Most people love to blast some tunes while they're driving, but what about on a motorcycle ride? It might be surprising to hear, but there are legitimate and legal (with some catches) ways to enjoy music while you ride.
Music can be a great way to break up the monotony of long motorcycle rides. We all love the rush of the wind and the roar of a bike's engine, but sometimes it's nice to change things up a bit with some tunes.
This topic comes with a bit of controversy. Listening to music while riding obviously raises a few issues about safety, practicality and the law. We've put this article together to clear the air and hopefully answer any questions you might have about enjoying some music on your next ride.
YES OR NO: CAN YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE RIDING A MOTORCYCLE?
The long and short of it is that yes, you can listen to music on a motorcycle. However, there is a lot more to consider. For one thing, the laws around this issue can change wildly depending on where you are in the world (see below). There's also the question of which way you want to go about it. You've got a few options, which we'll go through.
It's a cliché but motorcycles aren't toys. They're powerful, high-intensity machines and safety should always be the priority while riding one. If you find that music is affecting your concentration, or believe that it might, then maybe you're better off with the sounds of the open road.
New riders should never listen to music. If you're still getting the hang of riding a motorcycle, the last thing you need is heavy music blasting in your ear. The same goes if you just got a new bike and you're still getting used to how it handles.
Motorcycling is all about risk-taking and high adrenaline, but always stack the odds in your favour by going about it smart. So read ahead for some tips on minimising risk if you plan to ride with music.
LISTENING TO MUSIC vs MOTORCYCLE RIDING IN SILENCE
There's no point in saying which is better, riding with music or riding in silence, because everyone is different. What works for some might not work for others.
Some motorcycle riders love to just take in the sounds of the open road. A lack of stimuli can be relaxing for certain people. Driving in silence also means you won't have to fiddle with the music controls if the noise is too high or you feel like skipping a song.
On the flip side, some bikers love to pump tunes every time they hit the road. Whether you play the hard stuff to really set the tone, or you go with some soft music for a relaxing cruise, it's all about whatever works for you. Ride your own ride.
THE LAW ON LISTENING TO MUSIC WHILE MOTORCYCLE RIDING
The laws around this topic can be tricky because there's very little legislation regarding listening to music on a motorcycle. It can also change drastically depending on where you are in the world.
The best thing you can do is research the specific laws regarding where you live. For example, in the US some states are fine with bikers using headphones while others have banned it entirely.
In Australia, where SA1NT is based, there isn't much legislation around this topic either. Road safety organisations recommend not using earbuds or headphones, but it's still perfectly legal.
This can, however, come back to bite you in an accident. By the Australian road rules, any distraction that causes a driver not to have proper control of a vehicle can result in a charge of negligent driving. So even if you weren't at fault, it's still possible to get slapped with a negligent driving charge if the cops don't see it your way.
BEST WAYS TO LISTEN TO MUSIC ON A MOTORCYCLE:
MOTORCYCLE STEREO SYSTEM
A stereo system is a simplest and most legit way to play your music. The only issue is that you will be sharing your music with the world around you, so hopefully, you're proud of your taste in music.
The switches are close to the handlebars which make things easy. If your bike doesn't have a stereo system or any kind of speakers, you can always set up external speakers that connect straight to your phone.
Depending on how much you want to spend, some speakers can actually produce some of the best sound quality while reducing distortion quite well. It's going to cost you, though!
Bluetooth helmets are considered the safest and most effective way to listen to music. They connect to external speakers using just your phone, eliminating the need for bothersome wires or the possibility of earbuds falling out.
Like most Bluetooth headphones, there are external buttons for volume control and skipping songs. These will need to be memorised so that fumbling for the right button while driving doesn't become a distraction.
Using regular headphones is probably the last option you want to take for a few reasons. Firstly, the feeling of the helmet pressing down on your headphones can get quite irritating after a while.
They also work a bit too well. Wearing a pair of noise-cancelling headphones means you probably won't hear surrounding sounds or loud noises that would otherwise alert you to potential danger. So the best sound quality might come at a very high price.
EMBEDDED BLUETOOTH HELMET INTERCOM
This system is similar to the Bluetooth helmet mentioned above, but with a few key differences. These helmet speakers play the music inside your helmet, instead of connecting to external speakers.
Helmet-mounted speakers also give you the option of taking phone calls while you ride and you can operate a GPS as well. As you can probably guess these don't come cheap, but some models can be found for less than $100. Still, if you're looking for quality then expect to pay a bit more than that.
MOTORCYCLE RIDING WITH MUSIC: PROS AND CONS
You know how some people listen to music in the gym because it helps them focus? Plenty of riders find the same thing when they're on a motorcycle. Some people find themselves sharper and more alert with something to listen to. The noise of the wind and your motor can become unstimulating after a while, and many riders find that music helps.
Listening to music has also been shown to improve your mood according to many studies. While hopping on the motorcycle is enough to get many of us fired up on our own, throwing in some music can make things that much more enjoyable.
Putting on your favourite tunes can also drown out the unpleasant sounds that come with motorcycling. While it won't drown out every single sound, music is a lot more enjoyable over a long period of time compared to wind noise and the sound of your engine rumbling. If you're a rider who occasionally gets headaches on the bike, many people find that music helps.
On the other side of things, loud music can block out important sounds that are going on around you. Since you can't hear everything, it can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
Since motorcycles don't have the same noise insulation as cars, playing music using a stereo might irritate pedestrians and other drivers around you. So cranking the volume on a stereo system might earn you some nasty looks.
Lastly, music can be a distraction for even the most experienced bikers. While music helps some bikers concentrate, things like taking your hands off the handlebars when changing songs mean having less control of the bike at that moment.
KEEP IN MIND WHEN RIDING A MOTORCYCLE WITH MUSIC
Of course, we have to talk about volume. Volume should be constantly kept in mind and always adapted to your driving conditions. While it's tempting to crank things nice and loud, music should never impede your ability to listen out for hazards around you.
Keep in mind that you can potentially damage your hearing as well. Motorcycling is loud enough as it is, so throwing in some heavy music to drown out the noise can cause serious harm to your ear drum. You might not even realise until you get home just how loud you had the volume.
ON THE HIGHWAY
It might be tough to swallow, but never play music on a highway. It's dangerous not only to yourself but to those around you.
Motorcycle music should be reserved for long, winding roads where other cars aren't around and you've got more freedom to concentrate.
BE EXTRA CONSCIOUS OF THE ROAD AROUND YOU
Always have your eyes and ears extra wide open if you want to crank some tunes on the bike. Even on the loneliest trail, an unexpected hazard can appear out of nowhere. If you're lost in a song and don't have your wits about you, things can get seriously ugly if something catches you off guard.
SAFETY AND SECURITY FIRST
As motorcyclists, we've chosen a hobby that isn't exactly known for being safe. The excitement and adrenaline of riding come with a huge risk/reward factor. With that being said, always stack the odds in your favour by riding smart.
Familiarise yourself with roads and paths before riding with tunes. A pre-set riding playlist is a great way to keep your attention on the road and avoid fiddling with your music as much as possible.
Lastly, try to have the mute switch easily accessible. If a highway or hazard is coming up, you want to be able to switch off the music at a moment's notice.
LISTENING TO MUSIC ON A MOTORCYCLE: CONCLUSION
Blasting tunes while riding can be amazing. It boosts your mood, can increase concentration and is just straight-up fun. Just be smart about it!
Play your music at a sensible volume and avoid listening to anything that is likely to hijack your concentration (so no audiobooks). Keep in mind that safety is the priority, so always combine music with common sense to get the best of both worlds.
Can you use air pods while riding a motorcycle?
You can use air pods while riding a motorcycle, as long as the law where you live says it's A-Okay. It's perfectly legal in most places around the world but you should definitely double-check that.
While air pods are great for blocking out the noises that come from riding, noise-cancelling headphones can also block out the sounds of approaching hazards. Many riders also find them quite fiddly because they don't fit well under many helmets, and the helmet's pressure might uncomfortably press the air pods into your ear.
How do you listen to music on a motorcycle?
There are several ways to listen to music on a motorcycle. The bike's stereo system is a safe option, but you can also use Bluetooth headphones, standard earbuds or even an embedded helmet intercom.
Each of these methods comes with its ups and downs, as mentioned above, so read up about the pros and cons before you decide which way you want to go.
Can you use wireless earbuds while riding a motorcycle?
You can use wireless earbuds while riding a motorcycle, but it's the least recommended option available. This is because they're often quite uncomfortable to wear under a helmet, which can press them into your ear.
They can also cancel out the noise a bit too well, which means you won't be alerted to the sounds of hazards around you.
Is listening to music while riding a motorcycle good?
Listening to music while riding a motorcycle can definitely be good. It enhances your mood, improves concentration in some cases and allows you to kick back with your favourite tunes on the open road.
However, there are a couple of issues to consider. Playing music can impede your concentration at some point. You might zone out and lose focus, or it might be something as insignificant as changing a song that causes you to lose control at the wrong moment.
It's up to each rider to decide if the music suits their riding style or whether they might be better off enjoying the sounds of silence.
Can you listen to music playing in a motorcycle helmet while riding?
You can listen to music that's playing inside a motorcycle helmet while riding. Embedded Bluetooth helmets come at a fair cost, but they're super practical and let you take calls as well.
Are Bluetooth helmets legal?
The big question: are Bluetooth helmets actually legal? Unfortunately, the answer isn't simple. It just depends on where you are.
In Australia where SA1NT is based, they're perfectly legal. While road safety organisations don't recommend them, the law can't stop you from putting one on.
No matter where you are in the world, it's worth looking up which specific laws apply to you. In the US for example, the laws surrounding music and motorcycles vary from state to state.
Do Bluetooth helmets have speakers?
Yes, many Bluetooth helmets have speakers. Some models connect to your phone and play music through the motorcycle's stereo system, while others play music inside the helmet itself.
When shopping for a Bluetooth helmet, double-check to make sure it does exactly what you want it to. They don't come cheap, so do your research before shelling out any cash.