From road to mountain biking, the Aftershokz Aeropex headphones have become my go-to for on-bike music and podcast listening thanks to the impressive sound quality, long battery life and open ear design
Impressive sound quality
Long battery life
Phone call quality isn’t great in windy conditions
Don’t play well with winter ear cosies
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Listening to music while cycling on the road is a contentious subject as not being able to hear what is happening in your surroundings is an obvious disadvantage. As headphones and earphone manufacturers strive to increase isolation from the outside world in a bid to offer the best audio experience, listening to music while cycling has become resigned to traffic-free off-road or indoor training applications.
Aftershokz Aeropex earphones use bone conduction technology to produce audio rather than air conduction like normal earphones. Bone conduction works by transmitting vibrations through the cheekbones into the cochlea. By not filling or covering your ears, you are in full awareness of your surroundings. We have been using the Aeropex on- and off-road and think these could be the best wireless earphones for cycling.
Design and performance
Often the biggest issue with regular earphones is comfort, as everyone’s ears are different shapes it can be tricky to find a secure and comfortable fit. As the Aeropex do not need to be shoved into your ear canals there is an immediate benefit to comfort. The Aeropex sit lightly behind the ears and the pads gently rest below the temples. There isn’t any adjustment in the headband but there have been no issues in sizing across our range of testers' heads. The Aeropex are still flawless after months of daily use, the soft-to-the-touch rubber finish cleans up easily and has an IP67 water resistance rating should riding get wet and dirty. Traditional earphones can often require some fiddling and readjustment to get right and even the best fitting earphones can be a flight risk on rough surfaces, being a single unit eliminates this and there is no noticeable movement when riding. We tested on everything from road to enduro mountain bike trails and they stay locked in place.
There was an initial concern of incompatibility with some helmet or sunglass combos but having used them with a range of road helmets and deep open face mountain bike helmets there has yet to be an issue. The rear band sits quite low as well allowing easy access to helmet retention dials.
There is a multi-function button on the front of the left pad which controls music and activates your phone's smart assistant and is easy to locate even when wearing winter gloves. There are two more buttons behind the right ear which control volume, turn the earphones on and off and activate the pairing mode. Charging takes two hours to full and uses a neat magnetic cable that is easy to connect and disconnect, Aftershokz handily includes two in the box. The earphones quickly and reliably connect to my phone when powered on and the Bluetooth signal is strong so there is no dropout - even if I’m wandering around the house without my phone post-ride.
Manufacturers' battery life claims should usually be taken with a pinch of salt, however from experience, Aftershokz seem to have sold themselves short, playtime has easily matched the claimed eight hours and easily last a full day of work. Standby time is also very impressive, easily long enough to wear them turned on during group rides on the off chance you're not with the group and want to quickly start playing some music.
The Aeropex are Aftershokz's premium earphone and have been refined to offer the best sound quality in its range. Bone conduction has been known to struggle with bass yet the Aeropex does a decent job of replicating the full sound spectrum of a song. There can be a touch of vibration against the head at high volumes but it isn’t uncomfortable or distracting. There is also very little noise leakage so no one will be able to hear you blasting your secret guilty-pleasure riding playlist.
In environments with a lot of ambient noise, outside sound can start to drown out audio although other than riding on very busy roads or when wind noise was exceptionally high it was not an issue. In these situations, music fares noticeably better while podcasts or audiobooks are best kept for quieter surroundings.
While the main benefit of bone conductor technology is the ability to listen without blocking out everyday noise. However, occasionally you'll probably want to disassociate yourself from the surroundings - for example when using them off the bike or for your indoor cycling endeavours. For this, Aftershokz includes a set of earplugs in the box should you need them.
Not being sealed from the world means you can still hear the bike, the nature around you and be able to spontaneously chat with people without awkwardly fighting to pause music or remove an earbud. I never really credited how much sound helps with bike control either and being able to hear what the tyres or gears are doing can make a noticeable difference when riding.
Call quality is reasonable for both parties and the Aeropex features but, like all other earphones I have tried, the quality very much depends on how much wind and surrounding noise there is.
It must also be noted that because Aeropex doesn’t use air conduction it may still be possible to listen to music if you have a damaged eardrum. Of course, this depends on each individual's condition, Aftershokz offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if bought directly from its website so you will be able to try and return if need be.
Some riders just want to hear nothing more than the rumble of tyres when riding while others like listening to music. I prefer listening to music or podcasts and the Aftershokz Aeropex have become something that I never go for a ride without. The fit and forget comfort allows them to be worn without irritation even on really long rides or when they aren’t being used.
Audibly the Aeropex can struggle in bustling traffic where there’s a lot of noise however this is when hearing your surroundings is most important. Once free of congestion, sound quality is impressive although if you’re an audiophile they won’t compete with premium in-ear options. However, being able to hear the sound of the bike alongside your favourite songs makes the music feel like a soundtrack to your ride and becoming a far more immersive and enjoyable experience.
Tech spec: Aftershokz Aeropex
- Price: £150.00 / $159.95 / €169.95
- Test period: Four months
- Colours: Four
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Weight: 26g (actual)
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Graham has been part of the Cyclingnews team since January 2020. He has mountain biking at his core and can mostly be found bikepacking around Scotland or exploring the steep trails around the Tweed Valley. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has gained a reputation for riding fixed gear bikes both too far and often in inappropriate places.