Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Central Coast, CA
Bikes: Surly LHT, Specialized Rockhopper, Nashbar Touring (old), Specialized Stumpjumper (older), Nishiki Tourer (model unknown)
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Long distance bike riding involves hour after hour of repetition. Pedal, pedal, pedal, etc. This can be very meditative - I find my mind wandering to all sorts of places on its own after awhile - but can also be boring and monotonous. Listening to music helps deal with the latter. It helps pass the time pleasantly.
I'm a musician and love to listen, but in my daily life I seldom can find the time anymore. So having several hours where I'm free to listen is really nice.
I've gone through Walkmans with cassette tape, Discmans with CDs, Mini-disc players, and now I have an MP3 player. Each evolution has been a positive step.
I chose not to get an Ipod. I didn't want a spinning hard disk because there were issues with durability at first (solved now?), batteries last longer with flash memory, and the players are smaller. I bought an 8gb Sansa. There were 3 features that influenced my choice: it accepts micro SD cards so I can basically have unlimited memory if I'm willing to change cards occasionally; it has an FM radio built in, which is nice in camp to catch up on news, NPR, etc.; and it has a voice recorder so I can dictate my journal to type up later. (I can also save my dictations as WAV files and listen to them years into the future. It's kind of fun to listen to your voice relating the events of the day and remember the good times - and trying incidents.)
I require excellent, full-range fidelity, so any tiny, handlebar mounted, battery powered speakers are unacceptable. I use ear buds. Not only do they have excellent sound quality, but the silicone earpieces help screen out the wind noise that can ruin the listening experience. I'm currently using Sony Fontopia earbuds, which cost around $30 at BestBuy on sale.
I always wear a jersey when riding, and put the MP3 player in one of the back pockets. I put a tiny alligator clamp on the headphone cable and clip it onto the collar of my jersey so that gravity won't be able to pull on the ear buds and possibly pull them out of my ears.
The music I listen to is very eclectic, but reflective of my generation. I'm 58 and the Beatles will always be my favorite band. I also really like Steely Dan, James Taylor, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, and Simon and Garfunkel. I like singer/songwriters and listen to Tori Amos, Jude Johnstone, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and Shawn Colvin. I like country music when it's melodic and contemplative - not twang about drinking and cheating, although I spent a few years in a country band touring from Texas to Alberta, so I do like listening to some of the old country classics we used to have to play. I also spent many years in college studying and playing classical music, so I listen to a lot of that as well.
I know many people feel that listening to music while riding is dangerous and foolhardy. I'm guessing their reasoning is that you can't hear impending danger. While I agree somewhat, I think there are opposing views. When I used to ride before the advent of portable music systems, I'd listen to the sound of traffic approaching from behind, and it was a good strategy, but there were still lots of times when I was startled because something big would pass me and I hadn't heard it at all. The answer was a rearview mirror. Once I installed one, it was much easier to check on what was coming, and I never got surprised unless I neglected to look. I think I get surprised much less often with a mirror/MP3 combination than I did with no music but no mirror. Also, listening to music doesn't mean you can't hear approaching traffic; you still can, it's just more difficult.
I don't recommend my system to others, and I don't feel it would be a good idea for a young (teenage?) or inexperience rider without other strong defiensive riding skills in place. I also turn my music off on busy roads with no shoulders, or through congested urban areas. Being able to listen to my music has enhanced my riding experience, but it isn't something to be done blithely.