I like to listen to either music or audio books when I ride a bike. But, I also want to be able to hear traffic and other sounds around me, in case I need to take some evasive action. My compromise is to use an ear bud in only one ear, the one facing away from traffic.
While this works, using only one of two ear buds presents problems. First, what should I do with the one that isn't in my ear? Second, if I want to listen to music, how do I get stereo?
I've tried a number of things for the unused ear bud. I put it under my jersey, but it dangled out of the bottom and, invariably, got caught on something. I shoved it into one of my back pockets, but this often pulled the wire taut enough to require adjustment. I've even tied it back onto the line and let the whole thing sway around as I ride, but this, too, would get caught on the many protruding parts at the front of a bike. For the most part, they all worked, just not all that well.
Listening to music with only one ear bud is not acceptable. Doing so often means missing parts of a song. I once listened to all of The Door's Light My Fire without getting any of the organ or guitar solos! To solve this problem, I bought a converter at Radio Shack that funneled both channels into one of the ear buds. This worked just fine.
With these adjustments, I managed to listen to either music or audio books in one ear. It was a bit of a hassle, but not enough to force me to ride without sounds.
One other issue was the sound quality. I use those white Apple ear buds. They are OK when I am have both of them in my ears. But, using only one while riding a bike, just doesn't cut it. I have to put the sound at maximum and still can't hear if there is much wind or a truck rumbles by.
But, since this is what I had; it was what I used.
For these reasons, my ears perked up when I heard about One Good EarBud. It is attempting to solve all the problems above in one fell swoop by a) getting rid of the unused ear bud and b) running both sound channels through the one remaining ear bud. I got one for Christmas (2011) and have been using it now for over a month.
I haven't taken it on a tour yet, but I have used it on several local training rides. I can say that it solves both the dangle and volume problems well. There is nothing left to deal with as the wire easily fits under my hi-viz vest. In addition, I can now switch from book to music without having to fumble with an adapter before hand. What's more, the ear bud I chose is shaped different then the Apple buds and fits into my ear in such a way that I can hear it much better at about half the volume.
For this reason, I can wholeheartedly recommend the One Good Earbud to anyone who listens to a music/book player while riding a bike. But, there are some downsides that I should mention. The One Good Earbud is great while riding a bike, but not all that good otherwise. As an experiment, I wore it while walking around and riding a bus instead of wearing one in each ear. Not only did I find having an "open" ear a bother, the music didn't sound as good as I'd like.
There are real benefits to using two ear buds, just not while riding a bike. Music sounds much better in real stereo. With a bud in each ear, ambient noise is lessened or even drowned out entirely, which is nice when I am on a bus or walking down the street. What's more, the One Good Earbud I have doesn't include a microphone, though other models do.
The bottom line is that on my next tour, I will end up taking two sets of ear buds: the One Good Earbud for on the bike and a two ear bud set with a microphone for all other times, such as rest days or making phone calls.
While taking two different ear buds on a bike tour might seem like too much, the One Good Earbud makes listening on a bike so much easier and allows me to leave the converter plug at home, making the weight about the same and saving me the trouble of stopping my bike and rummaging through my handlebar bag to find it.
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Copyright © 2007 by Ray Swartz