If you think the idea of cyclists wearing headphones is one of the stupidest things you’ve ever heard then that would make two of us. It’s why when I was approached by Chilli Technology to review their Bone Conduction Headphones my interest was piqued.
The headphones claim to allow you to keep awareness of your external surroundings as they don’t rely on the traditional method of sound transmissions. Instead, the sound is transmitted through your cheekbones and the headphones are placed in a position that doesn’t block your hearing.
In practise, as you cycle around and you are approached by a vehicle from behind, the sound of your music is drowned out. Assuming you keep the volume at a sensible level.
I’ve ridden around with these headphones a few times in London and the experience is interesting.
Comfortable to wear
The Chilli Technology Bone Conduction Headphones are comfortable to wear. They keep their position well even when going through potholes thanks to the tight cheek bone position.
To keep them in place it’s a good idea to also clip the additional volume and power controller to your cycling jacket. Having the extra controller is a very useful feature for quick adjustments.
The headphones are a happy midway point between my high quality Shure Headphones and strapping a small radio to my handlebars. The Bone Conduction Headphone quality is adequate enough but don’t expect to hear the intricate beats of your favourite songs.
Why would you possibly want to wear headphones as a cyclist?
This is the first big question. I was actually surprised at how often I wanted to wear the Bone Conduction Headphones. On routes that I’ve travelled multiple times things can get a little dull. Listening to the radio or to a few of my playlists on Spotify was, it has to be said, enjoyable.
I can also imagine how as a road cyclist on a lengthy training or leisure route you’d definitely enjoy having music playing in the background or catching up with your favourite podcasts. It would certainly take the edge of some of the tougher climbs.
Although, you could just as easily argue that cycling is one of the few times we are not multitasking and the headphones would detract from the simple pleasure of cycling itself.
Isn’t it dangerous?
The other big question surrounds the dangers of headphones for cyclists. It took a lot of testing before I could come to a conclusive answer. In the end I think it would be silly to wear these Bone Conduction headphones on a regular basis when cycling on busy streets. You need every single ounce of concentration to stay safe when cycling in London. Music, whichever way you frame it, is a distraction.
However, on longer rides in to the countryside I believe there is a place for these headphones. Car noises drown out the music nicely so you keep a strong enough awareness of your surroundings. Amongst road cyclists and for that matter mountain bikers I can see the appeal.
Ultimately, while I like the idea behind the headphones and I do believe they give you far more awareness than traditional headphones, I can’t see that many cyclists paying for the upgrade. Those who already cycle with headphones will probably continue to do so and keep just one of the earphones in and the volume low.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.