Sometimes the best rides are those that are enhanced with the ability to listen to music, track your trip with a GPS and call a few friends to let them know how exhilarating the view is whilst riding your motorcycle. Or even better, streaming your favorite song to your passenger or fellow riders whilst talking and listening to everyone sharing a joke 1 mile apart from each other riding out on the open road.
As motorcycle helmet technology moves at a quick pace, today you can enjoy the above experiences either via a fully kitted out Bluetooth helmet housing the communication system or by adding affordable Bluetooth accessories that mesh well together. Here we are going to cover the features that you should consider when buying a Bluetooth helmet.
Bluetooth Helmet Versus Bluetooth Headsets
A Bluetooth helmet that is fully decked out with communications system right off the bat, makes life a little easier as you don’t need to consider a sticky or clamped on system. Nor do you need to worry about squeezing in your favorite ear buds or whether your mic will easily be heard over the wind noise whilst riding. Motorcycle helmets with pre-installed Bluetooth devices are generally more pricey, but are a convenient option especially for a first-time rider who wants to avoid complicated installations.
There are some key features that you must consider before you purchase a Bluetooth helmet. Knowing this information upfront, will save you time, money and a potentially awkward experience whilst riding.
Intercom: Many helmets these days have the ability to speak to your passenger or a fellow riders. This can be as simple as a wireless intercom where there is one button to connect and one dial for volume. Range can vary from 30 yards to 1 mile and talk can be as clear as being on a phone. No doubt there will be some wind noise but overall it is a great feeling being able to talk to your passenger or fellow riders and listen to them also whilst you are out enjoying a great ride. One of the most important things to consider when assessing an intercom – how easy is it to operate while riding. You want to look for a communications system that is ‘dynamic’. This means you can speak, listen, answer calls, play music all with the use of your voice and hands-free through the use of Bluetooth. You do not want to be distracted by too many buttons or dials while you are in motion, so be sure that the system you are looking at is simple and can be easily managed.
GPS Technology: Navigation control has become an essential requirement for anyone driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle. Bluetooth helmet technology allows for riders to have a headpiece which provides in-ear turn-by-turn navigation’s to that they do not need to fuss with a nav map or dials of any sort. Bike-friendly GPS systems will accept voice prompts from the Buetooth’s mic system making it possible for a rider to interact with the GPS without having to remove their hands off the bike. Be sure to check that the Bluetooth GPS has this ease of use functionality so that safety is ensured whilst riding.
Range: Also known as a Personal Area Network (PAN), generally the range of a Bluetooth helmet device is quite small as opposed to radios or other communication systems. Therefor it is important to know if the range of your bluetooth will be impacted by different landscapes eg urban and country spaces. Any obstacles such as buildings, hills or natural settings such as forests can reduce range and reception. In areas that are open, there is going to be greater connectivity in particular with longer range units. A distance of 500 yards will still have you clearly hearing anyone else on your frequency but, after than, reception and sound will decrease quickly. It is important to ask what the range is and, if obstructed by a hill or building, when the reception (ability to hear each other) will pick up. Is it when you are in eye sight of each other (if we are talking to a fellow rider) or do you have to be in 100 yards? With current advances in Bluetooth communication, some systems will extend out to 1 mile – so be sure to ask the question about the range distances and whilst on a ride, what features may impair the range.
Multiple Riders or Group Communication: Bluetooth now has the capability to enable up to 10 riders to converse with ease and maintain good reception and sound. It is similar to being in a conference call where you might have several people on the line, everyone can hear and can speak at the same time. Be sure to ask how many riders can be paired with the Bluetooth communications system and if reception, to talk and listen) can happen at the same time or is there a requirement to toggle between 1 speaker and then the next.
Cell Phones: Phones can be paired with a headset whereby one can answer calls play music, GPS access and use most audio features of the phone. Many Bluetooth headsets enable voice connectivity for voice dialing and receiving calls. Apart from ipones, today you can get android apps that allow for most phones to be hooked up to a Bluetooth system – but make sure you ask this question before investing in your helmet.
Integrated Music: It is not a new thing to ride and listen to music at the same time. However, the different devices you can connect to whilst riding has changed. Many devices can now be connected to your Bluetooth headset, so you can listen to your MP3, smartphone, ipod Touch, and android phone (via Android app). Some Bluetooth systems will enable you to stream your music to your friends riding alongside you or up to 1 mile away.
Sound Quality: A helmet with sound noise reduction and volume is essential if you want to hear sound inside your helmet. Some helmets will have an audio booster which have good sound fidelity. If you have a noisy bike, earplugs are recommended which take out the wind and external noise sound and leave only the sound you want to hear. This is especially important if you have an open face or half helmet because you are going to be dealing with more noise than if wearing a full face helmet.
Device Compatibility: Some of the greatest advances in Bluetooth communications right now are that some helmets can be paired with devices from different brands. This is relatively new so you may want to check this out, particularly if you ride with a few others who have different gear to yours. If you know what they are riding with, helmet wise, simply ask if the communication system in the helmet you are looking at buying can be connected to theirs.
Now let’s just say you have a helmet that is your favorite and you do not want to go off and purchase another one simply to enable Bluetooth communications. You may want to check if your motorcycle helmet is capable of Bluetooth devices that can clip onto the side of the helmet. There are times that a careful installation may be required including screwing holes directly into the helmet. This will give you the option of joining a Bluetooth set with your favorite helmet, and save money in the process. You will need to consider if you can do it yourself or if you want a professional at a bike shop to d this for you so that you don’t crack your helmet or misplace the hole for your device connection.
Bluetooth Helmet Microwaves: Unless you are out in nature without your phone or any devices, it is hard to be in any place devoid of microwaves or electromagnetic waves. For anyone who is concerned about the amount of waves emitted by Bluetooth helmet, you need not be. If you use a cellphone, then there is little difference between that and a helmet kitted with bluetooth. In actual fact, on most motorcycle helmets that come with Bluetooth, the device is generally located on the outside of the helmet which provides more of a barrier than if you were speaking on a phone directly held against your face.
There is so much fun to be had when riding, and with a bit of research, you can buy a helmet that has everything you need for today and the future to make your riding experience one that you will speak of long after you have parked your bike in the garage.
For more helmet specifics, check out our top 10 Bluetooth helmets. If you don’t have a Bluetooth helmet today, and you want to set up your helmet with a communication system, read our Bluetooth Headsets for Your Helmet.