Over the now seven years of running this blog, I have noticed a couple of topics which generate controversy or raise the dander of readers - helmets and listening to some sort of audio while riding. In this post I mix the two of them together!
Over the years of blogging I have noted that while commuting I always ride with a helmet and I always listen to podcasts. I have made it clear that I ride with just one earbud in, leaving one ear free to listen to what is going on around me. I should also note that podcasts are generally not that loud and intense, like say a rocking song such as Panama, and even when I put two earbuds in when at the gym to listen to a podcast, I can still hear the crappy music played over the gym speakers and lots of dudes grunting.
I wear a helmet because I think it decreases my chances of a head injury if I fall. Many readers of this blog disagree that helmets increase the safety of riders, but after seeing a friend skid over a cliff many years ago, strike his head against a rock and break his helmet and live, I prefer to wear one. For those helmet critics who postulate that when those piloting motor vehicles see a person in a helmet they are more likely to drive in a dangerous fashion, there were no cars around when my friend went off the cliff.
Some readers who are strong proponents of helmets are also vocifierous in their belief that you should not attach anything to a helmet or wear something underneath one. The thought is that whatever is on your helmet or on your head will travel at lightening speed through your skull if your helmet ever does impact the ground.
Anyway . . . helmet proponents and detractors can have it out in the comments.
Finally getting the point here, the folks over at 1 Voice sent me one of their Bluetooth headbands to test out. You get a headband, a little Bluetooth unit that fits into a pouch in the headband, some headphones with a short cord, and a USB charger.
The headband is pretty minimal and 1 Voice made the wise choice not to recruit me as a model for their website:
I had never used a Bluetooth product to date and it could not have been any easier. I turned on the power to the 1 Voice unit, flipped the Bluetooth setting on my phone to "On" and there was this beeping noise signifying the handshake between the two and I was ready to go. I put the headband on first, then I put a hat on because it is cold in these parts this time of year, and then I put my helmet on. The small unit in the headband sits right below the rear adjustment doohickey on my helmet so it does not interfere at all. I put one earbud in and tucked the other one under my hat.
In the 1 Voice video you get a visual of the product, along with a soundtrack. I don't think you need a video of me to get the idea, but I would recommend that when you watch their video you turn the volume of that video off and crank this video in a separate tab to 10. Mine will get you a bit more pumped up.
My observations are as follows:
- The unit performs great. The headband is small and easy to fit under my helmet and the sound is great. It also has a built-in microphone so you can use it to talk on the phone if you still engage in that ancient ritual.
- The battery life on the website is noted at 6-8 hours, and when I used it I got through about 3 editions of On Point with Tom Ashbrook and 3 Marketplace podcasts on my commute, and through Kill'em All and Appetitite for Destruction at the gym (sometimes you just need to tune everything around you out) before the battery gave out. It was cold when I was riding and cold has been known to cut down battery life.
- I have not encountered a rain storm while wearing the unit so I do not know if it is waterproof. I have not chosen to submerse it in a glass of water because I kind of like it. I think that it would likely function just fine in typical rain, but if you encountered a monsoon you might want to take it off and keep the unit dry.
- One thing I did not understand is why on a unit like this, beeping sounds cannot be replaced with voice warnings. When the battery started to die I heard a random beeping sound but I had no idea what it meant. Five minutes later there was the beeping again and I still had no idea how much time was left. Yes, I know that after using it a couple of times I will figure it out, but if they can add beeping noises, why can't they just have a voice say, "Hey dude, you got 10 minutes left"? Any thoughts from computer programmers out there on this topic?
The headband is not the only product in the 1 Voice line up, they have some hats and ear warmers as well. Until I use the thing for a long time I will not be able to comment on the overall battery life of the unit. I am also not sure if the battery can be replaced. All in all I can say it is a decent product that works as advertised and you don't have to deal with a long cord flapping all over the place.
The downside of course is if the battery life runs out on you in the middle of something, but even then you could just keep a traditional pair earbuds into your pocket and plug them in as needed - it is not like a pair of earbuds takes up a lot of space. You could also pony up for another product we reviewed in the past, One Good Earbud.
If others have comments on helmets, sound and such, feel free to debate/promote/pontificate in comments.