August 12th, 2007

Bike power

Recently I got involved with a local group, the Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema. The idea is to use bikes to generate electricity, and to use that as an instrument for education, in particular about sustainability. We just had our first outing at The Big Chill, a three-day music festival.

Eight of us cycled from Cambridge to the Big Chill site in Herefordshire, a journey of roughly 130 miles. Many others arrived by other means to take part. Once we got there, we set up a tent with a platform for the bikes, a central console for managing the power generation, a projector and a pair of speakers. This took the best part of a week.

By some amazing coincidences, many people with ties to the project happened to be at the festival:

  • David Butcher, the godfather of pedal power; who was doing his own bike-powered project at the festival
  • members of the Chicago and local Ross-on-Wye chapters of the Rat Patrol, who brought along some brilliant mutant bikes and home brew cider
  • Fredric King, producer of B.I.K.E., a film we were showing about the Black Label Bicycle Club
  • Run Wrake, creator of amazing short film Rabbit that we were also showing; though Run was VJing at the Big Chill, we sadly didn't get to meet him

As for the cinema: in general, reception was very positive. Many festivalgoers made the trek up the hill from the festival to visit us, and people were generally keen to get on a bike for a bit and feed our machine. We were very happy that it all actually worked; as it turns out the power we generated was pretty close to what we needed to keep running. (Odd, and somewhat disquieting, to think that the tent housing our roughly 330 Watt show was shone upon by a number of 1000 Watt lights.)

By the end, we were all exhausted from the 10pm-3am shifts, and somewhat sad at having to take it all apart. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time. We learned a lot from our first excursion, and got lots of ideas for future improvements. Everyone involved seems eager to take the project forward to further success.