Why I Ride with an iPod, and Don’t Think I’m Stupid

ArleighCycling Tips, Latest, Ride, Women's Cycling16 Comments

For many years I’ve been riding on the road with music. Originally it was one of those crazy Mini-Disc players that my mom thought would take over the music scene.  Little did she know, it fueled my cycling passion.  One of those little Mini-Disc players could hold hours of music, and run off AA rechargeable batteries.  It had the ability to record on various disc and dub out/delete.  I could ride, ride and ride without listening to the same song twice.

For many reasons music was needed for my riding style

  1. Boredom – normally kicking in around 45 minutes to an hour and a half
  2. Riding alone – see above
  3. Motivation – Certain songs would kick me in 6th gear and I would be able to push it, be it for time or watts.. the music moved me.
  4. That Go to Track – On days I would put a song on repeat for my 3 hour ride, it allowed me to focus and tune out the day of crap
  5. Wind whistling pisses me off – the noise that the wind makes when it hits your helmet straps, or hair.
  6. Feeling “PRO” – All the pro’s were wearing radios in their ears back to the team car, I’m sure their managers played some sort of music for them.  If they didn’t, they should start now.

At first I rode with one earphone in, leaving the left one that was closest to the road out.  Actually, I had a couple headphones that I cut off the left earphone so not to get in the way.  Time went by and I had theories, if the music was low enough I felt I could hear just as well as I did with the wind whistling in my ears.  I tested my theory for several rides and feeling confident enough, yes my hearing isn’t paired as long as the volume is kept low.

Mirrors are your friends

Often mirrors are even better than your ears.  You can SEE, you don’t have to turn your head and you are prepared.  By the time I hear a car coming up behind me, it might be too late to react.

iPod is not iDeath

one of the main issues of the headphones is not so much its removal of the individual’s ability to hear
it is more the combination of the inability to hear and the lack of focus
instead of being in tune to the surroundings the individual is focused on the music
letting the focus drift away from the variables around them
the same goes for mountainbiking… snowboarding… rollerbladding… whatever…
– Gwadzilla

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to disagree with my buddy, Gwadzilla. The main issue within congestion or lack of senses, are the bicycle riders and not the iPod.  As a cyclist for many years, all my senses are tuned in more than the average rider.

Now, I do find it hard to ride mountain bikes with both ears plugged in.  The hearing that Gwadz mentions above is very necessary while mountain biking.  Hearing how the bikes handing, the tires gripping and the gears shifting are all very important.

One Last Thing

Out of the few times there has been a run in with a car, my bicycle, and myself.. there was never ANY music playing in my ears.

Photo Credit : Gwadzilla

16 Comments on “Why I Ride with an iPod, and Don’t Think I’m Stupid”

  1. I am the opposite. I crave the isolation on a solo ride. I love the buffering of the wind and welcome the lonlieness that is partnered with it. I feel a disconnection from reality while listening to music and riding, especially on the mountain bike. I ride to escape boredom. I ride to find things within that no one else can see(or understand).

  2. I hate it when I have to pass a cyclist on the bike patch who is tuned into way too heavily to their iPod. Maybe it is a volume issue, but I think it’s rude. There may be a difference based on volume, but I haven’t seen many riders with headphones in both ears that aren’t noticeably less responsive to “on your left” or similar chatter. iPods are great for the gym or the trainer.

    1. A year ago I was leading a group out on a Saturday ride to the Pine Barrens of NJ when I happened on a cyclist with an ipod. I yelled out my common refrain in such a situation “On your left” (I’m a New Yorker and I’m not quiet). As we passed the cyclist was startled and cursed us out. Sorry I have no sympathy for people who can’t hear me as I call out. I generally call out on a 2 second rule so no one should be surprised. Also ipods are illegal on the road (Car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle). Add to this the new electic cars (Prius, Infinity and Lexus). Dang scary quiet those cars are. They sound more like a pace line than a car.

    2. Hey Neil,

      I’m not going to condone or make excuses for those that wear their iPod with excessive sound or tune out the world. I use mine to tune out that wind that I hear, I’ll still keep the volume low & often keep my left ear bud out.

    3. If you had a bud out, you’d hear me. 🙂

      Actually I wouldn’t mind having some form of music on the ride. I could start off with something slow, like AC/DC and work the tempo up. 😉

      I saw your review of the iride pro and I am interested in that. it would be a nice addition to my commute. I worry that the sound would be too loud for the neighborhoods (I sometimes commute home late, like 10PM – off peak hours). I could attach it to the top of my back pack and it wouldn’t have to have it as loud (it would be closer to my ears. Also my main music player is not an ipod but rather a large brick called the Neuros (1999).

  3. I’ll respect your position and reserve my ire for those cyclists (but more often joggers) that keep their volume too high to hear my bells, excuse me’s, on your left’s, pleas, screams as I’m trying to pass. Why must joggers run on the wrong side of the path with their headphones blaring? DRIVES.ME.CRAZY!

  4. I can imagine listening to anything except the world around me while I’m riding (onroad/offroad). I need to hear the traffic, birds, planes, etc. I would panic if I couldn’t.

    I use my iPod to escape, while drawing and painting.

    When I ride, the experience provides the escape.

  5. Agreed. I worked as a bike courier for 2 years with headphones in, and never had any problem. The one time I got hit by a car was someone running a red light. Obviously it depends on the person, but I really don’t think music is necessarily a huge distraction.

  6. Sometimes I use an ipod, sometimes I don’t. It depends on my mood. The only headphones I like are the in ear ones that block outside sound like industrial earplugs though so I only ever use one. An upside to this type of phone is that the sound doesn’t have to compete with outside noises so the ipod volume can be quite low. No problems yet when it comes to awareness of the outside world.

  7. I do believe, that we’re entitled to rock out on our streets. Yet, in the city, pod plugs, do equal injury or death. I’m imploring my urban comrades, to wear sexy-chunky headphones around your necks. You can still enjoy your jams, and sense impending danger from you know who.

  8. you know: idiots on cellphones, in automobiles, on cellphones in automobiles, et cetera. I just want you to be safe, my babies. We can’t rule the streets if you’re dead.

  9. As a bike commuter, we fight hard enough to gain the respect of the drivers on the road that we don’t need cyclists with ear buds in to potentially degrade it.

    Regardless of if you can hear or need to hear or not, the image that this conveys is that the cyclist is not devoting all attention to the cars and road. The subsequent argument is that if the cyclist doesn’t need to pay 100% attention, why should the driver of the car that passes you?

    Every time I’m on the road, my life is in my hands and the hands of the drivers that pass me. They don’t realize that, but I do. I will never wear ear buds while cycling.

    1. “The subsequent argument is that if the cyclist doesn’t need to pay 100% attention, why should the driver of the car that passes you?”

      I don’t buy that argument. When I am driving my car and see a cyclist run a red light light I don’t say, “hey why should I run it too?”

  10. This is an interesting topic that I find comes up quite often in conversation among recreational road riders. Like so many other things technological, I agree that safety has more to do with the operator than with the instrument. That said, I find it incredibly frustrating when I can’t get the attention of a plugged-in cyclist or jogger, especially if he or she is all over the road/path. After all, you have to be able to hear a lot more than just cars.
    On another note, the last few years (at least in Iowa) have seen a huge increase in saddlebag speaker systems, especially popular at RAGBRAI. While they allow you to have music with maintained hearing acuity, the trade off is that everyone you pass has to tolerate your music and its volume. Just wondering what other people thought about this option…

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