Most of the time bicycle touring is exciting and fun with plenty to see, hear and experience along the way. But sometimes you find yourself on a long, flat, straight road where hours can feel like days. One of the ways that we entertain ourselves and make the time go faster on days like this is listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I don't recommend this on roads that need your full attention but I find it perfectly safe on roads where you have your own space and little traffic.
A History of the world by Andrew Marr.
Cycling around the world? Then you should probably learn about its history. I was sceptical about listening to a history book when Matthew first recommended it to me but once I got into it I realised it is the perfect audiobook for bike touring. This 26 hour long epic chronicles the history of ancient civilisations through to the 21st century. It is, of course, a non-fiction book but way less dry than I expected it to be. Sometimes the timing of certain chapters added more meaning to our journey. I learned about Chinese dynasties and the invasions of nomadic tribes while cycling through north west China. It described the legacy of the terrible Vietnam war when I happened to be on the road between Ho Chi Minh and the Cambodian border, helping me to understand how it has affected life in these countries and allowing me to appreciate the resilience of the people around me. The book doesn't focus entirely on war, although there has been a lot of it, and also makes entertaining connections between people and events in history. It often debunks popular beliefs and commonly held understandings about our world that I had always just taken as fact. The book has now been adapted into a major BBC TV series.
Link to this audio book on audible :
Tip: You get 1 book for free on the 30 day trial. We picked this one because it was so long and and seemed like a good deal. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Link below to the free trial for UK.
Get a Free Audiobook With Your 30 Day Trial
Link below for US free trial. Not sure why the US gets 2 free books and UK only 1. Oh well. :)
Get 2 Audiobooks Free With your 30 Day Trial
This American Life
First recommended to me by an American friend but most episodes aren't too US-specific. A weekly public radio program and podcast. Each week they choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. Expect random stories, investigative journalism and some fiction. I'm totally addicted to this. You can download the most recent episode for free on their website or buy the app for 2.99 euro and download as many as you want from the archive for offline listening. New ones are added to the archive every week.
Comedian Chris Gethard has a one hour phone conversation with a stranger in every episode. The conversation can be about anything. Some are really funny but lots are very emotional. It sometimes gets a bit touchy feely for my liking but is a great one for understanding more about mental health issues as the conversations often tend to go in that direction. Can be found at Earwolf along with lots of other podcasts. Download as many as you want for free for offline listening.
A series of 8 podcasts that start by investigating a murder and then go in lots of different directions. Hard to explain but excellent podcast. Can be listened to on their website or from podcast apps. From the makers of Serial which is also worth a listen.
We tend to listen to podcasts and audiobooks more often than music. I find that getting into a story distracts me more when on a boring road or a tough climb when I'm not really in the mood. Occasionally, when we find ourselves on a quiet road or path (which is not often on our route across Asia), we play music on a speaker and listen while cycling along at our leisure. For the first 6 months we used a JBL Charge 2 speaker which happened to fit snugly in a bottle cage. It had great sound and volume and is supposed to be splashproof (although we tended to put it away in rain) but sometimes had trouble connecting via bluetooth. A couple of months ago, we replaced it with the Bose Soundlink Micro which is much smaller, waterproof and connects easily but isn't quite as loud. It has a handy strap so it can be attached to a bike frame, handlebar bag or backpack.
Links below to the speakers mentioned in post:
JBL Charge 2
Bose Soundlink Micro
The road in the picture below was perfect for listening to music together. Plenty of space to cycle side-by-side and no traffic to drown out the music. We gave the current top 40 chart playlist a go but gave up after the first 10 songs sounded the same... we must be getting old.
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