Cyclist Pulled Over For Headphones Builds Neighborhood Shaking Bicycle Boombox

Riding around with headphones on is not the safest of things; those people are trying to could hit you! [Victor Frost] was actually pulled over for doing it. Although the bicycle police didn’t ticket him, they did push him over the edge to pursuing a compromise that lets him listen to tunes and perhaps still hear the traffic around him.

The build puts 200 Watts of audio on his rear luggage rack. He used a couple of file totes as enclosures, bolting them in place and cutting one hole in each to receive the pair of speakers. The system is powered by two 6V sealed lead-acid batteries which are topped off by a trickle-charger when the bike is parked.

Looking through this log we almost clicked right past this one. It wasn’t immediately apparent that this is actually version four of the build, and these are completely different spins each time. The top-down view of plastic-tacklebox-wrapped-v3 is sure to make you grin. Video overviews of the first two versions are linked in [Victor’s] details section of the project page linked at the top of this post. The progress is admirable and fun time digging through. They’re all quite a bit different but bigger, better, and more self-contained with each iteration.

Okay, okay, maybe this isn’t going to shake the neighborhood… until he adds a Bass Cannon to it.

86 thoughts on “Cyclist Pulled Over For Headphones Builds Neighborhood Shaking Bicycle Boombox

      1. Yeah, this is something I dont understand either. Driving a car with loud music, while talking in the phone and eating a burger is fine. But death to those who jog or bike with headphones! :P

        Or even worse, riding a bike without a helmet..

          1. Loud music only will if you hit noise pollution levels, it’s not the driving part which gets you pulled over. Also you can talk on the phone as long as you’re not holding it, bluetooth is still legal.

          2. Wait, what? Here in Wisconsin it is not illegal to talk on the phone, eat, or listen to loud music while driving. You can only be pulled over and ticketed if you are driving erratically due to the distractions or if the music is so loud it is a nuisance to others.

            ….And they let YOU vote still??

          3. Xyroze…

            “Wisconsin law states that no driver may engage in any activity other than driving that interferes or reasonably appears to interfere with safe driving. Section 346.89(1)”

            Right out of the Wisonsin’s driver’s handbook:

            Right there in the handbook you know you didn’t read when you got your license because you know it all and probably ignore all of it anyway.

            You know how I knew it is illegal in your state? Because it is illegal in EVERY state to drive with only one hand on the steering wheel. And every last thing you mentioned requires one hand off the steering wheel. Period. End of story. It is illegal and you CAN be pulled over for it. You may not get pulled over for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal.

            Effing stupid people. Morons like you think if there isn’t a law that specifically states “don’t eat and drive” then it means it is legal to eat and drive. Yet there is a law telling you that you need both hands on the steering wheel in EVERY state. YOU are the reason we need 1500 laws that say the same damn thing. Because you’re effing stupid.

            And unfortunately, you probably vote.

          4. Justice..

            “There is no prohibition on cell phone use while driving in Wisconsin. However, all Wisconsin drivers are prohibited from texting. Wisconsin law also prohibits distracted driving — which essentially refers to any moving violation that is committed because the driver was so engaged or occupied that the distraction affected motor vehicle safety. ”

            As I said in my initial response, “You can only be pulled over and ticketed if you are driving erratically due to the distractions”.

            The distractions are not grounds for ticket in and of themselves. Not here, at least.

          5. Here in Texas, you can do anything you want while driving, just as long as it aint drugs or alcohol. And even then, many people disregard those laws too.

            Then again… its hard to kill someone while drunk driving your horse to the local saloon.

        1. Riding a bike with a helmet is actually worse for you in more common minor trauma as they clamp to your scalp and transfers the torque more easily to your neck. Which the scalp naturally does (skin+flesh being naturally elastic)

          Also in countries that it is the law to wear helmets there actually have been no reduction in injuries, and motorists are more likely to feel more confident that you are safe with a helmet and give you less room.

          Disclaimer: I’m a car driver and occasional cyclist in Cambridge UK where there’s a /lot/ of bikes :)

          1. Not sure what helmets you use that clamp to your scalp, but there’s not evidence (and some contrary) to your claim that helmets increase severity of neck injury. This claim of torque efficency is dubious at best since helmets are designed to absorb and dissipate impact energy. There is however conlcusive evidence that they reduce the severity of head, brain, and upper facial trauma.

            Ski helmets, but they share similar designs, especially BMX style helmets

      2. Honestly. Come on. Most headphone are design to block out sounds that are not produce from the headphones. Open back headphones may be the only exception, but honestly… Do you really believe it is not neglecting the safety of others?

        We do not have 360 degree of vision. We can’t see everything around us. Hearing helps us detect things that we can’t see. A bike coming from behind while you are running; A pedestrian chatting with his friend while crossing the street as you zip pass a intersection on your bike; A fellow runner running in the opposite direction as he/she corner the same tall hedge as you are. Things like that you could easily missed if you are wearing headphones.

        1. Yeah, ‘cuse every jogs around saying. “Here I come from around the corner of the bush”. I often drive with headphones in. And can hear things just as well as if I had my stereo in the truck on. I can still hear the vehicle idling next to me at the intersection, in fact still hear his stereo playing over my own headphones. So yeah, no neglect. If I had them cranked loud enough I couldn’t hear anything, then I could see the point. I have seen people with the A/C on windows up and radio on pull right out in an intersection in front of a fire truck. The law should be about the negligent driving not about banning something that might cause a problem if the driver does it wrong.

        2. Only a small percentage of headphones are designed to entirely block out outside noise, even fewer when it’s earbuds. I do have such a pair of earbuds, made by Etymotic Research, and they’re both pricey and really expensive, but suitable for things like mowing the lawn. My regular earbuds, for the bike or gym, do not block the sounds of the world.

          I have several pair of studio hearphones, only one of these is closed-back. There are times when you may want that, but they’re not all that popular, because they tend to be hot and heavy — anything that lets air in lets sound in.

          And if you’re really concerned about seeing 360 degrees, you would be more responsible with rear-view reflectors on your bike and your earbuds in that you would be without either. And yet, not a popular option.

          1. Sorry, supposed to read “pricey and really uncomfortable”… wearing Etymotic Research earbuds is kind of like surgically implanting tiny speakers way down in your ear, then plugging the hole. They’re more effective against most kinds of noise than active noise-cancelling headphones, but it’s hard to wear them for very long.

          1. Same as everyone else because you can’t hear a car in the bike lane in time to dodge. There are people constantly asking if they can ride or drive (they can).

        3. Yea, Sure, because it’s usually someone directly to the side or behind the biker that a biker will most likely hit!

          It would take some re-gearing to pedal a normal bike backwards. If you can get one to travel sideways… now I want to see that here on HaD!

        4. Hearing isn’t all that useful on a bike, unless you’re tooling along at a walking pace. Turning your head to look behind you, and a mirror (or two) are far more reliable indicators. I can’t hear much more than wind noise at 18MPH anyway, which is my average speed on my commute to work.

    1. It’s much more of a danger to themselves than to others. I say just let them and Darwin will take care of the truly careless.

      Now if they’re driving, they do pose a significant danger to others and therefore should not be allowed to do so. But a hands free device is legal to use while driving in at least some locations. Still doesn’t make it a good idea… (For that matter, in the area mentioned, is such a hands free device legal to use while bicycling?)

      1. To my understanding, bicycles are exempt from “hands-free” type rules. However, as a note, when I answer calls on my phone while it’s connected, caller is played through the speaker system. So, I guess it could count as a hands free system anyways?

      1. Bah, that’s nothing. I saw a guy on my commute last summer that had earbuds in his ears, a cellphone in one hand (talking), and a coffee in the other hand that was resting on the handlebars as he was pedaling the wrong way on a high volume roadway, heading toward a tire pinch sewer grating a few hundred feet down the road. Never got to see how that ended up.

    2. Try not to generalize too much. If you have it on at a reasonable volume and you use normal earbuds (not big closed muffs or inner-ear things) you can still hear more of the traffic than you can from the inside of most cars. Add the full 360° vision that cycling affords and you have the ability for plenty of situational awareness.

    3. I don’t agree. Personally city sounds distract me more than help me, so not loud music makes me focus. You just have to be aware of surroundings, some people need to hear more, others to see more.

    4. Yeah, it gave me hope to think that there’s at least one town on the planet that is ticketing cyclists for bad and dangerous behaviour. Though I didn’t have to read the whole story to know it wasn’t my town. It’s like two wheeled Thunderdome here.

    5. Honestly, I find that the issue is people wearing headphones in the car. Isn’t the whole point of a radio so that you can safely listen to music while also being able to hear a horn near by?

        1. “They also spend every day of their lives honing their other senses and being generally more attentive due to the impairment of their hearing.”
          Ummm…. No.
          My father is deaf and has not spent every day of his life doing that. In fact many people that are deaf are deaf late in life.
          Guess what? A hearing test is not required for a license and honestly I can hear a lot better on my bicycle with ear buds than I can in my car with the windows up.
          Also motorcyclists are encouraged to use ear plugs!
          I never wear earbuds when I ride on the street but I do when I go on trails since they are car free.
          So no, your wrong. There is no requirement for a driver to have hearing or to have spent their lives “honing” anything.

    6. Meanwhile cars are made pretty soundproof and have audio equipment to drown out any sound left. But hey – a car can’t harm anybody can it? A cyclist is much more likely to

  1. Thank God I live in a place where bike helmets are not “a must” have thing, and listening to music while driving a bike is perfectly legal! You know they just say that you are responsible for your own safety, now they do recommend what you can do to be a bit more safe but you don’t have to… :D Also they have bike lanes everywhere! :D

  2. So, two things:

    a) What is so great about this build? I’m not trying to be spiteful, it’s just that there is next to no information and no inside pictures of it on the project page, so what’s that great about it? From the one real piece of information — the parts list — it looks like a bunch of off-the-shelf parts. So the hack is putting it into a box?

    b) Getting pulled over for perfectly valid reason, not even get ticketed, and then building something optimized towards annoying everyone around you: Of all the reasons to build something like that, this seems to be the most childish one.

    1. Oh, it’s certainly nothing groundbreaking. Lot’s of people have done this. And I am gonna post pictures of the inside a bit later (busy with other things).
      I’m biased, of course, but I think this project is cool because it’s using “off-the-shelf” parts in a way they weren’t meant for to solve a problem in an interesting way.
      Not that I really understand your issue with off-the-shelf parts in the first place. I mean, if you go to RadioShack (if there is still one near you, that is) and buy an arduino, LEDs, some perfboard, and misc other parts to make a thing, isn’t that using off-the-shelf parts?

      Second, how is this annoying everyone? I ride on the street with cars who often have a higher combined wattage than me playing THEIR music at full blast with the windows down. Even when I ride through pedestrian areas, I’m there and gone by the time most people even realize the sound is coming from my bike. With my previous revisions, while I was still in college, all the people who’ve talked to me about it love it. Only one person ever complained and all they asked was that I play more classic rock. When I ride at night, I turn it down low when going through residential areas.

      And how is it childish? I know it was a valid reason and I COULD have been ticketed, so I built something that let me enjoy listening to music while riding in a perfectly legal way.

  3. You would be surprised how much wind noise impedes hearing at cruising speeds of a bike yet alone 30MPH or more on a motorcycle. Deaf drivers only have to have an outside mirror. Blind drivers? I know of one who uses an approved optical light gain monocular in daylight only. He’s legally blind but not totally sightless. So he does not see in 3D while driving. He runs a radio station, so he can hear. He was first in Indiana.
    In my state motor law says one ear must not be covered by headphones. Not hearing in 3D makes for poor hearing in traffic, I would rather hear a balanced but muffled 3D. This says that one ear plugged with blurtooth and your 3D hearing is screwed. I can see the plug getting pulled out half the time when they want to talk with anyone near. Yet alone, where’s the siren? Wearing any type of headphones with a reasonable mix level of reality and music may be a handicap but not as much as a caged driver with windows up and any other distractions. Starting in the ’80’s I would often fool people at work who thought that I couldn’t hear them while listening to the news on NPR. Yeah! I heard that! The highest attenuation of even good studio phones is not as good as OSHA hearing protectors at -30dB. There are times in traffic I could use them.
    A cush car will do as an isolation booth, a mobile studio or nowadays a movie theater. Minus 20dB is not uncommon.
    One could argue that cars should have by law undefeatable a quad setup of mics and they are fed into the audio system with tracking volume above ambient as to how loud the audio is. I have considered doing that in a real DOT helmet, as both ears are covered when wearing one anyway. Bionic hearing is now possible better than without. The mics will have laminar flow wind screens.

    1. Well, one can very well argue that bicyclists are a wee bit more vulnerable than car drivers and therefor are required to have their hearing unobstructed for their own safety.

      What I really don’t get is why one would put so much time and effort to place an audio system as far away as possible from the rider, and not even make an effort at having the speakers point anywhere close to the direction of the cyclist. If the point was to make a portable audio system, very well. But made to circumvent traffic law, this is a juvenile reaction at building an annoyance machine. Whoo, a self-made boom box strapped to the luggage rack.

      But trying to be a little bit constructive, why not really make it a worthwile hack: A lightweight collar of speakers to wear around the neck. The ears would not be covered, hopefully satisfying traffic law, and the audio output would be actually close to what it’s supposed to reach.

      1. I did this back in the late ’90’s when i biked everywhere – I used over-the-head headphones over my helmet, so there was a good inch or so gap between the headphones and my ears. I could hear everything clearly around me, and also my music. We have strict laws where I am about helmets (mandatory 17 and under) and are not supposed to have anything blocking your ears – I had a few cops say my setup was okay as they weren’t actually on my ears. around the neck was also an option that i saw a lot of people using. Having them over the helmet stretched them and they never fit my head again, so they became a semi-permanent helmet accessory for a few years.

        1. If I was making a bike stereo system, I’d either build a seat with a pair of 3-5″ mid/full range weatherproof drivers built into the sides of the seat at neck height (I ride a recumbent), or attached to the handlebars and aimed at my head. Could likely reduce the power needed by a fair amount, too.

  4. One word: RAGBRAI. (

    You’ll see rolling bike stereos up to and including full-on bike trailers full of sound equipment – pulled completely across the cornfields Iowa in the searing summer heat along with tens of thousands of other crazed bike-weenies. Some stereos are solar powered, many built into ice-chests for the sake of convenience. None of it near a double-shot soy latte.

    Then there’s Team Bad Boy who pack a complete smoker all the way from Denver.

  5. the officer was probably bored nothing else was happening it was quiet law enforcement wise so they pulled him over for something minor.

    even j walking does not get enforced.

  6. Here in the Cleveland area there’s a group (can’t remember what they call themselves) who ride their “lowrider” bicycles in major cycling events. Their sounds put this to shame — not to mention loads of RGB LEDs and faux gold. Too bad none of this ‘hood hacking ever makes to HAD.

    1. If you can find online technical descriptions of their hacks, please submit them to the tip line. Or, you can interview them, find out what they’ve done, write it up or post the video on YouTube/Vimeo, and submit it to the tip line. I’m sure HAD would cover them.

  7. For all of you that are giving all sorts of grief about wearing headphones get a life.

    Wearing earbuds, not headphones that cover the ears, don’t block anymore sound than would be blocked if you were inside a car with your sound system is turned on. I can wear earbuds with the music playing at a reasonable level and still hold a conversation with someone inside or outside the car and can hear horns and emergency vehicles quite well. This is because earbuds don’t block outside sound, it’s just like having the speakers closer to your head.

    1. “This is because earbuds don’t block outside sound, it’s just like having the speakers closer to your head.”

      Please tell me that it hurts. It should hurt. Maybe less people would choose stupidity if it hurt.

  8. So a cyclist was told something for his safety, and retaliates by being deliberately annoying to other people on the road? How is that any kind of good karma or being a good person? Cyclists are so high and mighty – but this is another clear indicator of the attitudes they have in general.

    1. I live next to a fairly busy intersection with a stoplight and a university just down the road. How I dream of owning an EMP gun and blasting the audio systems of all the cars that stop there with their loud so-called music.

      1. I presume your trying to say that children in cars commit the same act… So what. My statement applies to any child who ‘expresses themself’ without regard to the impact it has on others. Of course then there are the children who feel justified in using force (such as an EMP gun) to regulate someone else’s behavior.

      2. I actually once built an electromagnetic pulser (just a small motor run cap discharged into a coil by a SCR) in order to interfere with a neighbor’s loud stereo in college. Of course, it wasn’t powerful enough or intended to do any permanent damage.

    2. Yes it’s definitely an asshole move to annoy not just everybody but especially other cyclists.
      And if per chance a cop is ever nearby, he’s in a nice closed car to muffle the noise – unlike the pedestrians and cyclists.

  9. I can’t believe all the people on here that are going on about how terrible it is to bike or even jog with headphones. All this hate makes me sad. Where I live I see people doing both all the time and it doesn’t cause a problem.

    I think we have too many rules as it is and making things even stricter would not be an improvement. It’s probaby both a cause and an effect of the obesity epidemic. Perhaps if more people were getting their fat asses up off of their couches and seeing how enjoyable a walk or a ride (with headphones) can be and how accidents do not necessarily result from it there wouldn’t be so many fat heads.

    1. being able to hear when riding a bike is pretty important, thought preventing yourself from being able to hear is really only going to hurt you.

      a lady who was jogging with headphones on the multiuse path near my home was killed by a bicycle. she made an abrupt u-turn right into the bike’s path because she had no idea it was behind her and trying to go around her.

  10. Headphone restrictions have been the law for years, as for the cranked up tunes, mainly suck for the home owner, and you hear is the stupid Boom, Boom, Thump nothing that sounds like music.

  11. LOVE THIS.

    back in the day it was a proud moment when you got ahold of 8 D batteries
    and were able to crank your tunes in public.

    nowadays people are too scared to let the world know what they are listening to.
    yet they “share support” on facebook

    i want it LOUDER, because I LIKE IT LOUD!

    if its only got one or two bad words…
    build an arm mounted mute button!
    or bleep, or car-horn :P

    1. And yet another spoiled child who only cares about himself.

      P.S. there is a world of difference between a public facebook posting that people can CHOOSE to read and being forced to endure the noise of some spoiled child.

  12. So this particular moron gets pulled over for wearing headphones and decides it’d be fun to retaliate by now subjecting everyone to whatever awful cr@p he chooses to blast out through this boom box. Why?

      1. Who cares what YOU enjoy. The Majority of those whom you inflict your noise pollution on, don’t agree. But being a child you clearly don’t care about any other person as long as you get to do what YOU enjoy…

  13. I go to the same college as this guy. His first iteration looked like $hit, it was inside a clear plastic container. I haven’t seen this new build yet. My first year i got a Stiga 120 Kick Scooter and put underglow, reasonable 1 watt amplifier, and NiMh batteries all crammed into the bottom hollow. I rebuilt it with LiIon, 15 watt bluetooth stereo and RGB underglow with a sexy black metal mesh to protect it. I wish i still had it but i cracked the aluminum deck.

  14. “those people are trying to could hit you!”

    Here’s a little thought experiment for you…

    You’re driving along a two-lane road with narrow lanes and no shoulder that is most commonly used by motorists commuting on a variant of a work-to-home journey. Less commonly by cyclists as a form of recreation.

    On your right you have a cyclist that is doing less than one-half of the posted speed limit, on your left is another oncoming motor vehicle. Given that both motor vehicles are traveling at (or more commomly- above) the posted speed limit. Who do you choose to possibly make (or narrowly avoid) contact with? The cyclist or the on-coming vehicle? If contact is made with one of these, who is more responsible?

    For my part- I blame the cyclist for obviously overlooking their responsibility to select a safe route for their recreation. I view this as being a similar scenario as a swimmer getting bit by a shark. Sure- water is water and necessary for the activity, but the swimmer is the one that chose the ocean over a pool. The shark is a shark and is just doing what a shark does, the swimmer is the idiot that ignored the logic necessary for their own safety.

    As for the cyclist- if there is a sidewalk, use it. Otherwise find a better route.

    1. According to traffic law here in California, cyclists are as much entitled to take up a full lane on a road as motor vehicles. The exception are places where cyclists are expressly forbidden, such as highways. The only time when we are required to cede to motor vehicle traffic is on two-lane roads where passing is illegal and we are only required to pull off temporarily to allow a line of five or more cars to pass.

      In other words, you have to treat bicyclists with just as much respect as you would any other car because we are just as entitled to the road as you are.

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