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TECH NEWS

Music on the move: Aleck launches near-ear audio aimed specifically at cyclists

Aleck’s new Punks device is “the first true wireless, near-ear audio and communication system for cyclists”

Tech company Aleck has launched Punks, a wireless system that allows cyclists to listen to audio and communicate with other riders. Punks are near-ear devices, the idea being that they don’t block other sounds, such as traffic.

2023 Aleck Punks near-ear audio device - 2

“The Punks securely attach to helmet straps and deliver crystal clear sound and unlimited-range group communication so mountain bikers, gravel grinders, and road cyclists alike can pump music and talk to each other while keeping ears uncovered to maintain situational awareness,” says Aleck.

Punks also offer a Party Mode that allows communication between users over an unlimited range via Aleck’s smartphone app.

“Punks do not interfere with riding or vision and provide focused, high-quality sound without noise pollution,” says Aleck. “The Punks can be used in any outdoor condition thanks to expertly tuned, near-ear drivers and dual wind-blocking mics that ensure clear communication regardless of the weather.

“Aleck’s free app (available on iOS and Android) drives the Punks’ features, including easy [hands-free] group communication through open-channel Party Mode with unlimited participants, walkie-talkie style Push-To-Talk, and the Friend Finder real-time location of group members, for finding a buddy when they blow past the turn.”

This Friend Finder feature shows you the location of other users on a map. All of these features can be turned off if they’re not useful to you.

2023 Aleck Punks near-ear audio device - 4

We’ve reviewed various devices on road.cc over the years that are designed to provide audio without stopping other sounds from reaching your ears, such as the Haylou PurFree BC01 bone conduction earphones and the Oladance Open Ear Headphones

“We all know that situational awareness is key to a safe ride,” says Aleck. “Hear the urban traffic around you, or just hear your tyres on the trail, ensuring you’re always connected to your surroundings.”

2023 Aleck Punks near-ear audio device - 1

Aleck Punks essentially comprise two slim wireless speakers that double as a group communication system. Each measures 5.5 x 2.7 x 1cm and weighs a claimed 16g. Aleck says that it measured over 100 of the most popular bike helmets and that Punks will fit the straps of almost any open-face design out there. 

They have an IP65 rating which means they’re dust-tight and can withstand jets of water – so they should keep rain and sweat out. Recharging is via USB-C. Aleck says a 10-minute charge gives you an hour’s play. It takes an hour to recharge the Punks fully.

What about wind noise?

Aleck says, “Our engineers developed three layers of wind noise reduction: mechanical [the mic has three mechanical barriers], secondary mic environmental noise cancellation, and the crucial final layer, a cloud-based noise reduction algorithm.”

Aleck isn’t new to the audio market having introduced its 006 snow helmet speakers three years ago. 

The Aleck Punks have already smashed their £24,000 Kickstarter funding target. At the time of writing, they’ve received over £81,000 in pledges with 24 days to go.

To be in line to receive a set of Punks, you need to pledge at least US$99, which is about £79. Delivery is scheduled for July 2023.

As we always point out, pledging money through a crowdfunding site is not the same as buying a product from a retailer

We’re interested to know whether you listen to audio – music, podcasts, whatever – when you’re riding, and whether you think it’s safe and advisable, particularly on the road.

Check out the Aleck Punks Kickstarter project here or head over to Aleck’s website.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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21 comments

Avatar
Fignon's ghost | 11 months ago
2 likes

There's nothing more enjoyable than riding and listening to your favourite music. I'm particularly going through a Smashy Pumpkins/Killers phase right now. Today, is a particularly enjoyable experience when traversing heavy traffic. Use you eyes people. Ride strong. Be confident. Be free.

I also rock on with a front n back go pro to the cloud. I find these two items are an essential deterrent and insurance policy. My cateye viz 450 is always on rear. My knog x strobe 200 upfront and I always wear black. Living my dream...

Avatar
Sriracha | 11 months ago
2 likes
Quote:

What about wind noise?
Aleck says, “Our engineers developed three layers of wind noise reduction: mechanical [the mic has three mechanical barriers], secondary mic environmental noise cancellation, and the crucial final layer, a cloud-based noise reduction algorithm.”

What - no Cat-Ears? Could just stick them on the outside of these devices, no?
https://www.cat-ears.com/

Avatar
Mungecrundle | 11 months ago
3 likes

Never understood why anyone would electively choose to block off the second most important survival sense (for a cyclist) after vision.

It's surely not just the reduced awareness of sounds around you, particularly from sources of potential threat outside of direct vision, but also the mental distraction. And yes, I do tend to turn the radio off when driving in urban traffic.

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Welsh boy replied to Mungecrundle | 11 months ago
2 likes

Hearing might be the second most important sesne after sight when riding a bike but the amount of useful input it contributes is so much less than that of vision.  It is like saying that when walking hearing is the second most important sense after vision, by default, somethng, howevr limited, must be in second place behind the most important one.

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Mungecrundle replied to Welsh boy | 11 months ago
0 likes

At least we agree that hearing is an important sense which is of use whilst riding a bicycle.

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Steve K | 12 months ago
0 likes

Personally, I think noise cancelling/in-ear headphones are a step too far, but you can still hear traffic with things like bone conduction headphones or over ear ones like the Oladance ones - and I'm sure that will be same with these.

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swldxer | 12 months ago
6 likes

Always used earpieces when cycling - totally deaf people can ride OK. We have to be more visually aware rather than get fooled by sounds.

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Destroyer666 replied to swldxer | 12 months ago
1 like

Hope you ride with a bunch of mirrors then and actually use your "visual awareness" with them to cover the roughly 180degrees that you are a lot less sensitive to otherwise with your earpieces on. Sound - from other traffic - is addititional and important source of information, not noise to be blocked. I'd rather caution against being fooled that your visual awareness is enough.

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wycombewheeler replied to Destroyer666 | 12 months ago
7 likes

Destroyer666 wrote:

Hope you ride with a bunch of mirrors then and actually use your "visual awareness" with them to cover the roughly 180degrees that you are a lot less sensitive to otherwise with your earpieces on. Sound - from other traffic - is addititional and important source of information, not noise to be blocked. I'd rather caution against being fooled that your visual awareness is enough.

an important source of information? what does it tell me? There is a motor vehicle behind me, not really surprising in an unrban environment, that will be the case almost constantly.

What do you expect me to do with that information? How does the noise of a car from behind change what I am doing? If the input data does not lead to a response it is unneccesary data. Honestly what do you do when you recieve this important information that you can hear a car behind you? Why does this requirement not apply to drivers in cars, since studies have shown cyclists with earphones can hear more tarffic noise than drivers with their windows closed, before even considering putting the radio/music on in the car.

If there is no noise, can I just move out into the lane without looking? what about electric cars or other bikes?

If I hear a noise from behind how do I know whether it is going to pass me safely or drive straight into me?

Isn't the best course of action to cycle in a straight line in a predictable manner, and if you want to change that line for any reason then look over your shoulder?

I do not use earphones when I cycle, mostly what i hear when I cycle is the air passing my ears. and this drowns out any music I try to listen to, but of course this wind noise does not at all affect the ability to precisely determine the speed and direction of following vehcles purely from engine noise.

 

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OnYerBike replied to wycombewheeler | 12 months ago
3 likes

I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, deaf people should be able to use the roads safely, and I certainly agree that there's a massive double standard when people care about cyclists wearing headphones but not motorists with windows closed and stereo blasting.

On the other hand, I do think that being able to hear can only add to spatial awareness and safety. Audible cues are part of road safety - police cars have sirens; cars have horns; lorries often have reversing beeps or audible turn warnings; even bicycles often have bells. And being a cyclist is a very different situation to being in a car. As a cyclist, it is fairly inevitable that you will be overtaken frequently, and therefore arguably need greater awareness of what is going on behind you. Most cyclists do not ride with mirrors, and therefore in order to see behind, they need to fully turn their head. Mirrors (as mandatory on all motor vehicles) allow greater general awareness of what's going on behind through peripheral vision, and also when focusing specifically on the mirror, greater awareness of what's going on ahead through peripheral vision.

In addition, when riding my bike I typically think far more about my position within the carriageway than I do when driving a car. Do I go to the left or right of that pothole? Do I take primary position through a narrow section?  Do I take secondary position and allow an overtake? These sorts of decisions are certainly influenced, at least in part, by my understanding of what is going on behind me - is there a vehicle there? How long has it been there? Is it a big vehicle or a small vehicle? Is it a bus that is likely to stop at the approaching bus stop? Do I think they are going to aggressively squeeze through if I move to the left to go around a pothole? Etc. etc. These questions aren't always concious, but I think they feed in to the unconcious decisions we all make all the time when cycling, but are largely irrelevant for driving a car.

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Destroyer666 replied to wycombewheeler | 12 months ago
0 likes

Jees, what near senseless rant. You can't seriosly imagine other sources of sound than "motor vehicles"? And even with cars, how about a car honkin? with sirens? speeding towards? Nope? No idea what to do with that info in any scenario? You just ride in a straight line? And what on earth has "riding in a predictable manner" have to do with what I wrote? And you don't see any difference to car drivers? Seriosly? One simple clue, I did mention something about mirrors in my original comment. But nevermind, actually I hope you don't answer. You've shown your inability to listen - just keep riding your straight line.

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Welsh boy replied to Destroyer666 | 12 months ago
6 likes

I can never understand this obsession about being able to hear clearly vehicles behind you. If the vehicle is going to drive into you because the driver didn't see you then they are going to do that whether you heard them coming or not. By the time you think "this car sounds a bit closer than others" you probably don't have time to do anything anyway. Full disclosure, I don't wear headphones when cycling any longer but I don't have a downer on people who do

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Hirsute replied to Welsh boy | 12 months ago
2 likes

The only time I got out of the way was approaching a red/amber light at a roundabout. I heard an engine roar behind me and went through the light and swerved right to behind the wall that separated the 2 halves of the carriageway.

I'm sure they would have hit me if I had not escaped right.

A pedestrian asked if I were alright !

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Destroyer666 replied to Welsh boy | 12 months ago
0 likes

Perhaps rid first your own obsession to think of traffic as just cars, and some sense might reach you.

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Rendel Harris replied to Welsh boy | 12 months ago
5 likes

Welsh boy wrote:

I can never understand this obsession about being able to hear clearly vehicles behind you. If the vehicle is going to drive into you because the driver didn't see you then they are going to do that whether you heard them coming or not. 

I wouldn't agree with that. Regularly on my London commute I can tell from the engine and tyre noise if someone is coming up behind who's going over the speed limit and unlikely to pay any attention to a cyclist and so adjust my speed and road position for my optimal safety accordingly.

 

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kil0ran replied to swldxer | 11 months ago
3 likes

I like to hear what's behind me. Because most of my riding is rural traffic is infrequent and so can be a surprise, not least because I have partial hearing loss. It's not going to prevent a high speed close pass but at least it allows me to clench for the effects or take evasive action. Probably the closest I've come to a serious collision was actually being overtaken by faster cyclists through a pinch point, only them yelling averted it which I might have missed with earbuds in. I suspect I'm not the use case for this or other audio devices as I also like the solitude and connection to nature that cycling provides. I also find I'm quite distracted by music and tend not to have it on in the car particularly in urban environments.

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Fignon's ghost replied to kil0ran | 11 months ago
0 likes

I find good music helps me concentrate.

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Fignon's ghost replied to swldxer | 11 months ago
0 likes

Exactly. There's nothing better than Iggy Pop telling me (full blast) that I am the passenger.

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Oldfatgit | 12 months ago
1 like

The communication with other users in the group was interesting ... until it mentioned through the smart phone app.

Is this going to be free ... or will it be charged?
Will it only work in 3g/ 4g / 5g etc ... what if there's no or limited signal?
If it uses Packet Radio (like our old brick phones could), is that charged ... and by whom?

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Oldfatgit | 11 months ago
3 likes
Oldfatgit wrote:

The communication with other users in the group was interesting ... until it mentioned through the smart phone app.

Is this going to be free ... or will it be charged?
Will it only work in 3g/ 4g / 5g etc ... what if there's no or limited signal?
If it uses Packet Radio (like our old brick phones could), is that charged ... and by whom?

I ride sometimes with some people who use helmets that allow them to talk to each other. I was surprised to be told that they work over Bluetooth. The range is surprisingly good, 100m easily, plenty for a group on bikes.

Avatar
leaway2 | 12 months ago
3 likes

This sounds like a single solution. I use "Bone conducting" headphones and a phone. I also wear the headphones when I'm not on the bike. The ability to talk to other riders would be useful though.

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