Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Listen up

I try to start most days by reading Frazz. Even when it has nothing to do with bicycles, it’s one of the most entertaining and clever comic strips around. This one was one of my recent favorites.

To listen to music, or not listen to music while on the bike. It’s a question that ensures—no matter what your answer is—you’re gonna piss somebody off.

Personally, I think anyone who gets bored bicycling without music is probably in the wrong sport. Besides, stuffing earbuds in your head and then climbing on a bike is a dangerous thing to do unless you happen to be fighting sleep deprivation during an endurance race in the middle of nowhere and have no chance of encountering traffic. Why compromise one of the senses that can keep you alive?

Hell, you might as well smear globs of Vaseline over your sunglasses, too. Go ahead, order the big plate of glaucoma with a side order of deafness. That way, you won’t be distracted by the sight of the ground rushing toward you as you wonder what that hot, roaring, metallic thing is that just attached itself to your ass.

Cyclists who ride with headphones or earbuds remind me of people who decorate their cars and pickups with little money-wasters like brake light covers. I mean, think about it: Do you really think the words “brake light” and “cover” should ever be combined? They’re brake lights, dammit. Visibility is the whole point. If I’m about to rear-end your pickup in the foggy darkness of winter, I’m not going to be comforted by the soft glow of a Dodge Ram logo in the final microsecond before impact.

When I ride, I’ll tune in to the Inhale and Exhale show. And I'll listen to all that other good stuff—like my tires humming on the ground, the wind in the trees, the gurgling creek, the birds singing, and that mud-splattered pickup that's rolling up behind me with a table dancer-silhouette sticker in the rear window and a half-dozen Budweiser cans rolling around in the floorboard.

My iPod will be waiting at home.


Jeff Moser said...

I know people that enjoy riding with an iPod, but it's just not for me. Certainly not on the street. I don't want to mistake a 7.2 liter Powerstroke diesel for a James Hetfield guitar riff. Wham! And when I'm mountain biking, I need to hear the sounds of nature. The breeze in the trees, birds, furry woodland creatures, babbling brooks, fresh crunchy snow... I guess the iPod will stay in the car, feeding the Scion iPod stereo with tunes.

Luke said...


Tim and me...agreeing? That's it...brake out the skates. Hell has officially frozen over.

Phillip Barron said...

Even as someone who occasionally listens to my iPod while riding, I have to say that you frame this discussion very well. And therefore you get me to listen to you a lot better than others have. Nice.

Tim said...

Thanks, Nico.

Anonymous said...

Ok, my iPod is one of my most reliable riding companions. BUT... it's all about the volume you turn it up to. As soon as I'm riding faster than 9mph I usually don't hear any music anymore - just the sounds of the wind and tires is loud enough to block it out completely.
Therefore I can still hear cars perfectly well. And: those things are much more bike respecting over here in Switzerland. (Or it's just plain expensive to get that pedal scratch out of your door).
And if I don't enjoy the sound of nature enough, I'll just leave it at home or mute it.
Some pro-reasons for me:
- Choose the right BPMs for your training. (Helps a constant cadence)
- Some trainings(strength endurance, intervalls) just feel more humanly with music on.
- Good music is an extra cheer-upper.
- If I do no-scenery extra, special low fat-burn 4-5hrs I would fall asleep without it. ;-)

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine has mounted speakers to his handlebars. That way he has music without totally clogging his auditory passages with ear buds.

I don't really listen to music during any situation. Not at home, not at work, and not on my bike. I agree with the commenter who likes listening to the sounds of nature, not to mention the subtle sounds of traffic.

Anonymous said...

its all about the tunes and the volume,
as you know i ride air bicycle as opposed to a real one (40 mins walk to work every morning and back), its dangerous if you are listening to rammstein at full whack and get sideswiped by an SUV, but if you are listening to the divine Regina Spektor (Get the 'Begin to Hope' album, i promise you wont be disappointed) and have it at 25% volume you get to hear the dulcit tones as well as the screeching of car tires :)

Shammy from Alabammy (ok New Zealand but it doesnt rhyme).

shawnkielty said...

I totally disagree Tim -- we have the technology -- but lack vision. It's possible to play the stereo -- amplify the environmental noise and enjoy the ride with tuunage. It's just not dangerous -- if you do it well.

Anyony that uses noise blocking technology in their headsets on a bike -- deserves the death that must surely await them.

sandman said...

ipods are the best riding invention next to the wheel

Anonymous said...

Did you see 10/13/06 Frazz yet??

I'm with you, Tim. I do, on occasion, ride with my headphones around my neck, not on my ears, so I can hear some tunes while I ride but still have the ability to hear what's going on around me. This is mainly while commuting to work, only time I'm on the road is when I have to cross an intersection.

I don't see the point of music while mountain biking. To me it detracts from the experience of being in the wilderness. The sound of nature is the best music there is.

shawnkielty said...

There is something to the communion with nature that is really cool.

But sometimes cycling -- or any kind of exercise, is more about turning inward, toward the body, in a trance like way. The music helps provide a vehicle for that.

Anonymous said...

When you ride 300miles a week, you need something to break up the routine.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me how most people exagerate the loss of hearing ability when wearing earbuds. The other day, while grooving out to Wilco in downtown traffic, I heard and recognized a SmartCar coming up behind me. If you're used to traffic then your ears can differentiate between what's in the iPod and what's not. Besides, if you relying on what you hear to make or contribute to decisions in traffic is much more stupid than riding with an iPod. But the real question is, why does it bother you people? Cummins diesel engines intermixed with schizophrenic homeless guys swearing ain't nature, its noise pollution.

GGDub said...

Apologies, the grammer in my above comment was really bad. I must go to bed...