At least it's not a bass
July 30, 2010 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm newly car-free, and using my bicycle for all my transportation. I'm also taking violin lessons, and I've run into a problem: my violin case is too big and awkward to easily transport on my bike! I know the easy answer is "buy a smaller case" but until I can do that, does anyone have any suggestions for how to get to & from my violin lessons via bike?

I have this case, and this is what it looks like on my bike. It's precariously balanced in the basket; I threaded the backpack straps through the basket and rear rack for added security. Even with this set up, the case moved around a lot, and it was interfering with riding--it came up too close to the seat, I was constantly bumping into it.

I do have the backpack straps, but they're not wearable. Either the case hangs down past my lower back, meaning I can't sit down, or it's so high that I can't raise my head to see the road.

I've thought about lashing it to the baskets with bungee cords, or attaching hooks so I can hang the case directly from my rack.

I will be buying a shaped case, but that will be in a month. I still have to get to and from my lessons. Short of duct taping it in place, how can I securely transport my violin with my current case?
posted by bryghtrose to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total)
Could you arrange the straps so that you could wear it across you back, like a messenger bag?
posted by pickypicky at 7:42 AM on July 30, 2010

Bungee cords are the way to go. If I could get the brown leather bag out of the way, I'd lay the violin case across the tops of the baskets instead of standing it up.
posted by jon1270 at 7:44 AM on July 30, 2010

Yeah, bungee cords are the way to go there. I would say you can lay it horizontally across your bike, bungee it over both baskets you have. Might interfere with your tan briefcase(?), though.

(I used to bike around with an accordion / valise case bungeed to my backrack, no troubles).
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:45 AM on July 30, 2010

Yeah, that's about the only way to do it. Put one of the backpack straps on, and then wear it across your chest.
posted by Oktober at 7:45 AM on July 30, 2010

Can't you get a big-mouthed backpack- put it in the pack, then tie the pack shot securely, then where the pack on your back as your bike
posted by Flood at 7:51 AM on July 30, 2010

Does carrying it horizontally risk bumping into things on your sides, at best, and at worst risk throwing you off the bike or knocking the case off the bike?

Wear it as a backpack, but pad it near the top of your back somehow, so that it doesn't interfere with your head -- it will be angled away from your back at the top.
posted by indigo4963 at 7:56 AM on July 30, 2010

All-weather violin backpack.
posted by Madamina at 7:58 AM on July 30, 2010

Seconding pickypicky's suggestion to wear it diagonally across your back. Or buy one of these and dump everything you could ever want into it. Seriously, I love mine.
posted by fracas at 7:58 AM on July 30, 2010

Ack, sorry, I see the "bumps my butt" issue.

Hereand here are forum posts where people are discussing your issue and have some other suggestions.
posted by Madamina at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2010

The solution to all your problems.

If you're going to bicycle-only for a while, and need the option of being able to transport things, a Bicycle Trailer is a good option.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2010

bike panniers!
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2010

When I was a kid, I bungeed my violin case across my handlebars on the way to school. I had a kiddee bike with pretty broad handlebars, though, and I wasn't biking anywhere crowded.

Panniers would be how I'd deal with such a thing now.
posted by galadriel at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2010

You might get some inspiration from the pictures, or suggestions from the posters, at the Utility Cycling forum.

It seems to me that ordinary bike panniers present the same problems as the baskets--they're not deep enough, and the tall, rigid violin case is an awkward shape to carry--except that some panniers have cinch straps which would serve the same function as bungees on the baskets (reduce movement of the object).
posted by Orinda at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2010

Thanks for all the advice. Wearing it cross-body or as a backpack is uncomfortable and unwieldy. The leather bag holds my laptop, but that will fit in the front basket, so I'm going to experiment with bungee cords. The forum posts were helpful, too.
posted by bryghtrose at 9:27 AM on July 30, 2010

I really would not advise attaching it horizontally (as in, perpendicular to the road direction) across the back baskets. It will almost certainly be wider than them, and quite possibly wider than your handlebars. Maybe this won't both you, but it meant I had a hard time estimating just how much space I was taking up in a lane, and it made me constantly worried about brushing cars or streetsigns while driving. I don't care much if an overfull bag of groceries does that, but my violin? Way too expensive to risk that way. (I thought about trying to strap it on the back rack so that the long side was parallel to the bike and hanging out over the back, with a reflector on the end, but I was never able to figure out how to rig that in a way that I felt was sufficiently secure.)

I'm having a hard time seeing how the backpack strap(s) work: are there two straps, or just one? For me, the best solution I've found is for it to hang diagonally across my back like a messenger bag - that way, it's out of the way of my seat and my head and it's not sticking out much to either side, but it's right against my back and I know where it is at all times. My case is ancient, so my strap setup is jury-rigged rope and bungee stuff. Even if your bag's built-in straps aren't sufficient for a diagonal setup, you may be able to make it work yourself using stuff from the hardware or bike store.
posted by ubersturm at 9:43 AM on July 30, 2010

It looks too unwieldy to fit horizontally or comfortably on your back Whenever I carry a similar object on my bike, I just hold the handle built into the case.
posted by turkeyphant at 9:44 AM on July 30, 2010

Not super-helpful for you, but I recently saw two people transporting a cello bungied to the back of a tandem bike. Where there's a will there's a way. You'll figure this out.
posted by mskyle at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2010

If you're still looking for a new case, I've biked around with my BAM Explorer case for years. It's crossbody, so it doesn't get in the way like backpack straps would. It's neither uncomfortable nor unwieldy – I guess the position of the strap makes all the difference.
posted by halogen at 9:48 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have the same issue, only with a viola. Regarding strapping it to a rack or trailer, I'm curious if any of the people offering this advice have actually transported string instruments this way?

My main concern about this: does the shock of the road/hitting bumps, etc., have any negative impact on the instrument? I've been reluctant to attempt any solution (including a trailer) that doesn't involve the instrument hanging off my body somehow so I can mitigate the shock it receives. I have horrible images in my head of collapsing bridges, sound posts falling over, etc.
posted by ViolaGrinder at 12:07 PM on July 30, 2010

This trailer has good reviews and is cheap.
posted by mecran01 at 1:54 PM on July 30, 2010

My boyfriend has a saxophone and lashes it across both baskets like Lemurreha suggested. Lots of bungee cords and he is good to go!
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:59 PM on July 30, 2010

"On your back" really is the right answer here. The precious object will get a lot less jostling there, you won't have to worry about tying it down too tightly, and etc.

The next best thing is to make a strong L shape out of some 2x4s (use those little steel L brackets to reinforce the joint). Tie or bolt the bottom of the L to the rack, and tie the violin to the vertical part of the L. Amending the bottom 2x4 with foam might be a good idea too.

A trailer is too much drag for such small cargo..
posted by Chuckles at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2010

So, a bit about my experiences transporting my violin. I had to make three trips with it on Firiday. The first trip, from home to work, was the initial impetus for this question, where I just put it in the carrier and hoped for the best.
For the second trip, from work to lessons, I wore it cross body. It was more comfortable than I thought it would be, I was able to use both arms, but the case is about 4" too long for me to be able to sit on my bike. The case is just to big for me to wear comfortably. I wore it R shoulder to L hip, so I was able to look over my left shoulder for traffic. I could see OK, just not ride comfortably.
I bungeed it to the rack for my third trip, from lessons to home. It was extremely secure--the case didn't move around at all. It was only 2" wider overall than my baskets, so there was not a lot of "wide load" going on. Those 2", though, were enough to make it difficult to pass through the posts at the entrance of the bike trail. I did hit a few bumps, and I spent most of the ride praying to the fiddle gods that my sound post didn't collapse. I don't think I"ll be bungeeing it again.

I really want a BAM case, but can't afford one. I think my solution is to get a smaller, shaped case and carry it cross-body.
posted by bryghtrose at 6:36 PM on July 31, 2010

I've been doing this for a while. I go 15 miles round trip once a week with a proper backpack (the hiking variety) and violin. It's one big pocket with a drawstring that I put my violin case in and an adjustable flap that closes over the top. I pack it diagonally, the tailpiece on my left hip and the scroll behind my right ear.

My violin case is small as they come, but the same system works for my encased mandolin as well.
posted by kjell at 6:54 PM on August 1, 2010

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