Music while you cycle

I confess, my wife and I play music on a BigJam Box (quality sound) a good share of the route, not obnoxiously loud, but plenty loud for others to hear, usually up beat 80’s. After reading the survey results from last year, I was surprised to see how many people are opposed to hearing music along the route. Is this just the consensus of respondents of the survey or is it becoming the norm for RAGBRAIers. Not one to offend…

56 Replies

cwmurray, February 18, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Music is great. All kinds. It is motivating and fun. Play on please. Anyone who does not like can speed up or slow down. The moto Ragbrai. Personally I’ll request more bagpipe music. Cheers


Cameron Cranston, February 18, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Keep on blasting. I think its kinda fun. The right tunes can definitely make you increase your cadence.


KenH, February 19, 2016 at 8:28 am

I play bass guitar in a church band and sing in the choir. I love music. I love hearing music at RAGBRAI. But it does absolutely nothing for me when I am actually riding. I’ve tried to use it while riding rollers in the basement over the winter and it does nothing to either relieve the boredom or motivate me. So I watch videos instead which at least does the former even if, as I recently discovered, it is amazingly hard to stay on the rollers while watching a motorcycle chase scene shot from the point of view of the driver! If there is music that would have the right tempo to increase my cadence or otherwise motivate me I have yet to find it either in my personal collection or during RAGBRAI. I would find the rolling sound systems at RAGBRAI extremely annoying if they were much more prevalent than they are. But for the time being I would say don’t worry about it, there are not enough of you to spoil the ride for the rest of us. And maybe that will always be true. It seems like a whole lot of riders are on carbon fiber bikes with tiny or no bags for tools, tubes, and other necessities, and a few hundred yards past places where people are handing you free water bottles the ground will be littered with them by weight weenies who cast them off for fear of spoiling their average speed for the day. Can’t imagine any of them deciding to haul along a boom box!!

I’ve ridden all or part of four RAGBRAI’s now and there has been only one time when I was seriously annoyed by a bike sound system. It was last year as we were leaving Eldora (best as I can recall) and there was a bit of a traffic jam with police officers acting as stoplights at several intersections on the way out of town. We made several stops of a minute or three before we got out on the open road. At the first stop the guy right in front of me turns on his sound system at an ear splitting volume. None of us said anything, too polite I guess, but from the looks of those around me no one but him thought that was an appropriate thing to do at that time and place. So be aware of your surroundings and either leave it off in town and traffic bottlenecks or dial the volume back to a reasonable level. Those of us who prefer to hear only the natural sounds of the ride will say so on the survey but as long as you realize that not all volume levels are appropriate in all situations and adjust accordingly we will all coexist peacefully.


jwsknk, February 19, 2016 at 8:32 am

I think it does get to be a problem when people play it so loud you can hear it a half mile away, it’s distorted, and the are blasting it in towns over what the community is doing. Also in pace lines it can be a problem when people can’t communicate especially with the taggers on towards the back of a line. The ones up front USUALLY know what the people right next to them in any direction are doing from experience of riding together. Also have seen it where they are holding up traffic because they can not hear (or don’t care) that there are cars behind them even with people trying to yell car(s) back. With the systems getting lighter and more showing up they are not the “novelty” they once were. These are the issues I think that are making more people respond that it is a problem. I have played music on the ride, but it’s usually low enough to talk over if needed. It can be a good ice breaker to meet other riders and I have turned up the volume for a song if someone rides up and loves that song so that lasts 3-6 minutes (there are some extended version of SRV songs in the mix 🙂


Randall Murphy, February 19, 2016 at 9:56 am

The music that you describe and the mode of play is what I look forward to on the ride. To be honest I don’t and won’t play music on local rides and/or training rides. I much prefer to listen to what’s going on around me. But in Iowa anything goes. I agree with the posts about excessive loudness and safety. Moderation is seldom a bad idea. My only beef with inappropriate music is the “F This” and “F That” rap variety when it is played loudly in pass through towns. As a biker I’m embarrassed when we treat our hosts to this rudeness.


vjennings19, February 19, 2016 at 11:23 am

I too have a small water bottle speaker that plays pretty much non stop but it doesn’t blast. some times I couldn’t even tell you what song was playing and there are times I really want the distraction to take the focus off my backside. Keep playing it, but like some of the others posted, I could do without the “F” bombs coming out of some of the riders sound systems………and mouths.


Juan Medium Moose, February 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm

@cwmurray – Not bagpipes. They always bring tears to my eyes and that’s not good while riding.

PS. There’s a bicycle route along Hadrian’s Wall, the old Roman border with Caledonia (Scotland). Some day…


Juan Medium Moose, February 19, 2016 at 1:58 pm

I have very mixed feelings about music while riding.

I had never come across bicycle speakers like the ones you describe until my first RAGBRAI (2014). My immediate response was disdain and bitter loathing. The bigger and louder the speaker, the greater my indignancy. A few days into the ride, I caught up with the kind of rig that I had come to despise. A large speaker mounted behind the seat and aiming backward to leave a turgid wake of distorted sound behind the heedless rider. In this case, however, the music wasn’t too loud, it wasn’t distorted, it wasn’t beat-laden mass-produced “popular” music…it was actually something I liked (Richard Thompson). I had a painful moment of cognitive dissonance as I realized that I was actually enjoying listening. It turned out that the guy on the bike was really nice too.

So, I forced to admit to myself that what I really disliked so much was having to deal with other people’s “tastes” in music.

What I most enjoy hearing on RAGBRAI is the chatter of the nearby riders, the sound of the breeze coming across to cornfields, the greetings of the local residents as we ride into town, and the owner’s stories when we stop at a farm.

That said, here at home I do a lot of long rides alone on familiar trails, and it does get boring at times. I have been considering getting one of those bottle cage speakers, but it will need to be of high enough quality that I can hear it without turning up the volume too much. I don’t want to annoy or distract anyone around me. I also want to be able to pause it quickly when I’m approaching an intersection or any other situation that deserves better listening.


tjdale57, February 19, 2016 at 4:13 pm

I too do not mind music if it is not blasting. I think blasting your personal choice of crummy music is especially rude not to mention dangerous. Many of the trailer pulled rigs are so loud you cannot even here the cyclist next to you. If there is a need to communicate with those around you, it is nearly impossible. Play your music, but don’t drown out the environment. And, I agree with the Richard Thompson choice. More RT would be great.


Juan Medium Moose, February 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm

@tjdale57: How do we get the RAGBRAI wranglers to try to get Richard Thompson as a main act in one of the overnight towns?


Brian Wallenburg, February 19, 2016 at 6:42 pm

I’ll make sure to play some Richard Thompson along the way and I agree with the blasting audio, and “F” bombs, neither are my style. Thanks for the input.


SFC JKL 2, February 19, 2016 at 11:22 pm

I come from a group of major offenders. 160 lbs trailer with 2 batteries and 2,000 watts (Bless George for pulling it with a standard double and a 11-28 cassette). 90% of the time it’s great. I’ve complained about some of the songs (language) but it falls on deaf ears. They are few and far between as the ipod has over 10k songs on it. Our communication is excellent so that has never been a problem for us. Anyone we’re dragging are welcome to join but ride at their own risk.

Like most people, I don’t ride with the group all the time. There is something to be said for being social and talking with strangers along the route. But give me a good headwind and I’ll duck back in line every time.


Iceman, February 20, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I don’t like hearing the music out on the ride – I like the peace and quiet of the countryside. I don’t travel over a thousand miles to hear Free Bird or Sweet Home Alabama over and over and over – and over – at about a million decibels.

Why is it that people think that I need to (have to) hear their music? It’s like smokers and second hand smoke. Your music should end where my ears begin, or do you think it’s fair to ruin my ride? And there’s a bunch of you guys out on the road so that’s it’s hard to get away from it.

Here’s the deal. If you want to hear your music, either keep it low enough so that you can hear it but I cannot. Or wear some earbuds if you like it loud (it’s none of my business if you get run over by a car).

You ever have someone drive up beside you at an intersection and they have their hip hop music on so loudly their windows are vibrating? Annoying, but at least I can console myself that they’ll go deaf at an early age.


jeffreydennis, February 20, 2016 at 5:54 pm

I use a buckshot speaker. If you’re with me you’ll hear it but more than ten feet away probably won’t notice. I find it is friendlier than “on your left”. I’ve never encountered Iceman on a ride because I’ve never had anyone bitch about my music….which does include some bagpipes!!!! Everything from Johnny Cash to AC/DC. All I every hear is “mind if i ride and listen a bit?”


LEONARD2314, February 20, 2016 at 10:55 pm

I have had my tube speaker for about 3 years now on RAGBRAI, and have had mixed responses every year. Good quality system with big volume if it’s windy. As the DJ, I have had to learn about the volume issue, and I agree that the person hauling the system has to take the responsibility of everyone’s safety, I turn it down at intersections and coming into towns and stay to the right when there is room, and will preach it to anyone I sell a system to. As for content, or peace and quiet? You are on your own…the ride is open to anybody and everyone, and I even leave the speaker on the bus some days. Are the troopers at some intersections at fault also? That’s where I got my idea to do it…just sayin…


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