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Jul 12

5 traits you need to see in the best headphones for biking

Even old-timey cyclists knew their benefits!

Old fashioned? Sure. But he’s still rockin’ out with the right headphones. (Image by Paukrus, used under Creative Commons)

It’s the middle of Summer, and there’s nothing better than heading outside with your bicycle.

Well, maybe ice cream, but that’s kind of a foregone conclusion. Not even a debate really.

But back to biking, there’s always one thing that I’m on the lookout for, one thing that’s key to any great day out on two wheels: a good set of headphones. Of course, this search isn’t an easy one — it’s not enough to just grab any old set of headphones off the shelf. Over the last few years, I’ve developed some criteria that may help you decide on how to choose a great pair of headphones for bicycling.

Let’s get started.

Sturdy cord

This is pretty much a deal breaker. I’ve lost way too many sets of headphones to a weak cord construction.

You want to look for one that not only feels fairly thick and strong in your hand, but also has a good attachment point to the headphones themselves. If they don’t, you may run the risk of ripping the cord right out of the headphones if it gets tangled on something while you ride. It’s a special bonus if they’re still on your head when it happens.

Klipsch Image S4i

The Klipsch Image S4i illustrate the in-line remote. But it’s not quite the right set for you, intrepid cyclist.

In-line remote

When you’re riding, there’s nothing worse than needing to change a song on the fly, or adjust your volume. Runners, desk-dwellers, and the like may feel inconvenienced reaching for their player, but a biker may lose control completely.

An in-line remote makes sure that doesn’t happen, letting you change songs, adjust volume, and even answer calls if your mp3 player happens to be of the phone variety.

Small size

Seems a bit redundant (Small headphones? Who would have thought?), but there’s more than a few times where I’ve seen bikers wearing headphones meant more for a hi-fi system than a vehicle.

Not only is this a bit dangerous (see the next point), but it also leads to sweaty ears. Blech.

Look for on-ear headphones that clip behind the ears, or ear buds (not in-ear buds however) for the best headphone fit for biking.

Monster Beats headphones

Great sound… but a little too big. Plus, ear sweat. Ewwwww.

No noise cancellation

I know, I know. I’m usually all about just you and your sound when it comes to headphones. But for safety reasons, you want to make sure that you keep all your senses in play, especially on a bicycle. Avoid headphones that provide even passive noise cancellation, such as in-ear headphones or over-the-ear cans.

That way you can hear that bus speeding towards you long before you may see it.

Great sound

This may be the last point, but it’s also one of the most important.

Bad sound means bad headphones, regardless of how many of the above criteria it meets. When you listen, look for decent bass and good mid-tones. Make sure the sound isn’t “tinny,” and always be aware of how long you can listen before your ears start to become fatigued.

Oh, and of course once you find a good pair, buy a few extras — you never know when you’re going to unexpectedly need a replacement.

Polk ULTRAFIT 2000

Bright orange so you never lose them. In-line remote. Over-ear without begin noise canceling. Fairly sturdy cord. Good sound. Polk may have a winner.

What do you look for in headphones for any activity? Let me know in the comments!

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