Aleck Punks Headphones
- Price: $149.95 ($279.95 for 2-sets)
- Buy from Amazon
There’s a funny dichotomy between music and mountain biking. I can feel my blood pressure rise when I get to the gym and realize I’ve left my headphones at home. I don’t know why it’s become such a big deal, but it’s almost unbearable to work out and have to listen to top 40 over the gym speakers or to poor attempts at flirting between high schoolers. Some also argue that music during exercise allows you to push harder.
Fitness is a big part of why I mountain bike, however music is not often a part of it. If I’m on a group ride, I usually focus on keeping up with the group and contributing to social banter. If I’m riding solo, then being a courteous rider, and listening for folks who want to pass or nearby wildlife is a priority.
Let’s also not forget that the safe answer — a bluetooth speaker — is almost unanimously hated by fellow trail users. After all we don’t want to spoil anyone’s nature experience, even if it is only a few seconds in passing.
About the Aleck Punks
A few months ago, Aleck, a new brand launched via a Kickstarter, sent a set of their bike communications devices to try out. The Punks are a bluetooth music device that attach to a helmet strap and sit outside of the ear. They aren’t much bigger than a set of ear buds, but the speaker is louder, naturally, since it isn’t being pushed into your ear drum.
Not only are the Punks made to safely play and isolate music for the user, but they also function as a communications device using an open channel Party mode
The Punks seem to have some legit audio technology in them. There is a bass vent and a waterproof 22×14 elliptical dynamic driver, putting a fairly powerful little speaker next to your ear. These are made to mount to nearly any open face helmet though unfortunately they won’t work with full-face helmets since those use under-chin straps.
The headphones weigh about 15g each, have an estimated 12-hour play/talk time, and fully recharge in about an hour.
The Punks cost $150 per set, or $280 for a 2-pack.
On the trail
I’ve had the Punks set up on a bike helmet for a few months, but have thrown them on my snowboard helmet every now and then too. Aleck actually makes a separate product for snow sport helmets, the Nunchucks, which are tethered to each other and are more speaker-like. I’ve found the Punks work fine for snow helmets, and the smaller buttons function fine too, even with thick gloves and the ear warmers on these helmets.
But obviously they work better with the open strap design of bike helmets. The Punks only take a second to strap on, and powering up and pairing them is pretty straightforward. You don’t even need the Aleck app to use them as a set of headphones.
Setting up the headphones with the app is where things slow down though. It’s not that it’s overly complicated, there’s just a lot more to the Punks than meets the eye, and you’ll recognize that in the app reading the instructions.
To enter party mode, a mode where everybody on a group ride can join the same channel and communicate, you tap the left ear button to mute/unmute, tap it twice to hold/unhold. In push-to-talk mode, where you can send messages to a group or another rider, you tap the left ear once to start recording a voice message and tap it twice to stop recording. This takes some getting used to, as there is some lag between the messages, but it is pretty cool. And if you can find confidence with it, it’s useful to communicate a turn at a trail intersection when you want to keep your pace up.
I’d say the biggest drawback to the group and push-to-talk functions is that they depend on others having the Punks too. Since this is a new and relatively small and unique product, it’s not likely you’ll find many other people to share the experience with.
The right ear controls the music and is pretty basic to follow: tap once to pause/play. Tap twice to skip to the next song. Tap three times to go to the previous song.
The biggest challenge was setting up a group in the app and figuring out microphone access and timing when you start to send messages. Music on the other hand operates just like any other set of bluetooth headphones.
The sound quality is great and above what I expected. I don’t know if I’d call myself an audiophile but I am picky when it comes to headphones and home audio equipment. There’s a nice amount of bass in the Punks. It’s not quite the same as having the driver in your ear, but the compromise is worthwhile. The Aleck app also gives you access to custom audio tunes.
As mentioned above, the buttons are easy to recognize and push with a gloved hand. On group rides, it’s a seamless experience pausing the Punks when you catch up to friends, without the problem of having an ear bud in that will still interfere with hearing. Passing other trail users, I’m almost certain they can hear that music is coming from my headphones, but it’s not intrusive to others. It’s just not that loud.
Battery life has been exceptional. Aleck claims 12 hours and that seems accurate. I’ve been able to use them for several rides in a row and keep them in my cold garage without having to recharge them often.
Pros and cons of the Aleck Punks bluetooth headphones
- Battery life
- Audio quality
- Easy to put on/take off
- Easy to use
- Audio tuning in app
- Comms option is cool, but depends on others having the Punks too
The Aleck Punks are an awesome option for people who want to listen to music on a ride safely, without drowning out ambient noise, or interfering with others’ outdoor experience.
- Price: $149.95 ($279.95 for 2-sets)
- Buy from Amazon