Riding a bike from my apartment to the closest grocery store involves dodging multiple construction sites and speeding drivers who tend to ignore painted bike lanes. I've never considered listening to music on the way; I don't want to miss hearing a truck behind me.
Then I had the chance to try a new bike helmet that plays music, navigation, or phone calls through bone conduction instead. Two discs rest on your cheekbones, sending vibrations to your inner ear. Your ears stay uncovered, so it's possible to hear everything around you as you ride.
The helmet was designed for the growing number of people who ride with earbuds. "There's a big chunk of cyclists who know that they're unsafe, believe that they're unsafe, but they still do it because they want to listen to their music or make calls," says Chuck Frizelle, CEO of Coros.
"Then there's another chunk of people who really enjoy music and podcasts and decide not to do it because of safety," he says. "But if they had the opportunity to do something like that it really would change their cycling and how often they cycle."
As I tried the helmet out, the sound was tinnier than the noise-canceling Bose earbuds I wear at home. But riding with a soundtrack was fun—and I could still perfectly hear everything on the road.
The helmet, called Linx, connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone and comes with a tiny smart remote that mounts on your handlebar, so you can set the volume, skip songs, or answer a call. Via an app, it's also possible to set up voice navigation before you ride. On a long ride, you can ask the helmet to give you periodic voice prompts about your distance or pace. In a crash, the helmet can automatically call your emergency contact.
It's designed both for more serious cyclists, who want music to make it through the long grind of a 100-mile ride, or for people running errands or commuting to work.
"It's nice because you can actually jump on a conference call while you're riding into work, and another while you're riding home," says Frizelle.
The helmet is crowdfunding on Kickstarter now, though the design of the helmet itself—which had to go through rigorous safety tests—is complete. After a few final tweaks to the app, Coros plans to start shipping to backers immediately after the campaign ends.
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