By Brooke McFerren
I’m not sure if I have especially odd-shaped ears or ear canals…no one has ever commented on them (to my face at least)…but I know this: I have NEVER been able to wear ANY style of earbud headphones in my life. And over-the-ear headphones make my whole head hurt and my ears feel uncomfortably warm. So, long ago, I gave up on using earbuds or headphones to listen to music while being active. When desperate, I do use one earbud in my left ear while I spin on my indoor trainer, because the right one doesn’t stay in at all and even then I’m furiously replacing the left one as soon as I get sweaty. It’s really frustrating.
Another personal aspect that has affected my use of headphones to listen to music while biking or running is that I’m legally blind in one eye. I rely on my hearing to sense people/cars/animals/etc approaching on my blind side. So I’m very sensitive to feeling like my hearing is impaired by loud music or deafening headphones. However, I do love music as much as the next person to enhance the experience while running/hiking/biking, so I jumped at the chance to test out the Aftershokz Aeropex headphones currently available at The Path Bike Shop.
Aftershokz markets its Aeropex headphones as “open-ear design powered by bone conduction technology [that] allows for total awareness of surroundings and bud-free, comfortable listening”. They do not sit in your ear or over the ear…they actually rest in FRONT of your ear and transmit sound through the cheekbone. It’s very cool. They use Bluetooth pairing so there are no wires, they have an 8 hour battery life, and are waterproof (although not for swimming). I was especially curious regarding three things: A: fit and comfort. B: feeling safe while wearing them. C: quality of sound.
Pairing the Aeropex to a phone via Bluetooth is straightforward. I used Pandora, iTunes, Audible and podcasts with my iPhone 8 and had no issue with any of them pairing to the Aeropex. It was pretty cool to be able to answer incoming phone calls and talk with the push of an easy-to-reach button on the front piece on the left side. Pressing this button pauses music automatically to accept the call via bluetooth. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear an audible voice report pace and mileage when running/walking with Strava active on my phone (It does not do it when riding).
As far as fit and comfort goes, when running, wearing the Aeropex was super simple. Hook them over your ears, (under a ponytail if you have one), throw a hat on, and turn on the unit. Then open up whatever app you’re listening to on your phone, press play, and go.
When preparing to ride, things get a little more complicated. You have to decide the order to put the headphones on: first under the sunglasses or goggles, then over or under the helmet straps? With a ponytail, there is a little maneuvering to position the helmet and the back of the headphones, but once everything is decided and set, it’s super comfortable and NEVER required readjustment. I did feel the band behind my ears at first (I have a narrow head) although I got used to it. I noticed on their website they now offer a smaller size which may fit me even better. They are very light at 26 grams. Fit and comfort: A.
Next, as far as feeling safe: I do notice there is still wind noise (as there is when not wearing headphones at all) when road riding. This required the volume to be turned up to compensate, however I never felt like I had to blast the volume. It felt fairly balanced between volume and atmospheric noise except maybe when going downhill at high speeds on the road. All in all, I never felt my awareness of what was around me was hindered by the volume of music and I felt safe while wearing them. Feeling safe: A-.
Lastly, as far as quality of sound, while I did not notice the ability to adjust bass/treble and other specifics, it was pretty balanced. The quality was consistent through all the apps I used: Pandora, Apple Podcast, iTunes and Audible. The phone call quality was better than I expected although I can’t compare it to other hands-free phone devices. One weird nit-pick I have is when turning the power off you have to press and hold the “volume +” button, which turns your music louder briefly before powering off. It’s not a big deal but it can startle you if not prepared for a sudden short burst of louder music before it turns off. Quality of sound: A.
I will say I am now happily reaching for these headphones for the majority of my rides and for all of my runs. Just having an option to listen to music without the hassle of messing with sweaty, falling out earbuds or hot muffling headphones is worth every penny to me.
Aftershokz Aeropex headphones are currently available at The Path Bike Shop and retail for $159.95.
Brooke McFerren is a Path ambassador, avid bike racer, physical therapy assistant, and artist. Brooke’s trail-inspired artwork is available for purchase at The Path.