Cycling when you can’t hear what’s going on around you is not ideal, so listening to music or your favourite podcast when out on a bike is usually advised against, particularly when you’re on the road.
But advances in technology mean there is no reason not to forgo your soundtrack. Instead opt for headphones which let more of the outside world in while you listen. These cycle safe models offer a better chance of hearing possible hazards coming, while you sing along to your latest audio obsession.
Bone conduction headphones have been designed specifically with cycle safety in mind. They transmit sound through your cheekbones, leaving your eardrums free to hear everything else - be it a bus or another bike coming up behind.
Some wireless earbuds also carry transparency modes. In this case, they use microphones to pick up the sound around you and pipe it through the headphones alongside the audio you are playing - keeping you well aware of your surroundings.
Most good quality earbuds will also work while you only wear only one bud. This will allow you to keep the other ear clear to listen to traffic when you need to, preventing any surprises as you ride.
Helpful features also include wireless capabilities that connect to your phone or other device via Bluetooth. This will remove any pesky wires that could get caught or fall out while you move around on your bike.
We compiled a list of some of the best headphones out there for cyclists who want to keep their ears, as well as their eyes, on the road.
Shokz is the world’s leading bone conduction technology manufacturer and innovator, and this is their most advanced set of headphones yet.
Weighing only 26g, the lightweight frame means you hardly feel you have them on - but they still feel sturdy. They fit nicely beneath your helmet and are IP67 waterproof which will mean they will hold their own in a downpour.
They sound great, but more impressive is how much the bone conduction technology allows all the other sound in - it’s incredible how well you can really can hear others on the road. This does mean that when there is a lot of noise, it will affect how well you will hear what you are playing - but that’s what makes these headphones so safe for cyclists.
The OpenRun is the upgrade to Shokz’s previous flagship headphones Aeropex (which are being discontinued) and features a new quick charge function that gives you 1.5 hours of listening time off just a 10 minute charge. It’s a nice addition as it’s just a short wait for you to get them back up and running for your ride. Fully charged, you’ll get eight hours of battery life.
One thing to consider is that they are bulkier to take round with you than other earbuds and some also might not like the way the headphones vibrate against your cheekbones. It does take a little getting used to, but it’s not something that bothered us at all on the commute or during a ride around the park.
They come in four colours; black, blue, grey and red.
Buy now £129.95, Amazon
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC
Combining ergonomics with sleek design, Adidas’s noise-cancelling earbuds are both for serious sport and everyday stylish use.
The sound quality is excellent and they feature a transparency function called Awareness Mode that means you will hear more of the outside world while you’re on the bike. This can be chosen with a touch to the earbud if you’re on the move or through an easy to use app, where you can also personalise your sound.
The true wireless earbuds connect via Bluetooth and can be switched to a noise-cancelling mode that will block out external sounds if you are using it on the exercise bike or in your other lifestyle needs.
The Z.N.E. 01 ANC headphones come with interchangeable ear tips to find your perfect fit, so they’ll stay snug in the ear and won’t fall out if you are moving around on the bike.
They also pack an impressive battery life, with four-and-half hours in the buds, and a further 15-and-a-half hours in the compact case to help charge the buds when you’re on the move.
They come in two colours; night grey and light grey.
Buy now £169.95, Adidas
Marshall Motif A.N.C
These stylish earbuds are made by audio specialists Marshall and would not look out of place on the street or the bike. They pack a serious punch too with crisp sound.
The Motif A.N.C come with sealed-fit earbuds and three ear-tip sizes so you can find the most secure and comfortable fit.
You can select a Transparency mode that works allows more of the outside world in - which is very useful for hearing traffic. When off the bike and you want to shut down the noise around you to deep dive into your music without distraction you can turn on the active noise cancellation (ANC) mode. You can set the level of active noise cancellation and transparency for a truly personal listening experience. The wireless Bluetooth connectivity allows you to switch to just one earbud if you want to hear more of the road.
They can be controlled through the touch-sensitive earbuds, which you can also use to answer calls, and in-built dual microphones make sure that your voice is heard.
The IPX5-rated earbuds will be safe in most rain conditions while the IPX4-rated scratch-proof pocket-sized charging case is a nice compact size. They just come in a stylish black colour.
Buy now £179.99, Argos
The OpenMove is a more entry level bone conductor headphone offered by Aftershokz.
They are solidly built, and the bone conduction technology allows the sound of traffic to be clearly heard alongside your music or podcast. They fit snugly and didn’t move when being used on the bike.
The headphones offer a six hour battery life on a single charge, and a 10-day standby time so you won’t be needing to recharge too frequently.
Their IP55 Sweatproof protection will help hold up against moisture, including light rain, but you might not want to risk them in a downpour.
They come in range of colours; slate grey, white, blue and pink/white.
Buy now £69.95, Currys
These sports earbuds from Beats by Dr Dre have an adjustable ear hook design that keep them steady and stable while on the bike - and the hook really makes you feel confident they won’t fall out while you are in the saddle. They also offer multiple ear tips so you can choose the one that gives you your required fit.
The Powerbeats PRO are both sweat and water resistant, and their reinforced design makes them feel really solid.
The sound is great but one downside is the lack of the transparency mode means you can’t increase how much outside sound is coming in. However they do naturally let in some outside sound. They also function with just one ear bud connected which will make them more cycle-safe on the road.
The headphones boast the H1 chip which allows it so seamlessly connect to Apple devices for automatic play/pause. It also means you can voice activate Siri to answer calls or change what you are listening to which is fantastic when on the move on the bike.
They promise to provide up to nine hours of continuous listening time - and that extends to up to 24 hours of playback without the need for a charge cable through its charging case, so that’s a serious amount of playtime between charges.
They come in some seriously stylish colours too – ivory, black or navy.
Buy now £169.00, Amazon
Bone conduction headphones offer the rider the best awareness of what’s going on around them so the OpenRun will suit those who only want headphones for cycling or other exercise. The sound is good, they’re easy to use, and they’re waterproof and sturdy enough to cope with daily use like a commute.
If you’re looking to own a single set of headphones that will suit more uses rather than just cycling on the road –like a home workout, headphones you can take with you anywhere in your pocket, or relaxing undisturbed – then it’s a tough call between the Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC and Marshall Motif A.N.C. They are hard to separate in terms of sound quality and features. But at a push we’d choose Marshall’s, based on preferring their look.