On my first big cycle trip, I deliberately didn’t take an MP3 player. Part of the trip’s joy was to get away from modern life and make me appreciate its trappings all the more when I returned.
On my current trip, a year or more on the road, my MP3 player has been an absolute blessing. Yes, I still enjoy escaping 21st century living but I get plenty of that every day as it is. For those days when motivation is low or the road dull, audiobooks and podcasts are fantastic. Plus, it helps stop my brain from stagnating from a year of exercise with little intellectual input.
Below are a collection of podcasts that Laura and I listen to on our bikes and would recommend to anyone else travelling.
We still have many months of cycling ahead so please do add any recommendations. Almost all of ours come from BBC Radio 4 which may be the best station in the world but we’d certainly appreciate having our minds broadened!
How we listen whilst cycling
First up, for those concerned about safety, I primarily listen to talk radio and just use one earphone. On busy roads, in poor conditions and at night, I turn it off.
Laura has an Android smartphone and I have a tiny cheap MP3 player that cost about £20. We both have small waterproof pouches we hang around our necks and stick in our pockets.
Finally, we use the free Android app OneCast to manage podcast downloads.
Podcasts to Travel to
All the podcasts below are available for free.
Famous people are interviewed about their lives around a format of choosing eight songs they’d take to a desert island.
It may sound naff but this is a fantastic show and I guarantee you’ll find someone in their thousands of guests that you’re interested in. Plenty of adventurers have been on the show (e.g. Ran Fiennes, Bear Grylls, Anne Daniels, Pen Hadow) but it includes people from all walks of life. The current host, Kirsty Young, is supremely skilled at teasing out personal stories from even the most reluctant of guests. Huge archive of guests over several decades. Thousands of episodes.
A discussion about a significant figure from history. What makes it more interesting is that the figure each week is nominated by an enthusiast so you get to hear a different side to contemporary celebrities too (e.g. MP Eric Pickles talking about the film director John Ford, or ex-footballer Grahame Le Saux enthusing about conservationist Gerald Durrell). 200+ episodes.
Short 10-minute podcasts about the people who have changed Britain or reflect its changes during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Edmund Hilary to Barbara Windsor, Simon Cowell to Rupert Murdoch. ~60 episodes.
Ideas worth spreading. Some really interesting talks here. They have a wonderful website where you can watch and download all their videos. With a little more effort you can find MP3s to listen to e.g. on this spreadsheet, by converting their videos or by converting YouTube clips (see below).
This show takes numbers from the news (e.g. claims by politicians and newspaper headlines), popular ideas (e.g. there are more people alive today than there has been in the history of the world?) or controversial issues (does wearing a bike helmet really make you safer?), crunches them and determines the truth. Big archive.
“Makes sense of the ideas that change the world”. Like the degree of any self-respecting Cabinet Minister, this podcast covers politics, philosophy and economics. Weekly when running.
This is apparently popular. I enjoyed the book and although the titles of every podcast sound fascinating, the rigour and focus of their investigation is rubbish so I’ve given up on them.
Recommended by lots of people. Just downloaded my first episide. Weekly.
Other shows I like…
Otherwise, I listen to lots of politics and economics shows which might have less broad appeal (e.g. Radio 4’s Week in Westminster, Any Questions, Guardian Politics Weekly and The Economist Audio). My favourite show is BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze.
Laughs are a great motivator on a slow day. It’s hard to find good comedy but Radio 4’s Friday Night Comedy is an exception. The shows rotate with the News Quiz by far the best. The The Now Show is OK. Weekly.
Quite old now and whilst plenty of it is puerile the other half is laugh out loud funny. 24 episodes, first 12 free.
More comedy recommendations welcome!
Adventure & Travel Podcasts
Ocean rower Roz Savage interviews other adventurers every week.
The website’s based around cheap and alternative travel. The regular podcast interviews guests from the world of travel and adventure.
The show that makes better cyclists. Laura says this covers interesting topics about cycling but the lack of editing means the pace is often a bit slow and rambling.
Good Sources of Podcasts
The BBC has a vast array of podcasts you can download. I get most of mine from Radio 4.
Weekly podcasts on music, science, politics, technology and sport. I listen to the politics one and have used Football Daily to keep me informed about the World Cup.
You can convert any YouTube video into an MP3 which, with a little more effort, opens up a whole world of possibilities.
What other podcasts would you recommend?