A Note from Fatty: The contest to win one of two copies of Windows 7 from my good friend Nick ends this Friday. And to make it more interesting to people who may not live to upgrade their operating systems (although Nick has a difficult time imagining how such a person could exist), Nick’s expanded the prize list. Now, two winners will get to choose from any of the following:
- Windows 7: Whatever flavor you want
- Office (Mac or PC): Whatever flavor you want
- Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 V3
- LifeCam NX-6000
- Any three Microsoft games for Windows: Halo 2 PC Vista, Halo PC, Rise of Nations Rise of Legends PC, Shadowrun PC Vista, Viva Piñata PC, Zoo Tycoon 2 PC, Zoo Tycoon 2: Extinct Animals X Pack PC, Zoo Tycoon 2: African Adventure, Gears of War PC, Flight Simulator X Acceleration Pack, Flight Simulator X Deluxe, Fable The Lost Chapters PC, Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna, Age of Empires III PC, Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, Age Empires III: WarChief English PC
To enter the contest, just donate any multiple of $5 at Nick’s LiveStrong Challenge page. For every $5 you donate, you get another chance at winning. I’ll select and email the winners this Friday at Midnight.
Hassle-Free Rock and Roll
Before we begin, can we agree to not make this an argument over whether it’s a good idea to listen to music while riding your bike? I know the pros. I know the cons. Nobody is going to be persuaded.
But the fact is, some of us sometimes listen to music when we ride. And I’m pretty sure that — for those of us who like to rock and ride, I’ve got what comes close to being an ideal solution.
First, you’ve got to start with an iPod Shuffle. The second-generation one, not the newest (third-generation) model. Why? Because the second-generation Shuffle is a perfect combination of form and function — you can get to all the controls just by feel, even with gloves on. It’s tiny enough that it’s never gets in your way, and even the low-end version with just 1Gb (this is the version I use, by the way) holds more songs (200+) than you’ll ever get through before the battery dies.
The third-generation Shuffle, on the other hand, seems like it’s a joke article from the Onion. No controls, at all on the main unit? Teeny tiny controls on the headphones? The same headphones which are the most likely part to break on the Shuffle itself? And the controls are so small they’re hard to work with normally, much less when you’re wearing gloves and are on a bike? And the controls are hard to even get to because before you can use them you have to capture them as they sway back and forth on your headphone cable? This is what they’re replacing the 2nd-generation shuffle with? Really?
OK, sorry. I seem to have started ranting. And using a lot of question marks.
Anyway: you’re going to need a 2nd-Generation iPod Shuffle. That’s going to run you $45 or so.
The Magic Part: Arriva Headphones
I wouldn’t be doing this post at all if my big revelation were “Hey, use an iPod Shuffle!” ‘Cuz, well, a lot of you have probably heard of iPods before and may not need my help with that.
The reason I’m doing this post is because Arriva headphones are pretty much the most perfect thing ever for cyclists. Check them out:
Confused? Don’t worry, it will all make sense in a moment. Your Shuffle docks right onto the headphones, like this:
Then — because the headphone cables are springy, you just pop the headphones on and the iPod rests at the base of your skull, beneath your helmet, like this:
And — since everyone asks me this — no, they don’t dig into my neck or pinch when I ride.
What I Love About the Arrivas
There are two big things I love about these headphones.
- No more cables. With this setup, I have no cables at all dangling from my ears and helmet, and I don’t have to hassle with routing the headphones under my jersey and to my iPod — whereever the iPod happens to be clipped (or pocketed).
- Incredibly easy access. With the iPod positioned like this, I always know exactly where it is — it doesn’t budge even during mountain bike descents — and can quickly and easily get to the controls. Obviously I never can see the controls, but since the Shuffle’s volume and Next/Previous buttons are raised in a ring around the Play/Pause button, I don’t need to see anything. Even with my gloves on, I have no trouble at all operating this thing.
So those are the main benefits — the compelling reasons, as far as I’m concerned, to get one of these. There are a few other things I like, too:
- I can hear what’s going on around me. The Arriva headphones are springy, and when you bend them, they retain that bend. I’ve now got my headphones so they’re positioned just outside my ears, not nestled deep inside. So I can hear my music, but — unless I’ve really got the Shuffle cranked up — I can also hear conversations and noise around me.
- They’re comfortable. It took a few rides for me to get these headphones bent just right, but now I don’t even feel them when I ride.
- They’re cheap. $35, free shipping. Not bad at all.
- They work with helmets. I had never seen anyone use the Arrivas with a helmet before and so I wasn’t sure whether they’d work with the Roc-Loc head gripper thingy at the back of helmets. As you can see from the photo above, there’s no interference at all.
I personally have no problems whatsoever with these headphones, but I can imagine that some people might. Here’s what you may not care for:
- You will be assimilated. From the front, the Arrivas are darn near invisible. But you’re a cyclist; hardly anyone will ever see you from the front. From the side and back, these headphones make you look like you’re joining the Borg Collective. But really, would being part of the Borg be so bad? I hear the job security is great and they have a terrific benefits package. And don’t get me started about their retirement plan and 401K matching: wow! Anyway, if you’ve got a style issue with these headphones, there’s nothing I would even try to say to convince you to go with them.
- They don’t sound great. At their best, these headphones sound pretty good. But if you are an audiophile or even a music snob, the sound quality will disappoint you. Hey, I’m not a music snob and even I could tell that the sound quality on these is not the best. But they’re $35 headphones with specialized equipment from a small company in Telluride, CO. I didn’t expect these to sound awesome. For my listening while cycling needs, pretty good is good enough.
- They are utterly defeated by wind noise. At least for me and the way I have these headphones positioned, when I’m on a road descent, I can’t hear the music at all. I think this is partially because of the fact that I keep the earbuds themselves pretty far out of my ear, but also because of the way the cable goes in front of your ear — that’s bound to create some wind noise of its own. With the Arrivas, I turn off my music before I turn downhill.
Additional Info and a Question
Size Stuff: I puzzled and worried over whether I should get the Small or Regular-sized headphones, and finally decided on the Small. That turned out to be a good call. For comparison, I wear size Medium helmets.
If you do get the wrong size, the Arriva site says they’re good about exchanges. But I haven’t tried that out, so can’t vouch for how easy it really is.
Judgment Call from You: I kind of enjoy writing about stuff I use when I ride, and wouldn’t mind doing it more. But obviously that’s not what I started out doing with this blog. Let me know whether you would get sick of me writing these review-ish pieces once a week or so.
Full Disclosure: Since I’m starting to get free stuff sometimes, I figure I should let you know when I get stuff for free. In this case, I paid retail for the headphones on the Arriva site, and they don’t know I’m writing this. I don’t think that changes the way I feel about something, but who knows. In short, I have never had any communication at all with the Arriva folks.
Short version: I’m glad the 2nd-generation iPod Shuffle is still around, because combined with the Arriva, it’s the best cycling / music solution I could ever hope for.