Thanks for checking us out! This all started a couple years ago when, while starting out on a long bike ride, a car pulled up playing some catchy pop song. That was it. For the rest of the ride I was stuck humming that song. I searched around for what I assumed would be a myriad of options for cyclists to listen to music while riding, but nothing existed. I hacked an old pair of running headphones, popped them in my helmet and went off enjoying my soundtracked rides. When people kept asking me where I got them, I knew I was on to something.
Typically, the purpose of an earphone is to introduce perfect audio directly into your ear. On a bike though, you have to be aware of what's going on- traffic, doors, hazards, etc. By removing the headphones from your ears and shifting them into the helmet, you get the right balance of environment and music. By playing the music into the air vents, the sound disperses and loses its directionality. It literally becomes part of the background.
Attaching to your Helmet
Now this was the tricky bit. Helmets come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. To make a new helmet or special headphones seemed silly, especially when you probably already have both of these things. So that was our task: attach Apple Earphones to existing vented helmets. Why Apple Earphones? The same shape that keeps them in your ear also makes them like little grappling hooks in a vent. Plus, it seems like you can always find a spare pair lying around somewhere. In addition, Apple's production is so consistent, we knew that we could make a quality part that would always work.
A Bipo is a pair of machined aluminum clips, and a silicone band. The clips are designed to be as small as possible but still hold the band, and hold onto the Earphone. They are held in place by a thread locked set screw(and we supply you with the allen wrench). The band then keeps everything in place, without pulling on the wires. The band keeps tension in different ways depending on the shape of your helmet- you can see some of these in the video above. The band also holds down the wires across the surface of the helmet, keeping everything clean and kempt.
What else do you need?
Well, a vented helmet...and a music player. Since Bipo just interfaces with the Earphones, the rest is up to you! If your helmet can do it, the Apple Shuffle clips nicely to the rear headstrap area. A wire wrap with a clip finishes everything perfectly. We've also tested a Shuffle or Nano on a shirtsleeve, shirt collar, and so on. If you wear your player in an armband that usually works as well. If you ride with your phone, the Jabra Clipper allows you to stream music from your phone to your Bipo enabled headphones- super slick.
If you're not sure that Bipo will work with your helmet, check to see if your earbuds can "hook" into any of your vents. If they can, you're pretty much set.
What about Apple's new EarPods?
We've got you covered. Bipo uses a set screw to secure itself to your headphones. It is designed to accommodate the slightly varying dimensions between the models of Earbuds, as well as the new EarPods. We have found the the Earbuds sound a little better in this application, and are a little more versatile in vent placement.
Risks and challenges
From early on the biggest problem has been that Apple Earphones are small and slippery. We went through many iterations before we found a reliably produceable solution that was easy to attach and strong enough. This current design accomplishes that.
My business partner and I run a small design firm where we help clients design products and get them to production. We were able to work with our local manufacturing contacts to source all the components within the Cincinnati area. All the molds, casting, and machining will happen within 20 miles of our downtown studio.
With their help we’ve gotten all of our parts and prototypes to production spec, orders are ready to be placed. Since we've done this legwork, we have very good control over the final product. We've budgeted enough to make sure that we have the resources to get everything perfect.
Bipo provides background music, thats why it works. An easy test is to turn up your iPod and hold the earbud about 3-5 inches away from your ear. That's how loud it will be. It isn't HiFi, and is not the best way to experience your buddy's demo reel he asked you to try out. It is however loud enough to hear over the wind and general traffic sounds.
Urban Helmet Love! If you have a helmet without vents we haven't forgotten about you. We'll keep you in the loop as this project moves forward and when we've got something you'll like- you'll be the first to know.