Matt Roberts’ amazing DIY bass trailer

Words and photos by Victoria Salvas

Dandyhorse circulation manager Victoria Salvas spoke with her roommate, double bassist Matt Roberts about his amazing DIY bass trailer and the various musical projects it helps him transport his gear to.

Roberts – who leads a modern jazz group called The Circles Quintet -- built himself a bike trailer for his bass after ordering a kit from Wike Trailers for $140 (with the rest of the materials it added up to $475). That’s a lot of bang for your buck when you think about the cost of taking cabs all over town to countless gigs.

In addition to his work with Circles, Roberts is a member of a composer’s collective called Spectrum Music and teaches out of his home studio, Bathurst Music Academy.

Why did you decide to build a bass trailer? Why not just take a cab?

Because it's fun to do things differently! Especially when that "difference" helps ease the pressure on the planet and/or my pocketbook. In this case, it does both. Cabs are expensive, and sometimes unreliable. I prefer being able to just load up my trailer and go. Plus, it keeps me in shape and I get to enjoy the fresh air!

[Editors note: we have seen some very unenthused looks on cabbies faces when they realize that they have picked up a musician, and their gear]

Why not just buy a pre-made trailer?

For some reason, there isn't currently anyone mass-producing bike trailers specifically designed for double bassists. There are a lot of different flatbed trailers on the market, but they all require some modifications to transport a double bass.

In the end I selected the Cargo Bike Trailer DIY Kit from Wike Trailers in Guelph because it was inexpensive, and I could tailor it to fit my bass perfectly. The kit can be easily assembled in an afternoon, using only a drill, a wrench, and a screwdriver.

I just added a few things to make sure my bass and amp were secure. It wasn't too hard - I built the whole thing in a day.

Could I use this trailer to transport other things? Like my groceries, for instance?

Absolutely - it is amazing what you can transport with a bike trailer. They're actually better at transporting large and unwieldy objects then a car sometimes. For example, I once carried a fridge with it, and another time I picked up a load of nine-foot-long lumber that would have made a pickup truck look pretty full.

There are actually several moving companies around the world that use similar flatbed bike trailers. There's one in Montreal called Déménagement Myette. Take a look at their photo album (or videos), and suddenly the idea of hauling a double bass and amp around will seem tame! Of course, it is also handy for smaller things like picking up groceries.

How did you learn about bikes?

I was raised in a bike-loving family. My dad is in his late sixties, but still commutes by bike every day, sometimes up to 45 minutes each way, all year round, even in Edmonton's winter. My older brother spent two years biking around Asia and Europe - a trip that included biking the Trans-Siberian highway from Vladivostok to the Black Sea, and then crossing Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, and Spain. When I lived in Alberta, I was a competitive mountain bike racer; since I moved to Toronto, I've taken up triathlons.

Is it awkward biking with the trailer? Aren't you worried about damaging your bass?

It's not really that awkward at all! I bike year-round with it. When it is snowy or rainy, I switch to my mountain bike for better traction (I have a waterproof cover for the bass when it rains). I've taken it off-road in the Don Valley for a gig at the Evergreen Brick Works.

It's extremely convenient - one time I was playing an outdoor festival gig, and while everyone else was looking for parking downtown, I biked my gear right up to the back of the stage, where no cars were allowed! I've been using it for almost two years now and I think it is actually safer for my bass then taking it on public transit or shoving it into a car. The bass doesn't even go out of tune usually when I transport it by bike.

I hear you play in a few Toronto-related music projects. Can you tell me about that?

My group Circles is currently working on an album that is inspired by Toronto's history. Each track will relate to a specific event from Toronto's past. You can follow that on our blog.

With Spectrum Music, I'm currently producing a concert titled "What Is Toronto?" which will feature five different composers (including myself) examining different aspects of Toronto's identity. Juno-award winning pianist Dave Restivo will be on the bill, so I'm pretty excited. That concert will be April 5th at the Al Green Theatre. You can get tickets and more information on the Spectrum website.

So if we come to the show, will we see your trailer parked outside the JCC?

You can count on it!

Victoria Salvas is dandyhorse magazine’s circulation coordinator. If you would like to subscribe and receive our upcoming Spring Safety issue, email her at victoria@dandyhorsemagazine.com.

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