What was once reserved for bearded ‘hippiesque’ leather-jacket clad biker gangs is now fast becoming an extremely popular activity around the world. Motorcycle riding offers uninhibited thrills. You conquer new terrain, feel the wind on your face and you can choose to go solitary or ride with your buddies. Despite it being a sport that thrives on brand loyalty and heritage, technology is slowly making its presence felt in the world of motorcycles. Be it electronic throttles or adaptive headlights or the immensely popular Bluetooth helmet, riders are embracing tech with open arms as it makes life simpler on the road.
None have become so popular as Bluetooth motorcycle helmets though.
Seamless communication integrated into your helmets comes with many perks. At the forefront is the ability to communicate with your fellow riders in a clear and uninterrupted way. No more static or wind disturbance no more dropped connections and of course a bevy of other impressive features that make it a must-have in your motorcycle ensemble.
Unlike the Bluetooth helmets of yore, you do not have to opt for an all-integrated model either. You have the option to choose a Bluetooth device that fits snugly into your existing helmet. And for those who are looking to test the waters for the first time, there’s a whole range of all-integrated Bluetooth helmets to pick from.
The types of Bluetooth helmets
Bluetooth devices: Some types of Bluetooth devices can be attached to the inside of the helmet with a small clip. It is like a paste-on attachment that does not require any modifications during install. However, some models may take a little tinkering. You may have to install screws or even cut a slot for the device to be installed in. If you already have a helmet, then ideally, you can choose a universal Bluetooth device that can be integrated into the helmet. This gives you the comfort to use your own helmet and of course, saves you some Benjamin in the process.
The caveat, however, is that some of these Bluetooth devices lack in the schmancy features that full-fledged Bluetooth helmets often include. Also, the installation may leave you with an awkward looking helmet because it is not a factory fit. Most others will only have basic features like compatibility with MP3 players and GPS devices.
The Preinstalled Bluetooth helmet: A preinstalled Bluetooth helmet includes a Bluetooth device that is integrated perfectly into it. These look much better, work flawlessly and can be picked off the shelf without having to worry about making modifications to the design. The only caveat is that these can a tad pricier than buying a Bluetooth device and integrating the helmet into it.
Your choice will also depend on the kind of features you are looking for. Usually, it is the preinstalled helmet that is considered to be more feature rich than buying a normal Bluetooth device.
If this is the first time you are out shopping for a Bluetooth helmet, then you will discover that it’s a labyrinth out there with hundreds of models vying for your attention. As always, you have to be a discerning buyer because what looks like the fanciest one may not be the best of choices you have. Here’s a list of the most popular models in the market currently. We have put these through the scanner to ensure that we cover the essentials and also include a few, which boast of bells and whistles.
Features of a Bluetooth helmet
Bluetooth helmets can be so high tech these days that it is easy to get swayed by all the schmancy features and glossy advertorials that boast of rear-mounted cameras and 3d visual imagery. But when you are out shopping, you should only consider the essentials that allow you to communicate effectively and has a few practical features that help you during your rides.
At the forefront of the desirable features is the audio quality. How clearly can you hear the audio and communicate with others? Considering that you will be riding at high speeds, it goes without saying that there will be ample ambient sound with a wind blowing into your helmets. Can the Bluetooth helmet drain out the surrounding sound and give you crystal clear audio? This is a critical feature even if you are using it to listen to music. What good is a Bluetooth device if you have to pump up the volume to deafening levels? Look for headsets that offer excellent noise cancellation.
Some Bluetooth devices auto-adjust the volume according to the ambient sound. If there is a lot of disturbance, it automatically cranks the volume up. But as your bike slows down and is about to come to a standstill, it will reduce the volume automatically to ensure that you don’t pop your eardrum.
All Bluetooth helmets allow you to connect with compatible Bluetooth devices like MP3 players and GPS systems. But that’s not what defines the connectivity features. If you are riding in a group, then you may want to communicate with multiple group members. A lot of Bluetooth headsets feature an intercom function that lets you make conference calls with up to 5 Bluetooth devices at a time. The intercom feature has a maximum connectivity range though and may not work if your riders are more than 1000 meters away. Other connectivity features include audio inputs with custom volume settings to connect non-Bluetooth devices. This allows you to customize the volume level for each audio device that you connect to the helmet.
Ease of use
Unlike a Bluetooth headset for a phone, a Bluetooth helmet should have hands-off accessibility. The last thing you’d want to do is fiddle with buttons when you are cruising at above 100mph. Many helmets allow you to answer phone calls or intercom communication by just speaking. You do not need to press any buttons on the helmet. Others require you to press a button to answer calls. This holds true even when you are trying to connect with a GPS device or your MP3 player. Some headsets will sound different beeps to inform you about different connectivity features. For example, a single beep for making a phone call and two beeps for connecting to mp3 devices and so on. This takes some amount of practice to get used to.
Pairing: Uninterrupted pairing with other Bluetooth helmets and with other compatible devices will be an important feature to have as you are riding. An urban setting will be replete with objects that can interfere with the signal. While it would be impractical to look for a helmet that does not lose connectivity with another device when it is out of range, you can certainly look for one that pairs automatically when it is back in range without you having to manually connect it.
Good quality Bluetooth helmets offer up to 12 hours of continuous talk time on a full charge which takes up to 2 hours. Unless you are making a really long ride with the intercom feature constantly switched on, the chances of using the Bluetooth helmet for more than two hours at a stretch are slim. So, anything that offers more than 3 hours of talk time is usually considered to be good. You may also want to look for helmets that switch off automatically when not in use to conserve battery life. The last thing you’d want is to leave your Bluetooth helmet switched on and pairing constantly with every compatible device it encounters draining your battery in the process.
One of the advantages of buying a fully-integrated and preinstalled Bluetooth helmet is that it will be concealed and well protected from external elements like wind, dust, debris, thundershowers, and sweat. If you are buying a Bluetooth device and installing it in your old helmet, ensure that you look for models that are durable and offers excellent resistance to external elements.
These are the essential features that every Bluetooth helmet should have. Everything else is an add-on. For example, voice dialing or Siri, Bluetooth version3.0 and charging using USB, cigarette lighter attachment and a power adapter.
We have only considered the features of the integrated Bluetooth device though. Along with this, you should also look for standard helmet features like the construction, how lightweight it is, a removable and washable inner lining, a drop down a shield and a visor.
Sena’s range of motorcycle Bluetooth headsets are hands down the most popular ones among riders due to their high quality, durability and impressive feature bundle. The SMH10D-11 is their latest offering which is an upgrade to the immensely popular SM10. It fits easily into your existing helmet and includes an intercom feature that allows motorists to share music and connect seamlessly for up to 900 meters.
Like all other Sena Bluetooth headsets, the SMH10D-11 fits seamlessly into any type of existing helmet. It comes with a universal helmet kit that has both a boom mic as well as wire mic. You can take your pick depending on the design of the helmet. If your helmet demands a longer wire or a wired microphone, then you have the option to use one of their accessories which can be bought separately.
Installation is simple and the package includes a detailed manual as well as an allen wrench which will have you set up in no time.
Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity
The SMH10D-11 connects seamlessly with other Bluetooth devices that support HSP (Headset Profile) or HFP (Hands-Free Profile). In simple terms, this means that it can connect to almost every Bluetooth enabled phone. Additionally, it can connect to all devices that support Advanced Audio Distribution Profile. This includes MP3 players, audio dongles, and smartphones.
Top Notch performance
The SMH10D-11 allows you hands-off usage for making and receiving calls when paired with your Bluetooth enabled smartphone. This makes it immensely easy to use when you are on the road. For making any other settings, the controls are intuitively placed on the jog dial that lets you toggle through the controls easily.
Audio quality is top notch and the Advanced Noise Control technology reduces ambient sound to give you crystal clear audio during both, phone calls as well as listening to music. If there is a lot of external disturbance, then the audio gets a boost adjusting the volume automatically.
Different audio sources can have their own volume levels and profile names. The settings are retained the next time you connect to the same profile.
A full charge takes up to 2 hours and gives you up to 12 hours of continuous talk time. Even if you are not using the headset, the charge does not drain for up to 10 days.
For riders in a group, the intercom connectivity for up to 4 people makes communication easier.
Verdict: The SMH10D-11 is one of the most flawlessly designed Bluetooth headsets. It is as feature rich as it gets and is universally compatible with most helmets. Highly recommended!
Riders looking to give their old helmet a worthy upgrade with a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet should take a look at the Torc T14B. This is a full-face helmet with an attractive graphical design, an oval profile and extremely durable construction.
Durable and stylish
The Torc T14B which is also known as the Mako T14 is the latest addition to Torc’s range of Bluetooth integrated shell helmets. Named after a shark, the Mako T14 has a rounded profile with a pointed front which looks sleek.
The hard shell construction is extremely durable and can easily sustain the wear and tear of everyday use. Further, it is compatible with DOT and ECE 22.05 standards for impact absorbency. The T14B is available in a four color choices. Two of these feature a graphical flag which looks extremely stylish.
Comfortable and easy to use
The T14B is designed to perfection. It fits comfortably with the soft chin strap while the inner EPS padded lining keeps you comfortable even on a hot day. There is no head shake and the helmet fits snugly. There is an internal sun visor system which Torc calls Smooth Lock. This offers reasonable sun protection and locks both in the upper as well the lower positions.
Excellent audio quality
Torc T14B offers loud, clear and crisp audio quality with the integrated Bluetooth device. You can hear your phone calls and your music without having to crank up the volume unnecessarily. There is minimal external interference. The microphone is not the best quality but performs reasonably well for a Bluetooth helmet at this price point. At speeds above 60 mph, the opposite person may hear a fair amount of disturbance though.
Verdict: The Torc T14B is a good quality Bluetooth helmet that will hold up well to everyday use and allows you to listen to your music and your phone calls clearly. Cannot ask for more at this price point!
3HJC CL-MAXBT II
If you are looking for a motorcycle Bluetooth that allows you to integrate your favorite Bluetooth headset without requiring design changes or installation, then the HJC CL-Max BT II should definitely be on top of your wish list. This is a very versatile helmet that is constructed from lightweight polycarbonate shell and is available in 14 different color schemes which range from full matte to metallic gloss.
Stylish Bluetooth Ready helmet
Take your pick from 14 different sizes and color options which ensure that you can never go wrong with the sizing or the styling. The injection molded polycarbonate shell is one of the most durable materials ever used in manufacturing helmets. From normal bumps and scrapes to full-fledged impacts, this will keep you secure.
The HJC CL-MAXBT II allows you to release the face shield at the click of a button. If you hate fiddling with the straps trying to free your face, then this is just what you need.
The face shield is bigger than most other helmets and offers up to 95% UV protection. There are excellent airflow thanks to the multiple vents and you will never feel stuffed or sweaty inside. The internal lining of the CL-MAX BT II features antibacterial nylex and is removable and washable.
Integrated Bluetooth recess
The CL-MAXBT II features an integrated recess for any Bluetooth device of your choice. If you have a universal Bluetooth headset like the Sena, then it will fit snugly and stay protected from wind interference.
Verdict: For the price, the CL-MAX BT II offers unparalleled durability. A lot of people mistake this to be a Bluetooth integrated helmet. It is not. You will still have to buy your Bluetooth headset separately. This only makes it easier to install without having to struggle with the installation.
Hawk is one of the most popular helmet brands that offer good quality integrated Bluetooth helmets. The H-66 is the latest addition to their range and is a very durable, easy-to-use helmet that offers some very practical features for uninterrupted communication during your rides.
Lightweight and true to size
The Hawk H-66 is constructed from lightweight and durable ABS thermoplastic. The shell is extremely durable and fits perfectly. You will not have any headshake even when you are cruising at above 100 mph.
You can go from full face to open face at the click of a button and use only the sun visor to protect you from sun rays.
It is a modular motorcycle Bluetooth helmet that comes with two visors. There is an anti-scratch visor which is clear and like a windshield and a smoked visor that offers excellent sun protection.
Easy to use Bluetooth
The integrated Bluetooth device offers excellent audio quality. You can pair it easily with your phone and answer phone calls at the click of a button. The other settings are a tad clumsy. But nothing that you cannot figure out with some practice. You will hear the audio clearly even above 60 mph which is what most people desire from their helmets.
The same holds true when you are answering calls. Don’t be surprised at all if the opposite person asks if you are at home because there is minimal wind disturbance in the sound quality.
The Bluetooth charges fast and easy.
Verdict: The Hawk H-66 is one of the best integrated Bluetooth helmets in the market currently. If you are looking for a go-to helmet with an integrated Bluetooth system without spending a bomb, you’ve just got it.
5O’Neal Bluetooth Helmet
Last but not the least; we have the O’Neal Commander with its 130 hour battery standby time, aerodynamic spoiler, and an anti-fog shield. The Commander is the second model from O’Neal that has become quite popular in a very short span of time among motorcycle enthusiasts.
It is also the first mid-range Bluetooth helmet in our list and is definitely a must buy if you are looking for a feature-rich and stylish one.
High Visibility Color
The first thing that separates the Commander from most other Bluetooth helmets in the market at this price point is the high visibility coloring. It is available in a fluorescent green with contrasting graphics which will ensure that you stay safe even if you are riding in low light. It has an aerodynamic profile which allows a comfortable and snug fit. The Double-D ring chin strap gives a secure fit even when you are riding at above 60 mph. There is no wobble and the lightweight construction is gentle on your neck even after a long ride.
The ventilation can be adjusted completely and this lets you control the air flow. On a hot and humid day, you can increase the air flow and on a cold winter evening, you can just shut it out.
The O’Neal motorcycle Bluetooth also comes with an anti-scratch and anti-fog shield that provides clear visibility in all kinds of weather conditions. An inbuilt sun visor keeps you protected from UV rays.
It is manufactured to comply with DOT and ECE standards giving you the much-needed peace of mind.
Easy Bluetooth connectivity
The commander features an integrated Bluetooth device that provides crystal clear and loud audio. A single charge gives you up to 10 hours of talk time with a 130 hour standby time. There is a built-in intercom functionality that has a 118-foot range allowing you to communicate with other riders.
The FCC approved Bluetooth 2.0 allows uninterrupted communication while answering phone calls.
Verdict: The O’Neal Commander is a great buy. It is a high-performance Bluetooth helmet that will last for a long time without any problems whatsoever.