Headphones on the Road

I will be wanting to accumulate some long periods of time in the saddle outdoors over the Spring and Summer months in preparation for a couple of long distance events.

I have seen pros and other riders on social media riding with headphones presumably for a bit of a boost. Sometimes I get the urge to let the hours fly by with some background music to help keep spirits and motivation high. I then change my mind as I don’t feel particularly safe doing it.

Does anybody here use headphones or have any feelings about this?


I’ve been toying with using bone conductive headphones so I can still hear what’s around me on long rides too. Blocking sound off completely doesn’t seem to be the best idea.
I had the chance to try them recently and it really is like background music whilst you can hear everything else. A colleague runs with them and says he can hear what’s happening around him with no problems.


For a long dull ride I’ll sometimes use my Beats X bluetooth headphones but just put them in my left ear, so that my right ear is free to listen for traffic coming past ambulance sirens, etc.

(Obviously this is for British roads with cars driving on the left, I would use the other ear when in Tenerife etc but the scenery is generally so good I don’t need music!)

Can also help me measure out a long 20min tempo effort by making a playlist of 5-minute songs.


I have headphones nearly all the time when I’m on the road solo, I don’t usually have the music super loud (unless jamming up a hill or something). It’s the only way I can really relax my mind on the road, without music I start to think constantly about work/home/family and things I “should” potentially doing besides being out on my bike lol.


For the past 2 years I have been using in ear earphones in both ears perfectly safely. Any time I have to move out from the edge of the road to the avoid a pothole or something just give a quick look over you shoulder and you will be fine.

Other than that, I am a pretty tidy cyclist that pretty much always cycles within a foot of the side of the road so if I get hit by a car it isn’t because I had earphones in, it is because a car hit me. At the end of the day there is not much about that you can control and earphones isn’t going to change that, it does serve to take my mind off the possibility of being milled by a truck as well.


I don’t use headphones on the road. I take the view that if I’m hit by a vehicle it’s me that’s likely to come off worse. Anything I can do to try and avoind that happening is worthwhile, and it that means not being distracted by music, then so be it!

If you’re out in the countryside, why not enjoy the beautiful music of nature? Or enjoy the silence?


I think about this a lot, as I am firmly in the camp of “it’s not safe to wear regular earphones on the bike” but also I’m a bit of an audio enthusiast and a big music lover.

The bone conducting didn’t do it for me. I had two versions of the Aftershokz, but they had absolutely no bass (which is expected, of course) and it was impossible to keep them in a good position because of the helmet straps.

I just found these from Sony and want to give them a try. There’s also a new true wireless version, but they’re a lot more expensive.


Nope. In my part of the world a cyclist is legally defined the same as a motorist and it’s against the law for either to wear headphones (for music) whilst operating their vehicle on the open road.


I have been using a single earbud as of late, and don’t feel unsafe doing so at all. The free ear ensures I’m perfectly aware of other road users. I got the tiny Soundpeats Truefree bluetooth ones, so no hassle with wires. Reportedly they have 4 hrs of battery life before needing a recharge. When not in use, I just turn it off and put it in my pocket.
These are also great on the trainer, since they close off very well. With more ‘open’ earbuds or headphones like the apple ones, I find I have to turn them up way loud because of wind or trainer noise, which isn’t good for hearing in the long run.


I am opposed to headphones on the road for two reasons. The first is awareness, which has already been discussed above. Related to that are subparts a & b: perceived awareness (when a motorist sees you and blames you for something because you have headphones), should a problem happen, your perceived role may be inflated due to the headphones (“clearly the cyclist was distracted”). Consider the news stories that a truck swerving into a bike lane wouldn’t have hit the cyclist if only the cyclist had brighter clothes.

The second is focus, or mental strength. If you’re listening to music on the ride (or the run), the music may serve as your crutch, a crutch you won’t have come race day.


Just worth adding to this that it does leave you at the mercy of record producers and which stereo channel they decide to put certain instruments. It turned out the other day that the crucial guitar hook in The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” is entirely panned over to the right channel, so was completely missing when I listened to it.


I know some folks who use a Boombotix speaker instead of headphones.

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This kind of thing negates this problem.


Amazing! If there’s a bluetooth option that’d be even better. I’ll have a search…

I have tried a number of things for solo rides. I used to use both earbuds and used low volume, but didn’t feel 100% safe. Did 1 earbud for a while which helped alot with awareness. Lately, I have tried an armband to hold my iphone and use the speakers. This has generally been the best mix of sound quality and awareness. And it gets my phone out of my back pocket. The downsides are that sometimes it slips down a bit, adjusting volume isn’t so easy, and my larger phone is a bit heavier than I would like. Plus not aero. :slight_smile:

I do try to not use music as much as possible, but I will say, for long interval work at SS or threshold, it really helps.

Music undeniably helps, but headphones on the road is a no from me.
I’d go even further and say the same for street runners.


Used headphones and more recently AirPods for years on the road. Just be sensible, turn down on busy roads, increase awareness by checking around you more regularly and enjoy smashing it up some gradient with your power tracks on when the time is right.

You can even chat alongside other riders with them. I meet guys all the time with mine in and just pause and chat away. They block very minimal sound when off and even when on unless they’re up super loud or are actively noise cancelling which most either aren’t or are bad at.

Apple leads with the button on them are excellent as you can pause and start easily even with thick gloves on. Vol up and down easy too.

AirPods don’t fly out even when you hit huge bumps by mistake it seems. Newer AirPods have Siri so maybe these can be used to say volume up or down or pause etc without taking hands off bars? I’ve had poor experiences with voice commands on the GoPro though the mic was quite far away unlike the AirPods…

Quote a polarised topic but as usual the reality lays somewhere in between all the the ranting.


I live in Phoenix. Drivers are very bad, disrespectful and dangerous. I listen to music every solo ride. Just a couple weeks ago a friend was hit broad side while in the bike lane stopped at a stop sign. She went to the hospital with multiple fractures. Yep no words and a big WTF! Just another incident in the wild west. Happens very often to long time cyclist and I honestly can’t think of one example of where listening to music or not could have prevented the accident/incident. The only way to do that is to not ride which is not a real option IMO.


I’ve let my phone play music through it’s speakers but never use headphones. I’m already at a disadvantage by having to wear hearing aids although I don’t on the bike simply because I sweat a lot and don’t have the money to replace them often. Lucky for me I can hear well enough without them to know when danger is approaching. I haven’t come across a disrespectful driver around my area yet but it’s bound to happen.

I really like my Coros helmet for this very reason. Built in Bluetooth with bone-conducting headphones so I can hear my music AND what’s going on around me. I have a lighter helmet that I use for group riding, but use the audio helmet when alone and/or commuting.