One of the ongoing challenges I’ve had over the years is the battle to hear music when riding a bike at highway speeds. That’s despite having tried all sorts of things from compact helmet-mounted systems, ear buds on iPods, through to in-helmet speakers connected to a full bike-mounted stereo system.
The issue has been two-fold: the equipment’s ability to transmit clear sound against a lot of ambient noise, plus your own ability to ‘filter’ the noise. The latter varies from one person to another and mine, I’ve concluded, is not great.
Step up the folk from Earmold Australia, aka Aaron and Julie Dalle- Molle. You may have seen them, or one of their franchisees, at a big bike event, making up earplug sets on the spot. It looks like the sort of thing you expect to see a vet doing – injecting silicone into an ear hole with a giant syringe. And, if you fancy some light entertainment, just hang around for a while and watch
What happens is the earplugs are literally moulded to your ears – a long way from the usual stuffing a universal foam plug in and hoping for the best. It’s safe and painless but feels quite weird, hence the strange faces people make.
The twist is they can fit those same plugs with a stereo speaker set with volume control. The speakers themselves are in the lines, rather than in your ears, delivering the sound the final few centimetres via hollow tubing.
Their whole construction process takes under an hour, which includes moulding and setting the plugs themselves.
So what are they like? Earmold points out the product is unique in providing a Class 5 hearing protector (at the upper end of the Australian and New Zealand standards) that enables music.
The fit is for each ear, so you’ll be asked to pick a different colour for each to make recognition easy. There’s a little twisting technique required to put them in, after which the drop in noise level is astounding. They don’t block noise altogether, but the reduction is dramatic.
My test bed was Red, my 2003 Indian Chief Vintage, on a trip up the Hume Highway, wearing an open-face helmet and sitting behind a touring screen. Though comfortable, it’s a fairly noisy environment.
The first revelation was just how much wind, road and mechanical noise was cut out. Second was how little volume was required to hear the music with no difficulty. Plus, if I got tired of the music, I could just turn it down and enjoy some relative quiet.
There is a real fatigue issue when dealing with the constant noise of riding a motorcycle on a highway and I’ve been using foam earplugs for years to combat it. This, however, is a whole other level. That you can get some entertainment thrown in, without resorting to ridiculous volume levels, is a real bonus.
You don’t have to go to a show to get a set and can contact the company via Earmold.com.au. Price is $265 which, given how effective they are and the difference they make to a trip, represents very solid value.
• Very effective, great on a trip
• Funny faces inevitable