Music while cycling?

Using earphones while cycling.  It’s something that’s often put up for debate, particularly between cyclists and non-cyclists and even between groups of riders themselves.

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a good few months now, but I couldn’t quite decide what format it should take

So, what are the sides of the debate?  The pros and cons if you like.

The effect that music has on a rider while they are cycling is obviously a very personal thing.  Anyone who knows me will know that my life essentially has a soundtrack.  I take music with me everywhere.  Commuting, alone in the office, at home, in the gym there will always be a source of music, normally my iPhone, with appropriate earphones or headphones.

First and foremost, a lot of the riding I do is done alone, and when I’m out there on my own it does a great job of relieving boredom.  I come from a MTB background, and initially found road riding horrifically boring.  Admittedly the boredom disappeared once I discovered the knack that road cycling has of making you hurt more than you thought was possible and this is where music plays its trump card.  Personally, I find that being able to focus on a song takes my mind off the pain, if I get the playlist right it can do a hell of a job of motivating you to try harder as well.

There’s one obvious case against using earphones, or indeed listening to music while you ride and that is the perception that you wont hear traffic or vehicles around you and could therefore be putting yourself in a dangerous situation.  One way of getting round this is the use of bone conduction headphones, like those from Aftershockz.  Now, I’ve never tried these or any other bone conduction ‘phones, but the principle is fairly simple in that rather than fill your ear canal and potentially block out external noises they create mini vibrations through your cheek bone to stimulate your inner ear.

Aftershockz “Titanium” wireless earphones –


I’m intrigued by the concept, I’ve never quite been sold by the idea, and feel that they’d probably be no less distracting, you’re still likely to be more focused on the music than some feel is sensible.  Maybe this is me being a bit traditional?

For me, the interesting part of this discussion is the other road users, and what is considered normal for them.  Most car drivers will happily drive around listening to Radio One, or something equally turgid.  Car manufacturers go to great lengths to provide premium stereo systems to make music sound better, and when does music sound best?  When it’s played loud enough to make these systems really work.  Are we any more isolated, or distracted with our earphones than car drivers?  Is it just a matter of perception?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Personally, I’ll keep wearing my earphones and listening to music on most rides, I might even try to get hold of a pair of bone conduction earphones to give a try.  Have you tried them?  Let us know what you think.