Listening to music while riding a motorcycle is pleasurable and helps block wind and motorcycle noises. For example, noise from the exhaust pipe and engine. But is it legal to listen to music while riding a motorcycle in the UK?
It’s not a criminal offence to listen to music while riding a motorcycle in the UK. However, it would be best to abide by specific rules before getting pulled over and arrested. But legality apart, there’s also the issue of “how you can listen to music while riding and be safe.”
Does the Highway Code Allow Motorcyclists to Listen to Music?
Though many people in the UK think it’s illegal to have on music while riding a motorcycle, it’s not. According to the Highway Code, there’s no ban on listening to music, but the problem is “loud music.”
Point 148 of the code (safe driving and riding needs concentration) says that riders should avoid distractions. And at the top of the list of distractions is “loud music (this may mask other sounds).”
Listening to loud music poses a threat to you and others around you. And from personal experience, when playing rock or heavy metal, it’s easier to get carried away and not hear warning sounds from your motorcycle or surroundings (like a car honking).
Other points to note are points 149 and 150, which emphasize the importance of having proper control of your vehicle at all times. Thus while on the move, avoid the following:
- Changing a playlist or a song
- Turning on and off the radio or stereo system.
Is It Illegal to Play Music On Motorcycle When Not Riding?
It’s not illegal to play music when parked up, as long as your music isn’t a public nuisance.
In other words, when using a stereo system, ensure the volume isn’t high. Because if anyone thinks it’s too loud, you’re halfway there to trouble land, especially if you refuse to turn the music down.
Should You Listen to Music While Riding?
The only reason why the question of playing music while on the move exists is because of safety. If it were 100 percent safe, then the question wouldn’t exist. But it’s not!
However, listening to music while riding is beneficial and makes your ride more enjoyable. Here are some reasons you should consider putting on some music:
Benefits of Playing Music
- Music is therapeutic and often makes for an even more pleasing riding session. Listening to calming music can also help prevent road rage.
- Playing music can also help reduce your motorcycle’s annoying loud noises, shifting your focus from the noise to the road.
- It helps keep your mind from wandering and your senses sharp while moving. But this also depends on the type of music you’re listening to.
Can My Ears Get Damaged From Playing Loud Music When Riding?
Yes, they can, and that’s one more reason why loud music isn’t advisable. Keep the music at a reasonable volume, and remember that your motorcycle is already loud enough. Please don’t make it louder.
Safety Rules To Follow When Listening to Music While Riding
Use Right Hardware
Truthfully, any hardware can be wrong if you play at a loud volume. But some hardware poses a higher risk of accidents (even at low volumes).
Some motorcyclists prefer to use hardware that isn’t recommendable because it’s what they are most comfortable wearing.
Do not use faulty hardware, and it’s best to stay away from wired devices as these might slip off and cause more distractions. The same goes for devices you’ll need to attach to your helmet.
Volume and Type of Music
While your chosen method (hardware) of playing music matters, it’s not the only thing to factor in. The volume and the type of music you’re listening to are also significant.
For volume, always do a test ride before settling for a particular one. If you can’t hear any noise from your surroundings or that of your bike, tune down the volume a bit till you find the perfect balance.
Remember Safety & Legal Rules
It’s probably going to take 5 seconds to skip a song, but it only takes one second not to have proper control over your vehicle for a disaster to occur.
Plus, there’s the problem of getting caught by the police too. So when riding, make sure you always focus on the road, not your music or thoughts.
And if you’re using your stereo system, keep it low enough not to piss other road users or pedestrians off.
Listen To Your Brain
Always pull over and turn off your music if you think it’s distracting you from focusing on the road.
There’s no harm in riding without music, and if the noise from your bike gets too loud, you can use earplugs to reduce (not eliminate) the noise.
How To Properly Listen To Music While Riding
The safest way to listen to music while riding your motorcycle involves using a Bluetooth helmet or a stereo system. Here’s a list of devices you can use:
These are helmets with an in-built speaker system that can connect to a phone or walkie-talkie.
Aside from playing music, you can also use your Bluetooth helmet for calls and GPS — you never have to take your eyes off the road.
Another good thing about this is that the battery has a long lifespan and can last you through an entire trip. Plus, there are no wires to worry about and no parts to fall out of place.
How about the control system? They are outside the helmet, and you can skip a song or control the volume using these switches.
Another sure way to ace this is to use the stereo system on your motorcycle. Since the controls are usually close to the handlebars, operating it wouldn’t be much trouble.
For a bike with no stereo system, you can always set up some form of an audio speaker on it and play your favourite band all ride long.
However, the downside of using a stereo system is that everyone gets to hear what you’re playing and, most likely, have an opinion about it.
Earbuds or AirPods
AirPods aren’t exactly an excellent option for a couple of reasons:
- It’s challenging to wear a helmet over them without pushing them out of position
- If you’re able to get them on, chances are they might fall off while riding
- Most of them don’t have excellent sound quality unless you’re willing to spend more
- Not so easy to skip songs or control the volume
But you are good to go if you can find your way around these difficulties. Wireless earbuds are also quite tricky, but with high-quality earbuds, chances are you won’t face the issues above.
How about wired ones? Well, that’s just one more thing to concern. The wires might drag and fall off, and you’ll have to pull over and get it fixed again.
These are an excellent option, far better than earbuds. SlimBuds are wired headphones that can fit under any motorcycle helmet and do not come off while you wear your helmet.
SlimBuds have good battery life and can last between 10 to 12 hours, but be ready to pay extra.
These give you the feel of a Bluetooth helmet. Helmet inserts are devices attached to the helmet, which could be the inner or outer wall of the helmet.
Depending on where they’re attached, they can be comfortable to wear, but their downside is they might fall off, especially if not well fixed.
Is It Also Legal In The USA?
In the United States, it all depends on your state. While most states (like Arizona and Hawaii) do not have a definitive law on listening to music while riding, others do.
For states like Colorado, only helmets with integrated speakers are allowed. Other states like New York and Minnesota only allow you to use an earbud on one ear.
It’s best to check with the local authorities or law what is and isn’t allowed in your state.
Ultimately, the most important factors are comfort and noise-cancelling features. If you can hear the noise from your surrounding and you’re comfortable in your chosen gear, you’re in good hands.
And if you’re a new motorcyclist, it’s always best to ride out without music and get used to the roads.