Let’s get this out of the way first: headphones + bike = disaster. Or worse. It is challenging enough keeping up to date with your surroundings without blocking off one of your essential senses. Aftershokz tries to address the danger of not hearing a car creeping up behind you by placing the speakers in contact with your cheekbones, and transmitting the sound through them to your inner ear (this is how we hear our own voice).
This leaves your ear exposed to hear what is going on around you, as the beats bypass the eardrum completely. And, in principle, it really does work. You hear your music loud and clear and the birds tweeting (we tested them off-road; cars frighten us enough without added risk). We even managed to listen to some genteel cricket commentary while chatting to our mates on the climbs. There are some challenges – the loop over the ears interfered with some of our eyewear options (but not all of them), and you have to remember to take the Aftershokz off before removing your helmet, or you end up strangling yourself. But the biggest problem came as soon as you hit any speed over 35–40 km/h, when the noise created by the wind rushing past the speakers themselves was as much of a distraction as having in-ear speakers. Off-road, this is unlikely ever to be an issue, but for road use, it negates a really clever workaround. We hear there are some design changes coming, so let’s hope they fix this slight flaw in an otherwise all-round great product.
They’re available at selected Cape Union Mart and Sportsmans Warehouse stores. For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org