Slipstreamz for Commuters and Racers


by Byron on Jun 11, 2007 at 5:59 AM

slipstreamz.jpg Slipstreamz are cycling earwear for iPods to “fine tune your ride.” The product attaches to your helmet strap, covers your ears, blocks wind noise and you slip the iPod earbuds in for a ride. Most of the people I ride with listen to music when training and in a noisy city I can see the advantage. Slipstreamz also markets a spoiler that just blocks the wind.

When I ride, I like to listen to the world, the wind, and what’s going on around me so this isn’t for me, but Andrew is going to test the Slip during his commute.

To increase awareness in the US market, Slipstream just announced they’re sponsoring the Inferno Racing Cycling Team. The team is using them for training and racing with team radios.

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This product should be illegal, you should never wear earphones while riding. I am disappointed that you featured this item.

I can’t tell if it’s actually illegal to wear headphones while cycling here or not. Under RCW 46.61.755, bicycles appear to only be subject to the rules of 46.61, and the law against operating a motor vehicle while wearing headphones is in chapter 46.37. WSDOT says not to wear headphones while cycling, but that appears to be a suggestion, not a law.

Either way, it doesn’t seem very smart to me, at least for commuting. Blocking wind noise, great. Blocking the noise of the van that’s about to hit me, not so good.

I actually checked out the Slipstreamz website.  It appears that there are two products—the Slip and the Spoiler.  Both enhance your ability to hear and so would enable you do hear the van that’s about to hit you more clearly.  The Spoiler, which uses the MP3 earbuds, doesn’t actually keep them in your ear, but close by.  I believe that you would be able to hear better, even with the earbuds at a low volume, than with no Slipstreamz product.

For now, I will just wait on DL Byron’s review.

As I noted in my post, I wouldn’t wear these or listen to headphones while riding myself, but cycilsts most certainly do . . .  the “earmuff” part doesn’t cover your ear, it just shields it. Also, raising these type of questions is good and appreciated. Just like our [helmet post and comment thread](, it’s open for discussion.

Hmm, interesting, freddiemac. I probably should have paid more attention to the product page. I agree, with the earbuds held away from the ear, it’s possible that this would improve your ability to hear non-wind noises (“on your left!”).

It’s legal in Washington state to ride with headphones.  That said, it’s stupid to listen to them too loudly.  I usually run the iPod at barely audible volumes and am still able to carry on conversations and certainly hear traffic (I usually turn it off once I hit city streets).

A friend of mine is deaf, and has been since birth. She rides her bike anyway and hasn’t been hit by a van yet. She has a smart little trick to compensate for her lack of hearing, she turns her head every once in a while. =)

Jim, Josh,

Correct—great discussion. The product is intended to help you hear better . . .  now we haven’t tested it, but will.

I’m the developer of the Slipstreamz products, and my intention really wasn’t to have cyclists being squashed by all modes of motorised vehicles.  My first product, the Slip was originally developed to reduce wind noise and protect the ear from cool air.  I almost inadvertantly discovered that it could provide a safer method of using iPods, and this is still optional.  I however wanted to develop a much simpler product for only reducing wind noise (a serious safety issue) and six months of intensive development resulted in the Spoiler, my second product.  Both can be viewed extensively on my website,  I’d appreciate any comments after looking through the site.

I saw these recently at a bike safety class. One of the instructors said that officially we shouldn’t listen to music while be bike, but then he tipped his helmet over and showed us his slipstreams. Another person in the class had used them in her skiing helmet. I haven’t tried them myself, but they both said that they really keep the wind out, and even with music on, they felt they could hear better with them than without them.

I’ve been commuting year-round here in Seattle for 12 years, and I’ve had one accident: a car turned left in front of me, not something that better hearing would have saved me from.  In city traffic, your ears are just not effective tools for determining what’s going on behind you.  The spatial resolution of hearing makes it impossible to distinguish between a car that’s going to pass safely 3 feet beside you and one that’s going to clip you from behind.

I do sometimes cycle with earphones on.  I’ve never used this particular product, but I’ve found that using those cloth triangles (supposed to keep your ears warm) cuts down wind noise significantly, and I can actually hear more traffic noise (and cyclists calling to pass) with those on plus music at a reasonable volume than just the naked helmet.

Whether you want to listen to music or not, I would highly recommend getting something to cut down on wind noise.  It’s dramatic how mentally draining the wind noise is without your realizing it.  Try something that cuts it down for a little while and I’m sure you’ll have a hard time going back.  I’m excited to try these out as the ear “warmers” aren’t so fun in summer.

I was looking for these, having heard of them a few months back.  As for the general discussion about headphones and cycling, I just found this article, which I think is both correct and fascinating:

Personally I use my iPod on every bike ride, including long distance events. I only wear the earbud in my right ear (the opposite side that traffic is on) and I put the left bud down my jersey and the music is down low.  I can hear every conversation and traffic.  Unfortunately wind often blocks the sound of the music, but climbing hills is great with some background music playing. One earbud has been very safe for me. I also wear a mirror on my glasses for extra protection of what’s going on behind me. The slipstream products seems like a great idea to me.

This is actually a good idea. It can also be used to minimize wind noise so you can actually hear the traffic around you more clearly.

You guys against cycling with earbuds must never drive, or if you do, you must drive with your windows down and your heads sticking out the window so you can hear everything around you. For you anti-earbud types who won’t understand the analogy, what I mean is you don’t use your sense of hearing while driving, but still manage to negotiate complex traffick maneuvers. Cycling is no different. You should be turning your head to see around you, not using your ears.

I’ve used the Slipstreamz for over four years now on my 44 mile roundtrip commute into baltimore city in the worst traffic and road conditions. They really work in reducing wind noise at higher speeds in particular and I actually can hear behind me better as they capture and direct rear noise into the ear. I listen to both FM news on my ride home and ipod depending on my mood at a volume where I can just hear it. I’ve given them as gifts to over ten cyclists.