Studies have shown that listening to music keeps you alert and focused while operating equipment and can even soothe situational anxiety.
Its also well established that exposure to high noise can permanently damage your hearing and whilst riding a motorcycle you’ll be exposed to a wide range of loud noises.
If you’re a bike enthusiast and you’re a fan of Apple products, then you’ve probably wondered if you can wear you’re AirPods or AirPod Pros whilst riding your motorcycle.
You can ride a motorcycle with AirPods or AirPod Pros, depending on state laws. AirPod Pros are a better option as they provide noise cancellation and have custom tips making them less likely to fall out, however neither are optimal for riding a motorcycle.
Read on, and we’ll take a look at some of the specifics of riding with AirPods, the legal implications of it, and explore some of the alternative methods of listening to music while eating-curves and chomping-highway miles.
Can You Wear Airpods, AirPod Pros or Earbuds While Riding a Motorcycle?
If you want to wear AirPods or in-ear headphones whilst you ride and you believe you can do so safely, and if it is legal to do so, then it’s your own personal choice, and only you can decide what feels right for you.
For some, it will feel unnatural and for others, it will feel completely fine.
Whilst I’m not dismissing the importance of hearing whilst riding a motorcycle, it is a common misconception that the hearing impaired cannot drive.
However, the hard of hearing and deaf can safely and legally drive all over the world – so that’s something to keep in mind. Whilst riding a motorcycle, sight is by far the most important sense you have.
However if you find listening to music distracting whilst riding, don’t do it. Its as simple as that.
AirPods and earbuds are legal in the vast majority of states, whilst some states only allow riders to wear one earbud.
In Rhode Island, Maryland, Louisiana, Colorado it’s completely illegal to wear any form of headphones / earbuds whilst riding a motorcycle.
Some important things to keep in mind when wearing earbuds:
The first thing we should always consider when we hop on our bike is safety. There are a few safety concerns involved with AirPod Moto-riding, so lets’ get those out of the way.
- Pay attention to traffic. Check your mirrors, blind spot, and use good lane positioning, if you do this it should be pretty hard for an emergency vehicle to sneak up on you completely undetected.
- Talking on the Phone – There is a body of evidence that suggests talking on the phone, regardless if it’s hands-free or not, can actually reduce your concentration, as the brain toggles quickly between tasks – but can’t do two things at the same time.
- Once the AirPods are in, leave them alone. A proper-fitting helmet is so snug that it squeezes your cheeks together. This makes getting your earbuds in and out while riding extremely difficult. A snug helmet also means that using the Pods’ touch control features requires sticking your glove into the helmet or lift your helmet off your head, and neither of these are safe practices.
- Protect your hearing – Riding a motorcycle will expose you to high levels of noise, so if it’s legal to do so put some noise-canceling earbuds in (AirPod Pros rather than regular AirPods) or some earplugs.
- Don’t have your phone in your peripheral vision – Getting notifications for texts, emails, phone calls etc. is the last thing you need. You do not want to be getting distracted by alerts whilst riding your motorcycle.
- Learn to ride without music first. New riders should learn their bike and study the streets before listening to music at all. Every motorcycle has subtle nuances to its roar that let you know when to shift, if somethings out of tune, etc.
- Make a playlist ahead of time— this one’s self-explanatory. Don’t be that guy looking down and messing with his phone while riding. It’s not safe, and playing on a screen isn’t why you bought a bike. Enjoy the scenery!
- If you wouldn’t turn the volume up that loud at home, don’t do it on the highway. Bikes are loud, and the wind is loud, but just because you can’t hear the music doesn’t mean that the sound waves aren’t still pounding on your eardrums.
Are AirPod / AirPod Pros Comfortable Under Your Helmet?
One of the most important factors is comfort and this should never be overlooked.
From my own personal experience, wearing AirPods under a motorcycle helmet is pretty uncomfortable and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Regular AirPods aren’t ideal for under a motorcycle helmet – it’s hard for them to stay in position unless you have something holding them in place, such as a balaclava or bandana.
They don’t offer noise cancellation so you’ll have a hard time hearing them over engine and wind noise etc and you’re hearing is left unprotected.
On top of this they will often stop playing music when one AirPod falls out (which happens quite a lot) due to the way they’re designed.
Unlike the regular AirPods, the AirPod Pros stay in place perfectly due to their custom end tips.
On top of this they offer noise protection – this alone makes the AirPod Pros the better option of the two.
I would point out that when taking the helmet off, stems of the Airpods Pro get in the way. Wearing the balaclava or bandanna can help remedy that problem.
Will AirPods Fall Out While Riding a Motorcycle?
I’ve never been afraid of losing the AirPods Pros with my helmet on, the regular AirPods on the other hand would fall out all the time, although they’d still be trapped inside the helmet.
I wouldn’t, however, attempt to ride a motorcycle with AirPods WITHOUT a helmet.
Do Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones Work On a Motorcycle?
To some extent they can work – at lower speeds, they are okay.
Once you start opening up on the highway the engine and wind noise reaches such a high volume that it causes noise-canceling earbuds to sound absolutely terrible.
I have heard various and mixed reports, but this was my own personal experience.
I would opt for sound isolating earphones instead which work in much the same way as earplugs – I personally wear Shure SE215-K.
What is the Best Way to Listen to Music on a Motorcycle?
Here are some of the most popular ways to listen to music on a motorcycle:
Motorcycle Stereo Systems
Some bikes come with an amplified speaker system, but you can get one installed if that’s not the case.
They’re not cheap, but if music is an essential part of riding for you, it’s worth it.
Bluetooth technology lets you play music and listen to your GPS straight from your smartphone, in all climates, as they build these systems to last, rain or shine.
You may also like: Motorcycle Alarm Going Off? (7 Common Causes)
Earbuds / Headphones
These are one of the most accessible and affordable options.
Choices include noise cancellation and various Bluetooth and wireless set-ups. I would recommend sound isolating earphones over noise cancelling earphones as these will offer better hearing protection.
When choosing these, be vigilant about your surroundings, and pre-program your song lists ahead of time.
These are a sizzling trend right now. They’re designed slender enough to fit in your helmet, under your pads.
You mount them in there one time, and then you slip your helmet on and push a button when you’re ready to ride.
Is it Legal to Wear Headphones / Earbuds While Riding a Motorcycle?
The legality of riding with headphones varies from country to country, and in the U.S., from state to state.
In the vast majority of states its legal to wear headphones, some states its illegal whilst other states its a bit more complicated.
Here’s a breakdown of every state in America that has restrictions and what those restrictions are.
- Alaska- No headphones or earbuds while riding bikes in Alaska unless they’re used as a hearing aid or navigation.
- California- Single ear earbuds (not both in at the same time).
- Colorado- Illegal.
- Florida- Single ear earbuds (not both in at the same time).
- Georgia- Wired headphones are illegal but wirelessly connected headphones are fine.
- Illinois- Single ear earbuds or Helmet Speakers only.
- Louisiana- Illegal.
- Maryland- Illegal.
- Massachusetts- No headphones.
- New York- No headphones.
- Minnesota- Single ear earbuds (not both in at the same time).
- Ohio- Helmet speakers only.
- Oregon- Earbuds are allowed in some cities, but in others, headphones are prohibited.
- Pennsylvania- Single earbuds only.
- Rhode Island- Illegal.
- Virginia- Helmet speakers only
- Washington- No headphones, but they allow communications devices and helmet speakers.
Canada mostly has no restrictions other than the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba.
UK and Australia
Not illegal to wear headphones in either of these countries.
What are the Best Earbuds to Wear While Riding a Motorcycle?
I’ve tested a wide range of earphones and earplugs over the years and my first choice recommendation would be Shure’s SE215 sound isolating earphones.
Whilst they are a bit expensive, their low profile design makes them extremely comfortable with any helmet – and I’ve actually found them to be more comfortable than foam motorcycle earplugs.
Their sound isolation is some of the best I’ve heard, and are great for eliminating wind and engine.
These earbuds are perfect for protecting your hearing from tinnitus on longer road trips.
You may also be interested in our article: What to wear under motorcycle pants and leathers
How Much Noise Are You Exposed to Whilst Riding a Motorcycle?
The average noise from a motorcycle engine is around 90 decibels (dB). However, many bikes produce noises in excess of 100 dB—a level high enough to require ear protection in U.S. workplaces.
Excessive engine noise is just one of many factors that can lead to hearing loss in motorcyclists, including:
- Wind noise. While decibel levels from wind noise are relatively low on city streets, a motorcyclist traveling over 60 miles per hour on a highway can experience sound levels up to 116 dB. The faster you go, the higher the levels of wind noise. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that exposure to noises over 100 dB can cause hearing damage in as little as fifteen minutes.
- Open ears. Motorcyclists rely on helmets to protect their heads in a crash, but many helmets provide little to no protection from loud noises. Only helmets that fit entirely over the head offer ear protection, and even then the level of protection varies.
- Tinnitus. Persistent exposure to high-level noises can cause your acute hearing to drop to a lower level, a condition known as Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS). Continuous TTS exposure can lead to tinnitus symptoms and cause permanent inability to hear.