Music to cycle by

I know I can’t be the only “mother’s worst nightmare” cyclist who occasionally listens to music while commuting. For those worried about my safety, let me assure you that the music is low (though my singing, often, is not) and doesn’t drown out traffic any more than the wind noise does—I also frequently take advantage of the iPhone external speaker, to the chagrin of passers-by. Here are a few of the more recent songs that have been in heavy rotation during my rides this spring.

Monday morning revver-uppers

Songs for overcast days or the mulling over the day’s events on the ride home

When I want to remember I’m in Nashville

Like everyone else in America, I am also wearing out the Adele record. Is there a song you can’t stop listening to? Share in the comments!

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52 thoughts on “Music to cycle by

  1. Janice in GA says:

    Modern popular music is a closed book to me, alas. I like Irish traditional fiddle music. :)

  2. dweendaddy says:

    I have been loving KMAG YOYO and especially that tune, “Another like you!” Fun to see you at Tour de Nash.

  3. Simply Bike says:

    I’ve been listening to a lot of Lily Allen while cycling when I’m not listening to podcasts. More than music, podcasts are my thing (everything from pregnancy podcasts, to NPR, to Dan Savage’s “Savage Love”). But now I need to check out some of these recommendations!

    Also, on a general note, I really don’t understand the huge fuss about cycling with headphones. Like any decision made in context, you as an adult should be able to judge the volume and the appropriateness of having headphones in while cycling. I tend to not listen to anything at night because I want to be more alert to sound since my visibility is impaired, but during the day, I know I can have low lovel talking in my ear and still hear cars and other cyclists and pedestrians.


    • Trisha says:

      I luuurve Lily Allen! Glad that no one has taken up the “no earphones while cycling” banner (yet). I was afraid I was opening up a can of worms. :) I too don’t usually listen to music while riding in the dark, but in the morning especially it really speeds the commute along.

  4. Carolyn I. says:

    I like listening to Electronic.

    I don’t too, understand the fuss, but each to their own. I keep a good eye around my surroundings, and don’t blast the music too loud. It kept me going on bike tour to Jasper, up all those hills! My preference anyways…I admit though that I try to hide the headphone cord so it’s not so obvious.

    I understand the risks involved. Is it different then walking with a mp3 player on?

  5. eli says:

    LOVE cycling to camera obscura most of all!! i also participate in iphone external speaker music-playing, with no shame. car drivers listen to music with their windows open, so why can’t we blast some tunes too? i have a little pouch wrapped into a handlebar-mounted cupholder for this exact purpose!

  6. John says:

    I have been chastised for not wearing a helmet but when those “bike like I do” people realize I also am listening to music, they are so mortified that it often makes them speechless. It shuts them up just long enough for me to ride away.

  7. Kara says:

    I am also on an Oh Land – Son of a Gun kick. It is on repeat over and over. And Adele too. Love her so hard.

    Throw in Mumford and Sons, Fleetwood Mac, Meaghan Smith, Ane Brun, and Judy Garland, and you got my ipod playlist lately.

    • Trisha says:

      The whole Oh Land album is worth putting on repeat! We have a lot of fave artists in common so I will have to check out the two you mentioned that I am not familiar with (Smith & Brun).

  8. Amy says:

    I’m guilty of cranking up the tunes on my rides! But I don’t really have too much traffic to worry about, and in these hills sound bounces around so bad that even without headphones you can’t really tell if there is a car coming up behind you, or if it’s over yonder somewhere. :) I was just thinking about riding music on the way home, and the eclectic mix I’ve got. Today it was Mazzy Star, Fiona Apple, Judas Priest, some movement of Handel’s “Messiah”, Chicane, The Chieftains and ended the ride with Gillette’s “You’re a Dog” which I still have stuck in my head. :)

  9. cris says:

    I don’t listen to music on headphones while cycling, but I’ll find that songs come to mind while I’m pedaling, where the beats tend to match my cadence (not necessarily 1-for-1 since I can’t really spin at 120 rpm for very long, but my feet might go along in half-time). So, cruising along a flat empty strip at high cadence might send the mind towards Kraftwerk or Crystal Castles. Being tired and pedaling slowly through rolling terrain might make me hum “Oh Danny Boy” or “My Own Dear Land” or various other bits set to Derry Air.

    I’ve been enjoying the hell out of that Broken Bells song, especially for the purpose that you stated — as background to contemplating on other stuff. Arcade Fire’s “Deep Blue” also works well there.

  10. Nice picks! There’s a chap here in south Manchester who cycles around in the evenings (slowly!) with a speaker playing reggae and dub. I’ve never managed to speak to him, but he just seems to do it for fun. And seeing him always makes me smile.

    • Trisha says:

      An evening ride around town listening to sweet jams sounds like a routine I could get down with. You should catch up with him!

  11. nicolas says:

    I don’t listen to music because the people I see doing that (the “Beautiful Godzillas” on the Vélibs with the white earbuds, and the fixters with *gasp* closed headphones) aren’t the kinds of people I want to look like when I’m riding. They’re bad press. Instead, I get songs stuck in my head; I can live with that (though it’s usually stuff I don’t like).
    I’d love to buy myself a good speakers setup now I have an oversized front basket to hide it in. Before that, it wouldn’t have looked good enough on my Velorbis. If I did, I’d most definitely play The Radio Dept.’s Never Follow Suit EP, which is pure laid-back echoing Swedish dub-pop. Pretty much sounds like waking up on a beach in Ibiza with a soft hangover; great for mellowing out my riding style, and it’s approx. the length of my commute. “On Your Side” is the clear standout on there for me.

  12. Dottie says:

    I always have a bud in my right ear, unless I’m riding with a friend. Just like I always listen to my iPod on the train or when I drove a car. I’m finding that in the hot weather I’m more inclined to listen to music, while during the winter I went through month-long stretches of listening only to podcasts.

    My absolute favorite is This American Life. Ira Glass gives me something to look forward to on Mondays. Runners-up are Fresh Air and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Yup, NPR nerd here.

    For music Kate Nash is always a winner for cycling. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Florence & The Machine and Ben Folds’ new album.

    • Amy says:

      Yay for Wait Wait and This American Life! I listen to those as well as The Moth and Car Talk. Yup, Car Talk whilst cycling. :) I usually do podcasts on the way to work and music on the way home.

    • Maureen says:

      I am totally, helplessly addicted to Ira Glass and This American Life. In case you are unaware there is a great app, by spending $5 you have all the shows at your fingertips. It was the best $5 I’ve ever spent!

    • trina says:

      Ben Folds has a new album??? And I am now hopelessly enamoured with Oh Land. ;)

  13. Jason R says:

    #8 “I’ll Be Waiting.” Can’t Stop playing it on The Home Stretch!

  14. Ed L. says:

    I use earbuds when I ride, taking one or more of them out occasionally when I feel like I really need all senses at maximum. I only listen to music occasionally, and usually on weekend training/distance rides – something about a little properly timed dance/electronic tune can really get you over a mid-ride slump. Generally listen to podcasts and audio books – rocks.

  15. Lauren says:

    i have a little cheap external speaker that holds my ipod – it doesn’t get loud enough to drown out traffic noises, and i feel safer not hiding myself in a pair of headphones.

    i have different playlists for different moods, but my current favorite is the ~90s danse~ jam sesh. nothing like some ridic techno 90s music to get the day started!

  16. Stephen says:

    I have earbuds attached to my phone so I can listen to music and monitor any calls. I’ve been listening to Brazilian bossa nova (Luciana Souza), Boston-based Lucy Kaplansky, and another Boston-based group, Joy Kills Sorrow. Have to agree with Janice in GA, the pop world just baffles me anymore.

    Music at moderate volumes on a fairly stress-free bicycle commute doesn’t present any significant issues to me. I watch constantly (I love helmet-mounted rear view mirrors), and the music helps me stay calm.

    • Trisha says:

      I love Lucy Kaplansky! “Ten-Year Night” is wonderful. Also love her collaborative record with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell.

      Great point that music can help tone down the stress levels.

  17. bongobike says:

    Well, I guess I’m officially living in the past. I have never heard of any of these bands you young’ns mention. As far as popular music is concerned, I’m stuck in the 60s and 70s, with a smattering of 80s thrown in there for good measure. Then there’s the old jazz from the 40s and 50s, and the classical stuff from centuries ago! :-)

    • Trisha says:

      Hey, oldies are goodies! There are many songs from previous decades on my iPod. I was just trying to share some of the newer music. Maybe one day I’ll delve into my guilty pleasure or all-time favorite playlists. :)

  18. Sam says:

    Flight of the Conchords. I usually listen to music that makes me laugh and these guys consistently do so.

    Haven’t heard of any of the artists you linked to above, but will def. check them out.

    • Trisha says:

      Conchords are hilarious! I need to listen to more of their stuff. Funniest thing I’ve listened to recently was the audiobook of BOSSYPANTS. Highly recommended.

  19. nowhere says:

    I listen with one in-ear phone when I ride, the same as I do when I’m flying. This lets me hear the traffic on the road and the com radio in the sky. I tend to sing more when I’m flying though as when I’m alone in a sailplane at 3000 feet there’s no chance of bothering anyone else with my terrible caterwauling. I mostly go for music I’m very familiar with in these situations. The Sundays, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, The Cramps…

  20. Jazzboy says:

    Summer samba.

  21. Pat Zyduck says:

    It’s a really odd song, but I am stuck on “The Rake Song” by The Decemberists. It’s so wrong on so many levels, but I love it and just can’t stop listening to it.

  22. jamison says:

    I have always found it odd when people feel the need to listen to music while taking public transit, or riding a bike, or walking, or running. I’m not so concerned as a safety issue, i just think it promotes a general sense of societal disconnectedness.

    • Dottie says:

      I don’t want to have societal connectedness on public transit, I want to be left alone and get to work in peace. :) In contrast, I don’t listen to music often when walking, because I prefer to be more open and out-of-towners like to stop me to ask for directions, but I’ve found headphones a good way to avoid/ignore unwanted interactions on the street.

    • Trisha says:

      For me it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to be in my own little world with its own soundtrack. :) Other times I want to catch people’s eyes, exchange smiles, listen to the birds…

  23. jamison says:

    im glad it exist where i live though.

  24. David says:

    I do enjoy the sounds of the city that I live in sometime, or the absence of sounds. However, the traffic noise gets to you sometimes, and I put the earbuds in. I listen to NPR on the way home most days. This morning I was listening to theThermals. Lately also, heartless bastards, Zee Avi……… NOFX for some rockin’ punk…….

  25. Trisha says:

    For me, listening to music through headphones at moderate volume doesn’t drown out traffic noise any more than music from open speakers does (maybe that says more about my headphones/speaker system than anything else?). But I do worry about the perception issue sometimes. That said, drivers don’t seem to think twice about how being on their cell phone looks and IMO that is MUCH more of a distraction. So glass houses and all that. :)

    I will check out your music suggestions!

    • Trisha says:

      (this was meant as a reply to Nicholas above. That said, I’m checking out everyone’s suggestions! Love finding new music.)

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  27. […] low when wearing headphones. Don’t let people yell at you for jazzing up your ride with some tunes or catching up on your podcasts. However, don’t turn up the volume to the point you can’t hear […]

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