Taking a Violin on a Bicycle Tour
From Fiji and Jasmine Pedal Around the World - Taking a Violin on a Bicycle Tour
By Jasmine Reese - Hello, I am Jasmine. The pup is Fiji. The violin is Anakin, and the horse, well, she doesn't travel with us. On a bicycle, and more recently a recumbent trike, I've traveled over 10,000 miles all over North America with my violin and dog.
I'd like to discuss a question I get asked all the time. How do you keep your violin safe?
It's a great question because it's probably what holds many people back from bringing their instruments with them. My fellow peers in music will say, "I went on vacation for a few weeks. I haven't touched my violin!" Since I take my violin everywhere, it's often hard for me to grasp leaving it behind for a few days much less several weeks. But, I try to put myself in other people's shoes and realize they have some valid concerns about traveling with their instrument.
In some cases, it's downright inconvenient. Unless you're a professional musician who has to go to another country with a musical instrument, traveling on a plane with a precious violin, viola, cello, or double bass is expensive, nerve-wracking, and frustrating. Some airlines don't even allow violins as a carry on. For cellists and bassists, the airline will require the purchase of an additional seat or checking it.
Then, you spend your entire flight, shaking in your boots, imagining the worse damage with every bout of minor turbulence. If you're not going to a gig or performance, who wants the stress? So, if you are taking a three week or less vacation, departing via airplane, it's best to maybe just think of it as a nice restorative break from playing and practicing. Opt for tons of mental practice while you bask in the bright Hawaiian sun.
However, if you're like me, you've named your violin, and you know there's no option. Your precious baby boo is coming with you.
So, what to do? Some people will take a "travel" fiddle. Basically, this is a cheap instrument they've purchased; they won't feel any regrets or hard feelings if it gets destroyed or damaged. But others, more daring and crazy people (I might be referring to myself), travel with their beloved violins. My violin isn't expensive, but I've had it for a long time, so I'd be sad if it were lost. For quite a while, I've traveled with my violin, and nothing has happened to it. Well, there was this one time... Nevermind, moving on.
For flights, call the airline ahead of time. Let them know about your instrument situation. Then, proceed accordingly. If taking it is going to be too daunting of a task, you can always rent an instrument while in the city or place you're visiting unless it's a super small town, or you're in the middle of the forest camping and hiking.
So, traveling on an airplane with an instrument means preparation, sometimes shelling out extra cash, and maybe even renting or getting a cheaper violin. But if you're traveling via car, bicycle, boat, etc...
I am going to breeze over the car quickly. You have temp control in your car, so it's not hard to regulate things. However, treat your instrument like your child. Never leave the instrument in the car. Not even on a nice day because theft is a real possibility. Always keep it close to you or in your motel, hotel or guest room. If you're in a tent, always bring your violin inside of the tent with you.
Now, we're getting to the good stuff because this is how I travel -- via trike or bicycle -- or whatever you're on that's human-powered.
I've been in many weather conditions with my violin, and the most that's ever happened was little drops of mud and water on the outside garage bag I use to cover the whole outfit with.
I've been in -14 degree Fahrenheit weather, in a blizzard, in heavy rainfall, strong winds, which turned out to be a tornado not very far off, extreme dry heat, humid heat, two floods, and one mudslide. We've seen it all.
Well, maybe not all. But enough to know how to keep us all safe from the seat of a bicycle and trike, nonetheless. So, here are my tips for you.
Fiji distracted me, so I forgot about the large garbage bag. I put my violin outfit in to protect from any water. You can use a heavy duty black one, or a clearer, thinner one as shown in the photo to the left.
My violin fits well in the space seen above. However, for larger trailers, I like to secure the violin with bungees, just to prevent any movement and bouncing. Fiji also has an impact absorbing pad at the bottom of her trailer. It keep her from going up and down with every bump on the road. In any case, you'll want to use bungees or rope to tie down your violin to a rack, if not in a trailer.
That's my process, and it's worked as far as damage goes for the last three years. If you choose to not purchase a cheaper instrument to travel with, make sure the case, at least, looks cheap. One, an expensive case will weigh a lot, and as a cycle tourist or backpacker, you're not going to care for the extra pounds. Two, a fancy case might attract a not-so-well-meaning person.
I prefer the violin in a trailer. The canopy provides sun and rain protection for my furbaby; it does the same for my violin. However, I didn't always keep my violin inside. I used to travel with it strapped to the rear rack of the bicycle, and directly on top of the dog trailer. Even then, walking through two feet of mud for two hours, traveling through the desert and up mountains, nothing serious ever happened to the violin. I did get an open seam which was an easy fix. Since traveling with it in a trailer, it's had no such issues. That's because it's better protected from direct heat and cold, just like my pup.
Of course, like Fiji needs exercise, socialization, and love, the also violin needs TLC and some outside time. I have the luxury of having an ICE Adventure HD recumbent trike, so I can just lie back, relax, and serenade myself after a long, challenging day of riding. But it's just as easy to prop your bicycle against something and find a nice log or stone to sit on for end of day practice session. Maybe someday, you'll be better than me at riding and playing and controlling a dog at the same time.
You don't have to leave your instrument at home, unless you want to! I hope that helps. If you have any other questions, leave a comment below. Fiji will respond promptly.