Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hatch Shell on Wheels

When I started playing around with recumbents in the mid 90's I wanted everything for my bike. I was so excited with my new sport that anything new was what I needed.
Fairings were the thing back then and the idea of sitting behind a big piece of clear plastic to protect me from the wind looked great.
The only manufacturer of bicycle fairings that I could find was a company by the name of Zzip Designs run by a fellow by the name of Carl.
I contacted Carl and was told that he offered many styles of fairings for all types of applications. He pretty much figured out what I was going to need by how I described my bicycle and shipped me a fairing that he had designed for a bike called a "Gold Rush"
At that time I was riding a Bill Darby designed "Neobyke" Compact Long Wheel based with Above Seat Steering.
Carl offered two thickness's of polycarbonate plastic.I chose the heavier version because I was told that it was more durable. The fairing came with a one year unconditional guarantee and a kit to polish out scratches.
The Zzipper Fairing arrived in a much smaller box and quicker then I expected. Installation was super easy and before I knew it I was out on the road with my new windshield.
I have to say that I didn't really notice any increase in speed,except for tailwinds, but the protection from the wind and rain was fantastic. I could ride on colder days with much less clothing and in the rain without getting wet.
The biggest difference to the bike was the noise of the road and the gearing. The fairing worked like a parabolic reflector and amplified every sound.
After I had used the fairing for about 50 miles I started to think that if I was to get some kind of sound system and place the speakers into the fairing, I could replace the gear and road noise with music.
Sony offered a powered two speaker set for there Walkman that I bought and mounted to another set of fairing brackets I bought from Carl. They worked OK, but not enough low end for my liking.
On my daily commute from work I passed a place called Cambridge SoundWorks. SoundWorks offers all types of innovative designs for sound systems for the home. Home theater was just starting to get big, and they had five or six systems.
One of the systems they offered was a 3 piece package with two small satellite speakers and a small powered sub woofer. The system was designed to amplifiy your CD player or Home Computer. It retailed for $150.00 and could be powered with a rechargeable 12v battery that they also offered as an accessory with a charger for another $50.00.
It took me a while to get everything installed and dialed in, but it sounded great. I mounted the sub woofer on the back of the seat and ran the wires to the fairing for the satellite speakers. There was a true sweet spot for the speakers in the fairing and because of the brackets, I could tune them in.
For a sound source, I used a simple am/fm Sony radio that I mounted to the handle bars with a Cat Eye light bracket so could easily remove the radio if it started raining.
After a couple of weeks of fine tuning, I went back to Cambridge Soundworks. I brought my bicycle inside and went upstairs to the desk. A tall fellow came out and asked me if I needed any help. I said, "You have to see this" and brought him down stairs to my bike. I turned on the radio to a classical station and adjusted the sound to fill the foyer nicely. He looked at me wide eyed and said, "Wait right here!"
Out from a side door came the clerk and a white haird man with a beard. The man was Henry Kloss. For those of you who don't know the name, Henry was legendary. A inventor of many great sound designs and founder of successful company's like AR, KLH, and Advent. He was also co-founder of Cambridge Soundworks.
Henry took a seat on my Recumbent and closed his eyes to listen. He said to what was a then good sized group forming around my bike, "This is like a Mini Hatch Shell on Wheels"
The people at Cambridge Soundworks contacted me about a week later. They wanted to do a photo shoot and rent my Recumbent to bring to New York City for a show.
I was paid what it cost to buy the whole sound system and the fairing for the use of my Recumbent, but truley the best part for me was having the chance to meet Henry Kloss. Something I will never forget!


  1. Great story, Scott. Love what you did with the sound properties of the fairing! Funny, right before I saw you guys at WW today, I was in Davis Sq. having coffee with a guy who is involved in the noise/improv music scene. Very big into sound phenomena.... he would have dug the Cambridge Soundworks/Neobyke.

  2. So ... do you still ride with the fairing and the sound system?

  3. No, I sold the Bicycle and the Soundworks is here at my PC


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