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I'm starting to commute on my bike soon and was looking for suggestions or advice on what type of headphones I should use to listen to music while riding?

I am aware of the dangers of listening to music while riding and intend to only ever have one earpiece in at a time (so thinking in ear / over ear headphones).

I'd imagine that headphones that just "fit" into the ear (Example) would fall straight out. Those that go deeper into the ear (Example) wouldn't fall out but would also reduce outer sound (bad?).

So with this in mind I believe the best choice for cycling would be those that go over the ear (Example)

Am I right in thinking this? Is there anything else I should be considering when choosing a pair?

Many thanks.

N.B. All links are from Play.Com (UK) and are just the first examples of each I found.

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-1: Rant that did not answer the question. –  mattnz Sep 5 '13 at 1:56
    
"Your question is irrelevant" - Seven of Nine –  Ritch Melton Sep 5 '13 at 2:52
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I'd agree with @CareyGregory here. I just don't believe you can find a sweet spot between being able to hear the music over the traffic and being able to hear the traffic over the music, even with 1 earpiece in. And I want both ears to work anyway - you could keep the offside ear open, but if you're not riding next to the kerb because the lanes don't work that way, you need your nearside ear to hear people coming up on your nearside, maybe overtaking you. However audible speakers aren't IMO a solution either. –  Chris H Sep 5 '13 at 9:23
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Have you verified that your state and local traffic laws allow it? Some place restrict the use on public roads. –  BPugh Sep 5 '13 at 12:54
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The best type is no type. Pay attention to your surroundings instead, the life you save might be your own. –  GordonM Sep 6 '13 at 13:15
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12 Answers 12

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm not sure there's a best type for cycling, but the latter two examples have their pros and cons and I think you pretty much nailed them.

The last type you posted is going to give you a good snug fit but without the noise isolation of the in ear type (2nd example) which isn't great for listening to music given the wind noise, but for safety reasons is preferable. So if you're riding on public roads and safety is your primary concern, go with the earbud style with the around the ear clip (last example). If you're more concerned about blocking out wind noise and listening to your music the in ear (second example) is the way to go.

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Thanks... think I will go with the last one, I'm trying to find the best compromise here whilst aiming towards safety. The over ear ones can always attach to my shirt too if needed.. –  Sayse Sep 5 '13 at 6:38
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I have always used a radio when riding, and never considered it being a safety issue because I don't have the volume so high that someone standing next to me could hear it. I value my hearing very much! I use the over the ear speakers by either Phillips or Sony. I've been wearing these for years and have never had any conflicts with traffic because I keep the volume turned down. I can hear the radio and any vehicle approaching from the rear. I constantly check my mirrors anyway. They are no distraction to me and I consider them to be just the same as a radio in any vehicle. I can hear vehicles approaching from the rear from several hundred yards back, even when I haven't seen them in my mirrors at that point because of a hill or curve. I consider the volume of the radio/speakers to be less of a distraction than the radio in my vehicle. This is mainly because in a vehicle, you can have the radio on and still have a passenger trying to talk also. On the bike, you're usually at one with yourself. These ear phone speakers are much better than back in "the day" when we had to affix a transistor radio with the speaker in the radio, to our bicycle handlebar in some fashion!

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If you are wearing a helmet, you could try Slipstreamz The Slip. These attach to your helmet straps, and reduce wind noise, so may improve your hearing of traffic. You can fit earphones inside them, so they are held just outside your ear. So you can hear your music, and still hear noise from your surroundings.

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Another thing to consider is to have a portable speaker mounted on the bike or in a backpack. Perhaps a bit bulky, but it means your ears can compensate as they would do in a normal setting. A good friend of mine uses a case speaker with phone/iPod inside and has that strapped to the handlebar and stem with bungy cords. Not a particularly elegant solution aesthetically, but it works well and is great if you're on a budget!

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This is what all the old men in China do! –  Andrew Heath Sep 9 '13 at 9:01
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I don't like wearing headphones while cycling because it takes away from an asset I rely on heavily: my hearing. But if you choose to rock and ride, here's some useful information: http://www.bikebiz.com/news/read/cyclists-with-ipods-hear-the-same-as-motorists-listening-to-nothing/013329

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I think you pretty much nailed the main issues regarding fit and hearing the surroundings. True in-ears are a hazard if you keep the volume too high.

One issue I missed you your discussion is sweat resistance. I don't know how long your commute is, but depending on length and effort I find that I eventually get my headphones wet, and I found headphones are not taking this well, even most of those advertised as "sports" headphones.

My experience so far:

  • Sennheiser sport headphones (I've tried these) fail after about 6 months and they refuse to replace them citing "abuse" internals were completely corroded. The remote control on the wire gave out even quicker.
  • Philips (I've tried various versions of this one) fail after about 9 months to a year, the remote fails a bit earlier, and after about 6 months I experience volume drops. Philips has been very generous in sending me replacements (I'm on the third one now) but of cours this is not ideal.
  • I'm currently trying these from polk audio for a change (over the ear instead of in-ear). I find that this leads to both more wind noise, and better contact with my surroundings. A mixed bag really. It is still too early to tell how it holds up to my sweat.
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I guess the Polk audio ones would be great, if they had some foam over them to reduce wind noise. –  Paul Weber Sep 17 '13 at 12:47
    
I got foam pads with them, they are just not listed on the website it seems. –  jilles de wit Sep 17 '13 at 14:02
    
Wondering why they still have wind noise. Because i am using the Phillips type you see in my answer, and they even reduce wind noise compared to no headphones. –  Paul Weber Sep 18 '13 at 15:49
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Well, wind noise compared to the philips in-ear headphones. Not so much as to make my audiobook inaudible, but enough that when I go fast enough or have a strong headwind it becomes somewhat annoying. –  jilles de wit Sep 19 '13 at 12:34
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I'm pretty happy with neckband style headphones. They fit around your neck, which shouldn't conflict with bike helmets. Since they are attached via the neckband, it's easy to pull a bud out quickly and they will stay in place.

Look for ones that are water (sweat) resistant.

I use these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004477D0K

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I have had very good experience with Sennheiser PMX680 headphones. I find they sound quite good considering their price and form factor. They stand up very well to the abuses of sweat and rain (I've had mine for two years, and I run in them every day, sweating a lot). The earphones are connected by a springy neckband which does not touch your head, and is quite compatible with the helmet. The neckband pressure is enough to keep the headphones securely in my ears, but I'll forget I've got something grabbing onto my head during a long run or ride. Nobody's paying me to sing the praises of my Sennheisers, I'm just really happy with them. They've been around for a little while, and can be had for around thirty five dollars.

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I like to listen to the radio while bike commuting. However, I really feel that I need BOTH of my ears on city streets. So, I mount a small cheap (FM radio capable) cell phone on my helmet near my left ear and then play the radio through the phone's speaker phone. That way I can still hear my surroundings and the radio. My current "radio" is a Nokia 1616 purchased from Target for $10.

While my suggestion may not meet the strictest definition of a "head phone" it certainly does the same job while allowing me to hear everything in my surroundings.

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i ride my bike all the time. I use the in ear headphones that came with the iphone. I have no need for anything better since it only takes about 15 minutes to get to my workplace. But if you really want one, I would go with the beats solo. You can see more about it here at http://www.thehonestreviews.com/audio/beats-solo-hd-on-ear-headphone-review/

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I personally don't think wearing earbuds is more dangerous than not wearing them. I am more attuned to my surroundings when listening to music. If a car is going to hit you from behind hearing it first will make zero difference in your safety.

With that said I prefer the in-the-ear earbuds. I like the most noise isolation I can get. I don't want to hear any road voice...just the music. I have tried many different types and have settled on an older pair of Westone earbuds (retail about $200).

My favorite pair were a pair of Ultimate ears but they were too fragile for cycling.

For a really excellent sounding but dirt cheap set of earbuds check out these: monoprice

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I am using Headphones like this: http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NjM2WDY0MA==/$(KGrHqF,!h8F!DNm5OMyBQNIOG3VPw~~60_35.JPG?set_id=8800005007

They even reduce wind noise, and you can hear the music and everything around you, because they are not blocking outside noise. The problem is that in city traffic you will not hear the music, because the cars are so loud ;D

Important is that they have foam, cause that reduces the wind noise.

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