Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Solutions Guide 2016
Best Bluetooth motorcycle helmet systems reviewed.
I created this guide because I love how Bluetooth motorcycle helmet technology is making riding with others even more fun and to provide information to those who are interested in what it’s all about. Here you will find articles that I have written and information on Bluetooth motorcycle helmet devices that my colleagues and I have owned and tested.
This is an overall guide on Bluetooth motorcycle helmet solutions and the basic technologies. If you are looking for some thing specific then my other articles on my site may be useful, such as:
- If you are after a new helmet with Bluetooth already built in you should check out my full article here.
- Do you wear a half helmet and need Bluetooth? This will help.
- For my article on Open Face Helmets that are DOT approved, click here.
- Or to add Bluetooth to your existing full face or 3/4 helmet, this is my short article on the best 2.
Why would anyone want to use a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet?
Without a Bluetooth motorcycle headset, riding is a solitary experience. It’s a good way to clear your head and put your thoughts together when you are riding alone, most of us enjoy that. But if you have a pillion passenger, or you are riding with another biker, sooner or later you will have some need or want to talk to them during the ride. A Bluetooth motorcycle helmet system will let you do this, and much more.
What can you do with a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet?
Here are some of the things you can do:
- Listen to Bluetooth stereo music. Pair your in helmet speakers with you mobile smartphone or mp3 player to listen to your own choice of music. Many hours of music while you are riding, even when you are far from any commercial radio reception.
- Hear GPS navigation instructions. Your turn by turn instructions from your GPS can be heard, this helps safety by lessening the need to keep looking at the GPS screen.
- Listen to FM Radio. Many units have FM radio tuners built in to them so that you do not have to pair with any other devices to hear stereo FM music.
- Intercom. By using radio signalling (Bluetooth is not used for Intercom – more on this later) you can talk between bike to bike or to your pillion passenger. There is a limit to the range which is generally up to around one mile, which is plenty for smaller groups of riders. If you have a larger group and need to keep the front rider in contact with the back rider (sweeper) then there are options to extend the range using mesh technology or by pairing to two way radios.
- Phone calls. Taking or making of phone calls can also be done, and most units will have a feature where you can do all of this hands free by using voice commands. Even having voice command control over a number of stored speed dial numbers for your most important contacts.
What about setting it all up and making it work between my devices and the other riders?
Setting up or pairing your system with your phone and GPS is a matter of following the user guides that come with the system you end up choosing. Stick with the popular models and the best sellers, if you end up getting a brand that one or more of your friends are already using then you can get help and advice from them also. You don’t have to choose the same brand or model as your riding companions either, get the Bluetooth motorcycle helmet solution that suits you. All late model phones and GPS units will have compatible linking technology and you should have little trouble, the manufacturers provide good support in this area.
Want some basic technical info on Bluetooth motorcycle helmet solutions?
Invented in the late 1990’s Bluetooth has become the standard wireless technology used in mobile smartphones, computers, video games consoles and other portable devices. Bluetooth is a secure flexible technology that requires very little power and is extremely user friendly. It is more than just a radio connection, the technology behind Bluetooth is pretty complicated, but as end users of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets we don’t need to know in detail how it works.
The Bluetooth devices don’t just let any other device communicate with it unless it has been paired. Each device has a short numeric key and this key needs to be stored both devices, that way the devices will only “talk” with other known friendly devices.
Bluetooth radio frequencies are much higher than those used by commercial radio stations. FM radio stations use a band which is around 80-110 megahertz, smartphones use around 850 band or 1900 megahertz band between the towers and the phones. Bluetooth is 2.4 gigahertz. One thing with radio frequencies is that in general the higher the frequency, the lower the range it can communicate over, Bluetooth is really only good for up to 20-30 yards.
Now you are going to ask, “But what about communicating bike to bike over hundreds of yards or even a mile, how does that work?”. For bike-to-bike communicating the Bluetooth motorcycle helmet devices use other technology such as GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service), which is a like a two way radio group of frequencies, or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), which is the same technology some telecom operators use. By now you may be thinking that these units are pretty cleaver, and they are.
What to be aware of when making comparisons.
You will find that Bluetooth motorcycle helmet devices come with many features packed into a very small housing. While all those features, which I listed above, sound great to have, they could make the system complicated to use and it may not work as well as you like. If you go through the reviews from users about some devices, one of the main complaints is the volume from the in helmet speakers. At higher speeds they may be difficult to hear clearly. There is noise cancellation on some models and it does a pretty good job of removing wind noise, but that same noise cancellation technology may be working so hard to reduce the wind or road noise level, it may not let the intended volume get very loud. I’ve used some of these systems on a bike without a windshield (in a helmet with a visor) and when you get to around 50 miles per hour it sometimes gets pretty hard to hear. My children sitting behind me as pillion have better hearing so they can still hear and understand the communication without a problem. For older bikers, there may be a problem if your bike doesn’t have a windshield. The new devices coming out are getting better all the time, and each model seems to address this and fix issue more.
Another problem that some users experience is learning to deal with the controls. There are a lot of functions and only a couple of buttons or a jog dial to control them all. And, you have to do it all by touch on the side of your helmet, with your gloves on. Since you can’t see what you’re doing on the intercom, anytime you try to change a function, it becomes easy for you to put the unit in a mode where you don’t know what it’s doing. Then you either ride on and forget about using the system or pull over, take off your helmet and sort out what is going on. My experience is that once you get your device set up, the more you use it and the controls the better you get at it until it becomes very easy.
What to look for when you are shopping for a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet device.
- If you think you may be doing a lot of riding in the rain, get a solution that is waterproof and not just water resistant. Some riders will put a water resistant system in a plastic bag and that works for them, but is not really the best way of dealing with the issue. If you have a bike with a nice big windshield then you will be OK with a water resistant device.
- You can get systems that have a headset speaker for one ear or both ears. Installation and moving the intercom to another helmet is easier for systems with only one ear, but some people want to hear sound in both ears. I recommend that you only get a system with speakers for both ears.
- Some solutions have voice activation feature to keep the headset quiet when no talking is occurring. Look for devices that have this.
- Many of the units have noise reduction capabilities with digital signal processing to help reduce the wind and road noise they pick up from the microphone. The faster you drive, or the windier it is, the more important this feature is.
When you have found the right solution, it will make your group rides much more enjoyable. You will wonder how you got along without it before. Even if you get a low cost system without extra range or advanced features, it is better than none at all. When you have made the decision on which model you want, you can do a fair amount of searching to make sure you are getting a good deal before you purchase.
Make sure you have a look at my featured articles here.
The technology is changing – fast!
Riding is great, riding with your mates is even better. Being able to communicate with your riding colleagues when you want to is priceless. When you have a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet you can do this and much, much more. Many times you probably have wanted to say something, whilst riding, to your mates, not endless chatter, just confirming directions, pointing out a potential obstacle on the road ahead or maybe just exchanging a few words as you go on your journey together.
You may have noticed that motorcycle helmet communication technology has moved rapidly (as with all technology) and you may also have noticed that today’s bike-to-bike communication systems are affordable and work very well. There are also a variety of helmet accessories, like motorcycle helmet intercoms and entertainment devices that use Bluetooth technology. Although the range and specific details of helmet accessories vary between the individual kits and the manufacturers. The kits are normally universal and can work on most full face, open face, and even half helmets through either clamp-on systems or adhesives.
Bluetooth motorcycle helmets also give you the ability to introduce entertainment in the form of music or spoken podcasts for you to enjoy on your rides. You just have to set up the wireless connection between your helmet speaker setup and your mp3 music player or smartphone. Not that I like to do it, or recommend it, you can even take of make mobile phone calls via your smartphone. Phone calls and enjoying a motorcycle ride do not go together as far as I am concerned.
One of the most useful benefits of a Bluetooth speaker system is being able to sync with a GPS system. This is great as it helps by allowing you to keep your eyes on the road whilst receiving the GPS voice guiding instructions through the speakers.
There are helmets that come already equipped with Bluetooth speakers built in; these are great if you are in the market for a new helmet anyway. This solution is the easiest way to get you setup for making the most of the features of Bluetooth motorcycle helmet communications. Of course you will still need to go through the procedure to connect with your devices and to make sure your setup is compatible with your riding friends. There are many helmets to choose from in this category. These helmets offer the same comfort, protection and features as all other standard popular helmets, and for pretty much the same cost. Sometimes even lower.
Some manufactures, like Nolan, make models of their helmets ready to be equipped with their own proprietary Bluetooth speak systems. Although these may seem expensive when compared to some other solutions, you will be getting good quality components backed by the manufacturer. And it will all fit together correctly. The Nolan helmets have special fittings and locations for the receivers, controllers and in helmet speakers.
Then there are kits which can be fitted to your existing helmet. Most of these are universal and work with any full face, open face and even half helmet designs. These are either a clamp-on design or are attached with adhesive (don’t worry, the stick on ones don’t look dodgy, they look fine).
Technology has changed so much recently and you will find there are many variations on the types of systems that are available. All helmets and kits that we mention come with full easy to use instructions and you will find yourself all kitted out in no time. Communicating from bike to bike (even up to a mile away or more), rider to pillion passenger, listening and share music, taking or making phone calls (even sharing the call with your pillion in a three-way conference call is possible) and receiving navigation instructions from your GPS navigation device such as Garmin, TomTom or Nuvi. It may sound all a bit daunting and overwhelming when you are used to riding without all of this, as your ride along with your mind inside your helmet, on your own. But don’t worry, because you will find it easy to get used to, and you will not look back on your decision.
The best motorcycle communications units for 2016.
This is based on our experience with the units, our research and feedback from others who have bought and used these systems. We have not been able to review all solutions available on the market as there are just too many. We are focusing on the most popular and including systems for all types of needs. You use Bluetooth motorcycle helmet systems to upgrade your riding experience whether you are riding with a large group and want to be involved in the chatter between multi riders.
Sena 10 Series. Without doubt the most popular choice to add on to your existing helmet is this one. My article on this unit is here.
Next we have the Sena 20S Bluetooth headset. The 20S is a bit more expensive but with better Bluetooth version and increased communication range (helped by the flip up antenna) it is a good choice for those that want better radio distance and longer talk or standby time. Here is the article I wrote on the 20S.
A Bluetooth upgrade for Nexx X-Com Helmets.
Moving on the the Nexx X-Com Bluetooth Headset. New for 2016, this is best for OE integration. It is basically having the same features of the Sena 10 and Sena 20 solutions but it integrates seamlessly within the helmet. The same great quality and the same great new HD speakers. The only downside we have found with the X-com is that it is Bluetooth V3.0 so the battery life is not quite as good, but you still have about eight hours of talk time. What is great is that not only is it an OE integration system but it is extremely easy to use. These can be used with the XT1 helmets from Nexx.
Increasing the range using Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC).
Then we have the Cardo PackTalk Bluetooth headset system, by far the best unit for large groups. If you want to communicate in and between each other in a group up to fifteen riders all paired together and talking with one another this is the one to go for. It stands on the shoulders of the G9 technology. This system still has the same features of the Sena units. But also has a dynamic mesh communication (DMC) system which means that each rider in the chain becomes a node in the system so that as the distance between the front and the rear rider increases to many times the standard one-mile distance – even up to five miles, communication between all riders is maintained. It is a truly organic or self-healing network which optimizes itself using each riders helmet devices as nodes when and if required. Also comes with a great easy to use App to set it all up.
Another option. Buy a helmet with Bluetooth already built in.
You will find that this is a wide selection of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets available with communications systems either already installed or ready to mount to your current helmet. There are brand such as O’Neal and Schuberth that make Bluetooth helmets that offer great tested protection, comfort and all the features as the other helmets that the make.
If you are a veteran biker you will understand the enjoyment of the solitude when going on long trips on your motorcycle. But there are times when you really need to speak with your riding mates. And this is best done using a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet. Forget about hand signals and trying to ride side by side, yelling at each other with your visors up. Technology is here to help us all.
Let’s look at some the best already equipped Bluetooth motorcycle helmet solutions. The O’Neal Commander Bluetooth helmet is the best Bluetooth helmet available because it combines great looks and design with excellent features.
It has a suede liner and special Shield – This helmet is includes a suede lining that can be removed and is washable and comfortable. This makes sure that you can stay on top of those funky head sweat smells that helmets tend to get after a while. The included shield is anti-scratch and anti-fog.
Great Talk Time, people who have bought and used this helmet agree that it lives up to its promise of 10 hours of talk time.
Stereo speakers, music lovers will love the high quality of the surround, full stereo speakers that come with the Commander helmet. When a phone call is coming in, the music is muted which is a great feature to have as you don’t have to worry about adjusting the balance of sound whilst riding.
This Commander model weighs 5.4 pounds which is not too heavy and not too light. We didn’t experience any neck pains or soreness. It comes in 6 sizes, from extra small to double extra large.
This O’Neil helmet is approved by both ECE and DOT and is priced quite well considering the features that it offers.
The Fastrack II is the second iteration of the popular O’Neal Bluetooth racing helmet that allows a Bluetooth compatible GPS, cellular phones and other media devices to easily sync with the system so you can listen to turn-by-turn directions while you stream to the built-in stereo speakers, with no wire hanging out against your mouth.
HJC IS-MAX. Intelligently designed and built for the savvy, do-it-all street motorcyclist, the HJC IS-MAX Bluetooth Ready Modular helmet is a great example of a first class display of comfort and convenience while on the open road. Filled with great features, like a one button flip-up feature, one touch integrated sun shield and Bluetooth capability built right in, HJC offers a touring helmet that is just as capable as the rider.
Schuberth C3. This fantastic helmet not only fits great, but also has an optional communications package. Using the Schuberth C3 helmet provides a really pleasant way to commute while listening to my favorite music. It is easy to get on and off, and its great air flow for cooling, and the noise reduction feature make it a truly well engineered helmet. This helmet is setup to accept the SRC-5 communication system.
Schuberth SRC-S Communication System for C3 Pro Helmet For those who are looking for cool add-ons, the SRC-System is the easiest to install. Having a fully integrated Bluetooth communication system for the C3 Pro Helmet, it allows the rider to enjoy wireless bike-to-bike or rider-to-passenger intercom, cellular phone, FM radio, GPS and MP3 functions without the visible bulk and aerodynamic drag of other systems.
For more detailed information on the application of Bluetooth for motorcycle helmets you should have a look at my reports and articles here.
Since I was fifteen years old I have loved riding motorcycles. I have owned many bikes over the years, Harley, Jap and BMW. I currently own and ride a Harley Touring Street Glide and a BMW R1200RT ex Police bike. My work has been involved in the technology field, it started when I joined the Army when I was 17 years old (12 years full time service), the technology was HF radios, morse code and field signals back then.
After the Army I worked for more than 25 years within a number Telco, WiFi, broadband and mobile data related corporations. I focused on developing, launching and managing new products and services for end users.
I am semi retired now, the town I live in has plenty of great riding roads nearby. I enjoy riding out with the local group of guys on Wednesday’s which usually ends at some bar for a beer later in the afternoon. Most of us use Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet systems and we like to share our experiences with each other. And we want to share our experiences with other riders.
I hope you enjoy my page