There’s something to be said about riding your motorcycle with only the sound of your throbbing engine, wind blowing over your helmet and the whistling of the tires on the road. You’re on your own, and nothing and nobody to bother you in the solitude of your ride. But then there are times that you would want to communicate with someone while riding.
Many of us bikers ride with pillions or with other bikers. During the ride we do want to talk to them. For example with your pillion; “do we stop now”, “should we go left here”, etc. Same with your riding buddies: “watch out for that SUV!”, “I’ll wait for you at the gas station”.
There’s also a large population of bikers who like listening to music while riding. Many bikers can blast music through rainproof speakers, but that’s not very friendly towards other people who are sharing the road.
One way of doing all of the above is by using a special headset that gets fitted into your helmet. The unit communicates with other devices, including music players, without any wires. The wireless technology is called Bluetooth, something most modern smartphones are equipped with, and many electronic devices use as standard.
One of the undisputed leaders in the field of biker wireless communications is Scala. They have a range of Bluetooth headsets called “Rider”. For this review, I decided to try out their best selling Q2 Pro model.
Before you begin using the Scala (or any other manufacturer’s model) you need to install the unit inside your helmet. Most of them are stereo, so you’ll need to fit two (usually very flat) loudspeakers, a microphone (make sure you’re ordering the right one for your type of helmet) and the control unit/battery. For some it’s going to be easy, for others it might be more of a problem.
For the review I went for a ride with Jake, who was on his Harley. He has a similar Scala Rider Q2 Pro fitted in his helmet (NOTE: Bluetooth communications devices will only work with other units from the same manufacturer, not with other ones; you can not mix & match units from different manufacturers).
Both units were paired to each other (pairing is a way to inter-connect units to each other and to other devices, and it basically involves pressing a button sequence), and my Q2 was paired with my iPhone. My iPhone has, obviously, music in its “iPod” part and a TomTom GPS navigator software. All these items can be accessed through the Q2 Pro, including the phone.
The bike-to-bike communications function is billed to work up to 2300 feet, but that’s the theoretical range, not the real working range. The real range will depend on where you are riding and what the atmospheric conditions are. In our case, when we had an open road with little traffic the range was pretty good, some 1900 feet, which is pretty impressive. In the forests, range dropped to 1300-1500 feet, and in the city we would be lucky with 900 feet. But despite the range being lower than what it’s billed for, it’s still very good. It beats shouting.
Talking to each other is a great way of riding. Sharing the fun is twice the fun. Sound is loud & clear (you can turn the volume up sufficiently), and the communication with Jake, even at the limits of the range, was very good and clear at all times The noise cancellation microphone works very well. Not a single time did the communication channel get opened because of outside noise, something older units suffered from.
An important aspect of Bluetooth communications is that it’s not like the good old CB radio or walkie-talkie days. It’s not one person talking and then saying “over”. The transmission is full duplex, in other words, both parties can talk at the same time.
The Q2 Pro will only handle one intercom; your pillion or your riding partner. If you need to handle multiple bikers, either go for one of the bigger models (and more expensive), or get a Bluetooth equipped walkie-talkie.
That ends part 1 of the review. Click here for Part 2.