Skip to main content

5 of the Best Headphones for Cyclists

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

Getting the Best Headphones for Your Riding

If you're fed up of your stock iPod headphones falling out every time you hit a bump whilst out training it might be time for a well considered upgrade

During those lonely hours on the roads and in the garage on the turbo trainer we often result to listening to music to keep our motivation high. But the worst thing that can happen halfway through a sprint interval or climb is for them to drop out of your ear and start swinging around. Cycling manufacturers have started integrating discrete pockets for MP3 players and subtle sockets to allow headphones to weave through your jacket.

What are You Looking for in Cycling Headphones?

A feel good training track for the foodie cyclists

Is Cycling Wearing Headphones Illegal in the UK

Whilst you may hear people shout that cycling in headphones is illegal it in fact not true. The Highway Code states that the use of headphones is not illegal but does put a recommendation that it is not advisable and there have been legal cases in the UK where cyclists have not been held negligent whilst wearing headphones.

USA Rules for Cycling Using Headphones

For many people in the USA (and UK too), riding wearing headphones is completely mad, unsafe and against sound morals but the reality is that it's not a huge amount different to listening to the radio whilst driving which is pretty much the norm across the world. Many cyclists will always argue that that most headphones don't block out all surrounding sounds, and may also ll add that our hearing really isn't that crucial for biking safely if you consider that a deaf person can obtain a driving license.

One of the biggest issues in this area is a distinct lack of research. Whilst the likelihood of being involved in an accident whilst riding a bike is very low, there there's no information available by accident rates comparing headphone use to cycling without.

In the USA the majority of states have not made cycling wearing headphones illegal. Five US states allow one headphone (Including California, Delaware and Maryland), but not both, while three others ban them entirely.(Including Florida and Washington). Therefore it's best to check your state laws before heading out on your bike.

Can your current headphones handle bass? Try this track and test

The Best Sports Headphones for Cycling on the Roads

When you're on the roads your priorities change somewhat. Comfort and durability remain a factor, with snug, solid fit for when you hit the inevitable pothole or tree root which riding. Adjustibility on the move is always a bonus with some form of easy to use control point for volume and potential to change tracks on your music player. The ability to answer phone calls if using your phone as a music player is also a bonus as for some of us with hectic lifestyles work doesn't stop whilst we're riding.

Key atributes to look for

  • No noise cancellation to keep you aware of your environment
  • Option to use one headphone only (especially if a legal requirement where you live)
  • Great sound quality
  • Adjustibility of sound and potential call answering whilst on the move
  • Bluetooth option ideal if you don't wish for annoying cables

Great for on the Road- Bose SoundSport

Bose SoundSport. In-ear sports headphones offer a cyclist fantastic audio as you would expect from Bose

Bose SoundSport. In-ear sports headphones offer a cyclist fantastic audio as you would expect from Bose

Great Sound Can Inspire Your Training- Review of the Bose SoundSport Headphones for Apple

If you're on the search for high end audio quality you've likely heard of Bose. They make some awesome audio systems although have only recently moved into the sports headphones area of the market.

The Bose SoundSport is sadly only available for Apple devices and with a separate model compatible with the Samsung Galaxy range which makes it a specialist product but with sound systems now so complicated compared to an old school Walkman it makes sense to integrate some of the features of your iPhone or iPod with the right headphones to match as the stock Apple headphones just get annoying over time as they never want to stay in your ears. Plus it's great to be able to skip tracks in a click whilst out on the road without having to mess around in your back pocket.

Bose never offer a budget product so these sports headphones are expensive at $150 (UK £129.99) but the SoundSport really captures the intensity and power of whatever you choose to listen to with an exceptionally well balanced sound.

These headphones feature a moulded 'ridge' which Bose calls their StayHear tips to add to comfort whilst offering a secure yet unrestricted fit. The earbud conforms to the shape of your ear to stay in place even if you were racing Paris-Roubaix.

If you're looking for performance without compromise whilst cycling the Bose SportSound could be a great option for you.

Bose SoundSport Key Features

  • Awesome balanced sound, even at high volume
  • Specific controls built in for Apple systems
  • Secure fit worthy of racing Paris- Roubaix

Grab a pair for yourself- Bose sound quality in a tough package for cycling

Alberto Contador Uses the B&O Play 3i Headphones Whilst Racing

Alberto Contador using the B&O Beoplay earset 3i for Team Saxo- Tinkoff

Alberto Contador using the B&O Beoplay earset 3i for Team Saxo- Tinkoff

Scroll to Continue

The Earpiece of Choice for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, The B&O Beosound 3i Headphone

When you're a professional cycling team it's the finer details that matter and make a big difference and that's why Team Saxo-Tinkoff started using the impressive 3i earset for their race radios.

The link shown will show you just how they're set up for team radios but one of the key reasons to use the 3i earset is the sheer amount of adjustibility and hold. You'll see many racers in the pro-peloton with headsets stuck in place with tape but with the Bang and Olufsen system there is no need for this.

GeekInsider goes as far as recommending the headset

"I would encourage every professional athlete and hobbyist runner to invest in a pair as you will wonder how you ever survived without them."

You're looking at a price of just less than $200 (Although there are plenty of offers of 25% less online if you shop around) but you're getting the Rolls Royce of headphones with the kind of sound you've only dreamed of- Hearing is believing.

If you're looking for a further professional cycling recommendation, Bradley Wiggins has also been spotted wearing these headphones whilst racing for Team Sky.

Riding with the Bang and Olufsen Beoplay 3i headphone system

Great Fit on a Budget- Yurbuds Ironman Inspire

Most sports-specific headphones can be expensive if you're uncompromising but there are plenty of more budget-conscious options and the Yurbuds Ironman Inspire fits better into that category.

The Inspire range offers a unique twist-lock system which the manufacturer claims is guaranteed not to fall out, even during intense efforts like bicycling with an comfortable ergonomic design.

They're never going to be a match for others for sound but you're paying for comfort and a sports orientated design which is happy to perform in the rain or when your sweat is pouring out thanks to the use of silicon. The sound is clean and simple which many exercisers will appreciate but your money is spent on the design.

Yurbuds Inspire Ironman key features

  • Twistlock technology provides a guaranteed fit suitable for cycling
  • Ergonomically designed for long-lasting comfort
  • Sweat and water resistant design
  • Ergonomically designed to allow ambient noise so you are aware of your surroundings during active use
  • Clean sound

Great value at around the $30 mark.

Best Headphones for Cycling on the Turbo Trainer

When you're on a turbo trainer or spin bike in the gym your requirements in a pair of headphones are going to be slightly different to whilst out on the roads. Some of us have to think about our neighbours who don't always want to be woken up by the Prodigy telling them to "Smack the b@tch up" at 5 AM and it's not always practical to sound-proof your garage or spare room if you live in an apartment.

As a result of this the responsible turbo-trainer will be training with headphones whilst looking for some key characteristics

  • Sweat and water resistance (Saves long term corrosion)
  • Comfortable, secure, ergonomic position
  • Great quality sound
  • Bluetooth capability if using laptop for training DVD's

Good Fitting Wired and Banded Sports Headphones- Sennheiser PMX 685i Sports

If you're looking for a brand which makes some great sounding audio products Sennheiser should be well up your list. Sennehiser's PMX 685i sports headphones come from a collaboration with Adidas and feature a rugged design, centered around a stable and durable neckband to ensure that both earbuds stay fast and snug when you're powering out of the saddle.

The PMX 585i only comes in a corded version for hooking up with your music player but that keeps the cost down while keeping the sound quality high. The neckband may become an issue with some helmet tightening systems so these headphones are a great option for just turbo trainer and general use.

PMX 585i Key Features

  • Great quality natural sound
  • Rugged and durable design
  • Comfort and security thanks to neckband

Sennheiser banded PMX 685i sports headphones

Pro-cyclist inspired headphones

House of Marley EM-FH041-MI Liberate Midnight XLBT Bluetooth Wireless Headphones for the Pro-Cyclist look

House of Marley EM-FH041-MI Liberate Midnight XLBT Bluetooth Wireless Headphones for the Pro-Cyclist look

The Pro-Rider Warm Up Headphones

If you've been to the start of a professional cycling race you will likely have watched the pros warming up in the shadow of a team bus with a set of their bikes lined up like a spin class. Looking on as an amateur cyclist they're the epitome of cool knowing how you look when on the turbo trainer in the garage at home. They're in full concentration, pedallng away, unfazed by the hustle and bustle that surrounds them.

As you wander past you'll notice the riders will be sat there, pedaling away usually with a badass big pair of headphones. Usually cordless to ensure there's no cable to get caught somewhere or in a mechanic's way if they need to adjust their bike.

If you're wanting to look like a pro cyclist there's no compromise. Grab something like a pair of the awesome sounding Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphones or House of Marley's (Yes associated with Bob Marley's son) distinctive looking Liberate Saddle headphones which look awesome and provide some of the sickest beats you can train to.

Great Albums and Complilations for Cycling Music Inspiration

1. Any Calvin Harris album

Calvin Harris is the current golden boy of dance music who has created some electrifying dance tracks which easily cross over into the pop culture through his collaborations with musics best artists and some up and coming stars. Sweet Nothing featuring Florence Welch is a classic sprints track which will have your legs spinning, fast as the many spinning classes it's been in with be able to testify.

Sweet Nothing- Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch

2. Anything by the Prodigy

In a career that's run since the early 90's with various twists and turns in their sound over the years. From their early rave inspired Experience album which will up your temp to the dark delights of The Fat of the Land which features arguably one of the best tracks ever to climb or grind out a threshold interval to- Firestarter.

Classic albums for the turbo trainer

3. Black- Metallic. One for the metal lovers.

4. Ministry of Sound- Running Trax series. High energy fitness music that's a big favourite of many a spin cycling instructor. Great continuous tempo for those long sessions.

5. Above and Beyond- We are all we need. Scandinavian house music at it's funky, melodic best.

Above and Beyond- Melodic house for the turbo trainer

More albums to sweat to

6. Swedish House Mafia- Until Now. Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastien Ingrosso individually are dance music superstars but team them together and you have a supergroup. Their 2012 smash Until Now features some great collaborations with artists like John Martin, Coldplay, Knifeparty and the legendary Pharell Williams. Feel-good tracks to really inspire your sprint sessions.

7. Take a leaf out of TV presenter Cameron McNeish's playlist by trying Oysterband's wonderful Ragged Kingdom album or Diamonds on the Water album. Each has a strong driving bass and a vocal to keep your mind working.

8. Anything Northern Soul. If you like something with an R and B focus you may have heard of Northern Soul, the UK phenomenon which focuses on the 1960s Tamla Motown sound. Many of the tracks had no prominence in the UK and were released on small labels but have since gained a cult status in the UK. The fast, melodic beats will encourage a fast pedal cadence.

Try a little Northern Soul on the turbo trainer

Still looking for training inspiration

9. Fatboy Slim - You've Come A Long Way Baby. Norman Cook's heavy mix of beats and samples is a gritty workout album to inspire those hard efforts. The Rockafeller Skank features an old Northern Soul hook from the Northern Soul classic Sliced Tomatoes by the Just Brothers and just inspires your legs to move.

Spin like a race win depends on it!


Michael Hatamoto from SF Bay Area on December 13, 2017:

I strongly urge cyclists to follow local laws regarding listening to audio or using a smartphone/MP3 player while in the saddle. Share the road and be safe, everyone!

Related Articles