The Best Headphones for Cycling in Three Different Categories

Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made via bold green links, buttons or images.

Chances are you’re already familiar with the joy of listening to music for motivation, or your favourite podcast as a distraction, while riding your bike. If you ride a stationary bike at home, you probably use your home speakers, and if you do it at the gym the probably have music playing.

So let’s assume you’re looking for headphones to wear while riding outdoors.

Three types of headphones for cycling

I’ve broken down my recommendations into three types of headphones:

  • Bone conduction headphones, which sit in front of your ears and transmit sound waves through your cranial bones instead of being lodged in your ear canal
  • Wire connected wireless earphones, which still use bluetooth but are connected to each other
  • Wireless earbuds, which I’m sure you know about

Best headphones for cycling

Is it safe to cycle with headphones on?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to shame you for this. I like listening to tunes while riding, too, and I promise we’ll get to the best headphones for cycling. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention safety first.

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but situational awareness can help save your life—or at least stop another driver from bad-mouthing us cyclists. It’s tough enough out there, don’t make it worse for the rest of us!

So how can you ride safely and enjoy your music? Start by lowering the volume. Make sure you can still hear what’s going on around you. Or you could try listening through only one earbud, leaving your open ear alert to traffic. This is my preferred method. And of course, don’t be the guy in the picture at the top—always wear your helmet and practice defensive cycling.

Since over-ear headphones often include noise-cancelling features and are generally worn over the head, they’ll interfere with helmets. I’ve completely left them off this list.

Cyclist with headphones covering her entire ear
Headphones that cover the entire ear aren’t going to let you hear what’s around you. (© Kurayba | Creative Commons)

What to look for when buying new headphones

Your personal priorities will determine the best option for you. Let’s take a closer look at the features to consider before purchasing your next pair of headphones.

Style and fit

Lets face it, headphones are an accessory and thus a fashion statement. If you’re looking for something sleek and trendy, wireless earbuds are all the rage. But if you’re tired of dropping them everywhere, you might want to consider wire connected buds. At least this way if they fall out they’ll still be around your neck. You may also opt for over-the-ear hooks to help keep your buds secure.

I prefer both, which is another reason why Aftershokz are my first choice. But they may look too geeky for some. Understood, I won’t take it personally.

Whichever option you choose, make sure they are snug but not painful. You’ll want them to stay comfortable throughout your bike ride.

Sound quality and noise isolation

Audio quality is where the bone conduction style falls behind. Because they sit in front of your ear there is more noise bleed than any model that actually makes contact with your ear. But that’s the point—you can hear your music and keep your ears open.

However, with such an investment perhaps you’re planning to use your new headphones in different situations and require top-notch sound quality. Completely understandable. Many earbuds on the list prioritize audio performance and offer settings that filter in ambient noise with your music. This feature is known by a few names, HearThrough and transparency mode being the most common.

Earbuds that form a seal to fit comfortably in your ear are also more likely to cancel out wind noise and other external noise.

Durability and waterproofing

We all want products that are going to last, and sometimes that means spending a little more up front. One of the key features for well made bike headphones is their waterproof rating, because everybody sweats.

Fortunately, all the models I recommend include an IP rating. IP stands for ingress protection and can help you determine the capabilities you require from your headphones. The range is between 1-7. The first number measures dust protection, the second is for water protection. If either place has an X it simply means the product has not been tested for that. At the very least you’ll be looking for a IPX4 rating which means the product is sweatproof.

Battery life

Great things never last, but some last longer than others. If getting the most hours of battery for your buck is a deciding factor for you, earbuds may be the way to go. Most wireless earphones will get you between six and eight hours of playback on a single charge. But if you’re planning on touring or doing some overnights, earbuds have the added bonus of being able to charge in their cases.

Price

Is the price right? Some of these headphones can get fairly expensive, especially if you have a history of losing them. There are some quality picks on this list that are also budget-friendly. Many cyclists invest between $50-$150 for a quality pair of headphones with a two-year warranty.

Best bone conduction headphones for cycling

Bone conduction headphones are a relatively new type of headphone that are designed to transmit sound waves through the bones in your skull. They are by far the safest option for cyclists who need to stay tuned in while they ride. They’re typically thought of as a solution for cumbersome earbuds, but they can also make a great option for people who want to listen to music while on the go without blocking their ears.

Aftershokz is the leading manufacturer of of bone conduction technology and scored the two top spots on this list.

Aftershokz Aeropex

AfterShokz Aeropex - Open-Ear Bluetooth Bone Conduction Sport Headphones - Sweat Resistant Wireless Earphones for Workouts and Running - Up to 8 Hours of Music and Calls - Built-in Mic Check availability

Aeropex is the newest and best in the Aftershokz bone conduction line. They’ve heard the consumer feedback and turned around an even better product. They’re equipped with AfterShokz Premium Pitch 2+, which enhances audio while reducing vibrations. This makes them more comfortable to wear longer. This model also cuts down on the sound bleed, a component the previous models struggled with.

Aeropex boasts a full titanium body weighing only 26 grams. They’re durable but light, and can fit around the back of your neck without interfering with your helmet.

Their IP rating is better than most at IP67. Being dust and waterproof, you should be able to enjoy them for a long time, guaranteed by their two-year warranty. They even have a built-in moisture detection alert so you know when they are dry and safe to charge.

With an eight-hour battery life, you won’t need to worry about them dying during your ride. Additional features include a multifunction button that allows you to control music and answer calls through the built-in mic. The Aeropex also has superb Bluetooth connectivity and can be connected to two devices at once, making it a great option for work and working out.

Specifications:

  • IPX67
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Ear hooks: yes
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: n/a
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 40 feet

Pros:

  • Best for awareness
  • Highly dust and waterproof
  • Best sound quality for bone conduction
  • Won’t interfere with your helmet

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Loud beep sounds sounds
  • Noise canceling microphone lacking

Aftershokz OpenMove

Aftershokz OpenMove Slate Grey Check availability

Aftershokz OpenMove is a more affordable option that’s still part of Aftershokz superior product line. However, with the reduced price you lose a few features. Notably, the IP rating is IP55 and the battery life is just six hours. There are also fewer color options for the earlier model. But if you’re determined to try Aftershokz bone conduction technology without the full investment, this is a great pair of quality headphones for you.

Specifications:

  • IP55
  • Battery life: 6 hours
  • Ear hooks: yes
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: n/a
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 40 feet

Pros:

  • More affordable aftershokz product
  • 3 EQ settings

Cons:

  • Battery life

Vidonn F1

Bone Conduction Headphones Bluetooth V5.0 - Vidonn F1 Sports Open Ear Wireless Headset Sweatproof w/Mic - for Cycling Running Driving Gym - Grey Check availability

If you’re sold on the bone conduction style but still hesitant about the investment, Vidonn F1 has got you covered. These wireless headphones are made from titanium, alloy and TPU, so they are still solid but a little heavier at 38 grams. You can to adjust the back bone for a better fit around your neck, and the hooks keep them secure and comfortable around your ears. However, you lose quality with the Bluetooth connection. They still offer a six-hour battery life. Vidonn 1 only offers a one-year warranty but shares the IP55 rating.

Specifications:

  • IP55
  • Battery life: 5 hours
  • Ear hooks: yes
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode -n/a
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 33 feet

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Poor battery life
  • Unreliable connectivity
  • Prone to interference

Best wire-connected wireless earphones for cycling

If you prefer your music to be directly deposited into your ear canal but are weary of losing wireless earbuds—while mountain biking on a bumpy trail, for example—then wire connected earbuds are the best option for you. The following three top my list.

Bose SoundSport

Bose SoundSport, Wireless Earbuds, (Sweatproof Bluetooth Headphones for Running and Sports), Black Check availability

Music lovers know all about Bose’s industry leading sound quality, and their venture into wireless audio delivery is just as reliable. Bose SoundSport earphones come with the added bonus of a heart rate monitor that’s recorded in real time through the Bose connect app.

Bose’s active EQ technology means you no longer have to worry about adjusting the volume controls for each track. They use both Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, accommodating a 30-foot range and fast recharge. The battery life is average at five hours and the IPX4 rating is merely adequate. If sound quality is what you are after, Bose boasts excellent value for the price.

Specifications:

  • IPX4
  • Battery life: 5 hours
  • Ear hooks: no
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: yes
  • Bluetooth connection:: 4.2
  • Wireless range: 30 feet

Pros:

  • Great noise cancellation
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Records your heart rate
  • Bluetooth and NFC pairing

Cons:

  • Inconsistent battery life
  • Basic app

iTeknic Wireless

Error: Unknown Link Type Check availability

If battery life concerns you most, then the iTeknic Wireless earphones are for you. They provide an impressive 24 hours between charges. That’s perfect for long-distance bike touring. They charge via a micro USB and come with a travel pouch, so they won’t take up a lot of space in your bag. They offer different size silicone tips and ear hooks to customize the fit for your comfort. With an IPX8 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option at such an affordable price.

Specifications:

  • IPX7
  • Battery life: 24 hours
  • Ear hooks: No
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode No
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 33 feet

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Balanced sound

Cons:

  • Minimal bass
  • Sticks out from ear

Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro

Wireless Headphones Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro, Dual EQ, 10 Hour Playtime, IP68, SweatGuard Technology, aptX Hi-Fi Sound, Built-in Mic, Bluetooth Earphones, Earbuds for Running, Sports, Workout, Gym Check availability

A lesser known but reliable brand, Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro is your best option in a budget. They still come with all the wireless features you’ve come to expect, Bluetooth connectivity and a microphone. They don’t sacrifice sound quality, using 10mm dynamic drivers and additional bass technology. Nor do they sacrifice comfort—they have earwigs and tips in three sizes and a clip to keep the wire connection off your neck.

With a 12-hour battery life and IPX7, it’s hard to find any reason to not go for the Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro earphones.

Specifications:

  • IPX7
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Ear hooks: no
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode:  no
  • Bluetooth connection: 4.2
  • Wireless range: 33 feet

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Great sound
  • Includes adjustable cable clip

Cons:

  • Microphone lacking
  • Can only connect to one device at a time

Best wireless earbuds for cycling

No list of best cycling headphones would be complete without offering wireless earbud options, of which there are plenty. I’ve narrowed it down to the top five.

Beats Powerbeats Pro

Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds - Apple H1 Headphone Chip, Class 1 Bluetooth Headphones, 9 Hours of Listening Time, Sweat Resistant, Built-in Microphone - Black Check availability

Beats Powerbeats Pro are by far the best wireless earbuds for cycling. The latest offering from Dr. Dre’s Apple-owned sound line gives you brand security and a recognizable logo. They leave little to be desired in terms of sound quality, and are the favourite option for bass lovers.

The best feature for cyclists is that the two pods operate independently of one another, so you can adjust volume levels while still having an ear to the road.

The earbuds include built-in technology to detect whether they are in use or not, and will automatically go into sleep mode to conserve battery life. But with nine hours on a one-hour charge that’s not a big concern, especially since their case carries an additional 15 hours.

Powerbeats offer the standard IPX4 rating suitable for high-intensity athletes. At .78 ounces, this pair of earbuds is quite compact. The four interchangeable ear tips are designed to let in more or less ambient noise so you can customize them for an outdoor ride or an indoor gym workout.

Specifications:

  • IPX4
  • Battery life: 9 hour
  • Ear hooks: yes
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: yes
  • Bluetooth connection: Class 1 Bluetooth Apple H1 chip
  • Wireless range: 50 feet

Pros:

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Quick charge
  • Great bass

Cons:

  • Connection issues
  • Bulky heavier case

Jabra Elite Active 75t

Jabra Elite Active 75t True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, Navy – Wireless Earbuds for Running and Sport, Charging Case Included, 24 Hour Battery, Active Noise Cancelling Sport Earbuds Check availability

Jabra Elite Active 75t are the best ear pod alternatives to Apple products. You can operate them through the Jabra Sound+app and control each pod separately. They offer an active noise cancellation (ANC) mode for use off your bike. But while riding, you can take advantage of their excellent HearThrough mode, enabling you to hear what’s going on around you while the buds stay firmly in your ears.

Jabra offers a modest 5.5-7 hours of playtime but up to 24 with the carrying case. If they do fall out, the IP57 should offer assurance of their durability. If you’ve become accustomed to taking calls while training, the four built-in microphones will have no trouble picking up your voice.

Specifications:

  • IP57
  • Battery life: 5.5 hours
  • Ear hooks: No
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: yes
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 33 feet

Pros:

  • Solid connectivity
  • 4 microphones
  • Connect 2 devices at the same time

Cons:

  • Battery life
  • Won’t turn off automatically

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro Check availability

No list of top-of-the-line earbuds would be complete without Apple AirPods Pro. They come with a hefty price tag, but if you’re audio source is an Apple product then the compatibility is impossible to beat. They include a transparency mode, which is essential if you insist on wearing them both in traffic areas.

The call and mic capabilities are superior to the sound quality.

The active noise cancellation feature is a big drain on the battery, giving you only five and a half hours. But as with all buds, the carrying case will give them an extra boost—another 20 hours in this case. The IPX4 is standard. As with most Apple products, you’re paying a lot for the look.

Specifications:

  • IPX4
  • Battery life: 4.5 hours
  • Ear hooks: no
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: yes
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 30-60 feet

Pros:

  • Works well with apple products
  • Stylish look
  • Transparency mode

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Risk falling out
  • Average sound quality

Jaybird Vista

Jaybird Vista True Wireless Bluetooth Sport Waterproof Earbud Premium Headphones - Black Check availability

Jaybird is another reliable but lesser known company. But don’t overlook the Jaybird Vistas. They’re smaller and lighter than most buds on this list, and they also boast an IPX7, making them waterproof and safe for the shower. (I wouldn’t want to risk them going down the drain.) They last six hours off one charge and get an additional 10 hours from the case, but can bounce back to an hour with a five-minute charge.

In case you do drop or misplace them, these buds come with a handy “find my buds” function and will beep at you until you locate them.

Sound is adjusted through the apps EQ and the buds can connect independently. However, they offer passive noise canceling without a transparency mode, so I would definitely only ride with one bud in.

Specifications:

  • IPX7
  • Battery life: 6 hours
  • Ear hooks: No
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode No
  • Bluetooth connection: 5.0
  • Wireless range: 33 feet

Pros:

  • Very light
  • Jaybird app
  • Custom EQ

Cons:

  • Prone to interference
  • Short battery life

Sony WF-SP700N

Sony Wireless Bluetooth In Ear Headphones: Noise Cancelling Sports Workout Ear Buds for Exercise and Running - Cordless, Sweatproof Sport Earphones, Built-In Microphone, EXTRA BASS –Black WF-SP700N/B Check availability

I’ll be the first to admit these Sony earbuds look kinda funny, but hear me out. They are actually manufactured by Sennheiser, so you know you’ll get balanced sound and the audio quality will be excellent. They leave a little to be desired in terms of phone calls, operating only out of the left bud and a mic that has a hard time filtering out background noise. But they offer an excellent “ambient sound mode,” blending your music with your environment to keep you in tune with your surroundings. This feature is comes at the cost of relatively poor battery life: a three-hour charge and only nine hours from the case.

The over-ear hook keeps these IPX4 buds more secure than regular buds.

Specifications:

  • IPX4
  • Battery life: 9 hours
  • Ear hooks: yes
  • HearThrough/Transparency mode: yes
  • Bluetooth connection: 4.1
  • Wireless range: 30 feet

Pros:

  • Ambient sound mode
  • Great sound quality & bass
  • Design stays in ear

Cons:

  • Wind noise
  • Mic picks up background noise
  • Phone calls in mono only

So there you go. We’ve covered 11 options in three styles. Wireless earbuds seem to be the most popular option, but I wouldn’t want to risk losing one and having to replace an expensive piece of gear.

The wire connected earphones help prevent you from dropping them and are also convenient for riding with one in and one out.

I maintain that bone-connection headphones are the best option for cycling outside, because they are the least intrusive and keep your ears clear. I can’t wait to go out and grab a pair for my next ride.

Image at top: © lomo54 | Creative Commons

Leave a Comment