Did you know that using the wrong pair of headphones for cycling can kill you? It may sound dramatic, but you only have to survive being hit by a car once before you start taking your cycling headphones seriously. This happened to me, and since then, I have made it a goal to educate my readers about the importance of choosing the right pair of headphones.
Plantronics Backbeat Fit
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Wouldn't it be great if you could find a pair of headphones that were specifically designed for the needs of cyclists?
How about 5 of them instead!
Earphones 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.
But performance isn't everything...
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.
In this article we've made it easy for you.
If you are looking for a great pair of headphones that are designed for the needs of a cyclist, check out our top picks:
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
Overall Rating - 4.5/5
On Sale 7th November 2018
Enhanced situational awareness. Best for cyclists who ride near traffic frequently.
Overall Rating - 4.5/5
Great if you are looking for a customizable sound. The app allows for EQ adjustments. Great sound quality out of the box. Arguably some of the best we have ever tested.
Overall Rating - 4/5
Best sound quality. Ideal for cyclists who stick to the trails and value high quality, full sound.
Dubs Labs Versafit - Editor's Choice
Overall Rating - 5/5
A great cycling specific set of headphones. They allow you to be fully aware of your surroundings and fit perfectly under a headband or helmet.
Plantronics Backbeat FIT
Overall Rating - 4/5
A good overall pair of headphones. Best for cyclists who also need headphones for other activities.
What To Look For In Headphones For Cycling
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 headphones for cycling 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.
There is a lot of debate in the cycling community as to whether or not you should even wear headphones while cycling. It undoubtedly boosts performance, but also puts you at risk. That is why opting for a pair of headphones that allows you to be aware of your surroundings is critical.
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.
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Best Headphones For Cycling
The following are our picks for the best headphones for cycling in 2018.
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.
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.
On Sale 7th November 2018
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 a tad bit uncomfortable if worn for an extended period of time, so these are best for shorter rides.
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.
The Next Gen: Trekz Air
We are currently in the process of testing the next generation of these headphones, the Trekz Air. So far, we have found that they are lighter, more comfortable, but have the same overall performance specs. If you want the latest and greatest, I suggest purchasing the Air through the Trekz website rather than Amazon. They are cheaper and come with a 2 year warranty. Check the price below
On Sale 7th November 2018
The Powerbeats3 have incredible sound quality. They are owned by Apple, making them easily able to be paired with most Apple phones.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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 the the Backbeat Fit 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.
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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.
Sound quality sound quality sound quality. If you are into audio, these are for you. You can customize the EQ to your liking. Comfortable fit, intuitive design. Waterproof
They are pricier, but you are paying for top quality materials. There is a proprietary charger which could be off putting to some.
Sound quality is where the Jaybird X4 headphones does circles around the competition. They hold their own with headphones that cost twice as much.
If sound quality if your #1 purchase factor, look no further because these are the best you are going to get.
A big selling point for these headphones is the ability to customize the EQ of the headphones within the app. This allows for a truly customized sound experience. Coupled with quality construction and attention to audio detail, they will absolutely blow you away.
The mids have prominence and the bass is punchy without being overbearing.
These over the neck style headphones are not unlike some others mentioned on this list. The design is pretty straight forward and the controls are easy to use.
Some features from previous Jaybird models are also in the X4, such as cable management clips as well as wingtip accessories to get the best customized fit.
The earbud casing has been reduced from previous models. This means that they are now "helmet friendly", meaning you can wear a helmet and having your headphones in won't cause any issues or discomfort.
The Jaybird X4 are bluetooth 4.1 enabled. This means that you can connect to multiple devices without any issue. This could really come in handy if you have a cycling watch that allows you to play music independent of your phone. You can switch between connections seamlessly.
The headphones comes with the MySound app which allows you to customize the EQ to your liking. This is the biggest notable feature that makes these headphones something other than just another pair of headphones. If you're into that sort of thing, this could be a game changer for you and well worth the few extra bucks.
The Jaybird x4 is a very recent release from Jaybird Sport and replaces the x3 model. The big difference between the x3 and the x4 is that the x4 are waterproof and have conquered some battery issues the x3 was prone to.
They fit perfectly under a headband or helmet. You can hear your surroundings clearly. Battery life is more than sufficient for multiple rides.
They lack good bass. They take a while to get fitted properly.
For the type of headphones these are, the sound quality is quite good. Considering they sit on the flat against the outside of your ears, you get a decent range of treble and bass. Their main selling points are that they are flat, and that they allow you to hear your surroundings. They won't be able to compete in the quality arena with high-end headphones for audiophiles like the Jaybird X3, but for what they are, the sound quality was good. However, if you want a little more lower frequency range, I did find that you're able to get more bass if you put them under a headband, which pushes them against your ears more.
They are great for cycling specifically because you are able to hear what is going on around you which keeps you safe, but won't be good for things like the gym or at the office, because a lot of sound does seep in.
These are unique design to say the least. They are created specifically for cyclists, which is the only pair of headphones on this list that can say that.
They have a wire that wraps around the back of your neck, and the actual speakers sit flat up against the side of your ears. The speaker section is held to your ear by a flexible but sturdy cable that holds its shape once you set it. They do take a bit of playing around with once you first get them, but once you find the fit you like, they will stay on for your whole ride.
The Dubslabs Versafit comes with all the standard features you expect from modern bluetooth headphones. You are able to start and stop your music as well as adjust the volume with the controls on the side.
The biggest feature about these headphones that set them apart is how flat they sit against your head. The closest second is the Trekz Titanium, but the sound quality on these is better. You can literally sleep with these headphones in and they are comfortable.
The other big thing to consider with these headphones is the amount of situational awareness you have. If you want, you're able to hold a full conversation while listening to music, which means you'll be able to hear other cyclists or cars when you're riding.
>>Note - These headphones are also great for sleeping in. If you're interested, check out our post about the best headphones for sleeping.
Since writing this review, Dubs Labs has reached out to thank us for including them in our post by offering our readers a discount code. Use the coupon code PLANET15 for 15% off the Versafit.
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.
A good pair of cycling headphones should help you remain aware, have premium features such as bluetooth connectivity so you can pair with your phone or a watch that monitors your heart rate, and be comfortable enough to wear on a long ride.
Share Your Thoughts!
What do you look for when shopping for cycling headphones?
Let us know in the comments section below!