So it’s the last Friday of the month and that means Critical Mass. Tonight’s ride will take off at 7 p.m. from Government Center downtown and run 12 miles through East Little Havana, Allapattah, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Midtown, and Edgewater. (Get more details and/or RSVP on the Miami Critical Mass Facebook page.)
If you saw our post from last month’s CM, you know one fine gentleman provided a soundtrack for the 15-mile ride via a speaker attached to the back of his bike. Of course, listening to the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Broken Social Scene along the route just about perfected the experience of riding en masse through the streets of Miami on a breezy night, and I’m happy to report it was not a one-time treat.
Last night I spoke to said fine gentleman — one Daus Studenberg — and learned about the Miami Bicycle Sound System Project, a “labor of love” with the mission of setting Miami’s mass bike rides to music from here on out.
When did the Miami Bicycle Sound System Project start?
DS: It started about a year ago. Emerge Miami organized the Bike Prom, and they approached me to make some kind of sound system. I was very happy to do it, but I didn’t have much time. So I took whatever I had out of my garage, hacked my stereo system, took two-by-fours, tore up my bike trailer, and put it together — I even put a record player on top. I brought it out for the ride. It barely made it, but the reception was beyond most people’s expectations. I passed it off as a Bike Prom thing, but a number of people kept approaching me to build a sound system [for long-term use]. Finally I said ok. I wanted to bring the community together, so I went ahead and created a Facebook page and started taking everyone’s suggestions.
Why did they approach you?
DS: They approached me because I’m an engineer and I like music. I guess I’ve built a few things before. I don’t think they expected the level of what I built for this project. I thought, If you’re going to do the project, you gotta do it right. You know, let’s make some tunes so every one can hear it and enjoy it.
Can you explain the sound system itself in layman’s terms?
DS: In layman’s terms, it’s basically a car system that’s battery powered. I use a wheel-chair battery. I have a JL Audio amplifier. Most sound systems I’ve seen have used car speakers, but I didn’t feel it was loud enough. So I managed to find PA speakers that would fit into a trailer. They’re much louder and direct a lot of sound to the front and back — that way everybody can enjoy it. Then we added the ability to have different iPods all hooked up, so if we want to change a set list, we can turn off one iPod and change to another one. We also hooked up a microphone to it to be used as a portable PA.
Do you think the sound system can play a part in growing Miami’s bike scene?
DS: Absolutely. As long as the music is tastefully picked — it always has to be something that brings a crowd, where everybody can find some commonality in it. We’re just starting to figure this out. We want it to bring a soundtrack to the rides that everyone can agree on.
I know you were trying to raise $500 to fund the project — were you able to?
DS: We are $283 short – or I am $283 short on the project. It’s really a labor of love. I have donated I can’t say how many hours into this project because of my love for the bicycle community. So whether I get that amount in full or not, that doesn’t really make a difference to me. I’m very happy to have provided something that’s very positive and will bring more people to the scene. But any amount to pay off the balance would be appreciated. [Laughs.]
What’s it like hauling the sound system rig? Does it hold you back?
DS: Well, it’s not that bad at all. It was bad when something happened and you start and stop. [Ed. note: The speaker cut out a few times last month.] That was brutal. But you can keep up with Critical Mass-speed rides, and it’s not that strenuous at all, which is quite surprising. I will be towing [tonight], probably for the last time. But I’m looking forward to seeing other [Emerge Miami] members towing it on their own as they take on the project. Not to say I won’t do it again, but I am looking forward to having other people enjoy that experience.
How are you going to choose the music for the ride? Will it be a democratic process?
DS: We’ve pretty much come up with the set list for [tonight’s] ride on our own. But ultimately I’m going to be passing this whole system onto Emerge — I felt that they would be responsible in bringing it to as many rides as possible. As to what anyone wants to do with the music, I would like to make it very democratic and let people give feedback as to what works or not. For now, I’ll just look at everybody’s head and see how they are responding to the music.
Can you give a hint about tonight’s playlist?
DS: I’ll start out with a bicycle-themed song that was well received on a video I did a year ago. Then expect music to make you happy to bike on a Friday night in Miami.
How confident are you in the system now? Do you predict no technical difficulties tonight?
DS: You mean like the last ride? Hopefully. Everything now is fully hard-wired and set in. We have multiple iPods. So redundancy is the key.