November 10, 2014
I’d like to start this post with a disclaimer: I cannot say enough good things about this product. Having said that, I will now attempt to summarize my elation at an ingenious solution to a heretofore unsolved dilemma.
The issue at hand for the entire Cat Ears product line is the sound created by wind passing over one’s ear cavity as well as any additional noise created by the chin strap as it passes in front of the ear. This sound can inhibit one’s ability to distinguish traffic noise, often a first line of defense, particularly in an urban setting. As someone with particularly generously proportioned audio appendages, I perhaps have more of an issue with this phenomenon than those with smaller ears.
The ear covers are designed to add warmth for cold weather riding as well as the aforementioned wind noise reduction. At this point, we’re carrying the Polartec 200 version of the product in black.
We carried a similar product in the past which kept the ears warmer but also, unfortunately, muffled all sounds which I felt created an unacceptable safety hazard. The Cat Ears version leaves audio awareness of one’s surroundings untrammeled and ears warm and toasty (though, in the thick of Montana’s winter, I will typically employ another one to three cranium covers).
Installation and adjustment is simple and straightforward with Velcro attachment. Pro tip: When riding with sunglasses this product is most effective with straps inboard (closer to temples).
Top and third photos provided courtesy Cat Ears; Second by Geoff McMillion
CYCLO NOTES is brought to you every Monday morning by Adventure Cycling's Cyclosource team — Teri, Patrick, and Geoff.
I'd not heard this statistic before - any reference would be much appreciated. Thank you for the comment.
I have two versions of the cat ears. I have the noise reducing ones in a bright blue and purple warming ones like the one pictured above. I ride with a partially deaf person and he also has the two types, black noise reducing ones and grey warmth ones. He can hear what I say to him without me having to yell and I can hear him much better too. We both have mirrors on our helmets, but it is nice to know that if I crash or yell from a distance he has a better chance of hearing me. I definitely get weird looks from cyclists approaching me. I figure with the bright blue they can't guess that they are sideburns. :)
I know I tend to rant about this a bit, but why not carry them in a high vis color instead of black??? Seems to me that would make riders more visible, never a bad thing!
We hear both sides of this argument with consistent regularity. Other than pink, this model doesn't have a high vis option at the moment. Lighweights would be an easy mod (see our store). Thanks for the comment.
I would like to offer a quibble with your review. I'm very hard of hearing, yet I've ridden for 35 years without problems. I use a helmet mirror and occasionally a second mirror on the handlebar, and ride defensively. I don't need to use my ears to ride safely. So, I see no reason why Cat Ears or other ear warmers could not be used in ample safety.
To clarify: Cat Ears don't restrict hearing while others I've tried do. Anytime that sightlines are restricted, audio cues can be the only warning to exercise caution. Thank you for the comment.
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Cat Ears also come in high-conspicuity safety orange.
It may seem like an odd place to add conspicuity, but the're very effective at making head movement visible from behind in poor weather.
Worth noting, over 20-25 mph, wind noise can be loud enough to cause cumulative hearing damage with long-term exposure. Even if your riding speed is in the mid-teens, it only takes a 10 mph headwind to generate potentially-damaging wind noise. You probably won't notice the damage for a decade or more, it's slow and insidious, but by the time you recognize the damage, it will be significant and permanent.