Headphones on the Road

I too must live in Phoenix. :thinking:

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For my long rides I listen to podcasts. I use bluetooth headphones and have one in my right ear only.

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No, just no


I tried this, but I find that the problem is not so much not hearing traffic, but podcasts taking up more mental energy. Even with just one earbud in I would still get startled by cars and noticed that over an hour-long commute I’d get angry much more frequently. Switching to music solved that. :slight_smile:

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You can see it depends on the person, but I don’t find them a hindrance. Doing 5-6 hour solo rides every Saturday morning for my ironman training, I find them a must. I typically listen to podcasts and find funny ones the best. I would start with TR, then move to this sports one that has 3 a week and has this great mount rushmore segment that always makes me laugh. Also, smiling helps performance. I was on a trail for about 4 of the hours, but it wouldn’t have stopped me if I wasn’t. I take one ear bud out if I am in a tricky area, but I don’t use noise canceling buds, so I can still hear everything if I am paying attention.

I listen to podcasts while I do my long 3+ hour road rides. I use Jabra Elite Actives earphones, but only use the right one, leaving my left ear open to hear with. I also use a Garmin Varia rear light/radar.

I’ve found with that combo I can keep on top of traffic coming up behind me. The podcasts do wonders to make the miles and time fly by.

The Jabra’s offer a “hear through” setting as well, but at higher speeds you get windnoise, so I tend not to use that but stick with the one ear bud set up.

A cheaper option is a wired single earbud. I did this for quite a while in the past and worked well too. You just have the wire to deal with.

I never did. Now I live in the middle of nowhere. I only see a couple of cars an hour. If I see an oncoming car I check for a car from behind. That’s the only situation where I could run into any sort of trouble with or without headphones. The roads are still plenty wide. I couldn’t imagine using them in heavy, or even moderate, traffic.

I only use them on longer rides. 3 hours plus.

Put me in the camp opposed to headphones. The motoring public wants to paint all cyclists with the same brush based on how they see a particular cyclist act. Let’s not feed the “cyclists don’t pay attention” narrative. We have to be BETTER than the drivers at this.

The fact is drivers and police are looking for a reason why it’s the cyclist’s fault in a crash. “Distracted by music” is not going on the police report if someone hits me. Same as “no helmet” and “not visible” are not going on the police report. It’s vital for safety to keep both ears open and focus on the sounds of the road around you. You need to hear more than cars - is there a dog up the block about to break his chain and chase you? Is there a turkey about to burst into your path from the edge of the road?

Jam out on your trainer. When you are riding in traffic, do every single thing you can to stay safe and contribute to safety for others.


I find the argument that I shouldn’t wear earphones because that will go down in a police report after an accident quite weak.

I enjoy cycling and training with earphones in and if a car hits me on the road it is because the car hit me, not because i was listening to music.

There are studies that show your risk of an accident is reduced when you don’t wear a helmet (https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/11/e008052 and https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1261.html#10291) because you take less risks without a helmet, and I would hesitantly say the same applies for me with earphones in. Because, I check over my shoulder every time I have to make an adjustment to my line, and I am more conscious of riding tight to the edge of the road, both things that make me safer.

Again, I’m not making a blanket statement, and if you feel safer without earphones then don’t use them. But please don’t tell me that I can’t, it is just antagonizing.


I am watching this thread closely. I have seen this topic in other groups and watched the discussions degrade into something less than ideal.

Just a friendly reminder to keep your opinions related to the topic (not the participants), and full of respect that I think we all value in this group. (One part pulled from the “Welcome” thread)

  • There are just a few rules.
    1. Be excellent to each other
    2. Attack the idea, not the person

Thanks for your consideration. :smiley:


I use my BeatsX in my right ear on almost every ride (not group rides, obviously, but I don’t do those often). I don’t find that it makes me less aware on the road, and the more I’ve ridden, the more I’ve come to the realization that if I get killed by a vehicle, the difference is not going to be whether or not I had headphones in. As far as the police report - I’m sure they’ll find something…“he was wearing mostly-black socks on a clear day at 11am, so he was harder to see”…and give the driver a pass for killing a human being. Is what it is, I guess.

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I view wearing headphones/earbuds as the same as riding without a helmet. At best it’s a video game out on the roads, with the drivers’ sole goal being to kill you. You need every sense available tuned to the max to finish the ride in one piece. It only takes a moment’s lost attention. In 30 years I’ve hit the deck a total of 2 times (both unavoidable); on the other hand, I’ve probably avoided 2 or 3,000 bad hits b/c I was hyperaware of my surroundings. There’s a phrase in military/law enforcement/defensive shooting circles called “situational awareness” (ie not having your head up your butt). Lose your “SA”, lose your life. Stay alert, stay alive. My two cents


Certainly everyone is welcome to make their own decisions. I simply presented my response to the question and my reasons. In addition to riding, I spend a lot of time on cycling advocacy and public policy, and I can tell you that the prevailing narrative around cyclists (at least in the USA but I imagine elsewhere too) is that we are entitled, unsafe and lawless.

The public shrugs when cyclists die because they assume the cyclist did something stupid or illegal or both. I do feel a certain obligation to advocate for cyclists leading by example when we can and when it costs us nothing. And of course there is a continuum of safety with music and all other choices we make as cyclists. I would argue that no music is on the safest end of that as it comes with the highest situational awareness and the lowest cognitive load. My hope would be that everyone would at least keep one ear free.

I am familiar with the helmet studies and that’s another debate for another day. One of the reasons I work on advocacy is because I want to help create the day when conditions are naturally safe enough to make wearing a helmet unnecessary for most kinds of leisure riding.

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I’ve used Aftershockz titanium headphones which are bone conducting. These have worked great on the bike and while out running and leave your ears fully open to listen for traffic.


I agree that advocacy is critical to promoting cycling and safety, and to me this means primarily riding your bike, getting involved at a local level, marshalling and volunteering and making yourself available to the cycling community as well as going to demonstrations and protests etc.

I disagree that the wearing of earphones will have any effect on the impression drivers or the public have on cyclists. There is a belief in the UK at least that all cyclists skip red lights, and yet that is untrue and disproven but that doesn’t matter.

I don’t believe that effective advocacy means not wearing earphones (or any other thing that results in victim blaming) to appease people who have no interest in being welcoming or accommodating to the cycling community anyway.


Exactly! While not quite as extreme, I feel that wearing headphones while cycling is similar to using a cellphone while driving.


If you show up to a group ride with headphones, prepare to be shamed and probably told to lose the headphones or leave.

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You are pretty blatantly misrepresenting the findings of these studies: the first one concludes that helmet legislation has no impact on hospitalization rate. It doesn’t reach any definitive conclusions about whether a helmet makes an accident more likely.

The second study does also not say wearing a helmet makes it more likely to have an accident. It says that helmet-wearers are overrepresented in people riding racing bikes and mountain bikes and suggests that racing and mountain biking are more dangerous than the typical Dutch throw your tie over your shoulder and pedal to your banking job without breaking a sweat commute.

I have no skin in the game on this helmet debate, I just know that if I hadn’t worn one learning to ride a fixie, I would have come away with a serious head injury. :wink: And I am for everyone making their own choices as long as they don’t endanger others.

But please don’t use half-arsed science references to spread misinformation. Especially in a safety discussion.


To me, cycling itself is entertainment. Feeling the breeze, appreciating my surroundings is why I like to ride outside. Listening to music/podcasts while riding is not my idea of entertainment.
In addition, if one gets into an accident, and if the cyclist has earbuds on, if the take the driver to court, your argument may not always hold up.


Point of the references is not to tell you that it is safer not to wear a helmet, it is just to demonstrate that there that wearing a helmet doesn’t increase your chances of having an accident, or maybe for some people would reduce the risk of having an accident, and relating that to my own personal experience of riding with headphones. I feel you have missed the meaning of what i am trying to say.