. Though accustomed to boom stands, we’ve gotten used to the straight ones and like the couple pound weight savings. Roland used to make one out of aluminum, and we have on of these, but it’s been discontinued. It weighs half of what the steel ones do. We considered using headset mics (Madonna style) to save on both mic and stand weight, but if you sing with a lot of dynamics, you pretty much need a dedicated sound engineer to monitor your levels since you can’t vary your position from the mic. We tried making our own out of bamboo, but didn’t like the lack of adjustability of the first batch. To improve: get aluminum stands or make nice ones out of bamboo (renewable!).
We made some super light stands out of old carbon fiber windsurfer poles. They got the speakers up high but had to be tied to a bike for stability. We didn’t use them much, accidentally left them behind in Baja, and have been just setting the speakers on the backs of bikes since then—either horizontally or vertically, with some sort of tiedown. Horizontally seems to be stable enough that the bike can also be used as a generator bike, minimizing the total number of bikes on the stage.
We don’t currently have monitors. We position the mains a little bit behind the frontline and do our best. Some of us think this is ok, some of us think it sucks. To improve: We’re going to experiment with wired in-ear monitors and might try some small powered mic-stand speakers, too.
One of the speakers has a 500/1000w West Marine inverter built into it (by us). This enables us to plug it directly into a 12V battery and have iPod music while we’re riding, a truly bomb element of being a mobile musician. The generator doesn’t spin fast enough while tooling around town to produce the current needed by the big speaker, which is why we must use a battery. To improve: wirelessly connect both speakers (on separate bikes) so we could roll in stereo.
In addion to the primary power out, the caps also have a jack for plugging in a Down Low Glow, these lights make the pedal powered spectacle even more dulce. Also, they can be charged continuously while riding (like the dynamo-driven lights of the old days excpet way cooler) and give an amazing amount of side visibility. To improve: the lights would go out when the indicator was yellow, letting full power go to the inverter until the pedaler gets up to green. Also seriously lacking from our setup is real stage lighting.
The caps are built into little plastic boxes (made out of a section of square gutter downspout—for protection and water resistance). Also in these boxes is a charge controller so that the generator can be used to charge a battery instead of feeding into the inverter. To improve: a kick-ass charge controller would allow you to engage the generator at the top of a really big hill and use 10 amps or so to charge a battery. As it is, our charge controller is not robust enough to use this much current, and the capacitor doesn’t have enough capacity to store it, so most of the downhill potential goes unused. Building this would be one of the top 3 improvements to the system.
We have 6 amp-hour 12V lithium ion phosphate batteries, primarily for running the Soul Cycle, though they could also run laptops and charge other devices. Lithium ion phosphate is a chemistry that is supposedly very eco-friendly, very simple to charge (doesn’t require a smart charger), and relatively lightweight. It is also expensive. We ordered these directly from a Taiwanese manufacturer as a sample. It looks like Brunton is getting ready to sell something similar, in a really robust package, and we hope to try them out. To improve: 6 amp hours isn’t really enough for a bangin’ soul cycle session. We want to try 12.
We have folding 26 Watt solar panels made by Brunton. They can charge our Lithium batteries, AAs, or iPods. If you daisy chain a couple-three together, you can run a laptop directly.
SHOUT OUT to the self-powered pioneers: SHAKE YOUR PEACE!, Fossil Fool, Nate Byerley, Jeremy Fisher, bicycle the band, Xtracycle Inc, and the Bicycle Music Festival. And big ups to our main man, the engineer and whirlwind tour de force behind our system: Dante Espinosa, now selling this stuff and providing even more detail at his site, economadica.
Can you do it without an Xtracycle?
There are a gazzillion ways to carry cargo on a bike: from jury-rigged rack to kid trailer to home-built hauler. A lot of this stuff is easier to find used than is the currently-in-high-demand Xtracycle, and therefore likely cheaper. Xtracycle is generally lighter, faster, nimbler and more adaptable to a wider variety of cargo than other options: we don’t think any other means of cargo carrying is as suited to the bicycle musician lifestyle, especially if you plan to tour out on the open road. And we are certainly biased (one of us co-founded the company).
As far as generating electricity goes, you can buy a ready-made stationary power generation station on the internet for less than $400 bucks that you can plop most any regular bike into and start making juice. These systems have big motors and heavy stands to hold the bike upright. This means they can likely generate more juice than can our system and that they are much much heavier, to the point wheree you wouldn’t want to tour with them. But if you want to make a system for local use that you can haul around in a trailer (or even leave in place) and use with a wide variety of bikes, this is a cheaper option than building a bike-mounted system.
For bike-mounted, mobile systems, the Xtracycle or another kickstandable longbike platform makes the most sense.
Do you generate while riding and then use the energy to power a show?
No. The capacitors can only store enough energy for a couple of minutes of performance, which is why the audience must (gets to!) pedal throughout the whole show.
Do you store the pedal energy in batteries?
No, we use supercapacitors that only weigh about a pound. Batteries are generally too heavy for bike touring and not as good at rapid charge/discharge. There is still research to do in this area. Some folks are saying that they think we could use batteries instead of capacitors.
Did you guys invent this system?
Most of the elements of the system were developed by Nate Byerley (the Juice Peddler) and Paul Freedman (aka Fossil Fool, of Rock the Bike) for/with Gabe Dominguez (SHAKE YOUR PEACE!) for Gabe’s bike tour of Utah in the Spring of 2007. Gabe’s completely DC system uses the same generator (mounted to the SnapDeck) and capacitor as ours, in a homemade speaker cabinet with a T-amp (a proprietary Class D amp). We wanted a motor mount that could bolt to any bike, a system powerful enough for a whole band playing for 400 people, and a variety of charging capabilities, so we developed these features (with Dante Espinosa, our team genius hurricane loco engineer). In reality, none of this technology is cutting edge (except for the digital amp); it’s just the mobility and application that are our collective contribution to this work that many others are also engaged in. People have been using bikes to power things for a long time.
Where can I buy one?
Dante Espinosa, our system engineer, at his new company economadica, and Rock the Bike both offer various standard and custom elements for human powering music and other things.
Where can I find out more?
There’s a community of interested tinkerers and noisemakers forming at bicyclemusic.ning.com
How much power does each rider produce?
You produce 30-120 Watts continuously on our system, depending on effort (and fitness!). If you’re like Lance, you can probably peak out at 400 or so Watts.
How much energy do you “save” this way?
We powered 98% of our shows in the past year with the audiences’ legs. It would probably be more accurate to say “they powered.” No nukes, no coal, no dams, no pollution. The saved electricity from the whole tour is roughly equal in energy content to about 10 gallons of gas. For comparison, by using bikes to get to our gigs, we saved about 3000 gallons of gas!
Also, because our total electricity is in limited supply, we are forced to conserve it. This means that we use hyper efficient amplifiers, efficient stage lighting, and don’t plug in a lot of extra junk. The scarcity of a resource makes you think way more about how you use it. People who live off the grid in solar-powered houses never forget to turn out the lights because they know if they do their whole system might be completetly dead in the morning! In our modern homes, the “wall” seems like a limitless supply of electricity and we therefore have to “remember” to think really hard in order to conserve it.
Our shows consume about 200W (1/4 the power of a toaster) of continuous human power (we think of it as “burrito power”) to run our 1000W sound system. A typical band our size, playing for a similar number of people (200–800), uses in the neighborhood of 1000–4000W of wall power, not counting lighting. “Wall power” is a euphemism; it means “screwing things up over there where you can’t see it happen.”
This energy saved is literally a drop in the bucket compared to how much energy is saved by touring by bicycle. The point of not plugging into the grid is more a show of independence and self-reliance and a way of helping people get excited about possibilities while connecting some of the mysterious sustainability dots than it is a bona-fide way of severely limiting our impact on the planet.
Can you generate power while riding to store in a battery to turn the motor to make it into an electric bike and make you go?
Yes, if you pray to the something for nothing gods, and are willing to ignore the laws of physics and/or pretend they don’t apply to you!
2010 European Tour Sponsors:
We want to give lots of love to the generous individuals, organizations, and companies that contribute to our mission and make the tours possible. It takes a lot to make international tours happen. From food, gear, promotion, or financial contributions, our sponsors advance our shared goal of spreading environmental awareness and building cross cultural bridges while creating new, diverse, and exciting musical experiences.
Thanks to :
You Can Do It Too!:
Equipment We Have Come To Deem Road Worthy:
This stuff makes our journey easier/better/possible/faster/comfier. We also tried to get a lot of our equipment used from friends and from thrift stores and the occasional sidewalk. Check out craigslist.org and freecycle.org the next time you think you need some stuff. And try not to get too caught up—the most important thing is to set out riding! We’ve seen people touring on a Huffy with a big backpack…
Xtracycle. Makes the “bikes” that make the journey doable and enjoyable. There are many ways to carry a load on a bike—trailers, tricycles, panniers, and backpacks are the most popular—but none could carry the loads we have on the roads we’re riding, not to mention with comfort, style, and extreme modularity. In our admitedly biased opinion (tour leader Kipchoge is a co-founder of the company), the long wheelbased load carrying bicycle is the transportation of choice for the bicycle revolution. Xtracycle makes a kit called the FreeRadical that attaches to the bike you already own to convert it into a long wheelbase load hauler. They also make accessories for use with Surly’s Big Dummy LongTail.
Clif Bar. One of the most progressive companies out there, trying to do good in the world. We tried to come to consensus on favorite flavor, but we all like different ones. Hemp brownie, fruity shot blocks, and mojo are all favorites. One person even loves the Builder Bar, but everyone else thinks it’s gross. Clif was also the only company we accepted financial support from. Their family foundation gave a generous grant to support publicity for the tour and cargo bicycling.
Brunton. Perhaps our most generous supporter, these radsters make a whole bunch of cool equipment. We use their folding solar panels and charge controllers to charge our Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries for Soul Cycling, to charge laptops and cell phones, and AA batteries for almost every other electric need. We use the 26 Watt panels, which are a great size for spreading over your whole Xtracycle load, and we also have a couple of the iPod size panels. Brunton makes really cool headlamps that are powerful enough for us to also use as headlights for biking, and even stage lights. We chose their multi-fuel stoves for cooking and simmerability, stormproof lighters for firing in the wind, binocs for whale watching, and 2-way radios for communication on the road. Last but not least, the titanium spork! Humble, useful, and always accessible with its own integrated clip. It has become one of the most used, loved, and fought over things on the adventure.
Surly. We’re using two of their bike frames, the 1×1—hooked to an Xtracycle FreeRadical, and a prototype of their newest frame, the Big Dummy. Surly is known for making bomber frames, which makes them perfect for our rather huge loads. The Big Dummy is the first production LongTail bike frame that’s compatible with all the Xtracycle accessories. Surly people are planetary cool and their bikes rock.
Rock the Bike. Constantly raising the bar in the creation of a hip and expanding bicycle culture, this more-or-less one-man show makes really sweet neon cloud lights by day, and raps succinct yet extravagant paeans to the two-wheeled thing by night. Paul Freedman, AKA Fossil Fool, builds sicko music bikes for hiimself and other bike music innovators and helped us in the creation of ours. We dropped by his shop on our way through Berkeley to make some special connectors that allow us to use our Lithium Phosphate batteries to power the Down Low Glow and our powered JBL speakers. If you find yourself in the Bay Area, do not miss the opportunity to cruise with the Fool.
Ortleib. Known primarily as a pannier maker, they also make many different sizes of drybags. We all use two of the dry duffels, one in each FreeLoader. This size leaves a little room at the end of the FreeLoader for stuffing an extra waterball or shed clothing. Though it hasn’t hardly rained, drybags are the perfect way to keep stuff clean, too. The duffel style is especially appropriate for Xtracycling because you can get stuff in and out of your bag without even undoing your FreeLoader. It is not necessary to close the duffel unless it’s actually wet outside. We also chose these particular duffels because they aren’t made out of PVC, the most common drybag fabric and the most evil of chemicals.
Giant. The world’s most sophisticated bicycle manufacturer. Their vertical integration enables them to imagine, design, and make pretty much any shape of bike they want to, at a good price.
Nutcase. Styley helmets. No one seems to get how important that might be. These guys do, and they have a whole bunch of sweet designs to prove it.
Worldbike. The non-profit organization that is sponsoring our trip, Worldbike works to bring load-bearing bikes to the people in the world whose livelihoods can be most stoked by them. We’re trying to help spread the gospel of load-bearing bicycles to Mexico, where they seem to be more on their way out than in.
Klean Kanteen. Plastic water bottles pretty much suck. They either taste like plastic or contaminate your insides with poisonous plasticizers, or both. Klean Kanteen makes stainless steel bottles that solve the problem.
Hoss. Great people, cool shorts and knickers with and without padding.
Ahnu. A shoe company trying to make shoes with as little environmental impact as possible. And they’re waterproof, distinctive looking, ass kicking bike shoes. We needed one pair of shoes that could work for riding, running, climbing, and dancing; these are the ones.
Chaco. Most of us ride in flip flops. This Colorado company—known for their sport sandals—makes the toughest ones we’ve found. They’re also trying to minimize the impact of their shoe making.
SRAM. We need dependable brakes and drivetrains that work and last while driving big loads around the planet. Their Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes revolutionized disc brakes with ease of adjustment, and are the ideal stoppers for our needs, and for anyone who likes to stop quick and doesn’t like to futz with brakes every couple of days.
Ergon. They invented a new kind of grip that supports the flat of your hand and makes riding more comfortable. We love, love, love them.
Marmot. It hasn’t rained yet, but when it does, we look forward to donning their superlight waterproof pants. As with fenders, having raingear seems to keep it from raining.
MSR and Cascade Designs. Thanks to our friend Timmy O’Neil for sharing his MSR sponsorship with us. Gracias to his generousity, we ended up with the Hubba Hubba, perhaps the most satisfying tent to put up of all time. It only has one pole! And what a cool pole it is, somehow miraculously having 6 ends! And the tent seems to weigh about half of what many 2 person tents do.
Adidas Eyewear. Polarized lenses to cut down on glare; cool frames to make you feel cool.
Planet Bike. Certainly in the running for the best company in the bike business, these guys give a quarter of their profits directly back to bicycle advocacy. Consider that most companies give only 1–2% of their profits to charity and even the really good ones like Patagonia give only 10%. Planet Bike makes lots of good stuff for everyday riders, including blinky lights and great fenders. We’re all equipped with said fenders.
Park. Make the tried and true tools that shops use to fix your bike. They also make multi tools that we’re using to cure most of our ills, and an awesome semi-complete set of tools that comes in a backpack. We ultimately decided not to bring the backpack because of the weight, and we ended up regretting not having a couple things, especially a chain whip and cassette tool for replacing drive-side spokes.
QBP. You probably won’t be buying anything from them soon, but your bike shop probably will. They’re the biggest, friendliest, and most together distributor in the industry.
Schwalbe. Germans who make what appear to be the sturdiest touring tires around. We’re using the Marathon XR, which have tread on the sides for dirt and gravel but also have an almost totally continuous center strip for lowered rolling resistance. They also have beefy sidewalls, which makes them perfect for the generators we’re rubbing against them.
Big Agnes. Small Colorado company that makes an innovative sleeping bag. They figure you don’t need the down on the bottom, you need it on the top—as long as you stay on your insulative pad. So, they put a pocket for the pad underneath you; you don’t roll off the pad, and the insulation goes on top where it’s needed.
Artisana. It doesn’t make too much sense to bike tour with glass jars, but the raw, organic, kindy kind nut butters these geniuses concoct are too tasty to leave behind. We eat the coconut butter by the sporkful.
Doctor Kracker. These are the best crackers in the world.
Boiron. Maybe you’ve figured out that many medicines don’t work as suggested, or worse, have side-effects. For some maladies, nothing seems to beat homeopathy. Boiron makes some remedies that seem to cure miraculously, and because they’re essentially just sugar pills, they have no side effects. (For the sceptics out there, many of these remedies have been proven effective in double-blind placebo controlled studies.) Sportenine is a pill that you can take before a day of expected physical exertion, like when you’re going to ride your 200-pound bike over an 8,000 foot hill in the sun. It makes you not get sore. And if you actually injure yourself, Arnica is positively miraculous at promoting fast healing of sprains, strains, and bruises. There are homeopathic remedies for most any illness, including many that Western medicine has no clue about how to treat—like colds, for instance.
Cane Creek. When you ride bumpy and you don’t have a full suspension bike, try the Thudbuster. It works as advertised.
MIT Cables. Early in the trip, we were riding down the hill towards Sacramento when we came upon three enthusiastic Xtracyclists claiming to represent and comprise the biking population of the suburban “town” of Rocklin. As it happened, they were waiting to ride with us. We were honored and happy to have some supporters. One of the intrepid riders makes high-tech instrument cables with a secret black box of aural excitement. Now we have a quiver.
Reelight. Imagine a bike light with no batteries that’s a cinch to install and works by magic. Thus is the Reelight—affix a couple magnets to your spokes, use your axle nuts to bolt on the light, and you have a blinky LED that’s always on.
Ovation Guitars. Their high-end axes sound great, play great, stay in tune and can take a serious beating. If you want to bring your nice guitar on the road, by bicycle, in a light soft case, this is the one.
Marin Bikes. Makers of really great and reasonably priced bikes of all kinds, but a specialist in a new breed of city bike trageted towards the everyday rider/commuter.
Whitney Drums. As you might imagine, toting a complete set of drums on a touring bike is easier said than done. In fact, we didn’t even think it would be possible for one person to do it. So, we scoured the ‘net for a set that would collapse like those Russian dolls. Little did we know that we’d find such a set that is one of the best playing and sounding kits available. No compromises in this beautiful set. And, it’s light and compact enough for Brock to carry all the drums, and the stands, and his camping/traveling gear. Thanks, JC!
Diskmakers. Replicates CDs fast and reliably and has great prices and some environmental packaging options. We tried to get them to use unbleached recycled paper (not just recyclable.) We’ll keep trying and we hope you do, too. That´s usually what makes companies change.
Blue Bear. Merino wool is the best cycling wear. It doesn’t stink and keeps you warm, even when rainy or sweaty. These radsters make cool merino tights that you can use for your only thermals, skiing or biking or just chilling in the fridge.
No Enemy. There is no other shirt maker who cares as much about how his shirts are made and what they’re made of than the artist behind these 100% organic cotton Ts, hoodies, and pants. An eco-clothing maker that others may aspire to emulate. The only clothing more eco is thrift or naked.
New Belgium Brewing Co. Not literally equipment, but a damn good place to drink your beer. Eco and employee conscious brewers of Fat Tire and other tasty treats. Supporters of most every good cause and promoters of the Tour de Fat, a lovely mix of beer, music and bicis.