Recently I was biking along Massachusetts Avenue. Another bicyclist passed me and I heard the throbbing bass of a dance tune. I assumed the music came from a passing car, but as I caught up to this bicycle at a light it was obvious the the music was coming from that bike. I never got close enough to find out how (I think the rider had a speaker in his backpack) but it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to listen to music while biking, or even podcasts and audiobooks?
The question is how. Many bikers chose to listen to music through headphones or earbuds, although this is controversial. One local bicycle writer Josh Zisson writes in Bike Safe Boston that biking with headphones is inherently dangerous and should be illegal. Another local writer John Allen thinks the case against headphones is exaggerated and there should be no law against using them while biking. Some bicyclists think that bone conducting headphones are a safer option but they’re not without detractors.
I find myself taking the middle ground. While I don’t think riding with headphones is necessarily dangerous and I don’t think it should be illegal, I also don’t feel comfortable doing it myself. I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I’m riding with the sense of hearing possibly obstructed.
So the other alternative is to find a stereo or speaker system that can be attached to the bike. At first I thought this may be inconsiderate considering that anyone I’d pass by would hear it to. But then again the tradition of car drivers blasting the stereo with the windows down is cherished in America. This would be doing the same thing on a bike and not likely to be nearly as loud or disruptive.
After looking around for a bit, I settled on the Ivation Bicycle Speaker.
The speaker mounts on the handlebars, has a rechargable battery, and includes a protective carrying case for smartphones and other small objects. I can plug in my iPhone through an auxiliary cable and listen to all manner of music, podcasts, and audiobooks. And it can get pretty loud, so much so that I can feel the handlebars vibrate!
On the downside, the phone is hidden away in the compartment, so it’s not very handy if you need the phone for mapping or just to check the time. The auxiliary cable gets bent easily and I’ve already had two of them go on the fritz. Finally, the sound of passing motor vehicle traffic still drowns out the sound sometimes even when the handlebars are vibrating. Makes you wonder just how much damage is done to our ears by the constant barrage of vehicular noise. All and all though it was a pretty good $30 spent!
So do you listen to music while you bike? Do you use headphones/earpuds or a mounted speaker, or something else entirely?