How to (Safely) Rock Out While Cycling

How to Safely Rock Out While You RideWhile I generally don’t live dangerously, there is one habit I have on my bike that many might consider dangerous, or even stupid. I am all for safety on the road, but boy do I love listening to my favorite music while I ride.

A few of my cycling friends do it too, while others wag their finger at me every time I roll up with one headphone inserted and the other dangling, blaring everything from The Talking Heads to Busta Rhymes.

Music gets me pumped up, and it makes every ride infinitely more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong—there are days when I make the choice to ride with only the sounds my own thoughts. I firmly believe there is no better time to explore your emotions and sneak in a little me-time than while on the bike.

Riding with music is an endless debate between cyclists. Everyone knows that cyclists need to be able to hear their surroundings to ride safely. If you have both headphones in, you can’t hear the cars around you, the sounds of the street or even other bikers yelling warnings at you.

Both headphones are definitely a bad idea. But are there other options? I talked to of my bike-riding buddies about how they listen to tunes while they ride, and there are definitely options that combine safety with music.

Rocking Out on the Road  

Assuming you’re not riding on a closed course where no other person could possibly get in your way, never listen to music in a way that prevents you from hearing things around you.

Whether you’re touring, commuting, or going for a quick joy ride, here are a few ways you can listen to music without compromising your safety.

Leave One Headphone Out

This is how I roll. I have a simple pair of earbuds that I plug in before my ride, and I get my playlist ready before I even grab my bike. Then, I stick the right headphone in so that my open ear is the one that faces the road.

I have never had any problems with this. I can hear cars approaching behind me, and I can hear other cyclists when they warn me that they’re passing on my left. It’s really no different than listening to music in the car.

Keep the Volume (Way) Down

Like I said, safety on your bike is all about being aware of your surroundings. It’s totally possible to keep your music’s volume low enough that you can still hear everything around you, but you need to use your best judgment.

You won’t know how loud too loud is until you’re out on the road. If you need to adjust the volume while you’re riding, pull all the way off the road before stopping. Never make adjustments while you ride. Sometimes I see people texting while they bike in the city, and I wonder what their moms would say.

Keep The Music Playing Near Your Head

This sounds weird at first, but it’s a really good way to hear music while you ride casually without covering your ears. If you have a set of regular headphones that aren’t earbuds, turn your music all the way up and keep them around your neck.

Before I succumbed to the single headphone habit, I tried keeping my phone in the little cell phone pocket of my bag so that it was on my shoulder. Then, I would play the music from it at full volume so I could hear it.

I hated it. The compromised sound quality was so frustrating that I ended up turning it off. I’m a bassist, and songs without audible bass lines are like cats without fur.

Mount Portable Speakers

You can buy small, battery operated speakers and mount them to your handlebars. They come in many shapes and sizes, and they are usually under $50.

Portable speakers are perfect for riders that travel enough to go through the trouble of mounting them. They’re not all that uncommon on tours. They are loud enough so that the rider can hear them, but quiet enough so that other riders are not disturbed.

Attach a Boombox to your Cargo Rack

This option is more for people who are touring in groups. If your whole crew wants to hear the same music while you stick together on tour, one of you should mount a boombox or radio to the back or their bike.

Because boomboxes are so loud, this option is not good for commuters. You might actually even get a ticket for being a distraction to other drivers. However, listening to the same music with the people you’re touring with can be fun, and it will bring you all together.

As a recap, these are you’re basic options if you want to listen to your favorite jams on the road:

  • Use only one headphone
  • Keep the volume low
  • Play the music from a device near your head
  • Mount speakers to your handlebars
  • Attach a boombox to your rack

No matter which option you choose, the most important thing is that you stay alert and don’t let the music distract you on your ride. Just like when you’re in your car, you need to be aware at all times.

Do you have any tips for listening to music on the road? Let me know, because I’m always trying to find new ways!

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About Leanne

Leanne is a writer and musician living in Boston. Her interest in cycling was born when she realized how convenient biking in the city was, and it has evolved from there. Whether biking down the street for dinner or across the city for band practice with a bass on her back, Leanne has become an avid urban biker.


  1. Ride Yer Bike says:

    I might also recommend Yurbuds. They allow ambient noise through which is crucial plus they have silicon tips so they won’t fall out and water resistance so your sweat or rain won’t kill them. Some models have cloth cords so less prone to break and tangle like plastic ones which is one of the main reasons I got them. They are also quite comfortable and have a great sound quality.

    I wouldn’t blast your music anyway but with Yurbuds you are less likely to need to take on out so no more dangling which is always annoying.

  2. Far End Gear makes stereo-to-mono single earbuds so you can leave one earbud out while riding, but still get all of your music.

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  1. […] exception: wearing a single headphone. As others have suggested, I also tried riding with just one in and found that, for the most part, I could hear both my music […]

  2. […] exception: wearing a single headphone. As others have suggested, I also tried riding with just one in and found that, for the most part, I could hear both my music […]

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