Wearing earphones and listening to music while riding is one of those topics, like wearing a helmet, or the correct length for socks, that divides the cycling community.
The main argument against is that earphones block out surrounding sounds, so cyclists are less aware of aural cues like traffic noise, spoken or shouted warnings of hazards, and so on.
Proponents of listening to music whilst riding say that it can boost their ability to ride harder, faster and with more enjoyment. Others simply enjoy the escapism and motivation that listening to music can bring to a solo ride or training session.
I enjoy listening to music while I ride. I used a pair of Jaybird Bluebuds X in-ear Bluetooth headphones, until the inline controller failed.
I replaced them with Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Bluetooth headphones, which address the problem of earbuds blocking the ear canal by positioning transducers in front of your ears, rather than in the ear canal.
Using bone conduction technology, sound vibrations are transmitted directly to the inner ears via the cheekbones, bypassing the eardrums completely.
The Trekz Titaniums have been a revelation. I rate headphones for use while cycling on five criteria:
- Fit / comfort
- Battery life
- Sound quality
- Ease of use
My primary requirement for headphones is that they fit well, and are comfortable for many hours. The Trekz Titaniums do fit well. The wraparound headband, or more accurately, neckband, is flexible, and the headphones are light (36g / 1.27oz).
I wear the headphones as shown in the photograph below. I find that fitting the arms holding the transducers over the stems of my glasses helps with long-term comfort. That way, the transducers do not press so hard on your cheekbones.
Some reviewers complained that these headphones are slightly uncomfortable after prolonged use. To them I say riding a bicycle gets slightly uncomfortable after a prolonged time, unless you change hand positions, move around on the saddle and so on every now and then. Take the Trekz Titaniums off whenever you stop for a break, and discomfort will not be an issue.
My second requirement for headphones is battery life. The Trek Titaniums have a claimed battery life of six hours. I have exceeded that estimate on a number of occasions.
Sound quality is my third assessment criteria. The Trekz Titaniums have enough fidelity to suit my needs. The sound quality is not brilliant, but if I wanted to enjoy the full range, definition, and subtle nuances in my music, I wouldn’t be listening to it while riding a bike.
More importantly, the bone conduction technology works as advertised. I can hear what is going on around me, and hold conversations, while these headphones are pushing music to my inner ears.
The controls for these headphones are easy to use. On the right arm are a volume up button that also serves as a power button, and a volume down button. Next to these sit a Micro USB port for charging the headphones.
On the outside of the right hand transducer is a multi-function button. Pressing this button once allows you to play and pause tracks, answer and reject calls, and activate Siri or Google Now voice commands.
You can also double-press it to skip forward to the next track in your playlist. Oddly, there is no capability to move backwards through your playlist, so repeating a favourite song is not an option.
As for durability, these headphones are well-built. The controls work reliably. Bluetooth connectivity is fast and consistent, with a range of 10 meters / 33 feet. More importantly, sweat, of which I produce a lot, and rain have not had an adverse effect. A nanotechnology coating and watertight rubber gaskets repel sweat and moisture.
The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones are available in four colours, and two sizes. The Mini comes with a headband which is 4.7cm / 2ins shorter than the standard headband.
The Aftershokz Treks Titanium Bluetooth headphones are an essential part of my cycling kit, like a helmet and spare tube. I recommend them to all my cycling buddies.