Music and cycling don’t mix, at least not on city roads. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to hear what your phone is telling you. Gemma Roper’s Safe+Sound is a pair of modular bone-conducting headphones that clip to the strap of your bike helmet and press against the bone next to your ear, letting you hear riding directions from your phone without blocking the sounds of the street.
Audio is sent through the cheekbone, from where it is conducted to the ear. The principle is—if you’ll forgive the pun—sound. I’ve tested bone-conducting headphones before and you can hear audio clearly even in loud, hectic environments.
Even if it weren’t for the fact that they don’t block your ears, bone-conducting headphones might be better for listening to your Google Maps turn-by-turn directions anyway, because the sound never gets drowned out. Most of your riding instructions will come at or near busy intersections, which usually means you can’t hear them. When the instructions are routed through your skull, you won’t ever miss a turn.
When you’re not on the bike, you can attach the speakers to a headband, using the same fixing system that secures them to your helmet straps. The Safe+Sound uses a regular 3.5mm jack cable, so you never need to recharge it, nor futz with wireless connections.
The system is simple, robust, and just a plain great idea. If I could buy a set, it might even convince me to start wearing a helmet.