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.

  • Thanks for your input.. I'm quite happy to sacrifice some music quality if it means I can hear that car behind me. 90% of my journey would be bike paths. Audible speakers I just find inconsiderate to those around you. Music is more or less just there to give mesomething to get me through those final hills and judge my time
    – Sayse
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 6:36
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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
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 13:15
  • 2
    Here's the right way to do it: ilikethebike.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/… Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:49

15 Answers 15


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.

  • 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
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 6:38

Technology has progressed since this question was asked.

Here's a bone-conduction earpiece, that works by injecting the vibration around your ears rather than through your ears.

The price is coming down but they're still much more expensive than most headphones. However no moving speaker makes them more water resistant, therefore tougher.

enter image description here

  • 1
    I personally use an older wired version of this headset and it works well enough. Some variants work as mobile phone handsfree headsets, which would be kinda useful sometimes - I rarely hear/feel my phone ring if I'm out on the bike. aftershokz.com/collections/wired/products/sportz-titanium is the current entry wired model.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 9:44
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    Do those squeeze your head uncomfortably? I've read complaints from people who claim that. I've also read complaints that the head loop is too long, but it looks fine in your picture. Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 16:04
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    @Michael they are firm against the head, but whether its uncomfortable depends on wearer. If headband were short then transducers would be pulled back over wearer's ears, and that's using them as speakers, which is not how they work. So yes the headband does not touch the rear of your head. Fidelity is "adequate" though it won't have the bass or treble of highfi cans. It is great for spoken word, so podcasts and audiobooks are marvellous, as are phone calls. For music, its a background music for your sport so quality is less important than hearing tyres crunching up behind you stealthy.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 2:02
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    I ordered the cheapest model from Aftershokz. It came today, and I'm reasonably pleased with the indoor testing so far. One odd note: it can pair to two devices, but only play audio from one at a time. Head comfort also fine, but I've only gone two hours at a time. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 21:45
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    Update: Three people in my family now have these headphones. I still think they're great, but the squeezing can give me a headache if I wear them for 4+ hours at a time. It's usually if I wore them for Zoom calls and forgot to take them off, hours later. Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 21:57

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!


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!
    – Drew
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 9:01

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.
  • I guess the Polk audio ones would be great, if they had some foam over them to reduce wind noise.
    – Paul Weber
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 12:47
  • I got foam pads with them, they are just not listed on the website it seems. Commented Sep 17, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 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. Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 12:34

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.

  • There's a smaller version now, called the Spoiler
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 1:00
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    The Spoiler isn't designed for earphones, so doesn't hold them away from your ear. But still maybe useful for reducing wind noise, with any other sort of headphones. A similar thing is Cat-Ears.
    – vclaw
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 10:52

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


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.


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.

Here's a picture of my setup (yes, it's geeky, but at least I haven't been hit by a bus I couldn't hear): Head-Phone Helmet Picture

  • 2
    Your helmet is there to protect your head. Mounting stuff on the outside of it interferes with its operation. Don't do that. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 18:49
  • @david-richerby You're right, I fully agree that messing with the design of one's helmet is a less than optimal solution. But... if it makes it more pleasurable to ride one's bike (thus getting exercise you wouldn't get otherwise) and makes it less likely that you'll miss important cues in your surroundings (because you're using earphones) then on balance, I think it is worth the trade/risk!
    – D. Woods
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 19:11
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    And, as @criggie indicates, technology has advanced quite a bit since the time the question was asked (my solution was from the pre-smartphone days). I no longer use this rig and instead use an over the ear bluetooth headset that doesn't block my ears (and those Nokia bar phones are practically antiques).
    – D. Woods
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 19:14

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


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.


For cycling (and other sports), earbuds are better than earphones. They're smaller, lighter, and give up very little in terms of sound quality.

Here's where you run into problems though:

If you get earbuds with a rubber seal, you will be able to listen to your music at a reasonable volume, because external sound will be blocked out. But you won't be able to hear what's happening around you.

If you get earbuds without a seal, you'll be able to hear external noises, but you'll have to crank the volume way too high in order to enjoy the music. This can and will destroy your eardrums.

I only use earbuds (with rubber seal) in specific, controlled situations where I won't need my ears to be aware of my surroundings.


I have been listening to audio books while bicycling to work for many years now. I have tried many solutions, (no helmet and big over ear) (Helmet and behind the neck) (helmet and in-ear)

I have found that the standard issued Iphone earphones are the best.

Because the soundquality is good enough for you to hear a voice reading a story, or a song. You still have full control over your phone while driving, ie. pausing, controling volume, answering phone calls etc. And most important I can still pay attention to city trafic and other bycyclist. last but not least they are Free (as in supplied with the phone)


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

  • Actually, hearing it first will make a lot of difference in many situations. An awareness of what's behind you, whether there are any vehicles at all, whether there's somebody driving aggressively, etc., gives you a lot of information and often gives you multiple seconds to react. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 18:53

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/

  • Consider opening up your beats-branded and remove the metal weights that do nothing. They'll be lighter and more comfortable. Won't help the sound at all though.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 0:07

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