Best headphones for cycling 2023 - choices for staying entertained while riding indoors and out

Best headphones for cycling group of wireless headphones
(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Finding the best headphones for cycling is a challenge facing almost everyone who rides. For some, it's all about music or podcasts as the distance ticks away on long, solitary, outdoor rides. You need something that helps you stop obsessing about how far you've gone and helps you pass the long hours. At the same time, you also need to know you aren't going to lose your headphones and you need to make sure to preserve spatial awareness. 

Then there are others who may not use headphones outdoors but definitely need something indoors. As time ticks away on one of the best smart trainers, it's even tougher to keep up your motivation. Unlike a long outdoor ride, all you need to do is step off your bike and you are home. Help passing the time might come in the form of a podcast, or even a movie, and you want to be able to hear clearly without an uncomfortable fit. Indoor riders might even find themselves needing to talk to teammates during a race or use music to boost performance. 

Whatever your needs might be when it comes to cycling audio, it's a tough ask of even the best headphones. We've spent time indoors and outdoors both listening and talking with a wide range of headphones. If you are looking for the best headphones for cycling, keep reading to see what we think are the right choices for a variety of situations.

Best headphones for cycling available today

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The list below outlines what we believe to be the best headphones for cycling, based on extensive testing by our tech and review team. Those choices are a balanced consideration of features, sound quality, durability and price. With the Black Friday sales in full swing, the price part of that equation can be ever-changing, so we'd also recommend checking our roundup of Black Friday headphones deals

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best headphones for cycling when you want a general-purpose option

Specifications

Battery Life: 4.5 hours in the earbuds/extra 15.5 hours in case (all with ANC active)
Water Resistance Rating: Earbuds IPX5/Case IPX4
Noise Canceling: Active
Charging: USB-C
Bluetooth version: 5.2
Supported Codecs: AAC/SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint: No

Reasons to buy

+
Wings make for an easy grab spot when removing and inserting
+
Either earbud works alone
+
Touch controls can be turned off
+
Comfortable in the ear

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life
-
Lacklustre companion app

If you scan the spec sheet for the Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC they might not look so great. There are obvious missing features like wireless charging or support for more advanced codecs and there's also shorter battery life compared to other options. On top of it all, the companion app isn't great either. 

Over and over though, I find myself going back to this option from Adidas because they are so comfortable in the ear. A lot of the options on this list start out feeling great but eventually leave your ears sore. Adidas avoids that fate plus if you get really sweaty and find yourself needing to reposition the earbuds the wing design makes that easy to do. It’s also helpful that you can frequently find a great deal on these headphones.

You can find more details in our Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC review.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best headphones for cycling if a 'hearthrough' mode is important to you

Specifications

Battery Life: 8 hours in the earbuds/extra 22 hours in case
Water Resistance Rating: Earbuds IP57
Noise Canceling: Active
Charging: USB-C & wireless
Bluetooth version: 5.2
Supported Codecs: AAC/SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Bluetooth Multipoint
+
Excellent Companion app
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Less secure when sweaty

The Jabra Elite 7 Active headphones are a perfect example of just how tight the market is for Bluetooth headphones. They are incredibly close to being the best all-around option and only miss by the slimmest of margins. Compared to the Adidas headphones the Jabra option is ever so slightly less secure when both are drenched in sweat. If you are looking to ride outside more than inside then these are a better choice as there's far less issue with sweat and the rest of the features are superior. In particular, the battery life is enough for all but the most epic rides and if you do need to charge them you can swap between one-in and one-charging for quick top-ups. There are also great indoor features like Bluetooth multi-point, an excellent companion app, and the hear-through mode is so loud it borders on being a hearing-aid. If you are looking for a great all-around option you will definitely want to consider these and if you like a great hear-through mode, there's no contest.

Read more details in our Jabra Elite 7 Active review.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Google Pixel Buds Pro

Best headphones for cycling when Android compatibility is most important

Specifications

Battery Life: 7 hours in the earbuds/extra 13 hours in case (all with ANC active)
Water Resistance Rating: Earbuds IPX4/Case IPX2
Noise Canceling: Active
Charging: USB-C & wireless
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Supported Codecs: AAC/SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Strong noise cancelling
+
No companion app needed
+
Reads incoming notifications

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

We haven't listed anything that's not compatible with Android phones but the Google Pixel Buds Pro take compatibility to another level. With wireless headphones, the typical system is to connect via your phone's Bluetooth menu and through a companion app. The companion apps are a mixed bag, to say the least. Sometimes they work fine but sometimes they are absolutely maddening. 

Because Google builds both Android and the Pixel Buds Pro all the functionality is directly integrated into the operating system. Jump into the Bluetooth menu and right there you can adjust things like how the touch controls work, no secondary app is needed. The Pixel Buds Pro will also read your notifications as they come in so you don't need to wonder if it's worth checking what it is. One thing that's more of a quirk than a positive or negative is that the noise cancellation on these is very noticeable but not necessarily better. Sitting in a relatively quiet area the ANC is so strong it feels almost disconcerting but on a plane, it's not a drastic improvement. In the negative column, the biggest issue is that the Pixel Buds Pro are expensive and they don't often see the same discounts as some of the other options. 

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Beats Powerbeats Pro

Best headphones for cycling if iPhone compatibility is most important

Specifications

Battery Life: 9 hours in the earbuds/extra 15 hours in case
Water Resistance Rating: Earbuds IPX4
Noise Canceling: none
Charging: Lightning cable
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Supported Codecs: AAC/SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint: No

Reasons to buy

+
Over the ear design will not slip
+
Long battery life
+
Easy pairing with iOS
+
Physical buttons instead of capacitive

Reasons to avoid

-
Lightning instead of USB-C charging

While the Pixel Buds Pro is an excellent choice for Android users, they make little sense for anyone using an iPhone. On the Apple side of the fence, there are actually a ton of good options that are first-party specific. All the options that Apple offers have quick pairing and iOS integration but you also get more choices than Android users. If you are looking for an all-around option then the Apple Airpods Pro have recently gotten an update. They offer all the everyday features you could ever want plus they will work while riding. On the other hand, the Powerbeats Pro are exercise specific and they are so good on the bike that they might still be worth considering even for Android users. 

No matter your phone OS of choice, everyone gets the benefit of long battery life and a physical design that will not come loose no matter how sweaty you get. All the earbuds that rely on friction with the ear to stay secure, like the Airpods Pro, work fine outside and for some indoor riding. If you have a truly epic indoor ride though you run the risk of sweat causing a loose feeling and capacitive buttons being pressed when you reposition. In those situations, the Powerbeats Pro end up being more comfortable even for Android users. If you thought the Pixel Buds Pro were expensive though, these are even more money and they lack noise cancellation or hear-through modes. 

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best headphones for cycling if you want true wireless headphones that won’t slip

Specifications

Battery Life: 8 hours in the earbuds/extra 16 hours in case
Water Resistance Rating: IP68
Noise Cancelling: Active
Charging: USB-C and wireless
Bluetooth version: 5.2
Supported Codecs: SBC/AAC
Bluetooth Multipoint: No

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Incredibly secure in the ear
+
Alarm to help find the earbuds

Reasons to avoid

-
Winged ear-gels can leave the ear sore

One of the challenges with a lot of true wireless earbuds is that sweat can break the friction retention design. The Jaybird Vista 2 doesn't use a friction design. Instead, there's a winged 'ear gel' that pushes into the ridges of the outer ear. It can leave your ear sore after a while but it definitely will not come out. It doesn't matter how sweaty your Zwift session is, it's a solid fit. 

On top of that there's also great battery life and a system that alarms the earbuds to help find them. It might not help you find them in a loud room but it might be just the thing to let you know they are in your couch. You can find that feature in the app and while you're there, the rest of the experience is pretty good. The active noise cancelling isn’t going to challenge market leaders but you do also get passive isolation that’s good enough these can double as earplugs. 

You can read more detail in our Jaybird Vista 2 review.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best headphones for cycling outdoors

Specifications

Battery Life: 10 hours
Water Resistance Rating: Earbuds IP55
Noise Canceling: None
Charging: proprietary magnetic cable
Bluetooth version: 5.1
Supported Codecs: SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Completely secure on your head
+
Preserves spatial awareness
+
Simple to operate control scheme

Reasons to avoid

-
Proprietary charging cable

My recommendation for the best headphones when riding a bike outside are the Shokz OpenRun Pro, though in all honesty, they're great for riding inside too. Inside you never have to worry about having them get insecure because of sweat and the microphone is good enough to handle fan and drivetrain noise for those who want to speak to friends when riding indoors. Outside you can hear the music but also your surroundings. If you spend part of your time chatting with someone, stopping your music makes it feel like you've got no headphones with you. When it's time to listen to music, the control scheme is easy enough that you never have to take your phone out. 

The only reason you might want to consider a different option on this list is that Shokz bone conduction headphones are not the best headphones in non-sports situations. The sound quality isn't as good and they aren't easy to drop in a pocket. There's also the proprietary charging cable and, although 10 hours is great battery life, most earbuds allow you to swap back and forth to quickly add hours from the case. If you are willing to get a specialized tool for riding your bike, the Shokz OpenRun Pro are the best headphones. 

Read more details in our Shokz OpenRun Pro review.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best headphones for spatial awareness in a true wireless format

Specifications

Battery Life: 5.5 hours in the earbuds/extra 12 hours in case
Water Resistance Rating: Earbuds IPx4
Noise Canceling: None
Charging: USB-C
Bluetooth version: 5.2
Supported Codecs: SBC/AAC
Bluetooth Multipoint: No

Reasons to buy

+
Unique design preserves spatial awareness
+
Won’t fall out even when sweaty
+
Very secure in the ear with lots of sizing options

Reasons to avoid

-
Quirkiness around button assignment and single earbud use

There's nothing like having your ear open if you want to be able to hear what's happening around you. You can try to use hear-through modes or take one earbud out but just having your ear open is the best and it's why Shokz headphones are so good on the bike. If you like the idea but want something that's more useful for the rest of life, then the Sony Linkbuds bridge that gap. The design puts a small circular opening right in the earbud piece that normally seals the ear canal. It works well and coupled with a variety of different-sized wings it does a great job of staying put even when sweaty. The ability to have a virtual button on the side of your upper cheek helps make it easier to manage music control when riding as well. The downsides are that the battery life isn't great, coming in at a little less than even the Adidas option, and one earbud use is dependent on how you have the buttons configured. Overall, you still don't get every feature some earbuds have but you do get more than the Shokz with close to as much spatial awareness. 

Read more details in our Sony Linkbuds review.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Adidas RPT-01

Best headphones for cycling if you want an over-the-ear option

Specifications

Battery Life: 40+ hours
Water Resistance Rating: IPX4
Noise Canceling: None
Charging: USB-C
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Supported Codecs: SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint: No

Reasons to buy

+
Washable fabric covers
+
Long battery life
+
Simple to operate control scheme

Reasons to avoid

-
Over the ear design can become uncomfortable eventually

True wireless earbuds are incredibly convenient and that's especially true on a bike. You can make them work even with a helmet and sunglasses and at other times they are simple to bring along given their small size. One challenge with them though is that people might not know you have them in. If you are working out at the gym you might want to make it very obvious you are using headphones and in that case over the head is best. Finding sports-specific over-the-head options is a bit trickier but Adidas has the RPT-01 as the perfect answer if you want this style for indoor riding. The exterior of the earcups has a fabric cover and it's removable when it's time to wash it. The only thing to watch out for is that the ear cups sit on top of the ears instead of around them and that can get tiring eventually. Although the RPT-01 has an incredible 40+ hours of battery life, there has been a new model added with even more. The RPT-02 uses the same design as the 01 but adds solar charging to the headband.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Sennheiser Momentum 3 True Wireless

Best headphones for cycling if sound quality is important to you

Specifications

Battery Life: 7 hours in the earbuds/extra 21 hours in case
Water Resistance Rating: IPX4
Noise Canceling: None
Charging: USB-C and wireless
Bluetooth version: 5.2
Supported Codecs: SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX adaptive
Bluetooth Multipoint: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Wide range of supported Bluetooth codecs
+
High quality active noise reduction
+
Proportionally large driver

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks Bluetooth multipoint

I don't talk about sound quality in these small descriptions because the truth is it's very similar between the options. When it's time to do a full review, I spend time switching between types of music and listening back-to-back between different headphones but even in that situation, it can be difficult to distinguish differences. Still, if you want the best headphones for sound quality, Sennheiser is pushing the boundaries of what's possible in a true wireless form factor. 

One thing that the brand has done is use a relatively large driver for the form factor. An over-the-head style headphone might use a 40mm driver but when it's time to shrink it for a true wireless design, that can drop to 6mm. Sennheiser manages to squeeze a 7mm driver into the Momentum 3 true wireless. The other thing that boosts sound quality isn't something everyone will get to experience. As the music gets transmitted between a device and the headphones the codec used to make that possible can compress the sound, or not. AptX Adaptive is a Qualcomm codec that promises higher-quality sound transmission. Just keep in mind you will need a device with support as well as a source that offers it if you want to experience the benefits. The one thing I’d like to see the brand include is Bluetooth multipoint. Not everyone needs it but at this price point, it should be there.

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Skullcandy Dime 2

Best headphones for cycling on a budget

Specifications

Battery Life: 3.5 hours in the earbuds/extra 8.5 hours in case
Water Resistance Rating: IPX4
Noise Canceling: None
Charging: micro-usb
Bluetooth version: 5.2
Supported Codecs: SBC/AAC
Bluetooth Multipoint: No

Reasons to buy

+
Fun colours
+
Built in Tile Finding Technology
+
Inexpensive

Reasons to avoid

-
Micro-USB charging

There is an endless number of cheap true wireless headphones available. The names constantly rotate and you have no idea if they are good or not. I wanted to make sure to include a budget option but I wanted to find an option from a quality brand known for excellent support. The Skullcandy Dime 2 are true wireless headphones that will absolutely do the job of providing music while you ride and they do it at a bargain price. 

They also come from a company with a name you can stand behind. My son has used a variety of Skullcandy headphones for years and any time they've had an issue, the brand was an email or phone call away and never a hassle. The products they make are inexpensive but they aren't cheap. The sound won't match the Momentum 3 True Wireless but it's entirely workable and the Tile support is an excellent feature if you manage to lose one of the earbuds. The original Dime is even cheaper without that feature. There's no ANC or hear-through but at this price point, that's expected. I just wish it had USB-C charging, but it makes do with micro-USB. 

How to choose the best headphones for cycling

Unfortunately, there is no perfect pair of headphones for every situation. You came here looking for the best headphones for cycling but you have to decide if that means a special purchase. Are you only looking for the best performance on the bike? Or are you looking for a pair of headphones that works for the rest of your life as well as on the bike?

Once you've worked that out, you want to think about what features matter to you. At the low end, you get a pair of headphones that works for music and that's about it. As you go up in price there are options for better sound quality as well as features like active noise cancelling or hear-through modes. There are also better or worse app experiences, Bluetooth multipoint, and wireless charging as things worth considering. 

If your use is purely about on-the-bike performance, you need to think about what that looks like as well. If you plan to use headphones for indoor riding at high intensity or long distances then there are different considerations such as how they deal with sweat and their battery life. Riding outside actually tends to be more forgiving and that's especially true for shorter rides, but you might consider how it could help if you lost one. 

What features are important for riding indoors?

Every option on this list is something I spent time testing to make sure it would stay put in my ears. I imagined dropping a small wireless earbud out of an ear during a ride and suddenly having a very expensive paperweight with only one earbud. What I found during actual testing is that every product I tested was plenty secure once I figured out the correct sizing. That's not the end of the story though. 

Many of the options achieved security through a friction-based fit with the ear canal. When riding inside either racing on Zwift, doing intervals, or even doing long indoor rides this would often be an issue. The amount of sweat you can manage to produce during a hard indoor workout is rather incredible and it's enough to reduce that friction. I found myself needing to constantly adjust the earbuds. In those situations, something with a mechanical retention design is a better choice. 

Another big challenge for indoor riding is talking to someone while riding. You might need to do this during a race or just to pass the time. It also happens to be a torture test for a headphone mic since there's a fan pointed at your face and lots of drivetrain noise. If that's your need, look for something with multiple mics as they tend to do a better job picking up your voice vs the background noise. 

What features are important for outdoor riding?

I found outdoor riding to be a lot more forgiving. The greater airflow allows a friction-fit design to work better while it's less likely that I was going to talk to someone. Outside the most important thing tends to be spatial awareness. You could achieve that by only using a single earbud but you could also do it with some kind of system that allows ambient noise in. Unfortunately though both ANC and hear-through modes don't tend to work very well because of wind on the mic. 

Another consideration is the control system. If the control system is simple you can safely keep your phone stored all the time. A simple way of going forward and backwards in the song list is a great thing to look for and so is access to a voice assistant. If you can make a voice assistant work while riding then you can accomplish a wide array of tasks by just activating it and talking.

What features are important for everyday use?

This section is really a discussion about ANC (active noise cancelling), hear-through mode, and battery life. Hear-through and active noise cancelling use the same system and it's a series of mics that listen for external noise and process it in real-time. When you have noise cancelling turned on, the headphones use the info to reduce the incoming noise. Hear-through meanwhile uses the info to recreate the sound through the headphones. In everyday use, they add a lot of value and if you've got the budget, it's worth seeking them out. 

For the purposes of our discussion, the main challenge with these systems is that they aren't useful when riding a bike. Outdoors the wind tends to confuse the mic for hear-through modes and active noise reduction isn't that effective, not to mention the fact that it's not safe for riding outdoors. 

Indoors both modes do work but it can feel very odd to ride with a lack of sound because of a good active noise cancelling system. It all goes back to the point made in the beginning that there's not a universal pair of headphones that's best at everything. Adding active noise cancellation is better for everyday use but expect to turn it off when riding a bike. If you are buying a product focused on riding, there's no need to pay for the feature. 

The one thing that does bridge the gap and finds use in both situations is battery life. Longer is better and longer life means a bigger battery. Larger headphones will have better battery life but true wireless earbuds have an extra trick. Typically, earbuds can charge their battery faster than they drain, so for example, five minutes of charging a single earbud might give 30 minutes of listening time. With this in mind, you can listen to one earbud for five minutes while charging the other in the portable charge case, then swap them around. You get uninterrupted listening with a much longer battery life. 

How did we test the best headphones for cycling?

If you spend time on a bike it's likely you listen to music. Just like you, I listen to music while I'm riding. I spent time with each option testing inside on long rides and inside during high-intensity workouts and Zwift races. I made phone calls and asked for feedback on how easy it was to hear me while riding hard with the fan on high. 

Then I took the options outside and spent long hours passing the time riding and listening to music. With a quality set of options put together, I then spent time with each product while working, cooking dinner, watching YouTube, and generally living a regular life. After testing and researching, I've put together a wide range of options for different people with different needs.  

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx