As most of you know, one of the quickest ways to get yourself into danger while biking is listening to headphones. Yes, you’ve spent hours perfecting that last playlist in iTunes. Yes, it might be flat out the best exercise soundtrack known to man, but no matter how much Led Zeppelin, DMX, or Yanni (to each man his own) you’ve got blasting, it’s doubtful you’ll be all that pumped when that Ford Expedition soccer mom barrels into you on a blind right turn. Listening to headphones while biking just isn’t safe… but there is a solution.
It comes in the form of a CyFi, and I got my hands on one. The CyFi is, at its core, a wireless speaker. It allows you to transfer audio from your cell phone, PDA, or MP3 player via Bluetooth (A2DP), providing you with tunes pretty much anywhere (up to 30 feet from the device). Oh, and before you start thinking you have to strap some bulky contraption to your handlebars, know that the CyFi is just a touch larger than a deck of cards and weighs 4 ounces (about a few long swigs of water from your bottle). Minimal impact on your ride. The CyFi isn’t just relegated to your bike though, latch it onto your backpack or leave it out at your next picnic.
Having spent a few weeks with the CyFi on Manhattan’s bike trails, I’m pleased to report the sound is far clearer than I expected. It also manages to provide a near-field sound stage as not to disturb those around you. It’s a feature that doesn’t seem to be touted, but should be. How it manages to do this I have nary a clue, but it works and I like it. The built in volume and track controls are a nice touch (especially when wearing gloves) and when paired with my iPod Nano (pocketed), they make for a welcome lightweight auditory addition. The CyFi comes packaged with its own desktop charging dock (a truly undervalued convenience for me) and the unit will run about 5.5-6 hours on a single charge. That’s plenty of time to kick your ass on the trails.
The CyFi’s hat trick is not just its music and portability, but the fact that the Bluetooth version also works as a hands-free speakerphone. If your phone supports voice recognition, then you’ve got speed dial. Of course, how you look talking to someone while you’re biking is entirely subjective.
Like most great products, the CyFi was invented by a fellow who found himself in need of something. As a cycling enthusiast, Jeff Lotman (the inventor) wanted to find a safer way to bike with his iPod and thus the CyFi was born.
Verdict: At about $200, the CyFi is a a touch expensive for cycling gear, but then again so is a collision with a Ford Expedition. Also, it’s nowhere near as painful.