Pianos aren’t generally thought of as the most portable of musical instruments, which makes tickling the ivories almost always an indoor activity — but staying cooped up inside to play wasn’t what musician Gary Skaggs had in mind. A few years back, the San Francisco native had the idea to combine two of his favorite pastimes, cycling and music, by creating what may be the world’s first Piano Bike and offering free on-the-go performances for passing pedestrians.
Gary, who taught himself piano at age 3, says that the idea for the Piano Bike came to him out of the blue one day in 2006. But it was only after finding an old player piano posted on Craigslist for just $80 that he set about making his vision a reality. Over the next few years, Gary refurbished the instrument and had it mounted onto a custom-made front-loader bike. He calls his homemade creation ‘St. Frankenstein’, but most people refer to it simply as the Piano Bike.
Nowadays, Gary can be seen throughout the week pedaling along San Francisco’s popular (and more importantly, flat) Embarcadero, attracting curious glances from onlookers and a fair share of tips. And while musicality is a definite must, playing and steering the 320-pound Piano Bike is a skill all its own.
“It rides pretty good. It’s scary going down hills and impossible going up,” says Gary. “If I could spend 10 hours a day out there, I might be able to make a decent living.”
Still, Gary says that the chance to entertain the public and to meet new people makes the whole thing worthwhile — and considering how few pioneers there are in the world of bicycle-based piano playing, it’s hard not to agree that he’s struck the right chord.
Screenshots via Vimeo