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HAPPENED TODAY - On June 22, 1763, the composer Etienne Nicolas Méhul was born in Givet

Ida Riegels (3)

The bicycle is the perfect machine but at the same time the most essential, almost the poorest. Inexplicably, however, in the world there are millions of sports enthusiasts who practice cycling and who follow the great international tours, the classics cycling competitions. This sport retains a legendary charm even in spite of its simplicity: the champions of the past are still alive in history. Is there a relationship between a bicycle and a cello, a musical instrument, which is complex to study and requires technique and years of preparation?
That is a good question. To me there are some similarities between biking and playing an instrument. I think when you master a piece of music, it means that you have a auditive memory of it. You could say a melodic memory of it. You also have a visual memory of how the sheet music looks bar after bar. And then you have the physical memory, or the muscle memory of it, which means that you can actually play it without really thinking – your fingers know it. And this last type of memory is very similar to biking. Biking is so simple, and it is a muscle memory you use. You never forget it even if you don’t do it for years. With music that you know very well, it is the same. That movement from the 4th suite by Bach that you haven’t played for years, but as soon as you start, one note takes the next and your fingers remember everything. It is a muscle memory like biking.


Music requires preparation but also “contamination” from the environment and relationships. Can the bicycle encourage this unmediated contact with a world to be described by playing?
Very much I think. There is something very musical to the flow of sceneries that passes by when you bike. Some people sing in the shower, and some sing on the bike. To me biking is the best time for inspiration. I also compose, and very often an idea for a theme comes to me while biking.
It is not very practical, because it is difficult to try it, or write it down? I sometimes record it on my phone while biking and hurry home to try it on the cello.


What kind of reactions have you had in different places, proposing yourself as a cyclist and cellist? How were you accepted?
One concert venue in Germany told me that, at first they thought my email, with a concert offer, was a spam mail. They thought it sounded so unusual to make a concert tour by bike. But as soon as they heard the attached video, they booked me for a concert and invited the local TV station.
Americans seem to think it is very dangerous to bike with a cello – which it would be in The States with all the cars and no biking lanes.
A lot of people can’t believe how you can fit such a big and unhandy instrument on a bicycle, but actually i met an italian guy, who told me he thought it must be the meaning of life to bike around the world with a cello. Like a modern version of a troubadour.


And now the most difficult question: if you puncture your bicycle tire, do you know how to fix it or do you have to look for a ride to the nearest village to get help?
I try to travel with as little luggage as possible on concert tours by bicycle. E.g. just two sets of cloth and a small concert dress, I learn everything by heart so that I don’t need to carry sheet music and a stand. In total it is 10 kg of luggage, but the most important is the 500 g bike repairing tools. I have been very lucky to have no punctures on any of my biking concert tours so far, but in case it happens, I’m ready!


Thanks again for being patient with us and for answering our questions. Best wishes for your career as a cellist and cyclist.
Thanks a lot for your reflected questions and all the best for the future of your website!
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