Archived Story

We’re going to rock this town

Published 10:32am Monday, December 9, 2013

Dan Urlick

Bike Rides

I don’t think the value music adds to a bike ride can be overstated.

For this reason headphones or ear-buds have long been a staple for each ride, and if forgotten, it’s worth turning back because it’s likely I won’t have gotten too far without noticing something’s amiss. But earphones can be dangerous too, especially in traffic where you need your hearing.

External, portable speakers are safer than headphones because they interfere much less with your hearing. My neighbor Hank and I had our first experience using such a speaker on a bike ride over a decade ago when another friend brought a windup, AM/FM radio along on a summer evening ride, one of a thousand such we’ve taken since.

The only signal we could pick up clearly and also tolerate was an oldies station. To neutralize the monotony we revised the lyrics to familiar songs using our own silly, localized lines.

“I found my thrill…. ooonnn Skin-ner’s Hill…”

Eventually we graduated to a better system that could accommodate CD’s, and while still flawed with skips and other limitations, this was a big step up.

That system gave way to MP3s, which seemed to be everything we needed at the time, offering greater selection, options and stability on the fly.

Next was satellite radio, another gargantuous leap toward bicycling/music nirvana. Now we didn’t have to pause to select music, pouring over and over through our staled playlists throughout the ride. Deep music tracks from all genres were suddenly available at the click of a finger, with virtually no interruption or maintenance.

That takes us up to last summer, when another giant leap was realized in cordless, Bluetooth speakers, offering remote operation of all sound control from your pocket via smart phone. The brand Hank and I found (Jam) was affordable and effective. For the first time we had more sound than we could even use. Until this year we never found a speaker that was capable of rocking louder than necessary, for those special occasions. Most brands were too weak, and the exceptions were usually adequate at best.

Then, we found STEREO, Blue Tooth speakers in October. It took us a while to figure out how to even use them. Finally on Halloween night, just after the porch lights went out and the trick-or-treaters moved in, Hank and I saddled up for the inaugural ride with the new stereo system. Each of us had a powerful speaker housed in the water bottle rack of our respective mountain bikes that were paired remotely to a phone. Just before launch I strapped a battery lit jack-o-lantern facing backwards on my bike and we switched our front bicycle lights to strobe mode, to further enhance the spirit.

A Metallica song happened to be cuing up in the Sirrus/XM studios just in time for the ride. Normally I’m not the least bit fond of heavy metal music, but “Enter Sandman” had a rare appeal on this damp, dark Halloween night.

“Turn it up!” Hank exclaimed as we rolled through the neighborhood.

What happened next was a bicycling/musical concerto like no other we’ve really ever had. The music was so sharp the stereo effect was mind warping, as we rolled blissfully down the block it felt like we were riding inside a pair of headphones.

“EXIT LIGHT, ENTER NIGHT!”

James Hetfield’s raspy, made for the occasion voice echoed off the rooftops up and down the avenue, as I increased the volume.

“Louder!” yelled Hank, smiling… heck, laughing, as I responded with everything the Blue Tooth’s had, just this once.

“WE’RE OFF TO NEVER, NEVER LAND,”

The rebel rocker declared with gravely vocal conviction, and we were officially a nuisance, and I enjoyed Halloween again for the first time in years.

Traffic Tip: Winter riding rules now, faster bursts with frequent, short breaks to regulate body temperature.


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