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Old 08-11-08, 08:17 PM   #1
trombone
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Carrying a viola

I'd really like to be able to start carrying my viola whilst riding my bike. It would make getting to rehearsals much more practical.

Issues arise, however:
- viola is quite delicate, and I'm not sure the vibration implied by strapping it to a rear rack would be good for it
- lightweight case with back straps is not very comfortable / secure
- case with decent padding and good backstraps is expensive and rather heavy, especially as the weight is quite high up (it would stick up behind my head)

Any thoughts? Get a bike with suspension and put it on the rack? Some form of padding for the case when on a rack? Ideas for backpacks and riding with them?

I guess it's a reasonably unusual problem, but anyone with any thoughts or experience please chime in!

(Stage 2 is to carry my trombone on the bike; this is actually easier (as it's less delicate, despite being much heavier). However, if I ride to trombone rehearsal, I'm too puffed to play for about 40 minutes, so it's less practical!)
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Old 08-11-08, 08:24 PM   #2
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I've seen ppl with guitars in a regular guitar bag worn on the back like a book bag..
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Old 08-11-08, 08:29 PM   #3
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a) IIRC, a viola is not much larger than a violin. Get a regular backpack with a double-zippered main compartment and zip the body section of the case into the backpack, leaving the neck/headstock portion sticking up out of the backpack. I'm assuming you have some type of case and are not transporting the bare instrument. This should work fine even with a soft-shell case.

Try not to spill while biking with your beloved viola. Make sure the zippers on the backpack don't loosen during the ride and spill the viola by threading some cord thru the zip pull tabs and wrapping around something to keep the cord taut. I would expect the ride is smoother strapped to your back than on the frame. If you've been playing a bit you'll already be loosening the strings a touch when packing it up.

b) Want to buy a cello? Be honest, a cello sounds like heaven, even compared to a viola

Last edited by Sammiches; 08-12-08 at 01:32 AM.
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Old 08-11-08, 08:46 PM   #4
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Strap to back is the only way I would think. Get the best sort of padded case preferably made to carry on the back, that you can afford. Do you have very far to go? I would be tempted to somehow have a practice instrument at home, and one at your orchestra rehearsal if possible. Where we live rental instruments are easily to be had (and cost is reasonable).
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Old 08-12-08, 04:51 AM   #5
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For a few months back in high school I used to ride one day a week with an electric bass in a soft case under my arm (riding one handed the whole way). It was about 6km each way, took about half an hour, forty minutes at a comfortable pace (mostly back streets).
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Old 08-12-08, 04:56 AM   #6
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With big thick tires and a decent case, I don't see the harm in strapping it to a rack, provided you aren't dropping off curbs all the time.
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Old 08-12-08, 04:59 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by trombone View Post
I'd really like to be able to start carrying my viola whilst riding my bike. It would make getting to rehearsals much more practical.

Issues arise, however:
- viola is quite delicate, and I'm not sure the vibration implied by strapping it to a rear rack would be good for it
- lightweight case with back straps is not very comfortable / secure
- case with decent padding and good backstraps is expensive and rather heavy, especially as the weight is quite high up (it would stick up behind my head)

Any thoughts? Get a bike with suspension and put it on the rack? Some form of padding for the case when on a rack? Ideas for backpacks and riding with them?

I guess it's a reasonably unusual problem, but anyone with any thoughts or experience please chime in!

(Stage 2 is to carry my trombone on the bike; this is actually easier (as it's less delicate, despite being much heavier). However, if I ride to trombone rehearsal, I'm too puffed to play for about 40 minutes, so it's less practical!)
http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/viola-jokes.html

Sorry, I couldn't resist.
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Old 08-12-08, 05:04 AM   #8
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I regularly see a petite lady with a Chello strapped to her back in Copenhagen. On approaching looks like an over sized violin riding a bike. Well, it makes me laugh every time I see her. I've seen similar cases in shops, but hers looks to me to be made of kevlar or something, you can see the weave and it's not quite disorganised looking like fibreglass. Suggest you get in touch with the music school, The Royal Danish Academy of Music, and see who they recommend.

When I see her again, and I remember to ask, and she's not mad at me for laughing everytime and so will talk to me, and I remember to post back here ... yeah, maybe you'd better be served to get in touch with the music school.
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Old 08-12-08, 07:54 AM   #9
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It's a real challenge--a good suspension case with straps will be as you pointed out very expensive. In addition, the top of the case will sit right behind your head, restricting your movement in that direction. Not so much of an issue on an upright bike, but it will be uncomfortable on a road bike.
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Old 08-12-08, 08:38 AM   #10
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My thought is a couple different densities of foam between a hard-shell case and a rear rack, form-fitting padding inside the case, and either long bungees around the whole thing or short bungees from case handle to rack edge, tight enough to be secure but not so tight they defeat the springiness of the foam.
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Old 08-12-08, 09:19 AM   #11
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Get a unicycle and play while riding to practice.
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Old 08-12-08, 09:22 AM   #12
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Get a unicycle and play while riding to practice.
I'm on board with this plan. And you could probably earn a few bucks while riding to rehearsals. I know I'd give a couple bucks to a unicycle riding viola player
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Old 08-12-08, 09:26 AM   #13
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I have a violin case with backpack straps, its a semi-soft case, but comfortable enough to ride around with it on. My wife has a soft guitar case with backpack straps, she often rides her bike to her music lessons, 3 miles each way.

If its a *nice* viola, I would invest in a hard case with backpack straps.
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Old 08-12-08, 09:53 AM   #14
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I struggled with this same issue. If your viola is worth more then you are willing to risk, then don't risk it. You could always purchase a cheaper one to carry, (cheap here is a relative term) and save your recital one for practicing and performances.
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Old 08-12-08, 12:46 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pepper Grinder View Post
With big thick tires and a decent case, I don't see the harm in strapping it to a rack, provided you aren't dropping off curbs all the time.
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My thought is a couple different densities of foam between a hard-shell case and a rear rack, form-fitting padding inside the case, and either long bungees around the whole thing or short bungees from case handle to rack edge, tight enough to be secure but not so tight they defeat the springiness of the foam.
I think this is your best option. All padded up like that it'll be fine. I think the biggest danger to your instrument is being crushed in a crash rather than vibration. Noteon's solution eliminates both dangers. In a soft backpack on your back, you're eventually going to go down on it and crush it. It's inevitable. A good hardshell case on your bike will make it safer I think than being in no case in a car. A good hardshell case would allow it to be shipped UPS or checked onto an airline. (not that you would, but I'm just sayin'....) Pretty much like a hard crash on a bike!

For those not sure, a Viola is just a tad larger than a Violin. It can play lower notes, though most of their tonal ranges overlap. If you didn't know any better, you wouldn't be able to tell a Violin from a Viola if you found one on the street.
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Old 08-12-08, 01:00 PM   #16
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I keep telling myself to get one of those mini guitars to strap to my bike for long rides in the country
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Old 08-12-08, 04:50 PM   #17
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A backpack case by Reunion Blues, Altieri et al. is probably the only option. Excess vibration from being strapped to the bike (mechanical, not musical) can alter the glue bonds in the joints and seams. There's a good deal of tension on the bass bar under the bridge. If the glue starts to lose it, you're talking $$$ to fix, and the axe may never play the same after said repair.

Hardshell backpack FTW.

One other consideration - extreme temperatures, weather etc. probably not conducive to biking with a string instrument.

@ Sammiches ( a) IIRC, a viola is not much larger than a violin.)

There is a difference. The viola burns longer.

:-)
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Old 08-12-08, 07:23 PM   #18
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I'd think that if it's a "nice" viola (as in pricey) I'd be looking at a big and burly transport box that will withstand crash damage. Like made from 1/2 inch plywood and with foam shock absorbing mount "webs" in side to hold the viola in place. Mount that to the rear rack so it's out of the way. Inside the viola would be held in the typical frames found inside most good cases but with a twist. A 1/2 inch of medium density foam would absorb the road vibes and a 1/2 inch of harder sleeping pad closed cell foam on the outside of the softer vibe foam would provide a softer fall in the case of an accident. I'd make the box tough enough to jump on. And being made in a viola size with decent quality 1/2 inch ply this would not be hard at all.
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Old 08-12-08, 07:25 PM   #19
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I've carried a baby viola ("violin") in a decent case that fits it tightly stuck in a pannier and held down with a bungy cord. Nothing valuable, just some old Italian thingie. With some padding in the bottom of the pannier and between pannier and rack it's suspended a bit. I always have bubble wrap around. I ship violins worldwide, never a problem, and I think FedEx and USPS have mastered package shock!!! Key is a case that fits really well. I'd also get a case that doesn't have bow spinners pointed at the top of the instrument! Loser fitting cases - well, we use microcell padding, thin stuff. We keep a big roll of it around for such purposes.

There are also cases with padded covers. I think Bobelock put one out.

Regardless, bottom of the instrument towards the ground, like carrying via subway strap, and it should be fine.

Keep in mind that I am the kind of person who will carry a fiddle on a string around a festival, pegbox to endpin! Nothing valuable or anything. I think the last time I was carrying a Luigi Fabris, 19th C Italian. Not in great shape, probably worth less than $10K.

Don't worry, be happy.

If you want me to find a case for you I might be able to get a closeout somewhere. mail at giannaviolins dot com. There are some cool cases out there, light and well padded.
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Old 08-12-08, 07:54 PM   #20
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I carry a trumpet in its hard case in a grocery bag-style pannier. It has straps around it that you can cinch up tightly to add stability. Get the bomb-diggetiest hard case you can find and try the deep pannier. And make SURE you have adequate heel clearance.

(Years ago, when I was an undergrad, I carried my tuba in its backpack-gigbag on my back whilst riding a bike across campus. I have since replaced the brain cells that I must have burned up in college...)
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Old 08-12-08, 07:59 PM   #21
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Add some Ortlieb replacement parts to the back of a flat viola hard case. Violá, instant viola pannier.

I did something similar with a pelican hard case for my cameras.
Home cobbled camera bag/pannier
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Old 08-12-08, 09:56 PM   #22
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The gig bag route should be fine. Quality gig bags are padded. Plus, you can probably even slip some extra padding in there as well. If you're sporting a pricey work of art, maybe get a flight ATA case and a small trailer.

Flight ATA cases are pricey, but the good ones offer shock protection. The one I want for my guitar is made to take the whole hardshell case. So it's quite a bit of protection. Pretty hefty, but I'm not risking my $1500 acoustic to some to dude throwing luggage or his curious buddy who wants to check out how my axe sounds and plays. I haven't tried hauling my guitar on my bike yet. If I were to, I'd just throw it in the trailer with the case wrapped in a quilt or something.
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Old 08-12-08, 11:07 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by mandovoodoo View Post
I've carried a baby viola ("violin") in a decent case that fits it tightly stuck in a pannier and held down with a bungy cord. Nothing valuable, just some old Italian thingie. With some padding in the bottom of the pannier and between pannier and rack it's suspended a bit. I always have bubble wrap around. I ship violins worldwide, never a problem, and I think FedEx and USPS have mastered package shock!!! Key is a case that fits really well. I'd also get a case that doesn't have bow spinners pointed at the top of the instrument! Loser fitting cases - well, we use microcell padding, thin stuff. We keep a big roll of it around for such purposes.

There are also cases with padded covers. I think Bobelock put one out.

Regardless, bottom of the instrument towards the ground, like carrying via subway strap, and it should be fine.

Keep in mind that I am the kind of person who will carry a fiddle on a string around a festival, pegbox to endpin! Nothing valuable or anything. I think the last time I was carrying a Luigi Fabris, 19th C Italian. Not in great shape, probably worth less than $10K.

Don't worry, be happy.

If you want me to find a case for you I might be able to get a closeout somewhere. mail at giannaviolins dot com. There are some cool cases out there, light and well padded.
Something tells me this man knows what he is talking about.
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Old 08-13-08, 05:11 AM   #24
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OK, looked through some literature.

BAM Trekking was the one I couldn't remember. $500!!! but very nice. I don't carry BAM - that $$ reminds me why. It can't be THAT good!

BAM 5101S shows what I like in viola cases - padding at the bottom, compact. Still too many $$$.

I'd probably get a ProTec MXviola MAX ultralight. Looks like it would strap down into a wire basket lined with bubble wrap just fine. Has some padding at the bottom. I'd rubber band or twist tie the bow in place - keep it from vibrating loose and hitting the top of the instrument. I'd also put a layer of microfoam on top. FedEx or USPS padded tyvex envelopes work for this, too. Cheap case, $60 or so. Wonder whether super reflective FRED brand tape would cover it, make it look like a circus prop. Nobody stealing it then.

While this type of case is cheap, I'd carry a good instrument in it. I well remember a beat up old double case I was allowed to open. Didn't look worth stealing - that was the idea. Contained 1 each N. Amati & A. Stradivari. Nice fiddles.

On the cheap cases, often possible to pop rivet better D rings - nice to back up with a better bigger washer. I don't feel bad with such customization. Get better straps.

Another good trick is to put the instrument in a silk bag - prevents abrasion.

As always, no wiggle in the case. Has to hold the instrument securely. And keep the pegs etc maintained. Vibration loosening a peg can be annoying. Pop some Hill peg dope in the accessory compartment.

Oh, and have a separate bag for support stuff. On a bike, a compact case (110 mm lower bout circle no doubt) and a bag with music etc is nice. If you keep the rosin outside the case, less chance of a broken rosin dust cleanup yuck nasty accident.

I had this sudden vision of a case strapped to the helmet and covered with reflective stuff. Wouldn't that be a hoot!

Maybe the safest would be lashed into a BOB trailer. I can just hear that being run over by a garbage truck! CRUNCH.
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Old 08-13-08, 05:49 AM   #25
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One other consideration - extreme temperatures, weather etc. probably not conducive to biking with a string instrument.
+1 although I thought it was more about extreme temperature change?
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