Author Topic: Cycling with earbuds  (Read 2421 times)

Cycling with earbuds
« on: November 29, 2018, 03:36:41 pm »
Listening to music through earbuds whilst cycling - who does it?


So far I've done 2 x 400km Audaxes on my own with no music and it's very boring so I was thinking of giving music a go to lighten the boredom.

So who else listens to music whilst cycling? (I'm assuming just the one earbud in so you can listen for traffic?)

Pedal Castro

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Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2018, 03:50:30 pm »
I don’t do it often but it actually helps in hearing the traffic behind you if it’s windy or the speed you’re going at generates a lot of wind noise. Just don’t have the volume too loud.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2018, 04:00:06 pm »
Contentious subject, and contentious opinion follows:-

I do it some times, but most of the time I don't simply because my threshold for being bored on the bike is very high and I rarely cycle longer than that any more (I remember doing a 300km Audax mostly on my own where I used them a lot but that was years ago). When I do use them it's almost always both ears.

I can always still hear sirens and cars beeping, and often my music is low volume enough that I can hear people talking to me (although I can't always pick out the words they're saying as that gets jumbled with the music/lyrics). (This is the same when I'm not riding, I've always listened to things on a relatively low volume compared to others.)

I do it because I can't remember a time where my course of action would have been different because of something I've only heard (other than sirens/beeping/etc which I can still hear if I use headphones), or more importantly, didn't hear.

I rode a motorbike for years and was taught to do proper frequent observations (not just lifesavers before specific manoeuvres); you couldn't rely on hearing as it was muffled by a helmet and ear plugs (which I used pretty much every time I was riding). As a consequence I'm rarely surprised by close overtakes because I've been looking behind me, and hearing alone isn't good enough to tell you whether an impending overtake is going to be close or not.

I remember when someone looked at some helmet camera footage I had when I first got a helmet camera. They couldn't watch it for more than a minute as they were feeling sea-sick as my head was constantly moving around looking around.
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Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2018, 04:07:08 pm »
I sometimes ride with an earphone in my left ear. I don't use the right hand earpiece as I like to be able to hear traffic coming up from behind.

If I'm on a long solo ride, the radio helps relieve any boredom that might creep up.

Should I be out on a solo training ride  , then I'll use my fast tempo playlist to encourage me to go faster.
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Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2018, 04:24:13 pm »
I use two earbuds sometimes. Not sure if I would in a town though but there again deaf people cycle and has been mentioned below a lot of motorcyclists wear ear plugs these days.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

fuaran

  • rothair gasta
Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2018, 04:30:05 pm »
You can get earbuds designed to let in more ambient sound. Though may not sound great if its windy.
Or some sort of bone conduction earbuds.

If you only use 1 earbud, probably best to convert your music to mono. Otherwise you would only hear half of it.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2018, 04:39:57 pm »
I never use ear buds because I think cutting off one of my senses would impact on safety. I use a bone conduction headset (Trekz titanium) pretty much all the time. I find it to  be a happy medium between a slightly diminished auditory awareness and the pleasure of riding to banging choons.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2018, 04:42:33 pm »
I don't do it, but not for safety reasons (I just find them uncomfortably sweaty).  Ambient sound is too unreliable/misleading to be a useful source of situational awareness on the road.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2018, 04:47:30 pm »
I disagree. Even engine tone of a vehicle behind can tell me something about the driver's mentality and likely behaviour.  It's nice to get early warning of speeding motorbikes on windy Welsh roads etc etc.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2018, 05:14:23 pm »
I do, but only on long rides on empty country lanes, only one ear and only podcasts (i.e. spoken word).

I do sometimes play music out loud from the phone on my handlebars if there's no one else about, which is one of the pros of being lantern rouge.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2018, 05:19:15 pm »
I disagree. Even engine tone of a vehicle behind can tell me something about the driver's mentality and likely behaviour.

I agree it can, but I've never had a situation where it has been absolutely necessary that I have that information. (I understand this may be an example of survivorship bias.)

Bone conducting headphones are a reasonable solution but the few pairs I've tried have never worked well with a cycling cap and glasses (both normal glasses or plastic cycling glasses, I can't wear contact lenses). I should get myself down to a shop that will let me try on a few different sets to see if there are some that don't create a pressure point on some part of the glasses arm(s) and therefore my skull.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2018, 05:22:05 pm »
I disagree. Even engine tone of a vehicle behind can tell you something about the driver's mentality and likely behaviour.

It can also tell you completely the wrong thing.  eg. It turns out that an ambulance on blue lights sounds exactly the same as any other diesel-engined van when it stops behind you while you wonder why the pedestrian at the zebra crossing you stopped for isn't moving.

I agree that noisy exhaust or ludicrous subwoofer is a danger signal, but that gets through headphones, car windows, etc, just fine.  But even if it didn't, there's generally little you'd change about your cycling behaviour knowing that the driver of vehicle behind is particularly likely to be impatient - as a rule of thumb I assume that all motorists will be.  What is useful is knowing when it's something wider or slower than usual, or when it's indicating, which is where the Mk 1 eyeball (possibly via a mirror) comes in.

The absence of noise doesn't tell you anything of course, as anyone who's been startled by another cyclist in their blind spot[1] will know.

TBH I find the main safety benefit to being able to hear as a cyclist is knowing which oiks are the shouty ones who should be given a wide berth.  Otherwise it's mostly about detecting mechanical problems with your bike, and EV-spotting.


[1] In That London, they're usually about to undertake you in order to jump the red lights.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2018, 05:35:37 pm »
Perhaps you aren't as good as me at anticipating driver behaviour, proximity, speed etc based on audible cues.
Almost daily empirical experience demonstrates to me that many sounds are worth hearing.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2018, 05:44:35 pm »
Perhaps you aren't as good as me at anticipating driver behaviour, proximity, speed etc based on audible cues.
Almost daily empirical experience demonstrates to me that many sounds are worth hearing.

Both Greenbank and Kim have given very extensive explanations of why, in their view, hearing every environmental detail isn't really of much help in a real-world situation which may result in being rear ended.  I agree with them.

On the other hand you merely repeat your opinion.

It's actually on narrow country lanes that I would probably not feel happy with buds in, but for the sake of hearing cars behind that may be getting held up for long periods (engines running slow/quiet), so out of consideration rather than a fear for my own safety.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2018, 05:44:58 pm »
Perhaps you aren't as good as me at anticipating driver behaviour, proximity, speed etc based on audible cues.
Almost daily empirical experience demonstrates to me that many sounds are worth hearing.

I tend to (but by no means exclusively) use cycles with mirrors, which is also likely to be a factor.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2018, 05:47:04 pm »
I listen to podcasts via earbuds whilst on country lanes, but turn them off when in an urban area. I’d be nervous about listening to music because it’s a constant sound backdrop, whereas there’s as much silence as sound when listening to the spoken word.

Total respect for anyone whose ‘risk assessment’ differs from mine and chooses a different course.

However, to those who would seek to ban cyclists using earbuds (or headphones for that matter) I always ask them whether they think it should be illegal for a deaf person to ride a bike.
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bludger

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Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2018, 05:48:24 pm »
I've just never felt the need - I've done 18, 20 hour stints in the saddle and never felt I would have gotten any better with music. Even in my daily 35 minute commute I find my tiny mind is filled with enough interesting stimulation.

My dad often gives me a bollocking for wearing all black on the safety front but then he's the one zipping around with an earbud in /o\
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Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2018, 05:49:51 pm »
Perhaps you aren't as good as me at anticipating driver behaviour, proximity, speed etc based on audible cues.
Almost daily empirical experience demonstrates to me that many sounds are worth hearing.

Both Greenbank and Kim have given very extensive explanations of why, in their view, hearing every environmental detail isn't really of much help in a real-world situation which may result in being rear ended.  I agree with them.

On the other hand you merely repeat your opinion.

No. They have given their opinion. I've given examples of daily personal experience. If you look carefully, nearly everything I've said is about me. I'm not denying others experience, but equally I dont expect others to deny mine either.

Not sure what your post adds, other than having a stir with a rather rude manner.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2018, 05:52:09 pm »
Perhaps you aren't as good as me at anticipating driver behaviour, proximity, speed etc based on audible cues.
Almost daily empirical experience demonstrates to me that many sounds are worth hearing.

I tend to (but by no means exclusively) use cycles with mirrors, which is also likely to be a factor.

Indeed. I've also noticed that I look behind me far more often than other riders.

Equally, I Ride with some people (audax and club) who are utterly oblivious to what is going on around them, sound or no sound.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2018, 05:58:00 pm »
I listen to podcasts via earbuds whilst on country lanes, but turn them off when in an urban area. I’d be nervous about listening to music because it’s a constant sound backdrop, whereas there’s as much silence as sound when listening to the spoken word.

Total respect for anyone whose ‘risk assessment’ differs from mine and chooses a different course.

Whereas I find speech too distracting when I'm driving (I don't use headphones on the bike).  Music much less so.


Quote
However, to those who would seek to ban cyclists using earbuds (or headphones for that matter) I always ask them whether they think it should be illegal for a deaf person to ride a bike.

I don't think that's a reasonable comparison, not least because everyone's allowed to use a pedal cycle (even the completely blind) and banning any specific group would be legally difficult.  But more relevantly, deaf people behave differently to hearing people with regard to visual observation habits[1], and there's some evidence that sign language users[2] make greater use of their peripheral vision than hearing people.  It's a truism that the lemming pedestrian you just had to avoid isn't deaf - walking into roads without looking is (edge-cases like drunks and small children aside) a hearing people thing.

A hearing person with headphones hasn't necessarily developed the same observation skills as a deaf person.  They're also giving their brain an additional stream of input to process.

I think a fairer comparison would be the legality of car radios/windows.


[1] eg. Deaf people tend to poll their environment visually to check they've not missed anything, in a way that triggers security people's suspicious-behaviour-dar.
[2] A small subset of people with hearing loss.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2018, 06:37:54 pm »
always wear them in any ride and listen to a mixture of podcasts and music.

It is rubbish that impacts our riding as even if I have it up full volume I can still hear things around me etc ...

besides how many car drivers close their windows, blast out music etc ?

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2018, 06:50:13 pm »
Some twerp seemed to get irate at me last night because he couldn’t overtake me - it was a narrow road and there were cars coming the other way. Once the traffic cleared, he passed me but slowed down as he drew level so he could speak his branes at me

I say he ‘seemed’ to get irate but I can’t really be sure - I had David Bowie singing loudly in my ears so I didn’t hear a word he said (though I think one of them might have been “fucking”). I feel no worse off for being deprived of his pearls of wisdom.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2018, 07:36:23 pm »
I think this is one of those questions that needs a huge dose of "it depends".
My personal experience is years of commuting in heavy London traffic listening to Radio 4 on headphones and never feeling at all unable to hear traffic. I generally didn't listen to music because the street noise was too loud for it to be enjoyable.
I suspect you'd have to turn up music volume to ear-bleeding levels to overwhelm that sort of traffic volume.
But people have very varied hearing ability and acuity and different tolerances and sensitivities for noise so it's probably something individuals have to experiment and decide for themselves.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2018, 07:43:53 pm »
I do listen to music but with only one earbud. (Right one on the continent, left one in the UK).
For me that's the nice compromise. I can still listen to music (which keeps me awace and more concentrated) while I can still hear the traffic sounds from the direction where it matters.

Re: Cycling with earbuds
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2018, 08:31:04 pm »
everyday, 1 in the left, music on, no dramas