Motorcycle enthusiasts who double up as gadget geeks, (we believe there are quite a few of you out there!) this one’s for you! Just because you’re out connecting with your inner spirit and nature’s bounty and all that, it doesn’t mean you need to stay cluelessly disconnected with your riding click. We get it! And so are an increasing number of motorcyclists everywhere…
The first motorcycle intercom was designed for rider and pillion communication which then graduated to rider to rider tête-à- tête. So that which began as a means to keep riders safe and in touch is now a fad that is taking modern motorcycling by storm.
Let’s find out the various types of motorcycle intercoms available in the market today to get up to real speed.
Acoustic Motorcycle Intercom
The most basic variety that requires minimal investment or fuss. It only works for basic rider to pillion chatter, though so don’t expect wonders from an acoustic intercom. Hollow rubber tubes are used as earplugs and the mouthpiece tube to talk into connects to a junction box. That’s pretty much it. Since this variety does not use batteries or electronics, there is no mode to adjust volume or filter noise, thus making it difficult to hear while riding at high speeds. Like we said, very basic and not much imagination but useful when you have nothing.
Wired Motorcycle Intercom
The next grade of intercom is a tad better. It has wires running between the rider and his or her pillion, housed into a central control box that also has a battery. Since it uses wired technology there is no external interference. Drawback – remembering to unplug the unit each time you dismount the bike.
Wireless Intercom Technology
Currently, there are four types of radio technologies for motorcycle intercoms. Some may sound familiar, others not so much. Here goes…
1) The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
2) The Family Radio Service (FRS)
3) Frequency Modulation (FM)
and of course,
To quickly highlight the basic pros and cons, FM radio produces clear sound but uses a lower frequency for motorcycle intercoms. They work great without any obstruction, such as hills, between the transmitter and receiver.
The FRS and the GMRS are the modern equivalents of the old walkie-talkie. FRS radios typically have a maximum range of two kilometres with a few obstructions, while GMRS radios can communicate up to several kilometres.
The flip-side to all these technologies however is that since these are broadcasted using public frequencies, strangers can hear your conversation and vice versa.
Bluetooth technology is that which enables seamless wireless communication between riders. Its cool and effective. It can work over short distances (a few 100 feet) but revved up with GMRS or CDMA allows the system to communicate over half a mile or greater, given it’s a relatively open area sans heavy obstructions like hills or dense forested areas. The other cool thing – Bluetooth lets you connect with phones, GPS devices and music players, expanding your communication universe to embrace a whole lot more…
But here are the issues – Volume can be a problem at high speeds, and the controls are complicated with multiple buttons etc. Also if you wish to communicate with a bigger group, it can get a bit expensive.
Lower cost units typically support two people while the newer models support up to fifteen people so it is a good idea to know how many people you wish to communicate with, when you purchase such a unit.
Motorcycle Helmet Intercoms
In built motorcycle helmets are fun and many faceted. Here are a few main points when investing in one:
1. Make sure the system is waterproof and not just water resistant. It’s all in the terminology.
2. There are systems available with a headset speaker for one or both ears. Although single ear intercoms are easier to install and may look kinda celebrity-like, you may want one with sound for both ears.
3. Voice activation which can be switched on or off is a necessary feature. Don’t forget it.
4. Noise reduction capabilities with digital signal processing helps reduce noise from the microphone which is very useful while riding at high speeds.
5. Music lovers should look for a system that has a built-in FM stereo radio tuner or an auxiliary stereo input for a Walkman, MP3, iPod, or satellite radio unit. You can also use this unit to receive driving directions from a voice prompted GPS unit.
6. Look for systems that can be mounted on your helmet. If the system is bulky, you may want to mount it directly on the bike.
7. Look for intercoms that can be connected to your cell phone enabling you to talk while you ride. These can be connected with your Bluetooth enabled cell phone wirelessly.
Super choices for Bluetooth intercoms
1) Sena 10R Low – Profile Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset & Intercom with Handlebar Remote – With high performance features this system allows hands free calling, music, and GPS directions with full-duplex conversations through the stereo Bluetooth headset.
2) Sena 20S Motorcycle Bluetooth ® Communication System – This system helps you keep in touch with eight of your buddies up to 2.0 kms (1.2 miles) away enjoying your ride to the fullest.
3) Nexx X-Com Bluetooth System – The Nexx X-COM communication system fits the Nexx XD1 and Nexx XT1 helmets supporting features like Bluetooth 3.0, four-way conference intercom and much more.
4) Scala rider Cardo PackTalk – This system enables 15 riders to connect at a range of up to 5 miles / 8 km in addition to Bluetooth connectivity with mobile phones, GPS, music, FM radio and other Bluetooth communication systems.
For those who scoff at motorcycle communication gadgets, our challenge is “try it once”. You may never sit on a ‘disconnected’ motorcycle ride ever again!