Riding with headphones is a very personal choice and there are raging debates for both sides amongst the cycling community. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. You should consider all risks before riding with headphones. Take all the safety precautions to minimise risk to yourself and others on the road.
With that out of the way, if you’re looking for a great pair of headphones to ride safely with, check out the few options highlighted below!
- PowerBeats Pro – Best Battery Life
- Jabra Elite Active 75t – Top Overall Pick
- Bose SoundSport Pulse
- Apple AirPod Pro
- AfterShokz Trekz Air – Safest Cycling Headphones
How To Choose Cycling Headphones
When buying headphones for cycling you need to consider more than just sound quality and aesthetics. We’ve listed out a few features you should look out for as you decide.
Safety first when it comes to cycling, especially if you commute in a busy CBD area on a daily basis. Keep the volume low enough so you can still hear oncoming traffic, or even consider just plugging in one earbud. Highly recommend you don’t look for anything that’s noise cancelling!
Most (true) wireless earbuds don’t drown out all environmental sound, so you should still be able to hear the traffic if you haven’t turned up the volume. Alternatively, consider swapping the wireless earbuds for bone conduction headphones like the AfterShokz Trekz. They don’t plug into your ears and create sound via vibrations on your cheekbones, delivering sound directly to your inner ear.
Just don’t be the person rolling around with over-ear headphones and no helmet…
Final note, check the local laws as some cities have made it illegal to ride with headphones on. In particular, three states (California, Delaware and Maryland) regulate the to use headsets.
Comfort & Fit
The comfort and fit of a pair of headphones is quite a subjective topic but the five options we’ve highlighted should cover off most types of ears / heads!
We haven’t chosen to review any wired options here as the freedom of movement and technology in wireless headphones now is just plain better for cyclists. One drawback previously was the battery life but wireless headphones have come a long way over the last few years.
Depending on where you ride, there could be a lot of movement and vibrations so we’ve recommended sport specific headphones. This means they are designed to stay in place even while you’re moving around frequently.
Another thing to think about is the fit with your bike helmet. All the headphones featured in this roundup should work with a majority of helmets. Can’t guarantee they’ll be comfortable with your helmet though!
Usually, sound quality is the most important part of selecting a pair of headphones. However, with cycling headphones, you’ll also need to consider the safety and fit aspects. No point having great sounding headphones if you can’t hear the road or keeps popping out of your ear!
Again, sound quality is quite a subjective topic, however you generally get what you pay for. A pair of Bose SoundSport will definitely produce a better and crisper tune when compared to a ultra budget wireless headphones.
One intangible benefit of good sound quality is that it can really help boost your ability to ride harder and faster. Music is a major part of fitness for most people and when your tune drops, you can really ramp up the intensity. Check out Countdown by Hardwell if you’re a fan of EDM. You can thank me later! 🙂
Nothing worse than the battery on your wireless headphone running out 5 minutes into a long ride…
The headphones reviewed below generally manage around ~6-8 hours of battery life. This should be enough for most long rides, just remember to charge them before heading out! 🙂 If you’re after something that lasts longer, I suggest you take a look at the Powerbeats Pro which boasts a 9 hour battery life.
Worst case, you can carry around a USB battery pack! It’ll add a few grams of weight, but if you’re out for a long ride and you have your phone on the entire time, you’ll probably need some juice anyway. Most headphones will have some form of USB charging.
Cycling Headphones Need To Be Waterproof And Sweatproof
If you don’t ever ride in the rain or hardly sweat, then you can probably skip this section. If you need some water or sweat resistance, then read on!
To measure how effective a device is at keeping water from it, some headphone companies use something called a IP Code. The IP Code (International Protection Rating or Ingress Protection Rating) is defined as “the degree of protection provided against the intrusion of dust, accidental contact and water in electrical enclosures.”
Devices are usually quoted as IP(X)(Y), where (X) and (Y) are digits. The (X) is the degree of protection against dust and (Y) is the degree of protection against water. Simple version is, the higher the digits the better!
If you’re looking for more details on it, Aftershokz has a good guide here.
The Best Cycling Headphones Roundup
Apple’s Powerbeats Pro is one of Apple’s latest model in the Beats line. As with all Apple products, these wireless headphones have a very nice design and finish. They include an adjustable ear hook that will provide you an additional level of security as you cycle with them. Even with the additional ear hooks they should still fit quite nicely under your helmet.
Beats have never been known for the best sound quality. However, as a pair of workout headphones, these have definitely been upgraded in that department. Whether you’re listening to music or making a call, the sound is crystal clear.
Powerbeats are built to last up to 9 hours in between charges and store about two charges in the case. Apple claims that you can get an hour and a half worth of playtime off of a five-minute charge. One nice function is that the earbuds automatically detect when they are not in use which is meant to help conserve battery life as well.
The PowerBeats Pro have been rated IPX4 for water and sweat protection. If you’re not going through the rain constant or sweat buckets, then that should be sufficient.
The Jabra Elite 75t launched in 2019 and received very good reviews. The “Active” version takes this as a starting base and improves it even more for fitness folks! The earbuds themselves are quite small and light (0.19 ounces), but surprisingly good fit in most ears due to the silicone/gel tips. The way these sit in your ears should provide ample space for any helmet.
There’s nothing to be concerned about in regards to the sound quality on the Elite Active 75t. These are definitely on the top end of the market in terms of sound quality for wireless earbuds. Another great feature of the Jabra’s for cyclists is the HearThrough mode. It is a 4-microphone system that picks up the ambient sound and allows you to be more mindful of your surroundings as you ride. Finally, these headphones also integrate well with the various digital assistants (Alexa, Siri or Google Now).
In terms of battery life, Jabra claims that you will get 7.5 hours on a single charge and a total of 28 hours with the charging case. The earbuds also automatically turn off after an hour of inactivity or 15 minutes without connection to save battery life as well.
Jabra has mentioned that these are fully waterproof and sweatproof with a IP57 rating. This means they will be VERY durable during the sweetest or stormiest of rides. They even back it up with a 2 year warranty against dust and sweat.
At first glance these look like a solid selection for cycling headphones due to the pairing of Bose sound quality and the fitness integration. The SoundSport Pulse is Bose’s attempt to include a heart rate monitor function into their wireless headphones. Surprisingly, they play quite nicely with most fitness apps and services like Strava and Endomondo. In terms of accuracy, users have reported that these headphones are fairly accurate and aren’t far off a normal heart rate chest strap.
These headphones use soft silicone in-ear hooks and are the only part that comes into contact with your ears. You might need a bit of clearance with your helmet though as the earbuds themselves are slightly on the chunky side. Less chance of losing these though due to the wire connecting both earbuds.
As expected of Bose headphones, these don’t let you down in the sound quality department. You get the powerful bass that’ll really help out with fitness motivation!
The downfall of these headphones is the relatively short battery life, coming in at about five hours. These have the quick charge function, where a 15 minute charge should net you about an hour of use. Decent enough for a short commute or indoor gym ride but probably not for someone who enjoys long weekend rides.
The Soundsport Pulse are rated as IPX4. They feature a hydrophobic cloth that resists sweat and moisture, but these won’t be waterproof.
As with all Apple products, these are a great choice if you have an iPhone and want everything to just work out of the box. They are much better than the original AirPods for cyclists due to the in ear silicone tips. These help to solve a few issues – making them sweat resistant and improving the sound quality by blocking out the wind. They are also a very comfortable pair of headphones due to their light weight and fit with the silicone tips.
Sound quality of the AirPod Pros sits in the lower to middle of the pack in this list. However, they are better than the standard AirPods due to the sealed ear canal. The sound quality is made up for with the Transparency Mode which allows you to hear surrounding noises without having to take your earbuds off. For the indoor cyclists, the AirPod Pros also come with a noise cancelling function!
The AirPod battery can last up to 5 hours per single charge, with the charging case providing you 24 hours of listening time when fully charged. I generally put mine into the charging case when they’re not in my ears so I never really run out of batteries. Apple also claims that you’ll get about an hour of listening time from just five minutes of charging. One nitpicky thing about the charging case is that it just has the amber or green light. This makes it difficult to see how much is left without referring to my iPhone.
The AirPod Pros have an IPX4 water-resistance rating allowing for some sweat and rainy weather conditions. Some people have reported that the silicone tips get a bit slippery with excessive sweating and the headphones can move a bit in your ear.
The AfterShokz ‘open-ear’ headphone design makes them safe for running, cycling and driving. These headphones use bone conduction, meaning these headphones sit outside your ear canal (think near your sideburns!). This transmits audio waves through your bone instead of sending it into the eardrum, resulting in nothing blocking your ear canals. Perfect for cyclists!
The design of the Air model allows for a very comfortable fit. It features a wraparound headband that is lightweight and flexible, with the two ear pieces sitting just above your jawbone. They generally play well with most helmets and sunglasses too.
As expected, the sound quality of these received the lowest ranking in this round up. However, for a cycling session, it’s good enough to still enjoy your tunes. If you need the quality audio notes and bass to enjoy your rides then these headphones probably won’t be for you.
Battery life is around 6 hours which should be sufficient for most long rides. This puts these in the middle of the round up pack for battery life. The Trekz Air also features a quick-charge mode which in 15 minutes should get you an hour of listening time.
These are rated as a IP55 waterproof build, so you’ll probably get water in your ear before getting it into these!
So, Which Are The Best Cycling Headphones?
There you have it, 5 of the best headphones for cycling on the market today!
If I had to choose just one, it would be the Jabra Elite Active 75t. They provide a great balance of safety features, sound quality, sweat resistance and overall aesthetics.
If safety is your primary concern, then it’ll be hard to look past the AfterShokz Trekz Air which provides you maximum environmental awareness with the open ear design.