The SoundBike: musical sonification strategies to enhance cyclists’ spontaneous synchronization to external music


The spontaneous tendency of people to synchronize their movements to music is a powerful mechanism useful for the development of strategies for tempo adaptation of simple repetitive movements. In the current article, we contribute to such strategies—applied to cycling—by introducing a new strategy based on the sonification of cyclists’ motor rhythm. For that purpose, we developed the SoundBike, a stationary bike equipped with sensors that allows interactive sonification of cyclists’ motor rhythm using two distinct but compatible sonification methods. One is based on the principle of step sequencers, which are frequently used for electronic music production. The other is based on the Kuramoto model, allowing automatic and continuous phase alignment of beat-annotated music pieces to cyclists’ motor rhythm, i.e., pedal cadence. Apart from an in-depth presentation of the technical aspects of the SoundBike, we present an experimental study in which we investigated whether the SoundBike could enhance spontaneous synchronization of cyclists to external music. The results of this experiment suggest that sonification of cyclists’ motor rhythm may increase their tendency to synchronize to external music, and helps to keep a more stable pedal cadence, compared to the condition of having external music only (without sonification). Although the results are preliminary and should be followed-up by additional experiments to become more conclusive, SoundBike seems anyhow a promising interactive sonification device to assist motor learning and adaptation in the field of sports and motor rehabilitation.

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We want to thank Ivan Schepers for the hardware development of the SoundBike. This research was conducted in the framework of the EmcoMetecca II project, granted by Ghent University (Methusalem-BOF council) to Prof. Dr. Marc Leman.

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Correspondence to Pieter-Jan Maes.

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Maes, P., Lorenzoni, V. & Six, J. The SoundBike: musical sonification strategies to enhance cyclists’ spontaneous synchronization to external music. J Multimodal User Interfaces 13, 155–166 (2019).

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  • Sonification
  • Musical biofeedback
  • Sensorimotor synchronization
  • Movement tempo adaptation
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Reward