One of my absolute favorite vinyls to play on my turntable is Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie. On the back of the album, under the credits, reads the disclaimer, "To Be Played At Maximum Volume." I couldn't agree more -- good music should be played loudly. But that can be hard in certain situations, for example, when riding a bike around town because you need to hear your surroundings as much as your tunes.
Headphones are an option, but they can be dangerous because you can't hear important queues like other bikes, electric cars and even sirens. A portable Bluetooth speaker is an option, but you'll annoy people with your music and then you become "that guy."
Cleverly, the Coros Linx Smart Cycling Helmet strikes a nice balance with open-ear bone conduction speakers that let you hear music, turn-by-turn directions, podcasts and the world around you.
Unlike headphones that sit right on or in your ear, the Linx's transducers sit in front of your ears and vibrate your cheekbones. Fitting the helmet perfectly is key. The speaker pads need to be snug, otherwise the audio experience is lackluster. When I got it fitted correctly, I could hear the Wu-Tang Clan clearly while being just feet away from a jack hammer tearing up asphalt. In general, audio is as good and loud from the helmet as the $29 EarPods that came with my iPhone, and the fact that I can still listen to music and hear my surroundings at the same time is a big win.
The helmet has a slick, racing-style look. It's light and comfortable to wear for hours on end. You'd never know it has speakers, Bluetooth, a microphone and a battery (which is charged via a hidden Micro-USB port) in its lightweight frame. As for the battery, I used the helmet daily for riding to and from work and only plugged it in a couple times a week.
Pairing the Linx with my phone was incredibly straightforward. The helmet showed up under my Bluetooth menu like any other pair of headphones. If I used the Coros Linx app, I got additional features like crash detection and use of the included smart remote, which allowed me to answer calls, adjust the volume and skip music tracks.
Though I usually don't take phone calls when I ride, the Coros' key fob-sized smart remote allows you to take calls with a press of a button. And when I tested it, call quality was on par with being on speaker phone.
However, there are some downsides. The audio cut in and out intermittently when my phone was in my pants pocket. I especially noticed this when I rode in rush hour through San Francisco. I'm not sure if this was related to the Bluetooth connection or interference from other Bluetooth signals coming from cars. My solution was to move my phone closer to the helmet, and put it in a handlebar holster or my backpack which seemed to solve the issue.
The Coros Linx helmet costs $180 which converts to £135 and AU$240. If you're looking for a new helmet and want to listen to music and podcasts while you ride, the Coros Linx is worth consideration. However, just be aware that audio may not be entirely consistent in urban environments depending on how far away your phone is from the helmet.
I should also note that Coros has a newer helmet out now called the Omni. It has red LED lights on the back to help you be seen and updated bone conduction speakers. The Omni costs $200 which converts to £150 and AU$270.