Many cyclists enjoy using headphones while training, during competitive events, and for casual rides.
Listening to music, podcasts, audio books, and other media while cycling is entertaining and provides motivation. Multiple studies, including one in the Journal of Music Therapy, show that listening to music during exercise can improve focus and even boost performance.
But you shouldn’t just go out and buy the first pair of headphones you see. Certain types of headphones are much better suited for road cycling, mountain biking, and casual bicycling than others.
These headphones are not only comfortable and fit well, but they also block wind noise without blocking the noise of approaching traffic and other vehicles. Your headphones need to be waterproof as well to prevent damage from sweat and rain.
Today, we’re going to show you exactly what to look for in your next cycling headphones. We follow this up with reviews of our top five favorite headphones for cycling.
Benefits of Headphones for Cycling
There’s a reason why so many cyclists wear headphones. And that reason is that they are beneficial to the overall cycling experience.
The top benefits of wearing headphones while cycling includes:
Wearing headphones or earbuds for cycling allows you to listen to your favorite tunes, catch up on your favorite podcast, or enjoy another audio medium.
Long training rides can get boring, especially if the scenery is uninteresting. Listening to music is a great distraction. It helps pass the time and even makes you less aware of your exertion.
According to WebMD, listening to music distracts your brain because it makes your brain focus on the music rather than the exercise at hand.
Staying motivated is hard at times, even for the most dedicated cyclists.
Psychology Today reports that music has many motivational benefits. It can motivate you in all aspects of your life, especially exercise.
Of course, not all songs are great for motivation. Most people prefer songs with upbeat tempos rather than slow, sad songs while cycling.
Listening to music on your headphones while cycling has the potential to help you focus on the task at hand.
According to The Wall Street Journal, music improves your focus so that you can get more benefits from the task at hand.
When it comes to cycling, this extra boost of focus can be the difference between one of your best rides yet and a lackluster training session.
PBS News Hour states that the entire brain lights up when you listen to music.
For cyclists, this means that more of the brain is active while cycling. Because many cyclists ride several times per week, the activity can quickly become second nature.
Music is a way to boost brain performance and improve your mood. It makes you want to get out there and move. It’s even been shown, by Applying Music in Exercise and Sport, to improve stamina, speed, and other facets of cycling performance.
Another benefit of using headphones while cycling is to accomplish several tasks at once.
Maybe there’s a book you’d like to read, but you just haven’t had the time. You already cycle several hours a week – so why not use that time to listen to a book on tape?
Other ideas include listening to that new album, listening to old episodes of your favorite podcast, or tuning in to a live sports game on the radio.
How to Choose the Right Headphones
If you’ve ever shopped for headphones or earbuds online, then you know that the sheer number of options available can be overwhelming.
Luckily, there are a few key factors to look for if you’re a cyclist. These will greatly help you narrow down the options.
Here is what you should look out for in your next pair of cycling headphones.
1. Types of Headphones
Start your search for the perfect pair of headphones for cycling by narrowing down the type of headphones you prefer.
Your three main options are:
Also known as in-ear headphones, earbuds fit securely inside your ear canal. Top models provide a secure fit with great noise-canceling benefits. Some models include ear hooks.
Over-ear headphones take on the classic headphone shape. They feature ear caps that fit all the way over your ears. They provide fantastic sound quality thanks to reducing wind noise while cycling.
Similar to over-ear headphones, on-ear models also feature ear caps, except these sit on your ears without enclosing them. They have great sound quality while still allowing you to hear outside noises (such as vehicle traffic).
Comfort and Fit
The best headphones for cycling fit well and are comfortable. They don’t get in the way of any normal cycling motions. They don’t hurt your ears after a long or intense ride.
Who wants to invest in a pair of headphones that don’t sound good? You want a pair that provides crisp, clear sound without letting in a whole lot of outside noise.
Headphones with passive noise reduction and sound canceling abilities might be great for overall sound quality, but they’re not the right choice for cycling. To ensure safety, you want a pair that lets in some outside noise, so you’re able to maintain situational awareness.
Headphones these days come with a wide variety of additional features. A few of my favorite are:
- Wireless – Use Bluetooth to sync headphones to music playing device without the need for wires.
- Water-Resistant – Capable of holding up to sweat, rain, and other liquids.
- Voice Controls – Allows you to control volume, skip a track, and much more with voice controls.
- Bone Conduction – Sit on cheekbones right in front of your ears to transmit sound straight into ear drums while leaving ears open to outside noise.
- Biometric – Tracks your heart rate and other fitness cues while in use.
How to Use Headphones While Cycling
There’s not exactly a right way and a wrong way to use headphones for cycling – but there is a safe way.
Debate in the cycling community over headphone safety is fierce. Even top publications such as Cycling Weekly seem split down the middle. There’s even talk about banning headphones for cyclists.
If you do choose to wear headphones for cycling, it’s essential to put safety first. Never wear a noise-canceling pair, keep the sound level to a reasonable volume, and stay vigilant of your surroundings.
We believe that with the right pair of headphones and the common sense we know you all have that cycling with headphones is perfectly safe.
Best Headphones for Cycling Reviews
Now that you know what to look for in your next pair of cycling headphones, here are reviews of our five favorite headphones for cycling.
If affordability is your major concern, then you can’t go wrong with these wireless headphones from Hexnub.
Their X1S headphones utilize Bluetooth technology to eliminate the need for wires. However, it must be noted that there is a wire that connects the two separate ear buds to each other.
Silicone earbuds provide a comfortable and secure fit. Flexible ear hooks provide even more security for strenuous activities such as cycling.
As one of the best earbuds for cycling, these headphones are waterproof so that sweat and rain don't ruin them. They boast high-quality acoustics without canceling out outside sound. An 8-hour battery life (on a 1.5-hour charge!) means they supply enough juice for your entire ride.
Best of all, the Hexnub X1S headphones run for just a hair under $25, so they won’t break the bank.
When it comes to the best Bluetooth headphones for cycling that don’t block outside noise, the AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones are hard to beat.
Not only do they utilize Bluetooth technology to eliminate the need for wires, but they also feature bone conduction technology to leave your ears open to outside sound.
Bone conduction technology delivers sound via vibrations through your cheekbones directly into your inner ear. The earbud doesn't go into your ear canal, leaving your ear drum exposed. This is a huge benefit for cyclists because it provides optimal situation awareness while riding.
Other key features of these best Bluetooth earbuds for cycling include their comfortable wrap-around design, extremely lightweight, and dynamic range of sound.
The AfterShokz Trekz Air is perfect for those that want complete situational awareness to surrounding sound while still enjoying top audio quality.
One common complaint about cycling with headphones is wind noise - the air rushing by can make it quite difficult to hear your music at high speeds.
The main benefit of the MindKoo Bluetooth Headphones is that it greatly helps in preventing that issue. With CVC 6.0 noise cancellation technology, they’re one of the best headphones for cancelling out cycling wind noise available in the market.
That said, they still allow you to hear some outside noise – such as approaching vehicles – without sacrificing audio quality. The sound still manages to remain incredibly clear with deep bass.
The headphones are waterproof to prevent damage from sweat, feature ergonomic ear hooks for increased stability and have very comfortable earbuds. Three different sizes of earbuds are provided for the best fit possible.
A Bluetooth wireless design, 8 hours battery charge life, and durable build are additional highlights. The low price is the cherry on top!
With a futuristic look and design, these bone conduction headphones from Vidonn make an incredibly stylish headphone option.
The bone conduction technology means that your music travels directly into your inner ear so that your eardrum is open to outside sounds. The benefit of this is increased situational awareness while cycling, although others will be able to hear your music. It also doesn't do a whole lot to cancel wind noise while riding.
The wireless Bluetooth technology eliminates the need for a wire. A built-in microphone means you can make calls while using these headphones.
Other highlights include an impressive waterproof rating, an ergonomic design for maximum stability while cycling, and a 4-hour battery life.
Our favorite feature, however, is the top-quality materials used in the construction. These headphones utilize aeronautical titanium alloy for the utmost in durability.
Anker SoundBuds Curve Bluetooth Earphones
Another affordable option for the best earphones for cycling are the Anker SoundBuds Curve.
I personally use the Anker earphones in my day to day, but they're so comfortable and provide such a great sound that I had to put it on this list. Like all the other earphones on our list, these earbuds provide maximum listening pleasure without wires that could get tangled while cycling or running.
The headphones are comfortable, lightweight, and have a secure fit. Three different sizes of earbuds are included, so you can find those that work best for you.
Crystal clear sound quality is another major highlight. These earbuds perform incredibly well without completely blocking outside sound.
They are also water resistant so you don't have to worry about sweat ruining your earphones. They also have "Ear Wings" which ensure the earphones are kept secure to your ears no matter what you're doing.
The lithium-ion battery provides up to a stated 14 hours of battery life – one of the longest charges of any wireless headphones we've used. However been on my long term usage I've found that it lasts approximately half of that (but it does charge back up very quickly)
As you’ll notice in our reviews, we greatly favor headphones of the earbud variety.
The main reasons we prefer earbuds for cycling is their low-profile design, lightweight, and the fact that they don't completely cancel outside sound. They're your safest option while still providing high-quality audio.
Though all five pairs of headphones work well for cycling, we particularly love the Hexnub X1S headphones. They provide most of the great features of the other headphones we reviewed, but at a much more affordable price.
If you’re like us, then your headphones don’t last long. Such small devices are easy to lose, especially when you’re out cycling every weekend. That’s another huge benefit of the Hexnub X15 headphones – they’re cheap enough to replace, so you don’t have to worry about losing them.
No matter which of the best wireless headphones for cycling you choose, you’re sure to find that listening to music while riding makes cycling even more enjoyable.