First I Had To Get The Nerve To Try It...The idea of transporting my double bass and amp by bicycle was first proposed to me by my older brother Malcolm. Everyone in my family is very pro-bike, believing it to be the solution to many of our society's most pressing problems: air pollution, global warming, lack of exercise, depleting oil reserves, traffic congestion, depression, etc. Additionally, there are many other, more self-interested reasons for biking, such as avoiding traffic & parking hassles (especially abundant here in Toronto) and the cost of car ownership. However, my brother sticks out as a bicycle fanatic even among a family of bicycle fanatics, having spent two years biking around Eurasia pulling all his worldly possessions behind him in a "Bob" trailer. Perhaps because of this, I remained wary of hauling my beloved instrument around Toronto's streets by pedal power.
However, about a month ago I was jamming with my buddy Chris Butcher, and he told me there was already another bass player doing this in Toronto. I later heard about a second. Once I realized that it was working for someone else, determined to give it a try.
Then I Did Some Internet Research...I began searching the internet to see if there were examples of bike-based bass transportation that I could study before designing my own. Indeed there were! Check out this Portland band who did an entire west coast tour transporting themselves and all their gear - including a double bass - by bike. Apparently in Copenhagen, where bikes are much more supported by city bylaws and civic planning, and have therefore become much more a part of the culture, it is the norm for bassists to get around using cargo tricycle style bikes. (Of course here in Toronto, thanks to our astonishingly and infuriatingly stupid new mayor, Rob Ford, we have just decided to actually remove several bike lanes, at a cost of over $200 000.)
My main concern in the trailer design was the safety of my instrument; also, I wanted a trailer that would haul my amp and any other gear I might need for a gig. Those cargo-tricycles start at well over $1000 here in Canada, and go up from there. For these reasons, I ruled out the cargo-tricycle idea. My search turned up some other unsuitable designs. (Searching for "bike bass trailer" turned up a lot of bikes rigged to pull huge sub-woofers.) Notable was John Teske's "Haulin' Bass Project". A bassist/composer out of Seattle, he used a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1000 to have a bass trailer custom built for him, attracting considerable media attention along the way. I found another design I thought might work, but I felt I could do better still. I decided I would buy a flatbed trailer and then customize it to suit my bass.
Then I Came Up With A Design, Ordered Some Stuff Online, and Started Building!
|This image shows in more detail how the amp is secured. You can also see a bit of the 1"-thick foam padding for the bass in the bottom right-hand corner.|
After several afternoons pondering, sawing, drilling, and making trips to the hardware store, here what I created!
Here is an approximate tally of the costs involved in building the trailer:
|Wike DIY Trailer Kit:||$140|
|Metal from Metal Supermarkets:||$220|
|Reflectors & flags from MEC:||$35|
|Misc stuff from hardware store |
(bolts, handles, short tubing, lumber, replacing broken drill bit...):
A Few Tweaks and Notes...At first I thought the hitch was a weak point of the Wike Trailer. Both the Surly and Bikes-At-Work trailers had tougher-looking hitches. I added a safety to the hitch (I think a safety was supposed to be included, but wasn't in my kit), so that if it breaks in traffic, I should be able to ride the whole thing long enough to get out of trouble. However, after two years of use, the hitch is holding up well and I am much more confident in it. I have wiped out while towing this trailer on one occasion (slipped on streetcar tracks in the rain) and the flexible hitch kept the trailer upright and my gear safe, even as I hit the pavement.
|This shows the anchors and spring-loaded clip-ons. I colour-coded|
the anchors and clips so I know which straps go where.
Initially I thought that if it rained, I would cover the bass and amp with a blue tarp. In practice I found the tarp very cumbersome to work with while loading/unloading the gear in the rain. I have since purchased a heavy-duty snowmobile cover at Walmart for $60, which has a drawstring to draw it tight around the bass, and packs easily into an included stuff bag. The amp would be covered with a garbage bag. I haven't had the opportunity to try this, but I'm optimistic that it should be pretty manageable, and sufficiently protect the bass in mild weather. If the roads are wet at all, it is also important to have a rear fender, otherwise you get the bass case all dirty because your back wheel sprays it with mud.
I would estimate that the trailer, amp, and bass, weigh about 80 pounds combined. When I'm going on flat ground, it isn't too hard - I've gotten up to speeds of 25 kph. However, going up hill is a tough slog, especially if it goes on for more then a block. Of course, downhill is a treat!
Using The Trailer - Two Years and Counting!
I've now been using this trailer for almost two years. I've used it year round in Toronto, Canada - which means I've even hauled it through the snow. It has become my preferred mode of transporting my bass (although I do still use public transport or car sharing when they are more practical). I feel very confident that my bass is safe while it is being transported - usually it doesn't even go out of tune. Also, it is just very convenient - it only takes about 15 minutes to load, I can breeze past traffic, and I don't have to worry about parking or catching a cab.
Cheaper/Simpler AlternativesI'm really hoping another bass player will follow my lead, and build a trailer like mine. So far no one has, but please let me know if you do! If anyone in the Toronto area would like a trailer like this but doesn't feel like they're up to the task of building it, I'd be happy to build one for you for the cost of materials + $25/hour.
There are also some other cheaper and simpler alternatives if you don't need to haul things as large as a double bass. Wike also makes a number of pre-assembled cargo trailers, starting at just $99 that might work for electric bassists, guitarists, or anyone with similar loads smaller than a double bass. Check out this trailer for hauling a drum kit (Max Senitt tells me he bikes his drums to gigs using a trailer occasionally). Or, check out this YouTube video that explains how to use a hand-truck as a trailer by connecting it to your pannier rack with an old bike tube (you should be able to get a used tube for free from any bike shop). I borrowed my dad's bike and hand-truck while I was home in Edmonton, and used this set up to get to two gigs in the Edmonton Jazz Festival with my Eminence semi-acoustic bass and a small amp. It worked very well.
|Backstage at the Edmonton Jazz Festival - the rest of the band had to park blocks away!|
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