The best cycling headphones will typically offer a combination of sound clarity, water- and sweat-proofing, comfort, access to controls, and durability. However, the perfect pair for your needs will undoubtedly differ from the next person's.
Some will want to listen to music at the highest volume possible during Zwift races and indoor sessions, while others will prefer a quiet audiobook or podcast during an easy spin along the bike path. Many will turn to headphones to shut out their surroundings, while road users will likely want nothing less.
Many would argue that the best cycling headphones for outdoor riding are no headphones at all. Being unable to hear your surroundings whilst riding on a road is not something we'd recommend, but that doesn't mean you can't still listen to your entertainment of choice.
If you're looking for the best cycling headphones for riding indoors, then the primary requirement will likely be sweat proofing. But for riding outside, you might want something that uses bone conduction technology instead of plugging your ear canals, or you may simply put more value on sound clarity and ease of volume control.
Wherever you ride, a pair of headphones can make the difference between enjoying or enduring your ride, and completing or failing your workout. So here are a few suggestions for the best cycling headphones, as well as a few ideas to make music an easy uplift for every workout.
The best cycling headphones available today
Absolutely will not fall out and they sound amazing
Battery Life: Up to 32 hours with charging case | Waterproof: IPX7 | Noise Cancelling: Passive sound isolation
True wireless earbuds are a great way to handle music while riding indoors. There are no wires to get in the way and being able to ride with only one at a time can extend the listening time. Not all true wireless earbuds feel secure in your ear though. There's nothing quite as annoying as an earbud that feels like it's going to fall out when you are sprinting for the win in a Zwift race.
The Jaybird Vista true wireless earbuds are totally secure. They will not move, even a little bit, no matter what you are doing. That security comes by way of a tight seal in your ear and that has its own advantages. They are so well sealed that if you need ear protection, they can pull double duty as earplugs.
Ticpods 2 Pro+
Smart gesture controls and a dual mic setup make for a convenient option with a lot of usability
Battery Life: Up to 20 hours | Waterproof: IPX4 | Noise Cancelling: None
While true wireless headphones are a convenient option, they can also be expensive. You might not want to have different headphones for different uses if you can help it. With that in mind, you will want to consider the quality of the mic. If you ever decide to chat with a friend while riding virtually, you will find that it's a torture test for mic quality. There might not be a more challenging situation for a mic than riding and chatting. You have a fan pointed at your face plus the noise of the drivetrain. If you want people to hear you then the Ticpods 2 Pro+ with Dual-mic noise cancellation will quickly become your trusted partner.
If you want to also take your headphones on outdoor rides the Aftershokz let you remain aware of your surroundings
Battery Life: Up to 8 continuous hours | Waterproof: IP67 | Noise Cancelling: None
Along the same lines of one pair of headphones that work in a lot of situations, you might need to stay aware of your surroundings. While it's okay to be completely sealed off from distractions inside that's not the case outside. If you also ride, or run, with music outside then you should be able to hear your surroundings. Aftershokz is a company known for bone conduction technology and the Aeropex is their latest option. Instead of a speaker that sits near your ear, Aftershokz directs vibrations up your cheekbone. The result is that you can hear the music but also the environment. As they don't plug into your ears the Aeropex are extremely secure and comfortable, so no matter how hard or long you go they won't get irritating.
Jabra Elite 85h
If you want to completely isolate yourself in music and your workout the Jabra Elite 85h will fit the bill
Battery Life: Up to 36 continuous hours | Waterproof: Nano-coating of the internal components | Noise Cancelling: Active
While some headphone uses need to allow outside noise, some don't. Riding indoors you probably don't need to hear what's happening around you. The Jabra 85H noise cancelling is second to none. That amazing active noise cancelling also comes with plenty of battery life. If you want to be completely focused while you tackle a virtual Everest ride then the 36 hours of useability should do the trick. On the other hand, if you need to call a friend during that event the 6 of 8 onboard mics dedicated to voice calls will keep you clear to the other person.
Sport focused over the ear headphones with washable fabric covers
Battery Life: Up to 40 continuous hours | Waterproof: IPX4 | Noise Cancelling: None
If you like the idea of an over-the-ear headphone for your workouts but you need something more workout focused than the Jabra, Adidas has an answer. There is an IPX4 rating and the ear cups, as well as the inner headband, feature fabric covers that can be removed for washing. Without any active noise cancelling you won't stay completely isolated. The controls on the headphones will help keep you from needing to fiddle with your phone while working out though.
Quality bluetooth headphones at a great price
Battery Life: Up to 15 continuous hours | Waterproof: IPX5 | Noise Cancelling: None
Sony was the king of inexpensive, quality headphones, for years. In 2021 that hasn't changed. While you can spend a lot of money on amazing headphones not everyone wants to do that. If you want something that is both good and inexpensive the WI-SP510 is a perfect choice. They aren't true wireless, the two earbuds have a wired connection, but there's no wire to your device. Along with that extra wire, you get longer battery life and the ease of hanging them at your neck while also reducing cost. These are the kind of headphones that just work.
Anker Soundcore Life P2
Budget-friendly, lightweight and IPX7 rated
Battery Life: 7 hours continuous, 40 hours with charge case | Waterproof: IPX7 | Noise Cancelling: None
The Anker Soundcore Life P2 are a budget-friendly pair of cycling headphones that punch well above their weight in performance terms.
They promise up to seven hours of continuous playback, although at with volumes required for our indoor cycling setting, we found this time ran closer to around five hours. With the charge case, this time extends to offer 40 hours of battery, and a fast-charge means little downtime between listening.
You can choose to use either ear on its own - useful for outdoor riding - or both together. You can even pair each ear to separate devices, and whichever comes out of the case first will become the 'main' ear, and the second ear will mimic. So if you flit between a laptop and your smartphone, just pick up the corresponding ear first.
They offer a secure fit that we've tested over bumpy gravel terrain without issue, however with their diminutive size and a lack of a find-me beacon, don't expect to find them if you drop them out in the wild.
Samsung Galaxy Buds
Samsung's Galaxy buds are a sleek and compact pair of earbuds, which stick in the ear despite the daintier look than the Jabras
Battery Life: £139.00 / $149.99 | Waterproof: IPX2 | Noise Cancelling: Ambient sound
The Samsung Galaxy Buds' touch controls can be customised via the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app and include the option to use Samsung's voice assistant Bixby too. The battery life is a good amount at six hours, while the charging case provides an extra seven, more than enough to keep you going. One useful feature is the ability to wirelessly charge using the case, so you can top up on the go.
Connectivity is, as you might expect, best with other Samsung devices, though they'll work with a range of other devices easily enough too. Sound-wise, there are no real downsides, with the bass an improvement on the Jabras.
The 'ambient sound' feature – enabled via the app – is a nice addition, mixing in background noise when needed so you can be more aware of your surroundings. The 'find my earbuds' feature makes them easy to find should you misplace them too, with a beeping noise to alert you to their location.
Sennheiser Momentum 2
Stylish in-ear wireless earphones with all the bells and whistles
Battery Life: 7 hours continuous, 28 with case | Waterproof: IPX4 | Noise Cancelling: Active
These svelte black earphones are just about as good as you can get if you're looking for a pair of in-ear wireless earphones for indoor cycling. Sennheiser is an expert in the audio game, and it shows with these buds.
One improvement on the first edition of these buds is the addition of active noise cancelling, joining the number of premium earphones that offer such a feature. The feature can be toggled on and off via touch control or Sennheiser's Smart Control app, so you won't be oblivious to traffic if you're cycling outdoors.
The touch controls also let you control a range of other functions, including playing or pausing audio, as well as skipping back and forth. Compatibility with voice assistants Siri and Google Assistant is also enabled.
Other features include a seven-hour battery life, which extended to 28 when charged via battery case. There are four pairs of ear tips too, in a range of sizes to fit you, while a USB-C charging cable is also included. If you have the cash, then the Sennheiser Momentum 2 is a great choice.
How to choose the best cycling headphones
What do IP ratings really mean?
You are working hard, getting a great workout, and sweating a lot. With that in mind, you want to make sure you aren't going to kill your headphones by sweating on them so you check out the IP rating. What is an IP rating though and what do the numbers mean?
IP stands for ingress protection and it's a simple rating that signifies how waterproof, and dustproof, something is. A low IP rating might work for you when you are riding with a fan pointed at your face but it won't work for swimming. Whatever your need is the IP rating just lets you match your needs to what you are purchasing.
After the letters "I" and "P" there are two numbers. Sometimes instead of two numbers there is an X then a number. The first place is a measure of dust protection. The second place is a measure of water protection. If there's an X in either location it means that the product has no testing for that rating.
No testing doesn't mean no protection, it just means no testing. Headphones are often not tested for dust ingress. Still, since waterproofing can mean sealing the internals, they might be fine in a lot of dusty situations. Alternatively, no IP rating doesn't always mean no water resistance. Jabra has no IP rating but the internals have a nano protection that will protect them from some water.
Some people sweat more than others. Decide what you are comfortable with. Also consider the design. A true wireless headphone is more likely to accidentally fall into water while an over-ear headphone is more capable of collecting water.
Consider sorting music based on BPM
Music is strongly linked to performance. The connection is so strong that studies show raising the beats per minute of your music can positively affect your workout. You can ride farther and faster without an increase in perceived difficulty if you choose the right music. It's also incredibly easy to get the BPM you want.
If you use Spotify, there are a variety of services such as playlistmachinery.com that will help you find the perfect BPM. For YouTube Music, Apple Music, or Amazon Music the best way to handle it is search for your preferred BPM. A quick search will have you listening to exactly the speed that matches what you are doing that day.
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