Combining Bike Touring and Political Advocacy

Vermont-based musician Lissa Schneckenburger (fiddle, vocals) is planning a Musical Bike Adventure in Massachusetts and New Hampshire: a short tour entirely on bikes!

She and her husband/musical partner Corey DiMario (tenor guitar, double bass) will be hauling their gear on bikes with electric assists. They are also using this tour to spread the word to their friends, community, and politicians about the positive aspects and possibilities of bike transportation, so they’ll be coupling this tour with some targeted publicity and legislative action to support that cause.

STAC’s Laura Risk spoke with Lissa about the planning stages of this tour:

Laura Risk:  Can you say a few words about how you’re connecting this with a legislative agenda?

Lissa: My goal is to connect our tour with a local organization like, which I hope will both inform the legislative aspect of it and also help get the word out about the music. We’ve already been talking but so far only about bike logistics, so we’ll have a conversation in the next few weeks about the legislative agenda. I’ll know more soon! [STAC readers: stay tuned for follow-up interviews with Lissa!]

Can you say a few words about the kind of legislative “asks” that you’re thinking about?

Bringing a greater awareness to bike infrastructure in the Northeast, so more people feel that it’s a viable option for transportation and more people have good alternatives to using their cars. That is especially challenging if you are a touring musicians and your job is to drive long distances every day, or fly! Hopefully this is a way to get it on more people’s minds but also to let legislators know that it is on everybody’s mind. Let them know that it’s their job to help create more accessible modes of transportation for the people.  For everybody’s health, and so that we can transition away from fossil fuels. 

How exactly are you going to mobilize your audiences? 

The first piece would be before the tour starts. I’ll do my regular publicity for a tour, but this particular tour will have a press release that includes information about the bicycle aspect. We’ll make a big deal about the fact that we’re not getting there in cars, that we’re getting to each gig on our bicycles. We want to celebrate that as something cool and quirky and fun. I’m also planning to mention some specific legislative goals like better bike and public transportation infrastructure instead of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and I’ll be sending this info out to my mailing list as well. 

Then when we get to the shows, I’m going to have something really simple, in a postcard format, that will help people contact their state representatives. I’ll talk about it during the show too, to motivate people to call their reps. The more the public can show their representatives that they’re supporting these kinds of ideas, the better. Politicians want to serve their communities, and it’s important to talk to them and let them know what you want.

Tell me about the bike logistics. 

This is our first time doing something like this -- it’s kind of an experiment! My husband Corey will be on his own bike, which has an electric assist. He will pull our son’s bike behind him with a tagalong.

I’m renting my neighbor’s cargo bike, which is pretty hefty and has an extended back section that you can tie stuff onto. You can have two people sit behind you or you can put on boxes or suitcases or whatever you need. That bike also has an electric assist, which really makes it easier not only for getting up and down hills, but also for carrying a heavier load. 

We may have to make some adjustments to our set list, and Corey is planning to play basses that are already at each venue. We’re going to be traveling with a fiddle, a tenor guitar, some merch, and limited outfits. (There will be the one outfit we wear when we’re biking, and the other one we wear when we’re performing!) We’ll have to make sure we plan ahead in case of rain. We’ve got good rain gear for ourselves, but we’ll have to rig up a tarp system for the gear so it doesn’t get wet. 

It was a pretty significant challenge to book this tour. When you’re booking gigs you’re usually trying to get a bit of distance between each show so you’re not competing with yourself. Normally my rule is that I want something that’s more than an hour away from the first gig but less than four hours’ drive. On the bike, it’s not possible to go that far. I was looking inside of a 60-mile radius. 

60 miles per day? That’s a lot of biking! 

It’s going to be a lot! Our first day, Thursday, we’re going to go from our home in Brattleboro, VT to a house concert in Greenfield, MA, which is about 25 miles. On Friday we’ll bike to southern New Hampshire, which will be about 40 miles. We’ll have Friday night off, and then we’ll have a show on Saturday night in Dunbarton, NH at the Town Hall Series. From there we’ll go to Nelson, NH and their Town Hall (50 miles). On Monday morning we’ll bike back to Brattleboro (35 or 40 miles). 

It is all less than 60 miles per day but it was tricky to get that worked out, gig-wise. There were plenty of gigs that wanted us but were too far away, or gigs that were too close together to be feasible. But then again, there were some venues that were really excited about this whole concept, and thought it was really special. Some people are so into it that it opened up new doors. 

We’re planning to sell discounted tickets for anybody who comes to the show on foot or by bike. We’re also hoping to have a few friends bike along with us -- a caravan for the long weekend. I got my bike tuned up last week and am starting to get in shape to prep for the tour. The electric assist will really help, but that has challenges too. You have to charge the battery and you can only go as far as it lasts. Planning this tour so far has definitely been a learning experience and hopefully it’s going to be way more fun, in the end, than sitting in a car for 4 hours. That can be exhausting, too!