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Best sports headphones: The best headphones for your indoor cycling

Cyclist magazine
12 Jan 2021

Want to listen to your favourite playlist or podcast during your training session? Here are the best wireless sports headphones

Although wearing headphones while cycling outdoors is not a great idea, they’re no problem at all when it comes to indoor training on your turbo trainer or exercise bike.

Indeed, if you’re working hard on burning those calories and completing set workouts, there’s no better way to power on through than to your own private soundtrack, or a playlist created by Cyclist.

And if you pick up a pair of ANC (active noise-cancellation) headphones, you’ll be able to drown out the noise of everything – and everyone – around you.

What's more, plenty of us might soon find ourselves back on the turbo a bit more often and quite a lot further into the year than we might normally expect. To make all that indoor cycle training bearable – even enjoyable – a good playlist can keep the legs turning.

There are plenty of wireless headphones on the market to choose from, from in-ear earbuds to chunkier over-ear options.

Our round-up includes products from industry-leading brands including Bose, Jaybird and Apple, and at prices to suit every budget, followed by a guide to help you pick the right sports headphones for you

Take a look, take your pick...

The best sports headphones for indoor cycling in 2021

JBL Endurance Sprint: Best budget headphones

The cheapest headphones in our round-up, the JBL Endurance Sprints are one of three sets of budget-level headphones from the brand’s Endurance range. These are the cheapest of the three, and we like them the most because, being honest, there’s no difference in sound quality or battery life across the range, and the other two entries have little else going for them to justify the extra spend.

The most impressive feature that the Sprints have to offer is their ultra-secure fit, with a hook-based design that fits firmly in place over your ear - there’s absolutely zero worry of these tumbling off your head and getting tangled around your chainset during a turbo session.

The sound quality is perfectly fine given the price - better still is the quick-charge function: 10 minutes of charging will grant you an hour of playback.

Ausounds AU-Frequency ANC

Buy now from Currys for £129.95

Ausounds have just launched the AU-Frequency ANC headphones, which are super comfortable and super light as well as being noise-cancelling and water resistant.

Not that weight will affect your power output when you're on the turbo, at 5.5g per earbud you'll hardly notice they're there.

Out of the case you'll get five hours of use per go and with three charge's worth of battery in the case that adds up to 20 hours of playing time before anything needs to be plugged in. And it only takes 90 minutes to recharge the case.

On top of that, it also has touch and voice controls so you can easily change what you're listening to while on the bike or even take a phone call.

Buy now from Currys for £129.95

Jaybird Tarah Pro: Best headphones for battery life

Jaybird is a leading brand in the field of wireless sports headphones, largely because it seems to focus on the things that really matter - a tight fit, high-calibre sound quality and as much battery life as is possible.

That’s why we were delighted to discover the Tarah Pro offer an astonishing 14 hours of playback time - and thanks to its quick-charge feature, five minutes of charge will add two hours to their lifespan.

Moreover, their sound is superb too, with EQ settings adjustable through the corresponding Jaybird app (where you’ll also find playlists and even podcast recommendations from pro athletes).

A particularly nice feature is the way the earbuds can be adapted to fit from under-ear to over-ear with a simple twist. If you have the in the over-ear setup, the wire will fit around the back of your head, without them bouncing around under your neck and causing a distraction.

Aftershokz OpenMove: Best for use outdoors

OK, so we’re breaking our own rules, but these bone conduction headphones are one of the few pairs we might consider using outside. The reason being that they don’t go in your ears, so you’ll be free to hear ambient noise.

Broadcasting straight into your brain (actually your inner ear) bone-conducting headphones sit near the temple, just in front of the ear rather than in or over the ear canal. This means they don’t block out external noises – like a car approaching or a rider calling out a pothole.

These latest models from specialist Aftershokz are the cheapest we’ve seen. Having used them, we’re pretty happy with the level of ambient noise you can hear, certainly it’s infinitely more than you’d get sealed in a car with the stereo on.

On the downside, the slightly lower sound quality will annoy audiophiles, while whatever you're listening to will also just about be audible to people in the close proximity, awkward if you like to enjoy Mills and Boon audiobook at the gym.

Adidas Sport RPT-01: Best on-ear headphones

On-ear headphones probably don’t look like a good choice for training sessions, or indeed any other strenuous physical activity, since they’re likely to end up covered in sweat: not ideal. But this set from Adidas are one of the few on-ear sets that have removable, washable knitted ear cushions and headband - put them through the washing machine after a workout, and they’ll be good as new again.

There’s also a good reason to pick up a set of on-ear headphones - they have a longer battery life than earbuds. In fact, the RPT-O1s will give you an epic 40 hours of playback on one full charge. The control knob is a little fiddlier than we’d like, but the sound quality trumps in-ear headphones of this price bracket.

Beats Powerbeats Pro: Best truly wireless headphones

Cheap they most certainly ain’t, but thanks to their exceptional battery life, fit and sound quality, these in-ear headphones from Beats more than justify that £200-ish price tag. The hook design of the Powerbeats Pros will guarantee this pricy piece of kit will stay in place, so you can be sure that these will serve you well in more dynamic workout routines as well training on your turbo - and their nine-hour lifespan should outstrip your exertions.

If you do happen to run out charge pop the Powerbeats Pros in their case for just five minutes and you’ll get 90 minutes of playback. They’re loud enough to drown out any gym soundtrack you might be competing with, albeit with less bass than other headphones in the Beats range. An excellent high-end choice.

Apple AirPods Pro: Best noise-cancelling headphones

Last but not least comes the most expensive product on this list - yes, you guessed right, Apple’s Airpods Pro headphones. Coming in at just under a quarter of a grand, they’re a serious investment - but the ANC (active noise cancellation) technology they offer is remarkable given their diminutive size.

If you’re tired of trying to drown out the lamentable music that blares out at your gym or the creaking of an aged turbo trainer, these will more than do the job.

It should go without saying that the sound quality is sublime, and the battery life is tremendous given the drain of the ANC technology: the Pros should last 4.5 hours on a single charge, while a mere five minutes of charge will offer you an hour of playback.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H4: Best money-no-object

Now a sponsor of Deceuninck-QuickStep, Bang & Olufsen knows a thing or two about making high-quality headphones for sport. And while the Beoplay headphones are expensive, they do offer incredible quality.

Firstly, when fully-charged, the Beoplays offer an amazing 30-hour playback, more than enough to see you through a week's worth of indoor training.

The drum of your turbo will be drowned out by the Bang & Olufsen's excellent noise-cancelling technology as its Bluetooth connection will seamlessly play music from your device, all controllable from the headphone cup.

If sound quality is your thing, then look no further, Bang & Olufsen lead in this category so much so you'll be convinced you're no longer on the turbo but actually at a music concert.

How to buy the best sports headphones for you

Which type of headphones are best for me?

Although cycle training is a pretty static affair, we nevertheless suggest you pick up a set of wireless headphones. They completely do away with the stress of having a cord getting entangled in your activities. Admittedly, they’re typically more expensive than wired headphones, and you’ll have to remember to charge them - but our list includes a shoestring option that doesn’t skimp on quality.

Then there’s the issue of in-ear or on/over-ear headphones. In terms of pure sound quality, it’s the latter that are nearly always better - but as you can probably imagine, they can quickly start to feel a tad hot, heavy and clammy during an intense workout session.

In-ear headphones are far less cumbersome, either going neatly into your ear with a bud or hooking over your ear in a more open design. Ultimately, it will boil down to personal preference.

How much should I spend?

If you consider your sports headphones an investment, we suggest you put aside a good £100. But if you’re a little more limited in your finances, you’ll find perfectly decent wireless headphones for less than £30 (see our top pick below).

That said, if you want a pair that not only deliver strong sound, but can also withstand being flung about in your gym bag and also survive for longer without charging, plan to pay upward of £130. And if you want the very best on the market, you’re looking at the other side of £200.

Anything else I should look out for?

Look out for headphones that are either waterproof or at the least water-resistant, since you’ll want to make sure they’re not damaged by sweat. If you’re looking for a set of in-ear headphones, make sure that they come with a decent selection of bud sizes, so you can find the ones that are the right fit for your ears.

A quick-charge function is certainly something you’ll appreciate, especially if you discover your headphones are lifeless at the eleventh hour - some sets of headphones will produce a session’s worth of sound from just a few minutes of charging.

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