Headphones are a staple riding accessory for road cyclists and mountain bike riders alike. A good pair of cycling headphones can help keep you focused and improve performance. However, some may argue that using headphones while cycling, especially near roads, is dangerous. For some riders, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Always make sure you are aware of your surroundings and don’t have your music turned up too loud when cycling.
For many cyclists, headphones are absolutely essential especially for long rides. There are many different headphones to choose from with a variety of price points and features.
What to look for in cycling headphones:
Not all headphones are created equal, and cyclists have different needs than other athletes. Many cyclists can be out for hours at a time so comfort is a huge factor. Additionally, we are almost always near cars so safety and being able to stay aware of whats going on around us is also very important. Obviously price is always a factor, but whats more important is value. Cheap headphones are cheap, but a quality pair of more highly priced headphones can last 4-5 times as long as a cheaper pair. When you consider the cost of replacing a blown out pair of headphones every 3 months, opting for the best value cycling headphones can be a great long-term decision.
The best cycling headphones are those that will help you remain comfortable while riding. Ideally you should be able to connect your headphones to your phone or mp3 player and forget about them for the remainder of your ride. You want a pair of headphones that will not get in the way of your ride, and that will not fall out. It is also a good idea to consider whether or not you can easily change songs and adjust your volume without having to use your phone so cycling headphones with accessible controls are a plus.
I can tell you from experience, you only have to get hit by a car once before you really start to take safety seriously. I was hit by a car while cycling while 1. blasting my music and 2. not wearing a helmet.
Not my finest hour 🙁
A wise man once said you can either run from your mistakes or learn from them, and I'm not a runner. After that incident I made some changes to how I ride. I first off went and bought myself a helmet and second, bought myself a pair of bone conduction headphones (check out the Trekz Titaium below to learn more.) This has helped me retain my situational awareness while also being able to listen to my favorite tunes while out cycling.
Value and price are related but are not one in the same. If you buy a cheap pair of headphones you'll get a cheap pair of headphones. It's best to look for a pair of cycling headphones that has all the features and quality you want at a price that makes sense for what you're actually getting.
So lets get to the good stuff, the following are our picks for the best cycling headphones of 2017 and 2018! Remember to leave us a comment below to let us know what you think of our list.
The Trekz Titanium are premium wireless Bluetooth headphones that have garnered an excellent reputation for use with athletes. These cycling headphones will connect to any smart phone with Bluetooth capability.
The Trekz Titanium headphones are great specifically for cyclists due to their “bone conduction” technology. Using bone conduction means the sound vibrations are sent through your cheekbones and then processed by your inner ear. Traditional headphones are more or less two loudspeakers mounted directly on or inside of your ears. In short, bone conduction helps avoid shutting the listener off completely from the outside world.
Seeing as there are still not many bone conduction headphones on the market yet, it is this pair of headphone’s innate ability to provide enhanced situational awareness that make it a top choice for cyclists.
On the surface, the design of the Trekz Titanium is similar to many other wireless Bluetooth headphones currently on the market. The main difference between these and other headphones is the section that actually produces the sound. Rather than going inside of your ears, the buds sit in front of your ears and rest against your skull. This feature that gives the Trekz Titanium their bone conduction ability can also prove to be uncomfortable if worn for an extended period of time.
The Trekz Titanium headphones are not known for their superior sound quality. They provide decent sound, and they are great for podcasts or background music, but if you are looking for a pair of headphones to really be able to listen and enjoy the minute details of the music you are listening to, these are not the headphones for you. Now, with that being said, the Trekz Titanium headphones are not marketed as a music lover’s dream choice of headphones. They are marketed as a pair of headphones to help keep you aware of your surroundings through bone conduction technology. Sound quality takes a backseat to situational awareness, which is crucial for a cyclist.
The one piece design fits snugly on your head. Once properly adjusted, they are reasonably comfortable for a respectable amount of time. Although, they are not my first choice for a ride that I know will go past 4-5 hours. The interesting thing about this pair of headphones is that they actually sit against the side of your face rather than going into your ear. This allows for the sound to be conducted through your cheek bones. This may sound strange but you don’t feel the vibrations and it’s actually really cool to have a pair of headphones on and your ears completely uncovered.
The #1 feature of this pair of cycling headphones is the bone conduction. Apart from that they have simple volume controls and multi-function buttons on the side which are intuitive and effective. The biggest peeve about the features of this pair of headphones is they charge using micro-USB. With most devices using USB-C, this does make them seem a bit dated but it’s not a deal breaker.
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Summary
Pros: The Trekz Titanium headphones are easy to use and reasonably compact. They use bone conduction technology to allow the listener to get a decent sound experience without compromising on safety.
Cons: Some users may experience some sound leakage at high volumes. They are also not ideal for longer rides as they may become uncomfortable. Bone conduction is still a relatively new technology, so these headphones lack on the actual sound quality.
For being such a relatively new name in the headphone industry, Beats headphones have skyrocketed in popularity. This is in part due to their connection with Apple, but also because they are known for producing headphones with excellent sound quality. Some of the key things I look for in a good overall pair of wireless cycling headphones are sound quality, battery life, and intuitive controls. The Powerbeats 3 excel in all of these areas, making them a great choice if you are looking for a great pair of headphones for cycling and for other activities.
The area where the Powerbeats3 stand out from the competition is sound quality. The Beats by Dre line of headphones have always had a great reputation for sound quality, and the Powerbeats3 most definitely live up to that reputation. For the best sound quality possible, you will want to ensure you get the best possible fit. For most people, the default tips that come with the headphones will work fine, but if not there are different sizes available.
As with many other wireless headphones, the Powerbeats 3 Wireless in-ear headphones have two separate buds that have a wire running between them which goes around your neck to help them in place. While this is not a truly “wireless” design, it is great for cyclists and other athletes alike because it ensures the headphones will stay in place during your workout.
Beats by Dre is owned by Apple, which makes the Powerbeats3 a great choice for Apple users. Not only can you connect to your phone via Bluetooth, but if you have a newer iPhone model, such as the iPhone 7, you can also connect via Apple’s W1 chip. Simply hold the power button on your Powerbeats 3 for 1 second while near your phone, and they connect. Additionally, they will automatically connect to any other devices that are on the same icloud network.
The Powerbeats3 run off of an internal battery, which boasts up to 12 hours of life with continuous use. They also have a quick charge feature which allows you to charge them for literally 5 minutes and get a full hour of playback time. If I was looking for a good all around pair of headphones that will be great for cycling, going to the gym, using at work, traveling or anywhere else, these would be my pick hands down.
Powerbeats 3 Summary
Pros: The Powerbeats3 have incredible sound quality. They are owned by Apple, making them easily able to be paired with most Apple phones.
Cons: They are definitely on the expensive side, but if sound quality is what you are looking for, they are worth the price. For cyclists specifically, you may want to tread lightly as the excellent sound quality may tempt you to turn of the volume, which will decrease your awareness of your surroundings.
They are a very well balanced, high quality pair of headphones. The sound is crisp, clear, and maintains this even at high volume. One thing to note, these are not noise cancelling headphones. While this may deter some audiophiles, this is an excellent feature for cyclists who need to maintain awareness of their surrounds to stay safe.
Inheriting features from previous headphone models, the fit has been a long time in the making. They stay in place very well, and are incredibly comfortable. The actual ear buds fit nicely into your ears. There is a small loop directly behind the earbud that actually pushes against your ear to keep them in place. The gel earbuds are a one-size-fits all, and this is done intentionally to maintain the wearers ability to be aware of their surroundings.
The controls of these headphones were surprisingly intuitive and it’s almost as if they were made specifically for cyclists. The left ear provides easy control of your playback and volume. Unlike most other headphones, the volume control is a single notch as opposed to two buttons or a rocker. You turn up the volume by quickly clicking the notch and turn down the volume by holding it down. This feature was surprisingly nice as a cyclist. Most of the time you want to ease into increasing your volume, but when you want to lower it, it’s nice to be able to do it quickly with a single gesture.
On the right side, you have your power, charging port and phone call button. The phone button has the ability to place and answer calls as well as control things like Siri.
Additionally, these headphones actually tell you how much battery is left. No more guessing based on “low, medium, high” or a line of LED lights. You will always know exactly how much battery you have left. These also have a few other notable features that make them a great purchase including quick charge which gives you the ability to charge for 15 minutes and have an hour of battery life. They can be connected to 8 separate devices, and the battery can last up to 7-8 hours.
When you consider all the intuitive features you get with this set of headphones, they are an absolute steal at their price point when compared to competitors.
Platronics Backbeat Fit Review
Pros: Great price point, they can often be found on sale. The sound quality is incredible even at high volume. They have a comfortable & secure fit. They are not noise cancelling, so you can maintain your awareness of your surroundings.
Cons: Not many! Some may be turned off by the fact that they are not noise cancelling, but as a cyclists, this is something you should actually be looking for.
Choosing The Best Cycling Headphones For Your Needs
Cycling is a sport that requires concentration, and some riders simply cannot attain that without listening to music. This being said, it is crucial that volume of any headphones that you decide to purchase is low enough while riding that you are still aware of your surroundings.
Every rider is different and what you are looking for in a pair of headphones will ultimately determine which pair is the best for you. Your selection shouldn’t be random. Although many headphones look alike, some are stronger in certain aspects like comfort and sound quality than others. The headphones reviewed here all have their strengths and weaknesses but are ultimately all great choices for cycling headphones.
Share Your Thoughts!
What do you look for when shopping for cycling headphones?
- Sound Quality?
- Good Situational Awareness?
- Best Bargain?
Let us know in the comments section below!