Wind is Louder than Music

06
Jul
2012

I know all cyclists aren’t with me on this one, but I like having my iPod with me while I’m riding….and the way in which I do it is totally safe in my opinion.  I’m a road cyclist and am not in situations where I’m surrounded by pedestrians or riding along with slow traffic.  Situations like these where it’s important to hear all that is happening around you is not a great scenario for listening to music while on your bike….but if done right, can still be okay.

Oh, and I’ll get into it more at the bottom of this article, but I’m going out there as saying that the wind noise we can experience out there while road cycling is much louder and distracting than music at the levels I listen to it at.

This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about riding with music and I’m doing it again because this is one subject that I have more than a few things to say.  In fact, it sort of burns me up a little.  Every day I see people on cell phones while driving their cars and I see how un-focused and un-safe they are while doing so.  That’s a subject that I plan on posting more about soon, but to me that is like a bazillion times more dangerous than cycling with earphones.

One Ear Headphones

There are quite a few states that ban the use of headphones while cycling and I posted about that in the past as well.  In some states (I believe – California, Delaware and Maryland), they’ve partially banned it by only allowing the use of earphones in one ear.  I can live with that law and in places like this, the products from our friends over at Far End Gear are exactly what you need.  Their custom-designed earphones mix both channels of sound from your audio device into one single ear….so you get good sound and have one ear totally open to the sounds of the road.  I actually recommend these earphones to all cyclists, even if it’s not the law where you’re located.  (note: One Good Earbud was a self-funded company that successfully grew into what is now called Far End Gear and have introduced new product lines along the way).

Watch for another post about Far End Gear later on this Summer as we promote the launch of their new product, Brite Buds.  Brite Buds are earphones with reflective material embedded in their fabric wrapped cords and we’ll be doing a giveaway as well.

One Small Rant

Okay, I mentioned earlier that the idea of banning the use of earphone while cycling sort of burns me up. Well, I’m not much of an argumentative kind of guy and I know there are people on both sides of this one, but here is one point that I’d like to make that totally justifies my use of headphones while cycling.  There are many times when I’m riding along and the wind is blowing so loud in my ears that I can’t even hear the music through my earphones.  What this tells me is that in situations like this my hearing is way more distorted than at any time I am listening to music.  If there is going to be laws against cycling with headphones, then I guess they’re going to have to ban us from cycling in strong winds as well.  Yeah, right.

Let’s hear what you have to say on this subject.  The topic created quite a debate the last time we posted on it, so let it rip.

Photo c/o www.ironman.com

Enjoy Your Ride

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1138233646 Eve McGee- Malone

    Is it illegal for the deaf or hard of hearing to ride a bike or drive a car? No. Then why should it matter if my hearing is impaired by music in my headphones? I, like those who are deaf, compensate by riding defensively, obeying traffic laws, and keeping my eyes open.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Eve.

  • http://twitter.com/zuzuridesagain Susan Swope

    If states and communities want to ban the use of headphones by cyclists than they should also ban the use of radios, CD players, MP3 players, and especially cell phones by those folks who drive automobiles. I use headphones and can still hear what I need to hear, sirens, the sound of a blowout, riding over glass. What I pay less attention to are the sounds that startle me and distract from the real dangers. You know those sounds: loud continuous honking, “Get off the f—ing road”, “Get on the sidewalk where you belong”, and a host of others. Headphones are easily turned off when needed and they do certainly block wind noise. There are plenty of times when I choose not to use headphones. What I appreciate is the choice.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Great insight, Susan. I’ve never understood why some people in vehicles use earphones.

  • http://twitter.com/uberfahr überfahr

    I definitely ride – very fast and with pleasure – while listening to music. I do so in Los Angeles and have been doing it for over ten years much to the chagrin of anyone whom I mention this to – unless they do it too. I suppose it’s dangerous; but I rely on vision and not sound. Frankly the sounds of cars next to you can make you uneasy and LESS stable. What is more important is to be “on” and in tune with your surroundings. Music puts me in that zone — and I can already hear the groans of disapproval — which brings up an important question: why the hell all of the moralistic pontificating about stuff that’s no one’s business — like wearing a helmet (which I do btw) …. but it’s as if people really ‘care’ about whether cyclists are safe or not — to which I call bullsh@t. They do not – in the way discussed here (they care when it’s about liability, or endangering someone else – understood and accepted). If folks truly care about safe cycling; then let’s make it safe by investing in infrastructure and limiting cars – *especially* parked cars – but also through tolls and traffic calming. That’s safer. Not this high-horse crap about no music — my world, my life, my risk – nuf said.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks for jumping in with your comments. As you know, i feel where you’re coming from and know that even though you’re doing things your way you are not putting anyone else at risk. Good stuff.

  • Dan “LineBiker” C.

    Another great post, I think, Darryl. Thanks for the link on the “OneGood” earphone and also to the commenters on the Aftershokz – both sound like worthy additions to the Wantlist.

    Just for fun, to add to the ‘argument,’ I think there are two completely different issues involved here. The first is the question of whether earphones reduce our own safety (similar to arguments around helmets, etc.) and the second is the question of whether earphones put anyone else at risk. I think it’s better to take these questions separately. On the first question, I don’t think the ‘distracted driving’ examples matter – we all know that listening to the radio while driving rarely causes a problem, but talking on the phone is worse and messing with a keyboard is way worse yet. I don’t text while driving or riding, because I don’t want to crash. I rarely use a telephone while driving or riding, same concern. I listen to music all the time while doing both. I admit that I’m much more vulnerable on the bike, and because of that, I’m a “right ear only” guy for the most part. Yes, wind is louder, but I still want to hear approaching cars from the rear (or dogs, who sometimes come from the right, but I can always hear them). On the second question, though, I come down on the other side in certain circumstances. I do a lot of group rides and host one weekly ride, and I have a ‘no music’ policy on those, and get no pushback. I feel the same about aero bars. Bottom line, in a pack, you need to focus, and that means hands on your bars and ears open. If you are using aerobars, you’ll never convince me you can corner (or even descend) safely in a group, and ‘your freedom stops at the end of my nose,’ so to speak. I feel the same about music. In a pack, you need to hear, and I need to know you can hear — if the wind is bad, I know that and can speak above it, but if you have ‘phones in, I don’t know that you’ll miss a cue in the group, and you can cause me to go down. Bottom line, on your own, I think any loss in safety is minimal and offset by the benefit of feeling ‘in the groove’ longer — after 50 miles, my fatigue is a bigger concern and I think music helps that. In a group, listen to the group, have a conversation, but leave the earphones in your jersey.

    • http://twitter.com/uberfahr überfahr

      That’s right – in group rides – not a good idea. I think that common sense borne out of experience goes a very, very long ways. Maybe if the hot and bothered jumped on a bike and got some experience, they might be able to discuss this with some meaning.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Great comments, Dan. I’m glad you brought up group riding and music. I totally agree…when you’re riding in a group it’s a completely different thing. My use of music is only while riding solo and any group rides (even one other person) is done with no music.

      I appreciate you writing in on this one.

  • Charles

    I’m with you. I do a lot of rides some for hours music helps make it fun and pass the time. I’ll try songs out on the trainer then take it on a ride, fun. Knowing where the song is going is like knowing what to excpect up the road. I can’t tell you how many times Aqualung has come on just when I needed it the most. If you need a pace it is somewhere in the song fast or slow. Group rides I get no music. I heard an electric car passing while wearing full aero and music. I had a bus stop in the bike lane. A truck bail on a turn right in front of me a a number of vehicles that broke the 3 foot law today. If they hit hit me being able to hear better would have made no difference. Seeing them in my side vision and watching the shadows helped more. The rear view mirror is a nice saftey item I use to wear all the time. I really can see what is behind me better that hearing. Just because someone is an idiot wears headphones in a marathon or ride does not make people an idiot for wearing them. The other people may have just been rude. Guess if they outlaw headphones I will need to put the ghetto blaster on the back of the bike. Rides with no music are nice too. You can always think of a tune in your head and play the part you remember over and over. If it’s only an hour or so you can also just think about life.
    Judging by how loud the wind is getting on your ride I can only guess you ride way too fast which is just as unsafe as music. I urge you to slow down turn the music off and conform to society. If you can’t do that have a nice ride.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Great comments, Charles. Hahahahaha, yeah I’ll see what I can do about slowing down. Actually, I do love getting out on nice slow rides with my kids where it’s just us, the bikes, and nature. I only use the music on training rides.

      Hey, if they outlaw the earphones, I might need to borrow your ghetto blaster.

  • Jay Bru

    Thanks for letting me know about the far end gear products. I’ve been looking for something like that here in Tampa, but can’t find any.

  • jayteepee.

    The noise you hear is the sound of the wind whistling through the holes in your head. I’ve done countless 50+ mph descents, and I can tell you with certainty that I was well aware of my surroundings. Say what you will, but getting into a tune that you like is bound to be a lot more distracting than any wind noise you hear.

    And bringing up the argument of distracted drivers on cellphones is disingenuous at best. In fact, there’s absolutely no comparison between the two. I’ve encountered clowns during marathons with their earbuds tucked firmly in, and they were completely oblivious to runners around them, unpredictably cutting off runners that they’d have otherwise heard. Given the speeds that bikes go, it’s even more dangerous.

    Listen to music all you want, it’s your life. But I sure as hell hope I don’t run into any of your ilk while I’m on the road. If you can’t enjoy the ride without the music, well, then I don’t think you’re enjoying the ride, which is the whole point. Period.

    You can all get your panties into a bunch now.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks for your comments. Yeah man, opinion pieces sure have a way of bringing out the opinions of other, right? I appreciate your say on this.

      • mike

        Lets deal with one subject at a time. First and foremost we are talking about safety and that is personal safety as well as those we live in the world with. I’ve been a cystist intructing others for over 15 years and know the importance of being able to hear in any situation Anyhing in the ear or ears will make it more difficult to hear period. Just cup your hands over one ear and you can hear the difference. Be a safe and resposible ride aand leave the tunes at home.

        • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

          Hi Mike, I appreciate your perspective on this. What do you suggest to people you instruct about wind noise? With it making it very difficult to hear, do you suggest they not ride once the wind gets to a certain speed?

    • Eric

      I don’t really have a strong opinion either way, but you sort of lost me with your debate on this one. you mentioned the cellphone distraction but then never went anywhere with it.
      I see both sides of this debate, but agree that if done safely there is nothing at all wrong with listening to music while riding a bike.

    • http://www.reasons2ride.com/ Joel Phillips

      Please understand I do not believe a cellphone conversation any more distracting than talking to a passenger however, most cellphones have text messaging capabilities, and text messaging while driving has been definitively proven distracting. Since you can’t say, well if you’re only going to use it to talk, then it is ok, maybe that’s the argument I have for my earbuds when I ride. Since I can use the telephone app on my iphone through the earbuds, I have them in just for telephone conversations. Agreed though, I hope I don’t run into you on the road, be sure to announce, “On your left” as you pass, I’ll hear you even though my earbuds will be firmly tucked into my earholes adding to my enjoyment of the ride…

      • jayteepee

        I think that talking on a cellphone without a handsfree setup is just as dangerous as texting. And I seem to recall some recent studies that say that talking on a cellphone in general, handsfree or not, is the equivalent of driving while alcohol impaired. I believe some of that info may be covered on this page, but there’s a bit to wade through for a specific citation. I admit that I don’t know how it would be any different than carrying on a conversation with someone in the car, although that can definitely be a distraction as well, given certain circumstances.

        @Charles – “I’m thinking you are that driver on the cellphone which could explain how you could reach 50+mph”. I mean – huh? And you can walk on my lawn all you like as long as you clean up after your dog. :)

    • Charles

      I think someones panties were already in a bunch when you wrote that nasty little letter of hate and insults. I’m thinking you are that driver on the cellphone which could explain how you could reach 50+mph Mr. I can’t count. Congrats on your marathon they do attract clowns. I’ll stay off your lawn too.

  • Steven

    I always ride with music even though I get flack from many of my riding buddies. I hadn’t thought about the wind noise being louder than my music but now that you mention it I can remember many rides where my music has been drowned out by the wind.
    I feel that if you use music smartly it is fine.

  • http://www.reasons2ride.com/ Joel Phillips

    So does this mean if a person is deaf, then they can’t ride a bicycle? I rely on my ability to visually assess and avoid immediate & potential threats. I expect a car to pull out from behind a dumpster, I expect to have a car turn in front of me at an intersection, as I am sure most of you do. It’s called being a responsible cyclist, and I can do that while listening to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”! If you’re going to take away my headphones, then take away the car-stereos, DVD players, cellphones and all that other distracting crap keeping motorists from paying attention to what the…deep breath…keeping motorists from being responsible drivers. Fact is you can’t. Share the road is super simple, you watch out for me and I’ll watch out for you…

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Good debate, Joel. Yes, if they are going to ban people from riding with music then I guess they’re going to have to ban deaf (or partially deaf) people from riding. Great comments.

    • jayteepee

      I’m thinking that if I were deaf, I personally wouldn’t want to be riding a bicycle. Would you hear the calls of “on your left”? Or the sound of the ambulance that’s speeding to an emergency? The screech of tires from the person who can’t stop in time? Not every threat to a bicyclist is directly in front of them. Okay, the person calling out “on your left” should be mindful of their speed and how close they are to the person they’re approaching. But as we’ve seen in so many cases, sharing the road isn’t super simple. On public roads, bicyclists are pretty much going to find themselves in a position of vulnerability. Maybe in a perfect world, but we’re not quite there yet.

  • http://www.texasmountainbiketrails.com/ Shawn McAfee

    Hey Darryl,

    I get incredibly frustrated by wind noise while road biking, especially on long trips. If I have to hear the wind more than an hour and a half I start getting really really annoyed. This is one of the reasons I prefer mountain biking to road cycling.

    As for music. Unless I am riding with another person or a group you can pretty much count on me to have at least 1 earbud in, depending on location I might have both in. While I think you should be alert and attentive, your choice in location for cycling is equally important. I choose to ride on back country roads away from the hustle and bustle of the city. On these roads I may get passed by 1 car the entire ride.

    • mghollis38

      I’m thinking that’s the case really. I mostly bike on trails or back roads, and I’m starting to get up earlier and earlier. So, if there’s not a lot of traffic, why not use my earbuds? But then, if I’m in the middle of traffic, I probably won’t.

  • http://twitter.com/Sunburnt_Spot Jennifer

    I’m with you, I use one ear bud. The wind makes me nuts. I define what I do on the road, nobody else.

  • Ron Ng

    I use bluetooth jawbone on my cell phone when I listen to music. That’s only on one ear, and it seems to work fine for me (except I gotta make sure both cell and jawbone are fully charged). I love it, because it’s wireless, and don’t have to worry about being tangled up with wires.

    There are earplugs coming out with bone conduction technology. That allows sound to come in through your bone. With that, the earbud is not actually in your ear, but just outside your ear. That allows you to hear music, and hear background noise too. Check it out … http://www.aftershokz.com/

  • djByron

    I’ve heard good things about these bone conduction headphones that don’t touch the ear canal at all. Itching to try them myself! http://www.aftershokz.com/product-p/as301.htm

    • Bill Micou

      I bought these a couple months ago and thy are great. I do several bike routes within the city, and I really want to hear anything and everything around me. With the Aftershokz headphones, I hear my surroundings, plus my podcasts. It has a ‘headband’ that wraps behind your head, not over your head, so it does not interfere with wearing the helmet. Love them! Wish they were wireless, but can’t have everything.

      • djByron

        Good to hear! And yea, agree w/the wireless aspect. I currently have an older pair of Motorola Bluetooth wireless phones but they don’t work very well with a helmet and are in-ear. Looking forward to picking some of these!

  • http://twitter.com/Eclogite_ATX Paul Kirby

    I’ve started using foam earplugs. It’s an old motorcycling trick to save your hearing. It cuts out the wind noise, but still allows you to hear what’s going on around you. Without the constant wind blast in your ears, the ride is much less fatiguing and enjoyable. I used them on this year’s Red Poppy Ride and Real Ale Ride and will continue to do so for longer rides where wind is a factor.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Great tip….thanks, Paul.

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