Seven deadly spins
Now here’s something you don’t see every day: A seven-person bicycle with a battery-powered sound system, a built-in drum kit and a few rockers onboard riding down the street.
Pete Menchetti, a 34-year-old DJ, regular Burning Man attendee and owner of the conference bike—the official name of the seven-person bike—splits his time between Reno and Amsterdam. During a telephone interview from the Netherlands, where he bought the bike several years ago, Menchetti explains exactly how the machine works. Seven people sit in a circle facing one another. Everybody pedals the four-wheeled bike, but only one person has control of the steering wheel or the brakes. Menchetti says he usually rides around with two or three of his friends, which is enough to keep the bike moving, and encourages strangers around Reno to jump on.
“We just pick up whoever we find,” says Menchetti. “And that’s when it’s the most fun. … If you hold on, it’s totally safe. Everybody seems to have a good time on there.”
Menchetti’s friend Mark Norris, 28-year old lead singer and guitarist of the rockin’ ‘n’ rollin', old school garage band The Juvinals, warns that the septocycle—a term Menchetti made up himself—isn’t a taxi. Curious spectators are more than welcome to jump on the septocycle, but wherever you end up is where you end up. Norris says Menchetti does not alter his course to accommodate riders.
When the septocycle has all of its sound equipment ready to go, Menchetti calls it The Rocktocycle.
Norris and bandmate Shane Forster, a 27-year-old bassist have played many traveling shows in front of various Reno bars with The Rocktocycle. (Current Juvinals drummer Josh Hageman is yet to play on The Rocktocycle.)
Both rockers say they use regular bicycles for most of their transportation needs.
“Basically we’d pull up, jump off the bike, plug our instruments into the PA,” says Norris. “And we’d just basically play one song, maybe two songs. People would just filter out the bar and watch … drink a beer on the way or whatever.”
Only in Reno will you find a seven-person bicycle riding up to a bar to do a cameo performance and then ride off like nothing happened.
“As far as I know, I think I had it first on the West Coast,” says Menchetti.
The Rocktocycle has a built-in PA, outlets for guitars and basses, and a miniature drum kit.
“It … all together sounds pretty good,” says Forster. “You can actually hear everything that you’re playing.”
“Most [people] wanted more,” says Forster. “They wanted us to stay and play longer. At Tonic, people were going completely nuts.”
But what seems out-of-this-world in Reno qualifies as normal at Burning Man. Norris recalls pulling up to various camps on the Playa on the back of The Rocktocycle with Menchetti and playing for all sorts of people, from seasoned hippies to first-time burners—usually in trade for beer.
“Pretty much if they wanted us to stop and play, they had to give us beer,” says Norris.
“It’s pretty fun on the Playa,” says Norris. “You can pretty much just close your eyes for a while and ride and not worry about a thing.”