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

Anonymous, February 21, 2016 at 5:52 am

When the music is so loud, it sucks. Some is much distorted and some is in very bad tatse. Noise pollution if you will. Hi – Fidelity is the key at the volume that respects the riders around you. I witnessed a rider, too young to be on Ragbrai, look back at the extremely loud bike trailer music approaching him from behind and veered into the path of two other riders. The two other riders were able avoid the young rider and had only a minor accident. Luckily the tike veered to the right or it would have been ass over appetite for our tandem and several others.

We try to keep our stereo at a comfortable level and lower at intersections and in town usually turn it off when on Ragbrai. We don’t always ride with the stereo on. Iceman has a point, who has the right to pollute. For me on a tandem it is either good music or a constant, relentless yaking from the one in the seat behind me (joking) and besides EVERYONE likes my music, am I right or what?

Music way too loud is dangerous.


LEONARD2314, February 21, 2016 at 12:14 pm

As for the Richard Thompson songs, I have only on by Linda and Richard that I play..”I want to see the bright lights”. Great morning tune. I ride with Team High Life. Glad I could reach into somebody’s brain to find something they enjoyed when it was originally a negative thought. The music systems are still fairly new, so it might take some time for people to adjust or for a guideline to be put out for riders to follow for volume….again, I will “talk” to riders that aren’t paying attention to safety issues and not get snippy or grumpy. Usually turns out to have good results.


Juan Medium Moose, February 22, 2016 at 9:59 pm

@Leonard2314: “Are the troopers at some intersections at fault also?”
The troopers have to stand in the same spot all day. We get to ride, and we ride past them fairly quickly. I can’t say I enjoy their music but given their working conditions I wouldn’t dream of denying them their own entertainment.

I have only one…that I play…”
“Bright Lights Tonight” is a good choice, but the catalog is so much bigger. The guy I described in my earlier post had a vast collection.

…and yes, I will still avoid the big, loud rigs. …and yes, I will be annoyed at having to do so.


515rider, February 23, 2016 at 12:59 am

Absolutely no ear buds!!! An ear bud wearing dayrider ran me off the road when he moved left in front of me after I called out “on your left!” I caught up again so I yelled in his ear from about 6 inches away to make sure he heard me over his music. But I don’t really mind bike speakers or even the big ones on a trailer. At least with them you know who they are and can take precautions. Not so much with earbuds.


KenH, February 23, 2016 at 8:11 am

Absolutely no ear buds!!! An ear bud wearing dayrider ran me off the road when he moved left in front of me after I called out “on your left!”

You really should never run/ride/walk with earbuds anywhere. It is just too dangerous to lose your sonic connection to the real world. I would much rather listen to your loud, distorted, hackneyed, and tasteless music through speakers than see you riding with earbuds! At RAGBRAI or anywhere else.

But do keep in mind that the phrase “on your left” loses a lot of its value during RAGBRAI. When I am riding in a crowd at RAGBRAI and I hear the call “on your left” behind me I have no idea who said it or to whom it was directed. I ride somewhere in the middle of the RAGBRAI speed range so I am constantly riding in a bubble filled with people ahead of and behind me going both faster and slower than I am which makes sorting out who said what and to whom impossible most of the time. While I do try to pay attention when that is said in case it was meant for my benefit, I can tell you that a lot of other people do not and in fact many of them probably don’t know what it means. Not saying you shouldn’t use the phrase but don’t depend on it as you might safely do at some other events. Leave extra room to pass and be very alert/cautious.


Stanford, February 23, 2016 at 8:44 am

Totally agree with your “on your left” observation. Riders call it out while in a crowd and then shoot up the middle between my daughter and myself. Then act irritated when you don’t immediately part to let them pass. How about “on your left” meaning left of center? Since when did “on your left” start to mean “get out of my way, I am coming through”.


skb-mpls, February 23, 2016 at 9:34 am

I concur with Kens statements regarding music at bottlenecks & towns…

I have to say that I tire of the uptempo dance music though…. May motivate train members but it gets tiring after a while to myself. How about some variety? Vivaldi – 4 seasons , Willy Nelson, BB King, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raait would be fantastic on the open road! I guess I’m showing my age now.

Looks like I’m talking myself into getting a small boom box… haha

I was thinking of that outside of DesMoines in 2013 when a gent in his 70’s was playing some classic jazz & blues…. I had a delightful conversation with him – about music….. Yes – we were able to hear each other over the volume.


hnschipper, February 23, 2016 at 9:35 am

There are so many on the road during RAGBRAI that I just assume there is always someone coming up on my left, whether they call out or not. I never pull out without checking first.


Juan Medium Moose, February 23, 2016 at 10:33 am

Earbuds/headphones while riding: A demonic evil that should be exorcised…with a blowtorch, if necessary.

Music selection: My favorite is still the sound of the ride itself, with no one (including me) imposing their own playlist on anyone else. If I get a speaker (I still haven’t decided I want one), it’ll be used when I’m on my own. …but, @sbolstad, I’ll see your BB King and Vivaldi and raise you a Bulgarian folk dance in 15/16 time, some Värttinä, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. ;)

“On your left”: I learned a lot on my first RAGBRAI. How to use voice signals was one of the most important lessons. There is no where else in my experience that I’ve heard voice signals used as well or as consistently. I agree that it’s sometimes hard to identify the source or the signal, or to whom it was directed. When I can’t discern those specifics, I at least know to be alert. That has saved me numerous times.

Looks like that’s 6 cents worth. ;)


Brian Wallenburg, February 23, 2016 at 8:24 pm

I agree with all the “on your left” comments above, it’s a request, that being said, if your not passing someone or riding two abreast, the proper place to ride bike is on the right. i.e. “Ride Right.” Some riders on RAGBRAI assume that everyone should ride the same speed and have an “how dare you pass me” attitude. The key is to not ride up on someone to fast, thinking they will automatically get out of your way. Be courteous and cautious and you rarely have a problem. My wife and I ride anywhere from 18-22 mph and find that music often diminishes the need to ask for room on your left. Not that the music is loud, but you gradually hear the volume increasing, know that someone is gaining ground on you.


SFC JKL 2, February 23, 2016 at 11:04 pm

“On your left” is just an alert that you’re going to be passed so you need to hold your line. It shouldn’t mean to get out of the way, and it really shouldn’t matter if you think it’s directed at you or not. Hold your line and be alert. my pet peeve is that usually by Wednesday everybody has forgot about “ride right” and is hanging out by the center line. I’ll put my bike on the white line and ride 20+ without much trouble since that lane is wide open.God help the person who comments that I should be “passing them on the left” when they are riding in the middle of the road.
Ragbrai is great because of “Ride right” and good communication most people use. I did the NYC 5 boro ride last year and it was a total nightmare as far as riding goes. 6 lanes of people swerving all across the road and not a word from anyone.


Iceman, February 25, 2016 at 11:58 am

SFC, let me pull a few things from yours and other golks’ words and amplify on them.

On RAGBRAI, and virtually any other large mass ride, you are going to have all kinds of folks. My pet peeve is not only the folks doing 12 or 14 mph in the middle (and left of center stripe) of the road, I also get worked up over the folks going 3 and 4 abreast. It happen quite a bit with 3 abreast because if two of them are together talking then the 3rd person feels “left out” and decides it’s his/her absolute right to pull up along side and talk to his/her friends. No – it’s not. There are all types of riders on the road and if some of them want to go faster, you would think two full lanes (keeping in mind that left of center stripe may actually have cars in it) could accommodate keeping at least the far left of center stripe open for passing. Think of the autobahn rules – three lanes: far right for slow cars and trucks, middle for faster cars and trucks, far left for passing ONLY.

It’s all about being considerate of other riders. Same with that loud music.


jeffreydennis, February 25, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Ask yourself this…if I’m passing you on the right, or splitting between you and your daughter, what are you doing that necessitates that action? Clue, you ain’t riding right are you.


jwsknk, February 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm

passing someone on left and right at the same time? we call that making a skunk sandwich ;-)


KenH, February 25, 2016 at 3:04 pm

jeffreydennis: Ask yourself this…if I’m passing you on the right, or splitting between you and your daughter, what are you doing that necessitates that action? Clue, you ain’t riding right are you.

So my riding partner and I were tooling along last year in a rare bubble of emptiness and while we may not have been absolutely as far right as we could have been we were well to the right of the centerline and there was no one else to the left of us. And we were riding too close together for anyone to go between us. We hear the call “between you” from somewhere behind and from comparing notes later I know we were both thinking the same thing: that sounds close but he can’t mean us because there is no room and no need, people could go by us on the left three or four abreast and the one to my immediate left would not have had to cross the centerline to do so. As it turns out there was indeed enough space to go between us because he did and he must have had perhaps a whole cm to spare on both sides. He zooms through the “gap” between us, gets fifty to a hundred feet ahead of us, and slows down to our speed and then below for a couple of hundred yards so now what, are we going to have to pass him? No, he suddenly veers sharply off to the left without warning and stops on the left shoulder, and we never see him again.

On RAGBRAI anything can happen and almost certainly does dozens of times every year. It does not matter if you are riding right or not, people are going to do this kind of stuff to you. You could be riding on the white line on the far right with nothing but gravel to your right and some fast rider who is weaving in and out of traffic who happened to get boxed in behind you is going to start screaming “ON YOUR RIGHT!!” at you. Been there, had it happen, told him I hoped he was riding a Pugsley!

I do my best to stay out of the way of faster riders and to be polite to slower riders. If I get boxed in and have to wait for a dozen pacelines to zoom through before I can safely get around the slow knot then I will rather than trying to bully my way through it. I can catch up with the rest of my crew quickly enough. But if you want to start lecturing people on riding right because you think they don’t respond or ride the way that would be most convenient for you then you need to spend a day, an entire day, riding at 12 to 14 mph. You will find out exactly how tiresome many fast riders are. Ride right is not always possible but ride nice is. No matter how fast or slow we go we should all strive to ride nice and keep the volume to a reasonable level!


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