The new system would negate the use of ear buds with a bone conduction system that is fixed to the straps of your helmet

The hazards of listening to music while cycling could be reduced by a clever new invention that pipes the sound straight from your helmet into your head.

The gadget is fixed to the helmet strap and presses against the side of your face, transmitting musical vibrations through the bone to the inner ear, leaving your lugholes free to hear the sounds around you.

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Bone conduction headphones have been around for more than a decade but most are stand-alone devices that have to be attached to the head with clips or straps.

The two inventors, university researchers who specialise in hearing technologies, realised that the webbing straps could provide the ideal location for the sound “transducer” so, for the first time, one has been integrated into a bicycle helmet.

In the prototype they’ve made and tested, they’ve shown that the helmet straps allowed the vibrating unit to be placed perfectly for the best transmission of sound to the cochlea – against the upper end of the jaw bone.

“The system can be glided along the front helmet webbing, which proves a simple way of adjusting its position against the skull “says Jérémie Voix, acoustic engineer and Associate Professor at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in Montréal, Canada.”


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“Another benefit of the proposed design is that it can be retrofitted on any existing helmet.” If Bluetooth is included, it means those annoying wires won’t be needed to connect the listening gizmo to the source of the music.

The researchers says that if the wireless music player is a smartphone then it could run a special app to tap into other sensors, such as the microphone or accelerometer, to automatically control the balance and volume of the music.

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It could make the music quieter when it detects human speech, so the cyclist will be able to hear more clearly what’s being said. Likewise, I could pump up the volume when it detects noise from a rough road surface.

For pro teams it could make life easier for the team director to give his instructions to riders on the road. But, like the rest of us, they’ll have to wait until more studies have been done to find out how differently people hear bone-conducted sounds.

“Future research needs are to validate the proposed bike helmet prototype on a larger number of test-subjects, as inter-individual differences in perceived audio quality can be significant,” says Voix.

Design and validation of a bone conduction music playback for bike helmet by François Rochon and Jérémie Voix
 is published in Canadian Acoustics Vol 44, No. 1.

Max Glaskin is an award-winning freelance journalist who tweets about cycling and science as @CyclingScience1 and is the author of Cycling Science (published by Frances Lincoln UK, Chicago University Press USA, and seven other languages)

  • Jack Treids

    Partially soundproofed cabins and audio systems do not seem like a problem in cars for most “BAN” proponents, either.

    And by the way, what are you “aural riders” going to listen for with electric vehicles? Aerodinamic noise?

  • J1

    I prefer nature…..and not having one of my senses blocked.

  • Freecyclist

    How loud do you think people have their music? I listen to music all the time on my bike and you you know what? I can hear the traffic perfectly. Cars are quite loud, you know! I also have these things called eyes to look behind me and see the traffic. They are quite useful. I believe these are also used by motorists, who can hear much less of the traffic behind them than a cyclist listening to music.

  • Phil Riley

    I don’t wear a helmet but there is no way I would listen to music by any means when cycling. Cycling is 50% eyes 50% ears.

  • Mike Prytherch

    I agree headphones should be banned, but don’t confuse these for headphones, the bone conducting technology is very good, and I mean this with respect, but until you have tried them you shouldn’t condemn them, its just like listening to your mate talking whilst riding next to you, you can hear what’s being played but also all the other road noise, as to whether you want to listen to music or not is a personal choice.

  • markholds

    I do agree!

  • markholds

    I agree!

  • markholds

    Agree!

  • Iceman

    Have these people ever ridden a bike? All the ranting and raving about having to wear a helmet and then this. The safest thing you can do by far when riding a bike is to listen for cars and other traffic. Rather than go on about wearing a helmet BAN headphones!

  • Patrick Murphy

    I don’t get why anyone wants to listen to music while riding, the concept seem alien to me.

  • Mike Prytherch

    I used the Aftershokz Bluez but just didn’t find them comfortable so stopped, but the concept was brilliant, I could listen to music when out on a long run and still hear all the traffic, I never once had any issues with safety or not hearing anything, I like this idea and would consider them if they worked and was comfortable

  • Andrew Bairsto

    I would have thought the last thing you wanted to do when cycling is listen to music.