One thing that I really prefer about riding on the trainer in my basement is the ability to listen to music or podcasts. I use the time to get in saddle time and get to the podcasts that I wouldn’t normally have time for. It started as a way to pass the really boring time in the basement and it has become a really nice way to combine things.
I looked into if it was safe to wear headphones while riding on the road. The general consensus, and my personal feeling, is that it isn’t safe because it hinders your ability to hear the dangers around you. There were some interesting ideas like the single earbud, but that didn’t seem to address the problem completely. Last year I heard about a technology trickle down from the military, bone conducting headphones. But they were really expensive. This year there was a significant price drop so I decided to try them.
A bit about the technology, instead of fitting over your ears or in your ear canal, bone conducting headphones rest on the bone near your ear. The sound is transmitted either through your jaw or cheek bones to your inner ear. The advantage is your ears are completely open to external sounds and the sound from your music, etc, is like it is coming from inside your head. It sounds weird but its pretty cool.
My training lately is really early mornings with little traffic. I decided to try it out on one of my morning rides and it changed everything about how I view solo training rides. I was really impressed with my ability to hear my surroundings and the music. Having a little up-tempo music made it a whole lot easier to work on high cadence riding and the miles just went by. When there was traffic or other audible dangers I am able to hear them no problem.
You can turn up the sound to the point where you are drowning out the external sounds, but that’s really not the purpose of them. A moderate volume is plenty to give you ambiance and allow for safety. I’ve tried them in heavier traffic and I haven’t seen any problems with hearing what’s going on around me.
The phones I tried are Aftershokz. They are reasonably priced compared to the $150+ I was seeing last year for similar technology. The sound quality is good. Not a ton of bass, but pretty decent. When you really get going the sound will get drowned out by wind noise, but I can live with that. They also are formed in such a way that they don’t get in the way of your glasses; a real plus because I am blind without mine.
If you’re looking for something to make solo rides more enjoyable, I’d give these a shot. You need to make your own choice about safety concerns.