The Aftershokz Aeropex Wireless Bluetooth Headphones match great sound quality with open ear safety.
Whether to use headphones on a bike or not is a contentious issue. In another world almost 20 years ago, I recall mountain bike media stalwart Mick Ross being amazed a rider who passed us was using headphones - what about listening to the sounds of the bush? Your bike? Other riders? Personally, I'm a 'sometimes' rider for using headphones. I've ridden with them extensively in the past, enough to have sore ears from iPhone earpieces being squished under a winter hat. These days I prefer something in my left ear just now and then - and in that regards the Earshots headphones I tested last year were really good, being able to set them up to use just one ear. FE Sports import the Aftershokz range into Australia, and they have sent out the nice and light Aftershokz Aeropex for review. These sell for $249 and weigh just 26g!
Aftershokz are a completely different kettle of fish to the Earshots I tested previously. While they're still using Bluetooth, and they're wireless, they use bone conduction for sound. That means they don't sit in your ears, but onto your cheekbone. It sounds weird but from the first use it felt completely natural, and as they leave your ear open, you can hear just a bout everything you need to - as long as you don't have the volume too high!
In the box, there is a soft carry case, a couple of charging cords and some ear plugs - so you can have the full immersive experience (not on the bike!)
There's a small series of buttons on the right hand side to power them up and pair them, and to adjust the volume. There is also a charging port here for USB charging. There is another button on the outside of the left side to pause whatever is playing, be it a podcast, audiobook, motivational recording, or your favourite Ibiza flashback mix.
Claimed battery life is 8 hours of playback, which is really impressive. Charge time is a pretty quick 2 hours, so as long as you don't completely forget to charge them - you're all good.
On the bike
For my first use, I found my favourite mix on Apple Music and rolled out the door. It was immediately noticeable having open ear headphones on compared to an in ear set. I heard the tyre buzz on the road, my freewheel as I coasted around a corner, and a sqwuaking flock of cockatoos who were flying off to wreack havoc somewhere nearby.
Once off road, those elements remain. You can easily hear your bike and the terrain, be it chain slap, a noisy shift, and of course the sound of your tyres on dirt. Being open ear, I mostly heard wind noise when descending fast, although you can still pick up some sound of what you're listening too. It's really easy to hear vehicles when on the road, and I assum other trails users (but I went out in office hours - perks of the job!).
I need to use these in some more conditions, like really hot rides and really long ones. There is a smaller size for smaller heads, but this has so far felt really comfortable on my head. The Aftershokz do wrap over my ears, right where sunglasses go, but that hasn't caused any fit or discomfort issue for 1-2 hours use.
Stay tuned for a full review in a coming issue. And make sure you subscribe so you don't miss out!