Cycling and music: latest developments.

Okay, so in my last post I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed riding with music for a change. It’s not something I’d done for many years, as I’d never felt it to be a particularly safe thing to do. But when I registered from the Arch to Arc ride that I’m currently preparing for, the registration pack came with a complimentary copy of Cycling Weekly’s “Health and fitness for Cyclists” magazine. And, alongside the training plans and diet tips, what did I find? A four page article extolling the benefits of cycling to music. I still resisted, but last week I decided to give it a go. As I said before, I’m sure it made a difference.

Not in this edition

The next day, I posted an update on Twitter and Facebook asking for suggestions for good cycling music. A few responses came in, mostly fairly pumping rock, as I’d expected. Or songs about cycling, which I’d specifically said I didn’t want. But after the few suggestions, came this, from a very good friend and keen cyclist:

If you need motivation then find other people to cycle with (try your local CTC club for the longer training rides) and leave your music at home, please.

So I responded:

But it’s the solitude I’m enjoying. And at no point did I have it so that I couldn’t hear traffic approaching.

And later that day, this appeared by email

Hi Trevor,

Further to the music + headphones + cycling thing on Facebook…

I know you are a sensible man but also knowing you are out there on your bicycle (doing more time in the saddle than ever before) putting yourself under the same risks that I face every day worries me. So, I hope you’ll understand that the following question and rant comes only out of caring deeply about you.

Would you wear your headphones if you had your son on your bike-seat or in the trailer?

I’ll give my reasoning behind asking this question, and even answer it based on my assumptions. My hunch is that you’d say no to the above question. The obvious reason is so that you can communicate with one another. But I think the ‘no’ would reflect far more than that; a desire for 100% attention to the task in hand. If that is the case then why not give yourself the same due care? After all on your solo bike rides your son is still in the equation.

I don’t want to sound melodramatic, and I can’t tell you what to do, but I do feel that I have to at least let you know how I feel.

I believe that listening to music while cycling has multiple negative effects that outweigh the positive ones. Not all threats are noisy so the music doesn’t have to be loud to impair behaviour or put you at risk.

And on a very personal note, this isn’t just about traffic. One of my pet hates is being out on an enjoyable ride on a multi-use path (pedestrians, horses, bikes) and being ‘ignored’ by the joggers and dog-walkers when I ring my bell or shout ‘excuse me’ as I try to pass them safely. Lo and behold they can’t hear me because they are listening to music. The last thing I want is to add headphone-wearing cyclists to this list.

Walk along any street and you will know instantly when someone in front of you is wearing headphones (even if you can’t see the headphones or hear the music). It’s because they don’t know or sense you are there so they will behave very differently. The subtle sounds around us are just as important as the loud ones.

Okay I’ll stop! I know I’ve had a few accidents so who am I to hand out advice when it comes to cycling safely! Trevor, what ever you do please do it as safely as you can.

And do you know what? I think she’s persuaded me to leave the headphones at home (much to my wife’s delight). But I’d be interested to hear what others think.

One suggestion. Bizarre and brilliant.

Update: as well as the comments on here, This post has provoked a few comments on facebook and twitter, so I thought I’d repeat them here for the sake of completeness:

I’ll be honest (and I know I’ll be shot down in flames) but I pretty much always commute with music and when I do long rides on my own. I doubt I’ll use them on the Arch to Arc because I wont be on my own and will have folks to talk to.

I know many of my cycling friends do the same. Me personally I love the extra solitude it gives me and having a beat to pedal to can make it easier, a bit like “Run to the Beat”

Is it dangerous? Can’t deny your less likely to hear the horn of a car or someone shouting at you but it depends on how loud you have it as well.

I agree it’s annoying when you have joggers or pedestrians unable to hear you from behind, but to be honest I just allow for that nowadays because so many people have MP3s of some sor

If you’re a naturally vigilant person I suspect you’ll be vigilant with headphones in or out. I can get just as lost in my own head and blank everything out without the aid of music (not goo

On a bike motorised or other you have to be that little bit more aware because you’re so much more vulnerable, but I think it’s a personal choice … a bit like having the radio on in your car blaring as loud as you can, that can just as easily blot out the rest of the world.

Trevor… no! Simple as.

I used to always take music with me but not anymore cos I pay more attention to my surroundings, which I like. As for safety if i was going to take music I wouldn’t listen on roads, only cycle paths, bridleways and byways. And you’ve mentioned cycling through beautiful villages; music might make you ignore them.

2 thoughts on “Cycling and music: latest developments.

  1. Jill

    Leave them at home and revel in the solitude. It won’t all be noisy traffic, just think of the sound of the wind, the birds…….bliss

  2. martinsj2

    This is excellent advice. It only has to happen once, then you’re done for. You can ride for 20 years and never hear a passerby say, “Excuse me, Sir, but the bridge is out around the corner!” but it would be nice to hear it should someone ever say it! You get my drift.

    And as a rule, you’d can’t be very wrong if you’re doing something you wife wants you to do!



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