I’d like to start this article by stating openly that riding with both headphones in is certainly illegal and frequently dangerous for both yourself as well as all other trail users. Having lifted any sort of liability from my a$# and cleared the air of that, why don’t we begin.
There are a couple of ways to ride with music. The first way is the classic one headphone in, one headphone out route. This gives you flexibility and at least a little bit of awareness of what’s around you, especially on a road bike. If you leave your left earbud out, you’re able to hear a surprising amount of traffic noise and stay safe. Another way to have music on your ride is to put your phone or device into your jersey pocket, shorts pocket, or in your pack and play it out loud. It’s a great way to have the best of both worlds, so to speak. However, we’ve all seen (or been) “that guy” riding along with his music playing wayyy too loud, so we do advise going this way only in low traffic areas…foot, bike, equestrian, or otherwise.
Let’s start with the positive things that can come from adding music to your riding ensemble. Riding with music can be a wonderful addition to any form of exercise, whether it be riding bikes, running, or hitting the gym after work. Music is a really great way to find rhythm and drive in what is potentially a very average Tuesday afternoon ride around the mountain. This statement stands especially true to those of you who are actually training. Whether it be training for personal gain or for “that one race” at the beginning/middle/end of your season, being stuck on schedules and diets can get old quick and extremely repetitive even faster. Switch it up with some music! Throw your favorite album onto your iPod and get after it, or if you’re a smartphone user, pick one of entirely too many “Workout” mixes on Spotify! If you’re into it, we’ve already created a couple of Playlists on Spotify that we like riding with. “Hittin Hips, Hoppin Hops” is a Hip Hop based playlist (Hittin Hips, Hoppin Hops) that will give you a bit of rhythm and baseline to work with. “Shreddy” (Shreddy) is an up-tempo playlist featuring mostly rock and heavier electronic, for when you really want to get amped and snatch the “KOM” from your best mate.
Music tends to focus the mind somewhere outside of the body, which can be a really wonderful thing. Having the mind focused on something outside of the body leaves the body free to react almost solely on instinct, “gut” and muscle memory (that you’ve gained across the months and years of riding) and more often than not, your most immediate physical reaction to a moment is the right one and if you had had more time to think about it, your brain would have simply gotten in the way.
Okay….now for the negatives. Music, as most of you know or can guess, removes you from your most immediate surroundings. You are unable to hear what is coming up behind you or in front of you. The things that typically surround bike riders are horses, other people, other bikes, and motorized vehicles. All of these things tend to be extremely unforgiving. Horses can be EASILY spooked and I can almost guarantee you that the rider aboard, even if they get out unscathed, will be less than happy at the circumstance. Any sort of run-in with a horse can be very dangerous for all parties involved. With the speeds that trail bikes are reaching these days upon multi-use trails, being aware of your surroundings is a must. For the faster riders, not being able to hear the upcoming foot or bike traffic can end up in a head on collision and for the slower riders, not being able to hear the guy behind you going full tilt boogie for the local mountain’s KOM can lead to some feathers being ruffled.
I find road riding with music scary because you are completely surrounded by vehicles moving MUCH faster than you, weighing in at literal TONS more than you, and with direct access to multitasking devices that frequently keep drivers eyes everywhere BUT the road. In any sort of road situation, if things go wrong, they tend to go VERY wrong….odds are not in your favor, that’s for sure.
Whether you are a mountain biker or a road biker, a major part of the reason that we go outside on our bikes is to experience nature in one form or another. For most of us office dwelling folk, getting outside and seeing the blue skies, hearing the wind rushing past our ears, and listening to the birds chirping is like pure gold. The beauty is always in the details and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped on the trail because I heard a rustling in the bushes. It’s led to bobcat sightings, snakes, baby does nestled into the bushes and birds made of colors that I never even knew existed. Focus is spread across a much broader range without listening to music.
As previously stated, there is certainly a time and a place for everything. Music can add SO much to any ride on any day. On the same trail but a different day, it can take away equally as much. It all depends on mood and circumstance. So be aware of your body, your mind, your heart and your immediate surroundings and the answer will surely come to you.
We will be continually posting up Playlists on our “artscyclery” Spotify account, so keep an eye out for all the fresh tracks and weird arrangements that we may come up with. They won’t all be headbangers…we promise. Ride safe and don’t forget to have fun. That is the entire reason we’re out there, right?!