Skullcandy Push Ultra: Bringing the Soundtrack to your Mountain Biking

In partnership with Skullcandy

I’ve been on the hunt recently for the top wireless earphones for mountain biking. So, when Skullcandy suggested that their Push Ultra True Wireless earbuds might be the perfect audio companion for my backcountry adventures, I was excited to give them a try.

How did they perform? The short answer is that these Skullcandy Push Ultra earbuds are good…very good. In fact, if I was to lose my Push Ultra earbuds I would go get myself a replacement pair straight away. Though, as we’ll come onto in a moment, losing the earbuds is harder than it might sound.

The short answer is that the Skullcandy Push Ultra earbuds are good…very good

 

So, first up, let’s take a look over what Skullcandy say about the Push Ultra earbuds. Then, we’ll take a deep dive on the features that I really like about these true wireless earbuds and discuss why they’re so good for lots of activities and, I believe, particularly suitable for mountain biking. There’s a couple aspects of the earbuds that I’m less keen on and we’ll touch on those too. Right now, there’s singletrack to conquer and not a moment to waste, so let’s jump right into the details.



What do Skullcandy say about the Push Ultra

“6hrs playtime + 40 more in the wireless charging case”
“Moldable ear hooks for a comfortable and unshakeable fit”
“Design lets you hear your surroundings when you need to”
“IP67 sweatproof and waterproof”
“Full controls on each earbud”
“Find your lost earbuds with Tile”


What do I like about the Push Ultra earbuds

I’ve been testing out the Push Ultra true wireless earbuds in the Energized Yellow color. There are 3 colors available at Skullcandy, with True Black and Bleached Blue being the two additionals. The Energized Yellow is vibrant and easy to track down in either the organized mess that is my desk, or the overgrown bushes at the side of the trail. The charging case is color-matched to the earbuds and so again is easy to find in amongst the desk clutter.

Skullcandy also produce a more stripped-back version of the Push Ultra, the Push. The Push earbuds are true wireless earphones, like the Ultra, but at a lower price point. Though they don’t come with the same moldable earhooks and only have 12 hours of battery life (vs 40 hours total time for the Ultra). Great for plenty of activities but not what I needed for mountain biking.

The Push Ultra earbuds stay in your ears
When you’re looking for the top wireless earphones, the critical feature that you need is wireless earbuds that stay in your ear whilst you’re throwing yourself down a mountainside on a bike. Athletic wireless headphones like this will be ideal for a range of active leisure pursuits, like walking, running and of course, cycling. Keep in mind that we’re looking at earphones for off-road adventures here. If you’re cycling on road or pavement you’ll need to check the regulations in your local area for whether or not you can wear headphones. Often, it’s not allowed and, anyway, if there are other road users coming up from behind you, then it’s sensible to be able to hear them.

I must admit, I had a quiet chuckle to myself when Skullcandy suggested that the Push Ultra buds would be great for mountain biking. I’ve tried lots of earbuds before and, at the first hint of singletrack, I will feel one and then the other earbud, come loose, fall out of my ears and drop to the ground, lost forever in the bushes. In fact, in my experience, the only way to keep earbuds in place when you’re cycling is with duct tape. And that’s fine for keeping other earbuds in place (quite effective, actually). But after you’re done conquering the mountains and it’s time to take them out? Yeah, pain, lots of. Then the Push Ultra buds arrived and I thought I’d approach my testing with an open mind and only a small, smug grin on my face.

The result? Well, let’s just say that the smug and knowing grin swiftly left my face. The moldable ear hooks on the Push Ultra buds are awesome. No duct tape needed to keep these earphones firmly in place, no matter what ridiculous stunt I was attempting (and failing) to pull off.

The moldable ear hooks on the Push Ultra buds are awesome. No duct tape needed to keep these earphones firmly in place

 

When I’ve tested buds with moldable ear hooks in the past I’ve been disappointed on two counts. Firstly, that the moldable hooks didn’t actually mold terribly well. You might be able to hold them in the position that you wanted but, as you soon as you let go, they would just spring back to their original shape. Second, that the hooks would try to mold my ears into a new (and highly painful) shape. Neither of these things happened with the Push Ultra buds. I found that they would easily mold to fit even the scrunched and misshapen shapes of my ears and, once the hooks were in place, they would stay in that shape. Similarly, the hooks were so comfortable that I would forget they were even there. A very welcome feeling indeed.

They sound great (even with the music that I listen to)
Full disclosure – whilst I know a few things about cycling, I’m no audio expert. That being said, I’ve listened to music through some great earbuds and some that fall into the cheap-and-not-very-cheerful category. With that background I can say that the sound that comes out of these buds is incredible. Music sounds well balanced: bassy when you need it, true-to-life midrange frequencies, and crisp highs. Notes are clean, clear and open with exceptional detail and there’s a real warmth to the vocals that just sounds awesome.

Not only do they sound great – but the clever open design of these earbuds lets you hear your surroundings. Handy when you take a wrong turn and end up ascending the downhill route and have other cyclists screaming at you to get out the way. Though this has never happened to me, obviously…

One feature of true wireless earbuds that is kinda obvious when you think about it, but real handy for something like mountain biking, is that there’s no wires. That means that, as well as using both earbuds together, you can also leave one in the case and just listen to music through the other. That’s really useful and gives you the best of both worlds – cheesy 80s soft rock ballads AND full awareness of the sounds around you.

Volume control on the Push Ultra is also simple – a single press of the + button to increase the volume, with the corresponding – button to quieten things back down. Having volume buttons on each bud is useful for left- or right-handed riders.

Peace-of-mind
The Push Ultra earbuds have the feel of tough tech that you can throw anything at and it will come back smiling and asking for more.

First up, these Skullcandy wireless earbuds are waterproof. How do I know this? Because I’ve done a couple tests to check. Neither was a planned test, but both were quite effective.

Firstly, I went out for a ride on the local trails. The sun was shining and the sky was blue when I set off. Sadly, a little under two hours later, the sky was dark grey and the rain was coming down hard. Even if I’d tried, there was no way I could keep the water off the earbuds and yet the music kept on playing and, frankly, lifted my spirits on an otherwise cold and damp ride. Secondly, whilst a cold beer is one of my favorite ways to finish up after a big cycle, a cold glass of beer and a standard earbud floating on the surface like an olive in a Dirty Martini, is not. So, for any beer-loving, clumsy-fingered mountain bikers, don’t worry. As well as waterproof, your new Push Ultra earbuds are also beerproof.

The lack of a wire was always a bit of a concern to me with wireless earbuds as I thought I’d end up misplacing one of the buds. Thankfully, the inbuilt Tile technology has come in handy for finding one or both when I’ve lost them on the trail or cluttered desk surface. The bright color of the Energized Yellow has also been handy in this regard, making eyeballing them in the greenery a simple task, even from saddle height.

The Push Ultra earbuds are easy to use
In the past, I’ve found that lots of Bluetooth devices can be fairly hit or miss in terms of pairing them with another device. As a typical guy, the approach that I’ve taken has been to leave the instructions in the box and then press random buttons until either something worked or someone took the device off me and paired it up correctly. With the Push Ultra buds, the pairing was as simple as lifting them out of the case (at which point they turn on and enter sync mode), then opening my phone’s Bluetooth settings, finding ‘Push Ultra’ in the list and pressing connect.

Once you’ve got the earbuds paired you’ll find that the controls are simple and intuitive. Plus and Minus buttons on each bud can be used to operate the volume (single press) and track selection (4 second press on + to skip forward a track). Press the black Skullcandy logo button to turn on and off, or just pop them back in the case to turn off. The controls are also large enough that you can operate them without taking your bike gloves off – a definite bonus on the trails.


What do I dislike about the Push Ultra

These wireless earbuds are fantastic and there really aren’t many negatives to mention.

If I had to nitpick I’d say that the price is not inconsiderable. The price of wireless earphones does vary substantially – and the Push Ultra are at the upper end of the scale. But, at the price point where the Push Ultra sits, you also get a ton of features that will make your listening experience so much better: better sound quality, comfortable and secure ear hooks, waterproof casing, and long battery life. My view is that it’s worth spending the extra to get a set of earbuds that are this good.

The moldable earhooks took a little practise before I got the hang of molding them into the correct shape. The trick that I found is to open them most of the way out, slip them onto your ear and then form them into place with your fingers. After a few times of doing this it becomes quite easy.

The charging case is excellent. However I did find that I needed to give the earbuds a little wiggle to settle them correctly into position so that they touched the electrical contacts and were able to charge. There are magnets in the case that help pull the earbuds into position but I found that a little extra adjustment was sometimes still necessary. You’ll find a little red charging light on each earbud that will show you when you’ve got it settled correctly.

I’ve said that the controls are okay to operate whilst wearing bike gloves and that’s true for all my pairs of Spring/Summer/Autumn gloves. When I tried to operate the controls whilst wearing my thickest winter cycling gloves however I found that they were a little tricky. It’s something to bear in mind if you do a lot of winter riding. Although, for me, it did have the benefit of forcing me to stop skipping song tracks and instead let the music play and concentrate on the bike tracks.


Verdict

Listening to the birds tweeting in the trees and the grass swaying in the breeze when you’re biking is awesome. There’s a real feel of being ‘at one with nature’ in those moments.

Sometimes though you need a pumping dance track or a little (early career) Taylor Swift to get you, um, swiftly up to the tops of the mountains and that’s when the Push Ultras are your bestie. These are earbuds that will keep coming back with amazing sound quality no matter what the weather or the bike trails throw at you.

Have fun.