The Perfectly Pedalled Soundstage
The pedalled rickshaw (pedicab) as a soundstage was concept that took some time to develop.
It started with a rickshaw for sure.
The Yucca Dune bike shop/outdoor store opened in Valentine, Nebraska with genuine Indian rickshaw, native to Pondacherry Province in Inda, on the showroom floor. The Rickshaw, actually a pedalled pedicab by U.S. nomenclature, was acquired from a German diplomat who brought it from India along with his wife, when they relocated to Washington D.C. He was called to return to Germany and could not take the rickshaw, so advertised it in the Washington Post. One of the Yucca Dune principals purchased and transported it to Nebraska in 1996.
The rickshaw arrived in Valentine with a fixed drive-train, featuring a 53 inch chainring, 270 cm arms, and a single 26 tooth rear cog. Braking was accomplished by pulling a center-mounted lever which pulled a flexible metal band onto a 10 inch diameter drum, mounted near the mid-point of the solid rear axle. The front end featured high-rise bars, a 3-piece front road fork, and a dished wheel in the drop outs, which explained her tendency to turn to the right.
In an effort to make her more manageable, we changed to few things, thanks to our in-house bike shop and parts inventory. The front fork was replaced with mountain fork and a 26″ nondished, mountain bike rim and tire. The handlebars were upgraded to a flatbar with bullhorns. The structure linking the double triangle frame to the carriage precluded revision of the drive-train, which has been a perpertual challenge ever since. The carriage, composed of 1″ angle iron and 1″ solid lumber was not altered. Likewise, the carriage canopy was retained without upgrades. The 27″ rear road wheels used a custom hub, designed for the solid axle, which precluded rear wheele upgrades.
With these modifications, the rickshaw was put into service as a show piece on the retail store floor, and made appearances in local parades, occasionally sporting a Yakima double bar ‘roof’ rack and cradled kayak.
When the retail store was closed in 2009, the rickshaw was put into dry storage where she remained until 2014.
Rikki: Colorado Chapter
In the late summer of 2014, Tim Ryschon and his daughter Heidi sat near the piano, of the basement speakeasy, Ace Gillett’s, in the heart of Old Town Fort Collins Colorado. They were sipping Poppy chard and listening to the jazz duo of Kelsey Shiba and Matt Smiley. The story goes something like this.
“Do you remember the rickshaw?” Tim queried as Matt’s bass thumped softly in time to Kelsey’s soft vibrato.
“Of course dad!” Heidi exclaimed. “Remember that parade where you pedalled it while towing TJ in a kayak strapped to furniture dolly?”.
“Oh ya… Wish we had pictures of that…”, raising his glass to touch the vino meniscus to his top lip, medium-whispered:
“Heidi, why aren’t there any rickshaw taxis in Fort Collins?”
“I don’t know, seems like a perfect place given the traffic and stores along College” referring to the main avenue bisecting Old Town.
“Maybe we should do it?”, he offered as he peered over the rim toward her smiling face. She was looking at and smiling at Kelsey who was smiling back, singing, playing, the light low, a melody drifting us to imagine. What a great vibe. This speakeasy is the best Tim thought. It wasn’t very busy, maybe a Wednesday night. Ray was behind the bar, leaning forward against his hands, listening attentively with his head tipped to one side and smiling as two young women pitched him flirty questions.
Heidi looking back, sat forward and said “Yes, we should!”. Which was just the kind of encouragement Tim needed to further fuel some grandiose image of the rickshaw ferrying happy partiers between venues, with the twinkle of overhead tree lights and store-front signs aglow.
“Yes, I like it!” he said to affirm the fuzzy snapshot he alone was enjoying. “Ooo, I wonder what shape it’s in” as he sat his glass down.
Heidi wrinkled her nose as she offered “Only one way to find out!”.
“I’ll send Jeff to get it!” he pronounced, with barely a thought to the logistics of what might lie ahead.
Their glasses touched with a soft “ting” sound as Ray appeared magically to pour a refill, smiling to see his regulars floating in the joy of his little subterranian enclave.
The music had stopped, a few scattered claps and Ray, now stepping back to allow Matt and Kelsey to pull up chairs. The little table was one in a row with bench seating on Tim’s side.
“You guys sound so great” he grinned, hugging Kelsey and shaking Matt’s hand as they settled. Ray was back with their favorites. Smiles all around.
Yes. Smiles, ambience, joy, music, up-close, friendship, gratitude. This moment captured all of those elements. And more. This moment and the moment before – they had just blended. The earlier was an imagination. This one, a realized dream, shared by all present. A musician’s dream, to play together, creating song that speaks. The patron’s dream of a place where song slips into their spirit and pulls it free, for a time, of the tangled burdens and fears and uncertainties that bound it just moments before. The entrepreneur’s dream of creating just such an ambience that spins a business model.
The rickshaw dream. The rickshaw dream….and
the reality of live music.
He was wondering about a convergence.
“Hey can I ask you guys a question?” as he leaned toward Kelsey and Matt, who were sipping and chilling.
“Could you imagine playing this music while being pedalled around in a bicycle pedicab”.
“Absolutely” Matt blurted, eyes checking Tim’s face then Heidi’s smile to see if a joke was afoot.
Kelsey, smiling, head bobbing slightly, looking at Tim for the rest of the idea.
“Well, Heidi and I were just talking about this genuine Indian rickshaw we have in storage that we decided to put to work as a taxi in Fort Collins. But, this idea of having music makers in the carriage, instead of partiers, pedalling to, between, and around the partiers -that is just what I’m thinking…”
“Oh Ya!” Kelsey exclaimed, now in possession of the same image, as Matt clapped, laughing softly with a “Let’s do it!”
So it was conceived. A few weeks later, Tim bought the URL “TheRickshawlive.com”, printed a few pitiful color business cards, and began spreading his idea like a preacher spreads his message.
Rikki to Rhoda
The story of how Rikki, the original rickshaw from Pondacherry, via Washington, and Valentine, wound up on the streets of Fort Collins, Colorado takes a bit more time to tell.
Rikki made it though. She got transformed from a simple pedalled taxi to the first, perfectly pedalled soundstage.
Kelsey Shiba and Matt Smiley, equivalent to proud grandparents, played many a gig on her tiny stage.
And that stage, its compressed three-by-four foot dimensions, are what pushed Tim to forge further.
Rikki is a proof-of-concept.
Smile maker: check.
Mobilized Live Music: check.
Unplugged Pedal Powered: check.
What more could there be?
More players, more instruments, more sound field, more fidelity, more engineering, more control, more reliability…
Rikki’s big sister, Rhoda, version 1.0, embodies this “more”. And more.
And how does she work? Amazing! See how these rigs work for TheRickshawLive.com and get some ideas of how they can work for you!