Listening to music when you’re riding is like eating Turkey on Thanksgiving – not exactly a rule but why would you miss out on such a perfect combo?
Mixing listening to music with your motorcycle rides might not be to everybody’s tastes, but it’s pretty common. On long rides down straight roads, music can help keep the trip interesting and give you something to focus on.
Have you ever wondered whether you can listen to music on your motorcycle? You might not think listening to your favorite song is dangerous, but some lawmakers disagree.
To help you understand what’s the deal with listening to music while riding, we’re going to get into:
- The laws about whether you can listen to music when riding a motorcycle
- Benefits and risks of using headphones or a stereo system on your motorbike
- The different ways to listen to music when on your bike
Plus, we’ve got a definitive list of road safety laws for audio systems on motorbikes covering the US, European countries, and Australia.
- Can I Listen to Music on a Motorcycle?
- How to Listen to Music and Ride a Motorcycle
- The Definitive List of Motorcycle Headphone Laws in the USA
- Headphone Motorcycle Laws in Other Countries
Can I Listen to Music on a Motorcycle?
Generally, you can listen to music when riding your motorcycle. There are local safety rules you need to know about in some states and countries.
You’ve got a range of options for listening to tunes as you cut through the landscape, including helmets with integrated sound systems, your own earphones, Bluetooth kits, and external entertainment units. We’ll run through these options in a moment.
Should Motorcycle Riders Listen to Music?
It’s technically legal to listen to music inside your helmet or on your bike, but should you?
Being legal and being safe can be two different issues, especially when it comes to motorcycle safety – we all know how a DOT helmet certification makes you legal but doesn’t really make you safe.
Is having music on a distraction or a way to help concentration? Here’s both sides of the argument.
The Case for Motorcycle Music
If you already have your music set up in your helmet, you’ll understand some personal benefits to songs while you drive.
Plenty of motorcyclists enjoy having the music on because:
- They find it relaxing, especially when weaving through city traffic
- It can help drown out more unpleasant noises like the wind and engine
- They feel more alert to their surroundings because music breaks monotony on a highway
Some of this is backed up by science, too. A study out of the Netherlands found that people who listen to music when completing tasks in an office were more alert when listening to high-tempo music (1). When you’re on a bike, being more alert could definitely be a bonus.
Another piece of research from Oxford, UK, says that listening to classical music can reduce stress (2). We’re guessing the chances of you listening to Mozart out on the trails are pretty slim, but now you know.
The Case Against Music While Riding a Motorcycle
It can be dangerous when you’re tuned into the radio or connected to your mobile phone and are listening to music on your motorcycle – hence some places have rules. The hazards of listening to music and cruising include:
- Distraction by a cool riff or dope lyrics and pulling your focus off the road ahead of you
- Not being able to hear sounds and what’s going on around you – like a truck rolling up behind you
- Needing to use your hands to control your phone, MP3 player, or Bluetooth headset – although handlebar controls for headsets do negate this issue
- Listening to music inside your helmet can encourage you to use a high volume setting, which can cause long-term hearing damage (3)
When it comes down to it, you as a rider need to make your own judgment whether listening to music is safe for your riding style and location – keeping an eye on what the law says, too, which we will get in to below.
How to Listen to Music and Ride a Motorcycle
Decided that you’re down with playing music as you head out onto the road? You’ve got a few different options for how to make it happen depending on whether you also want to chat with your riding pack, take and make a call, or not change your helmet setup at all.
Probably the first option that springs to mind for riding a motorcycle and listening to music is buying a Bluetooth headset.
This handy piece of kit attaches to your helmet and connects your phone to a mic and speakers inside your helmet. Lots of brands even sell kits that are designed to fit perfectly into their helmets, with ear recesses and channels in your foam to tuck away cabling.
The functions you can expect from this type of headset include:
- Phone pairing so you can listen to music through Bluetooth, plus place and answer calls, and even use assistants like Siri and Google.
- FM radio so you can pick up local stations and tune in for sports results, traffic updates, and local weather
- Intercom between a passenger and a group of riders – as a rule of thumb, the more you invest in your headset, the better range and higher number of people you can chat with
As well as better intercom features, you’ll also find that you get better-quality speakers when you invest more money.
For audiophiles who ride motorcycles, we recommend Packtalk Bold by Cardo. You get reasonably loud 40mm speakers from JBL, intercom with up to 15 riders no matter the brand of their headset, and a theoretical connection range of up to 1,600 meters or 1 mile.
Another way to get music while riding is to have a helmet that’s got speakers and Bluetooth connectivity built in.
You get all the benefits of the headset setup but no bulky buttons cramping your style or ill-fitting speakers rubbing against your ears.
Our favorite integrated helmet for motorcycle riding is the Sena Momentum Evo. Using Mesh technology you can intercom with up to 24 riders with up to five miles between you. As you’d expect, you can pair it with your phone and get your playlists direct to your helmet.
Speakers for Helmets
A cheaper and simpler method to pipe music for riding is to add a speaker set to your helmet.
Rather than needing a full Bluetooth headset, you can connect speakers to your phone or MP3 with an audio jack or Bluetooth connection to get your motorcycle music fix.
It’s generally a much cheaper option than a full headset and you can still get great quality speakers. The IASUS XSound 3 is our pick for standalone speakers, delivering good volume and great sound quality.
When you want to play music while riding and everywhere else in your life, earbuds could make a great investment.
Earbuds sit snug in your ear and wirelessly connect to your phone. Top-quality ones, such as Sony’s WF-1000XM4, come with active noise cancelation to reduce wind and other noise during your favorite song – even sporting eight hours battery life.
If you’re a fan of all things Apple, the latest 3rd Generation AirPods give you adaptive EQ to drown out external noise like cars, lets you use Siri without reaching for your phone, and will keep playing your songs for six hours on one charge, with three more charges in the box. The Airpods Pro also provide a seal in your ear canal and active noise cancelation.
Motorcycle Stereo System
Concerns about hearing loss from the loud volume of in-helmet speakers and earbuds are real, so if you want an alternative method for listening to music while riding a motorcycle that lets you keep the earplugs in, you can check out the sounds from a stereo system.
You have a range of options available with a bike-mounted speaker system. They all work in a similar way – you attach one or more speakers to your bike, connect them to your bike’s power source, pair with your phone, and the tunes are blasting.
For a simple unfussy look for music on a motorcycle, check out the Kuryakyn 2720 MTX Road Thunder Motorcycle Sound Bar. It gets decent volume; you’ll be able to hear the music while riding up to around 70mph before wind noise starts to cancel it out (4).
The best thing about adding a sound bar or speaker array for listening to music while riding a motorcycle is that it shouldn’t violate any laws about listening to music – there are no earphones, which are what most states regulate.
The Definitive List of Motorcycle Headphone Laws in the USA
Under the US legal system, you’ll already know that there are different laws when it comes to listening to music while riding a motorcycle but hunting down each state’s law can be a bit of a hassle.
We’ve done the search for you and found the laws for riding a motorcycle with music playing for all 50 states. We’ve included a link for each source – be sure to double check because these things do change.
|Alabama||Alabama Law Enforcement Agency||No specific law (5)|
|Alaska||Alaska State Legislature||Cannot use headphones, headsets or earplugs for entertainment in a car or on a bike. Can use for motorcycle to motorcycle communication or to get GPS directions|
|Arizona||No specific law|
|Arkansas||No specific law|
|California||California Legislative Information||Can only wear earphones, headsets, or earplugs in one ear when driving a vehicle|
|Colorado||Colorado Legislature||No earphones or headsets allowed, helmets with integrated speakers are allowed|
|Connecticut||No specific law|
|Delaware||No specific law|
|Florida||Florida Legislature||No earphones or headsets allowed, helmets with headsets fitted so the speakers don’t touch the ears and the rider can hear outside noise are allowed|
|Georgia||Georgia Department of Public Safety||Can use one earphone and can only make and take calls|
|Hawaii||No specific law|
|Idaho||No specific law|
|illinois||Illinois General Assembly||Can use only one earphone, only when connected to a mobile phone when driving any vehicle|
|Indiana||No specific law|
|Iowa||No specific law|
|Kansas||No specific law|
|Kentucky||No specific law|
|Louisiana||Lousiana State Legislature||Can use only one earphone|
|Maine||No specific law|
|Maryland||Justia||Can only use one earphone|
|Massachusetts||Commonwealth of Massachusetts||Cannot use headphones when riding a motorcycle|
|Michigan||No specific law|
|Minnesota||Minnesota Legislature||Can use only one earphone|
|Mississippi||No specific law|
|Missouri||No specific law|
|Montana||No specific law|
|Nebraska||No specific law|
|Nevada||No specific law|
|New Hampshire||No specific law|
|New Jersey||No specific law|
|New Mexico||No specific law|
|New York||New York State Department of Health||Can use only one earphone|
|North Carolina||No specific law|
|North Dakota||No specific law|
|Ohio||Ohio Legistlative Services||Can use only one earphone, speakers integrated into a helmet are allowed|
|Oklahoma||No specific law|
|Oregon||Laws vary by city and region|
|Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania State Legislature||Can use only one earphone when connected to a mobile phone|
|Rhode Island||Rhode Island State Legislature||Can use only one earphone, helmets with headsets fitted so the speakers don’t touch the ears and the rider can hear outside noise are allowed|
|South Carolina||No specific law|
|South Dakota||No specific law|
|Tennessee||No specific law|
|Texas||No specific law|
|Utah||No specific law|
|Vermont||No specific law|
|Virginia||Virginia State Law Portal||Can use only one earphone|
|Washington||Washington State Legislature||No earphones or headsets allowed, helmets with headsets fitted and approved by Washington state patrol are allowed|
|West Virginia||No specific law|
|Wisconsin||No specific law|
|Wyoming||No specific law|
Headphone Motorcycle Laws in Other Countries
There is nothing in UK law that bans headsets or earphones for listening to music or for communications when riding a motorcycle.
The use of hand-free communication devices of any kind when driving a motorcycle – or a car or other vehicle – was completely banned in France in 2015.
You won’t find a specific law banning headsets or earphones in Germany. However, under the Road Traffic Regulations section 23, you are responsible for being able to hear the noises going on around you.