Tough polycarbonate helmet with excellent ventilation. Wide range of sizes. Anti-fog main visor plus internal sun shield. Sena 10B Bluetooth fitted and tested. Half-mile range. Call answering and turn-by-turn GPS functions.
Intercom for three only. Model 20B has up to eight but costs significantly more.
All the features you’d expect in a comfortable package with washable liner. Multiple one-touch functions. Surprisingly clear voice communication. Good battery life. Extra cheek pads available to adjust fit. Great price.
Modest range. Some Bluetooth controls have failed. No anti-fogging visor.
Light but resilient ABS shell with good ventilation and washable liner. Drop-down sun visor. 550-yard Bluetooth range with built-in FM receiver, plus usual intercom and smartphone functions, including GPS voice prompt.
Helmet isn’t the quietest, which can impact communications. Some problems with sun visor mechanism.
Polymer alloy shell is light but strong with spoiler for better aerodynamics and less noise. Dual-density EPS liner for comfort. Bluetooth system features 1,200-yard range, exceptional 24 hours talk time, plus 600-hour standby.
Quality control seems to be an issue, with more fault reports than we like to see.
Extremely durable fiberglass composite shell with removable liner for cleaning. The latest Bluetooth 4.1 system with built-in speakers and microphone featuring advanced noise reduction. Four-way intercom up to half a mile. Flexible app included.
Microphone is ineffective above 45mph (a problem with all open helmets).
Bluetooth has been available for motorcyclists for a while. Attach the device to your helmet, run some wiring and speakers inside, and you have intercom, music, and GPS availability while you ride. But while some helmets are designed to accept the extra gear, not all are. There’s no way to really know until you try them, and experimenting can get expensive. Also, adding weight to your helmet where it wasn’t designed to be will get tiring after a long ride. The solution is a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet.
A purpose-designed Bluetooth motorcycle helmet has all the necessary components fitted and tested, so you know it’s going to work reliably. But with numerous different systems available, and an ever-increasing list of possible features, how do you know which one is right for you?
Here at BestReviews, we’ve been putting all the latest models through their paces so we can bring you the information you need to make that decision. Our recommendations cover a broad range of price and performance options, and the following buying guide looks at the technology in more detail.
It goes without saying that safety should be your number one concern. Nevertheless, helmet choice is still a very personal thing, which is why there are so many different styles. (If you’d like more information on the structural and design elements of motorcycle helmets, we’ve covered that on this website. The information is equally valid for Bluetooth models.)
There are Bluetooth motorcycle helmets for every taste, including full-face, modular, off-road, and half-helmet, so you’ll have no problem finding one to suit your riding style. Most brands offer a range of sizes (proper fit is vital), and there is often a selection of colors to choose from as well.
While any style of helmet can have Bluetooth integrated, you’ll always get the best results from audio when the system is as enclosed as possible. With an open helmet, wind noise is bound to have an impact. Technology can help compensate for this, and you’ll still hear what you need to via the speakers, but chatting to other riders can be difficult, and you won’t have the clarity you would with a full-face or modular model.
At its most basic, Bluetooth is a low-frequency radio signal that allows a number of devices to be connected (paired). Early Bluetooth could only pair one device at a time. Now three is common, which means you can have your smartphone for music or calls, a GPS for directions, and an intercom to talk to others (a passenger riding pillion or other riders). Built-in FM radio is another common option. Entry-level Bluetooth helmets allow up to three people to communicate, though more is possible (see details below).
Your main considerations when buying a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet are ease of use, range, talk time, and sound quality.
You’re going to have gloves on, so the Bluetooth controls need to be straightforward. Buttons should be easy to press and not so close together that you keep hitting the wrong one. That gets frustrating and distracting, which is dangerous when you’re riding.
Some Bluetooth helmets now offer voice commands, for answering a phone call, for example. The variety of these is increasing all the time and it’s well worth investigating. The more you can keep your hands on the handlebars — particularly in traffic — the better.
When Bluetooth first appeared, it had a range of about 50 feet. That’s okay for you and someone riding pillion, but not much more. Current systems can provide an intercom connection for anything up to a mile, depending on conditions (weather, natural obstacles, and buildings can reduce signal distance). Range does vary between models, so it’s important to check the specifications. It’s quite common for a manufacturer to offer two very similar helmets with just a small change to the model number: one will have a range of perhaps a few hundred yards, and the other will have a mile. The best systems also remember group members, so if someone you’re riding with drifts out of range and then comes back, they’ll automatically get picked up again.
Bluetooth motorcycle helmets rely on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Depending on the model, you’ll generally get between 5 and 8 hours of continuous talk time — so you can use it pretty much all day — and a week or more on standby. You can’t damage the battery by recharging it, however frequently you do it, so it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of topping it up overnight.
Although sound quality can be very subjective, there are a couple things that make a difference. One is stereo speakers, and the other is noise-cancelling technology. The latter works to cut out wind and other extraneous noises, so the microphone transmits speech more clearly. This is an area where it’s always worth checking owner feedback. There’s no substitute for the experiences of riders in real-world situations.
Until relatively recently, eight was about the largest group that could be included via intercom at the same time. Now we have Bluetooth Mesh, which theoretically can allow as many people into a group as you want: the maximum we’ve seen so far is 24, which is pretty impressive. The only problem is that Bluetooth Mesh doesn’t play well with other devices, which means you lose GPS and FM radio. That isn’t really acceptable to most, so manufacturers have added a second Bluetooth processor to restore full functionality. The downside is cost. At the moment, Bluetooth Mesh-enabled helmets are among the most expensive.
We’ve also seen the introduction of smart motorcycle helmets with noise-control systems that give exceptional sound quality when they're on but allow you to hear normal, ambient noise when off. Several of these also have built-in HD video cameras (1080p at 60 frames per second) capable of recording a couple of hours of riding. Add increasingly sophisticated smartphone apps that interlink with helmet functions, and the systems are getting more complex all the time. Among recent developments in Bluetooth motorcycle helmets are those that can give speed warnings, have rear view cameras, and even a heads-up display!
Motorcycle phone mount: Roam Universal Bike Phone Mount
If you don’t already have one, a handlebar mount for your phone is invaluable. This model is extremely popular, with a ball and socket joint so you can fix it at the perfect angle. It’s very affordable, and it secures a wide variety of different phone models (be sure to check that yours is listed).
Inexpensive: While lots of low-cost motorcycle helmets can accept Bluetooth headsets, you’re unlikely to find integrated models for under $150. Many high-quality helmets cost more than that anyway, so they’re actually something of a bargain.
Mid-range: The widest choice is between $250 and $400. All the market leaders fall into this bracket, offering you the most advanced communications possible.
Expensive: Above $400, you’re either paying for a better-quality helmet, a helmet that will accept Mesh intercom (though it may not be fitted), or a helmet that has a built-in camera.
Premium: High-end smart Bluetooth helmets can be as much as $1,800.
Q. Can I pair my Bluetooth motorcycle helmet with a friend who has a different model?
A. Maybe, maybe not. If they share the same Bluetooth brand, it should be okay. Also, sometimes two helmet makers might seem to use different Bluetooth brands when they’re actually made by the same company, so pairing might be possible. The problem is that it’s often difficult to find out who makes what, especially with cheaper helmets.
Sadly, premium models from different makers are unlikely to work together. Some offer a “universal” mode, but numerous independent testers have found it flaky at best. It’s almost certain to happen eventually, but it’s not there yet.
Q. Do Bluetooth motorcycle helmets have built-in radio?
A. Most rely on you pairing either a smartphone or an MP3 player, but there are a number that include FM radio. Be careful with the wording: will it receive and play FM radio, or is an FM radio part of the Bluetooth device?
Q. Does having a Bluetooth system make any difference to helmet laws?
A. No. All motorcycle helmets are the same. To be legal for road use in the United States, they must have a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker on the back. It might also be marked SNELL (which some feel is a higher standard), and European helmets are marked ECE22-05, but the DOT stamp is the important one.
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