The bicycle seismograph is a mechanical drawing machine, which records the bumpiness of a bike ride on a small, rotating paper roll. The idea was born from my shaky experiences of riding the uneven roads of Berlin with my old bike.

In summer 2016 I gave a "Data bicycles workshop" at the A/D/A festival in Hamburg, where we built the seismographs. You can find more documentation here!

Step 1: Materials & tools

Attached are detailed lists of parts and materials needed for the bicycle seismograph. There are two parts lists, one for a large and one for a smaller seismograph. These are identical except that the small one is reduced in height and works thus for paper rolls that are vertically shorter. Below is an overview of the materials and tools needed for building a seismograph.


The materials for the bicycle seismograph are mostly from hardware store:

  • 10 mm lightweight plywood (I used material, which is called Pappelsperrholz in German)
  • 4 mm steel rod
  • 5 mm steel rod
  • aluminum pipe with 10 mm outer diameter
  • aluminum pipe with 6 mm outer diameter
  • plastic pipe or similar which slides smoothly over 5 mm steel rod
  • 2 mm welding rod
  • Wood screws (TX 20, 4.0 x 35 mm)
  • Strong double-sided tape
  • Strong fabric tape or similar
  • Masking tape
  • Screw terminal where 4 mm rod fits inside (e.g. 16mm2)
  • Small tie-wraps (3.6 x 140 mm or a bit smaller)
  • Large tie-wraps (7.8 x 200 mm or longer)
  • M4 washers (hole 4 mm)
  • M10 washers (hole 10 mm)

Other materials needed:

  • Mechanical speedometer (please see the photo) - Note that this kind of meter works best with basic bikes, but it might not work/might need adjustment with more hi-tech front wheel hubs!
  • Ballpoint pens (only inner part is needed, must be plastic)
  • Textile rubber band (I used 1.5 mm thick one)
  • Cash register rolls. I used for the large seismograph thermal paper rolls with height of 112 mm and diameter of 44 mm (25 m of paper), and for the small seismograph regular paper rolls with a height of 76 mm and diameter of 63.5 mm (40 m of paper). Both types of rolls had a 12 mm hole in the middle.
  • Fischertechnik spur gear, 40 teeth or similar (please see the photo)
  • Fischertechnik worm gear or similar, which fits the spur gear (please see the photo)
  • Fischertechik "axis blockers" or similar, I used 1 cm long ones (please see the photo)


  • Electric saw for sawing wood plus adequate safety gear
  • Small piece of sandpaper for sanding the wood edges
  • Metal saw for sawing the rods and pipes
  • Flat and round files for filing the ends of rods and pipes
  • Vise for holding the rods and pipes when sawing
  • Clamps for holding wood pieces
  • Table drill and/or a cordless drill plus adequate safety gear
  • Drill-bits of sizes 3 mm, 3.5 mm, 4 mm, 4.5 mm, 5 mm and 10 mm
  • Drill-bits for TX 20 Torx screws
  • Small flat tip screw driver
  • Rulers and a straight angle
  • Scissors, cutting knife and a cutting surface
  • Pencils and a thin permanent marker
  • Cutters for cutting welding rod and tie-wraps
  • Pliers for bending welding rod
  • Lighter
  • Spanners for opening/tightening bicycle screws
<p>Top, heel mooi gedaan.<br>most of the speedometers nowadays are 'computers' that work with a magnet and reed contact, but I think the one you are using might be the <a href="http://nl.aliexpress.com/item/Classical-Mechanical-Bike-Cycling-Odometer-Stopwatch-Waterproof-Speedometer-Practical-Bicycle-Accessory-US-V/32662367416.html?spm=2114.48010208.4.8.fUAxk2">same as this one</a>.</p>
<p>Dank je wel! That looks indeed like the one I used. :)</p>
Good Job! That's so cool
Thanks! :)

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