Better than a Zwift subscription coupled to a really big television, the extra motivation provided by the right music is impossible to beat.
There are several scientific studies showing music can reduce your perception of effort while increasing your pain tolerance. Improving performance by so much it’s a wonder the UCI hasn’t banned it, injecting some rhythm into your ears is pretty much essential for successful indoor training.
However, like any set of sports headphones, those for indoor cycling work best when they’re water and sweat resistant, wireless, and disinclined to fall out of your ears and into your drivetrain. For the sound snobs out there (which we'd count ourselves amongst), it can't hurt to couple that with some solid harmonic distribution.
Here are some of our favourite sets.
Bose Sport Earbuds
£169, Shop Bose
Bose’s low-profile headphones promise both auditory and athletic support for your ears. Held in place by soft silicone tips that aim to secure your buds in place during the most ferocious of activities, at the same time they should create a tight enough seal to pump baselines straight into your brain.
Making them small in size but big on sound, they’ll even automatically equalise your tracks so you never miss a beat. Yielding up to five hours of battery life per charge, they’re revitalised by placing them in the included case, which itself can store another two full charges. Avoiding the need to choose between exercise and audio accompaniment, it’s also possible to quickly charge them in just 15-minutes for up to two hours of playback.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2£279, Shop Sennheiser
Arriving with a stick-on hipster beard for you to stroke while banging on about the incredible fidelity of your new headphones, Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 are a solid muso choice. Not specifically marketed as a sports headphone, they’re a little chunky. Plus they’re only rated to IPX4, meaning that although splash resistant, if you’re a particularly profuse sweater you might want to look elsewhere. Still, those caveats aside, with superlative sound, plus superb active noise-cancelling, they’re a great choice if sound-quality is your prime concern.
Equally good for making and receiving calls, there’s also an app to let you further control the rendition of the headphones. With 7 hours of battery life, the included carry case acts as a battery to provide another 21 before needing to be plugged in.
Rapha + Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Sport
£300, Shop Rapha
Beyond suiting those who need every purchase to reinforce their identity as a cyclist, Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E8 Sport headphones were still highly regarded before Rapha got their mitts on them. With IP57-certified waterproofing, sweat won’t be an issue, while a low weight of 5.8 grams per bud paired with stable fins means they’re unlikely to fall out.
Giving users a decent 7 hours playtime, their custom-branded travel box will also provide another three additional charges, giving an overall playtime of over 30 hours. With London-based Rapha adding a pink accent and the sound of a clanging cowbell to announce their successful pairing, pleasingly this is all they add - with the price staying the same as if you brought them directly.
£119, Shop Adidas
For those that don’t like in-ear headphones, these old-school cans from Adidas could be a good option. Designed for sport, they’re properly solid and ergonomic, meaning explosive efforts in the gym or elsewhere are unlikely to dislodge them.
Sweat-proof and highly water-resistant, their soft bits are also designed to be removable for easy washing. Sound is as loud as you’d expect from something so large, while battery life is also more than 40+ hours. Despite their size, weight is minimal at 209 grams. Needing to be paired via an app, on-headphone control for things like skipping tracks, adjusting volume, or answering calls is done by a knob on one ear. Leaving them less prone to accidental shuffling, they also look cool, which is never a bad thing.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go True Wireless
£180, Shop Master & Dynamic
Designed in New York, these headphones have a premium look to match their premium pricing. Not initially marketed as being sports specific, their traits nevertheless tailor them to active use. Key among these is an IPX6 water-resistant rating which means they can endure a minimum of three minutes of jetwashing.
With unique, finned silicone wings fitting them into your ears, these combine with a low per-earbud weight of 7.4-grams. Turning to how they sound, Master & Dynamic promises exceptional acoustics courtesy of custom 10mm Beryllium drivers. Battery life is a very chunky 10-hours per charge, although the auto-recharging case holds 12-additional hours of playtime, slightly less than some rivals.
Aftershokz Aeropex Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones
£130, Shop Afertshokz
The taboo against wearing headphones on the road is because they’ll obscure the kind of ambient noises that might alert you to potential danger. But what if their sound didn’t enter your head via your ear canals, but was instead wired straight into your brain? Bone-conduction headphones sit just in front of the ear and vibrate against your skull to provide sound that arrives in the inner ear without obstructing your auditory canal.
Very sci-fi, these versions from Aftershokz have recently been updated, while the brand also unveiled a more affordable OpenMove model. Now weighing just 26-grams and IP67 waterproof, they’ve also been given an auditory makeover, with these latest versions now promising better bass and increased volume. While they may seem like a natural outdoor choice, we often find ourselves using these on the turbo. That's because alongside the light weight and stability, leaving the ear canals unobstructed can make a turbo session feel a little more free and breezy.
Safe and smart, they’re not going to rival Bose and Sennheiser for fidelity, but you would probably be surprised by the sound quality – which rivals lower-end in-ear options. Ultimately, if the Aeropex mean you can listen to Radio 4 without getting run over, this might prove an irrelevancy.