There are days when you want nothing more than to be completely immersed in nature, hearing just the birds, the road and your bike. Then there are days when you really just need to get to work. Riding with headphones is a tricky issue – it can make commuting more bearable on days when you really aren’t feeling it, but they also limit your situational awareness, potentially endangering you and those around you.
Pros – Helps retain situational awareness, good overall sound quality, waterproof, long battery life.
Cons – Can be difficult to wear with glasses.
Price – $149.00
Aftershokz helps bridge the gap between safety and being able to blast your favourite song whilst riding. Founded originally to develop bone conduction technology for the military, this small Chinese company saw an application for their technology in the civilian market.
Bone conduction technology is nothing new, it has been used for many years in hearing aids. In air conduction, aka normal hearing, what we perceive as sounds are sequential waves of pressure that travel through our auditory canal to vibrate the tympanic membrane. This vibration is then sent to your cochlear which converts the physical vibrations to neural signals, which in turn allows us to perceive sound. Bone conduction vibrates your temporal bone which directly activates your cochlear, bypassing the auditory canal and tympanic membrane.
For those of us who have intact air conduction and therefore good hearing, there’s no real benefit to using bone conduction, except that it leaves your auditory canal unobstructed.
For cyclists and runners, this means you can still hear everything that’s going on around you. While listening to music with Aftershokz, you can easily maintain a conversation, hear cars coming up behind you and, of course, appreciate how amazing your hub sounds.
Aftershokz make a few models of headphones but I’ve been using the Titanium. These are Bluetooth compatible headphones, so they wirelessly connect to your phone the same way your ear pods do. The setup process is as simple as turning on your Bluetooth setting and turning on the headphones.
Being wireless means that they do come with the disadvantages of wireless technology as well. Charging the battery takes about an hour and a half using a standard micro USB port. The Aftershokz website claims six hours of continuous music or phone calls on a single charge; I got closer to five hours over the course of a week, although I didn’t turn my pair off at all, so take from that what you will.
The sound of the Titanium is a fairly good quality sound that gets the job done. If you’re a set musician who normally uses Shure or Bose headphones, you’ll notice a decrease in quality, but, you’ve got to remember, you are on a bike. For reference, I would compare them to Apple’s ear pods. Clear, good quality sound, but not something to use in a studio. Compared to in-ear headphones, there’s a world of difference in your situational awareness. As your auditory canal is completely unobstructed, there’s very little you can’t hear from your surrounds, but Aftershokz have found a good balance between hearing your music and receiving calls whilst still knowing what’s going on around you.
When paired to your phone, the Aftershokz are also able to receive calls. If someone does call you, the unit pause your music and start playing a ringtone. Answering the call is as simple as pressing the button on the left sound transducer. To disconnect, just press the same button.
If you’re the kind of person who listens to music whilst riding, or you’d like to, but you’re rightfully concerned about not noticing the 30-tonne truck approaching you from behind, Aftershokz headphones are a must-have addition to your cycling or running kit. With good quality sound and great situational awareness, these are perfect for music lovers and people who need to stay connected alike, while putting their safety first. They also make great Christmas gifts for runners and riders out there who appreciate their gadgets and workout playlists, but don’t forget to order in time for Christmas!