Safe(r), effective, non eardrum destroying headphones for bikes?
February 17, 2015 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Has bicycling earphone technology advanced since these old threads?

Right now, I ride with an earbud in my right ear, with volume pumped up probably too loud for long-term ear health, and nothing on my left ear, so that in theory I can hear traffic etc. It's a shitty solution. What else should I try?

Have you used Slipstreamz or some other magical bicycle earphone product?
posted by latkes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Speaker in your bottle cage or mounted on your handlebars, Cat-Ears, Slipstreamz, or similar on your helmet straps.
posted by asperity at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2015

I use Aftershockz and I suppose I like them. They talk big about bone conduction technology and all that, but they're essentially just little speakers that sit in front of your ear instead of over it.

That being said, I can use them fairly quietly and still hear everything, what's on the headphones as well as other bike dings, traffic noises, and people talking. I find it much better than when I was wearing the one earbud.

however, I mostly listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I ride so I can't really speak to the quality of musical sound that comes out of them.

bonus: their base level model (the one I have) is actually cheap enough to just try.
posted by euphoria066 at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2015

It's a silly solution, but I took a hacksaw to a cheap set of clamp on time trial bars and cut them in to a short fork shape, wrapped them in that fabric fireproofing stuff people put on motorcycle exhaust pipes, then bungee cabled a big jambox to them, which can be had for $80 or so in non perfect cosmetic condition on eBay.

10/10 would do again. It's louder than some car stereos and the bass vibrates the handlebars without getting distorted. And if you're riding with other people, they can enjoy it too and pick tracks. It RULES.
posted by emptythought at 2:19 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh, bonus awesome feature about that setup(or something conceptually similar) the jambox has pause/play/skip forward and back buttons. You can press them without taking your hands off the handlebars. Ditto for volume. No reaching up and fiddling with something on the headphone cable, or nudging your phone in your pocket/shoulder strap.

As for noise pollution, meh, a lot of people drive with their stereo on and windows down unless it's raining. It's quieter than that unless you intentionally crank it all the way up.
posted by emptythought at 2:29 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

They talk big about bone conduction technology and all that, but they're essentially just little speakers that sit in front of your ear instead of over it.

Bone conduction headphones would be a good solution for you. They aren't actually little speakers in any traditional sense. They are vibrating metal pads that transmit sound right to your cochlea, bypassing the outer and middle ear, so you basically retain the ability to hear what's around you as well. It works on the same principle as a bone-anchored hearing aid. Depending on how bass-heavy your music is and how particular you are about sound quality, your mileage may vary a bit (low frequencies on a bone knocker can be pretty rattling on your head). There are a few options if you search through amazon, or go with the one linked above.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:17 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've found Cat-Ears cut wind noise remarkably well.
posted by Wemmick at 6:24 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lots of companies make small bluetooth speakers that could be an option for you.

I have an Outdoor Technologies Buckshot. It straps to my handlebars and pumps my jams.

Boombotix also makes some.
posted by entropone at 9:46 AM on February 18, 2015

My 2 cents:
Ambient noise reduction is probably at least as important as fidelity. There is a lot of white noise in biking, from wind to mechanical noise, my own gasping for breath, and the noise made by other vehicles gunning their engines or whooshing by. It seems to me that a good set of ear buds which may cut the general noise a few decibels would be a good place to start. If the general din is reduced, you will still hear the warning sounds as well as you might have, and then you can introduce your own tunes at a level that will allow you to achieve some fidelity without damaging your ears. Producing this sound is less demanding at a lower volume, so you have bought yourself some quality at a cheaper price.
posted by halhurst at 11:21 AM on February 18, 2015

I use aftershockz (I got them for like 50 dollarsish) when I really want to listen to music while riding. They're pretty decent? The music quality is kinda bad, but that's never been my top priority while biking; I can make out what's going on in the music, and that's enough for me. You do have to charge them after every 6 or 8 hours of use, and it's usb, so that might affect your opinion.

They don't muffle any noise around me, so I can stay pretty alert. But the music is more ambient noise, so I really don't like them (or any music at all) for in-city rides, because I'm distractable enough as it is. And there's a lot of wire, so I don't use them whenever I'm using a bag on my back because I usually just them tangled. But I really, really like them for longer 40+ mile rides.
posted by you could feel the sky at 2:21 PM on February 18, 2015

So I got Aftershokz and I'm happy with them for podcasts and music! They aren't perfect,and they cause an odd sensation in my temples that doesn't quite rise to the level of an ache but is in the same family, but overall, I can hear the road and my audio, so, success!

I do enjoy the idea of blasting my personal boom box on my handlebars but seems a little unwieldy, although awesomely stylish. Thanks all.
posted by latkes at 10:05 AM on March 1, 2015

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