Do you like to wear headphones while cycling, but you are concerned about safety? I had the same issue, so I did a lot of research on the subject, and was happy to find that there are safer options. In this post I share what I found out about how to choose the safest headphones for cycling. This is a long post, with a lot of information. I start off with an infographic that sums up the pros and cons of the 4 safest headphones for cyclists. Then I have a chart that compares my top picks, and then I review them.
Chart Showing the Top 4 Safest Headphones for Cycling
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My picks for the safest headphones for cycling are in the slide show below. Hovering over a picture will pause the slide show. Clicking on any of the slides will take you to the latest price on Amazon.
No. 1: Trekz Titanium Cordless Bluetooth Open Ear Bone Conduction Headphones
A little while ago I spotted a crowdfunder on Indiegogo for a Bluetooth version of the Aftershokz earphones – the new CORDLESS Trekz Titanium Bluetooth open ear bone conduction earphones. I thought it was such a great idea that I supported the crowdfunder, and was one of the first to get these earphones.
You can also buy Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones directly from Aftershokz.
The great thing about these headphones are that they leave your ears completely open – they are open-ear earphones. I guess they should really be called cheekphones, not earphones, as they don’t go in your ears. They work by conducting sound waves through your cheek bones, with nothing at all plugged into your actual ears. Bone conduction headphones are my personal choice, satisfying my desire to listen to music on my long commute without compromising my ability to hear what is going on around me.
This video provides a balanced review of the Trekz Titanium headphones, and the reviewer has a marvelously soothing voice! His comments are all relevant to the upgraded Aftershokz Air headphones, which are much the same except for being slightly lighter and stronger. If you want to buy the cheaper Aftershokz Trekz Titanium, click here for the price
I also have my own review of these headphones here.
My Trekz Titanium earphones have turned out to be my ultimate cycling headphones. This is because they are both open ear and Bluetooth. I am just not safe with corded headphones, as I am unbelievably clumsy. That leaves Bluetooth as my only option for headphones. I now use these Trekz Titanium earphones exclusively for cycling. My ears are open (for my safety), and there are no cords (for my phone’s safety).
Apart from the Bluetooth aspect, the other big innovation with these earphones are the titanium frame. Trekz chose titanium for strength, durability, and infinite flexibility. It did take me a little while to get used to them, because the titanium feels stiffer than rubber (because it IS stiffer). However, I find I can drape the neck band down towards my neck, so it does not have to be under my bike helmet, and this works just fine. Most of the time I hear my music just fine, and the quality of the sound is more than acceptable to me. I don’t even remember that it is bone conduction while I am wearing them.
And here’s an update: Trekz has proudly announced that you can now buy the earlier edition Trekz Titanium in PINK!
I am not going to tell you the music on bone conduction headphones is the same quality as something like the Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones (my current favorites for off-the-bike use, because the sound is simply awesome – but they are not suitable for cycling as they exclude almost all other sound). It’s a different technology, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the quality of the music to be quite as good. However, it is a compromise I am more than happy to make, as it enables me to listen to reasonable quality music safely.
For safety from traffic and clumsiness, the Trekz Titanium are a very clear, stand-out winner to be named no. 1 in my list of safest headphones for cyclists!
A Cheaper Option for Wireless Open Ear Bone Conduction Headphones – SainSonic BM-7
If the Trekz are a bit too expensive for your taste, there is a similar product that costs about half the price – SainSonic BM-7 bone conduction headphones. However, I still prefer the Trekz. You can read my in-depth comparison of the Trekz and the Sainsonic headphones here.
No. 2: Trekz Aftershokz Sportz Bone Conduction Wired Open Ear Headphones
The second choice are also Aftershokz open-ear headphones, but they are wired, not Bluetooth – and so they are much cheaper. These Aftershokz Sportz earphones are very lightweight, and the battery lasts for ages. Plus – and it’s a big plus – they are very rugged. I am quite sick of expensive earphones that die after a very short time, apparently unable to withstand the rigors of (my) real life.
These headphones cost less than fifty dollars, yet they do what I need, safely, and I have not been able to break them. You can read my full review of Aftershokz headphones here, and see what you think. They are my no. 2 pick for safest corded headphones for cyclists. They are shown in the picture, modeled by Maggie.
I highly recommend that you buy your Aftershokz Sportz headphones from Amazon – you can return them and get your money back if you find you don’t like bone conduction sound! Also, I get a tiny benefit from the affiliate link, which costs you nothing, but helps me to keep on writing. Now that it’s my full time job, it’s kind of essential that I make some money out of it 🙂
The only drawback with these earphones is they are wired, so you have to do the whole snaking-the-cord-through-your-shirt thing, to prevent the cord snagging on your bike and jerking the phone onto the road – which has happened to me, and resulted in my iPhone 4 being run over by 3 cars and smashed into 4 pieces – not a good day for me.
No. 3: Plantronics BackBeat Fit Wireless In-ear Non-immersive Earphones
Non-immersive earphones do go into your ears, but they are especially designed not to exclude ambient sound. They were designed with runners in mind, but of course work equally well for cyclists. In my opinion, these are a pretty good compromise. That’s why I have rated Plantronics BackBeat Fit non-immersive earphones at no. 3. That, plus the fact that they are my all-time favorite headphones!
Personally, I find that cycling with non-immersive earphones in both ears is still too insulating for me, so when I used my non-immersive Plantronics BackBeat FIT earphones, I still only plugged up one ear. It’s best to try it on a quiet street and figure out your own comfort level. These are great headphones, so even though they plug up your ears to some extent, they are rated at no. 3 on this list of the safest headphones for cyclists.
No. 4: JayBird X3 Wireless In-ear Immersive (Noise-Reducing) Bluetooth Earphones
Most earphones are designed to exclude ambient noise and immerse you in the sound of your choice. These are sometimes called noise-reducing or noise-cancelling headphones. For example, the very popular Bluetooth JayBird X3 sports headphones are designed to be immersive earphones. However, there are obvious drawbacks to immersive headphones for cyclists, which is why the usually highly rated Jaybird X3 are only rated at no. 4 on this list of safest headphones for cyclists.
It is usually best for cyclists to be aware of their surroundings (unless you are cycling in utter isolation – for example, somewhere in the Sahara Desert, or unless you are lucky enough to be cycling at dawn on physically separated bike lanes).
But if you really want JayBirds or some other immersive earphones, it is possible to compromise and only plug one earphone in when you are cycling. This leaves you with 50% of your hearing power available to listen for cars or yelling – and probably about 80% better off than 95% of your fellow road users. (Don’t try to do the math – it doesn’t add up!) Of course, it would be best to plug up the ear that is closest to the sidewalk, not to the traffic.
You can read much more about the new, advanced and much better Jaybird 3 headphones here.
Update: Something Completely Different – Coros Smart Helmet with integrated speakers and microphone
This is a brand new helmet that integrates bone conduction sound via the helmet for safe listening, plus gives a better quality of voice calls – while still leaving your ears wide open. The video below is a review of the Coros Smart Helmet, as I have not had a chance to review one yet.
With deafening traffic and high wind speeds, the sound is sometimes compromised with any headphones. To improve that, I recommend wind blockers (buffers that you attach to your helmet straps). They are not a total solution for open-ear headphones, as they are designed to shield in-ear earphones. But they do help.
Bottom Line on Choosing the Safest Headphones for Cycling
If you want to find the safest headphones for cycling, it comes down to what your own comfort level is. For me, I have tried all kinds, and it turns out that I need the safest option possible: open ear, cordless headphones: my new Trekz Titanium earphones. I can hear my surroundings perfectly, but I still get to listen to my music. Plus, there are no cords to catch on my brake levers, so I will not accidentally jerk my phone onto the road, and crush yet another iPhone. Instead, my iPhone is safely tucked away in the padded pocket of my favorite Two Wheel Gear Pannier. Finally, these Trekz Titanium earphones are extremely tough, which is necessary if you are using them for an activity like cycling (or if, like me, you are just plain clumsy).
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An After Thought: Why is it That ONLY Cyclists are Lectured for Wearing Headphones?
I find it very odd that many people are so strident on the issue of cyclists not wearing headphones, but most don’t seem to have a problem with motorists or pedestrians who embrace distractions. Motorists with windows up and music blaring are utterly insulated from the sound around them – yet at the same time are driving a machine that can bring instant death to an entire family or an entire peloton of cyclists within seconds. Many times I have saved myself from danger by yelling at an absent-minded motorist to alert him of my presence – but this only works in summer. Clearly, it would be safer for cyclists and pedestrians if motorists had to keep their windows open at all times and were not allowed to have radios – yet somehow I don’t think that would be a popular suggestion!
It might be that the argument has to do with cyclists putting ourselves at risk, rather than the danger we might pose to others. Most roads are simply not safe for cyclists – and instead of making them safe, people just want us to be alert enough to deal with it. For example, Marilyn Johnson, a researcher at Monash University’s Accident Research Centre in Australia, said: “I think it’s dangerous enough when you’re cycling to be on the road when drivers aren’t looking out for you … For you to have one of your senses removed by being distracted with sound, I don’t think it’s a safe behavior for cyclists.”
Mmm … maybe it would be a good idea to do something about all those careless drivers? Just a thought!
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