Bikes and Music: A Recipe for Pain?

Are bikes and music “a recipe for pain?”

Sponge toss at Elementary School carnivalA reader on a cycling group tossed a brickbat at me. [It’s an OSHA-approved brickbat. No bricks, bats nor elementary school principals were harmed in the taking of this photograph.]

I can’t see an experienced cyclist like you telling people to listen to music while they ride.  Diverting your attention from any of your senses while riding is a recipe for pain.  If you want to listen to music, take a ride in your car, or lounge around on your sofa.

I wouldn’t want my senses dulled

I responded by saying that I would take his advice to heart and ride naked from now on so that none of my senses would be dulled.

Biking ain’t brain surgery

Another poster came to my defense with a more reasoned response:

Audio if properly used, can add to enjoyment and concentration. Surgeons have favorite playlists for surgery and it is not a distraction. So during surgery, driving, working, running, walking, and riding, properly listening to audio can add to the enjoyment/concentration of/on the activity…Used properly (so you can hear surrounding sounds as well as audio), for some, audio can add to the enjoyment/concentration and at times provides motivation… If I find myself riding (or running) in a situation where I need to turn off the audio to improve my ‘concentration’ or “reduce distraction” ..I do so….

Just don’t make the assumption that just because I listen to music or an audiobook … that I’m an unsafe rider  or runner or surgeon.

What music do I listen to on the bike?

Archer AM Bicycle RadioHere’s a video that gets me ready to hop on the saddle every time I hear it. Missy and Shane put pictures of the U.S. bike tour to Luka Bloom’s The Acoustic Motorbike. I’d link to it directly, but the RIAA Music Police made YouTube take down the sound track.

My musical development is pretty stunted. It’s stuck in the 60s and 70s for the most part, back when songs had words that you could understand and play in mixed company. It’s got a lot of folk, protest, ironic country and rock in it.

I’ve got about 180 gig of music on my computer, but I find myself listening to less than half a dozen playlists on my Apple iPod 40 GB Classic.

Here are some of my MP3 playlists

[Son Matt hates PDF files, but it was easy to export the lists from iTunes in that format. I’m all about easy. Laziness is the mother of invention.]

  • Protest music playlist with artists like Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogarty.
  • Fogcycle music playlist started out to be mostly John Fogarty music, but picked up a some CCR, Gillian Welch, Grateful Dead, Hoyt Axton, Jackson Browne and John Cougar Mellencamp along the way.
  • Cycle1 Playlist was one of my first biking mixes. It starts off, appropriately enough, with Bob Seeger’s Against the Wind. Weather titles show up here and in Cycle2 Playlist .  Things like A Hundred and Ten in the Shade, Louisiana Storm, Walk between the Raindrops, Black Sky, 10 Degrees and Getting Colder.
  • Trains playlist was put together for Grandson Malcolm, who is a Thomas the Train fanatic. I collected every song I could find about trains. The more I listened to the songs, the better I liked them.

Archer AM Bike RadioBro Mark matches music to training routines

Bro Mark sent me some CDs a few years back that had his music arranged for the type of riding he was going to do that day.

He’d mix hard-charging tunes with slower ones for interval training.

I’m not that organized. I tell it to sort by song title, that way I don’t get a long run of the same artist.

If I need a high-energy song to make it over a hill, then I punch the forward button until I come to one. Some days some songs feel right and other days they don’t. That’s why they make it possible to skip tracks.

I don’t like random shuffles, though. Even though I couldn’t tell you my play order, I sort of have a feel for it from hearing song A follow B after scores of playing. There’s something kinda comforting in that.

What music do you like?

This wraps up almost a week of music-related MP3 speaker reviews and tales of misheard songs. Tell us what you like to listen to (or if you think I should ride naked so that I don’t dull my senses).

[It’s easier than ever to leave comments. I removed the restriction that required you to register and log in to leave your graffiti on our walls.]

10 Replies to “Bikes and Music: A Recipe for Pain?”

  1. On safety, I don’t see how music is a problem unless you’re wearing headphones that could block out traffic and other sounds.

    My question is WHY you listen to it. I don’t see the need for it while cycling. I never use music as backgound noise. I want to be able to LISTEN to it. For the same reason, I’ve never understood the need for the incessant screaming you suffer through at concerts. How can you hear the music you paid to hear while you’re screaming your brains out? To each their own….

  2. I take an active listening approach. One of the reasons I like songs with lyrics is that I sing along with them – usually just inside my head, but if I’m alone on the road, I’ll go down the road singing (or what passes for it in my case).

    I also use the music as touchstones to memory. I’ll hear some songs and they’ll place me back at some prior point in time.

    Like you say, YMMV.

  3. I love listening to my music when i drive, bike or anything. I have playlists set up on my itouch and depending on what I am in the mood for, that is what I listen to. And with 357 songs so far, and more to come, it will take a while to go through it all. I do let it pick at random, so I can be surprised.

  4. Annie,

    Funny how different folks listen to music. I have multiple playlists (with a lot of overlap). I like playing them sorted by song name.

    That generally gives me a good mix of music types and doesn’t get me stuck with the same artist all of the time. I like having an idea of who or what is coming up next.

    If I see a hill coming up, I’ll skip through a song that I know is slow. Or even a couple of them if I know there’s a hard-charger in coming up.

    To each his (or her) own, though.

  5. am interested with portable eassy to removed AM & FM radios for bicycles.

    Thank You

  6. I like those bluetooth headset things from Sirius they work with your phone, sat radio and you also interface as mp3 I do not know what they are called though

    1. Sarah, you’d have to jump in a time machine to get that particular radio.

      (Or, you’d have to make me an offer. It was a gift from my brother, so you’d have to bump up the price to overcome the sentimental value. I can’t swear that it works any better than he does, though.)

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