Tech Advancements Mean Big Improvement In Helmet-To-Helmet Communication for Motorcycles

Maybe it was that time on that bike trip when one of your buddies got separated from the group. You were on your Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero and the other guys were on their cruisers, but your sportbike buddy on his Ninja 1000 got a little tired of your sedate speed. He blasted ahead, right past that turn you were making onto that other highway. There was nothing to do but wait for him to figure out something was wrong and turn around.

Or maybe it was just all the times coming through a town when someone wanted to make a pit stop but was too far in the rear to get everyone's attention.

Heck, maybe it's from all those times when you just wanted to tell your buddy that he left his turn signal blinking, but he wasn't paying any attention to your hand signals.

One way or another, you've been thinking about helmet to helmet communicators. How cool would it be to be able to talk with your buddies while cruising down the highway?

Then again, maybe you've been down this road before. If so, you may have some bad stories to tell. It probably depends on how much money you spent and when you made the purchase. Things have come a long, long way in this technology.

The first thing you need to know is that going cheap is not the answer. Early in our days of week long summer motorcycle trips we stopped by an electronics store and found communicators that worked just fine when one of us stayed in the store while another walked out into the parking lot. And best of all, they only cost about $15 per set. Each of us bought one. What a waste!

It turns out there are laws of physics that you would never know apply in these matters, but communicating via radio waves is affected by speed. It takes specially designed gear to communicate at high speed, as opposed to standing still or walking. Those $15 communicators weren't really even very good at communicating when we were stopped at a traffic signal. The noise of our (quiet) bikes was too much.

Next time around, my wife and I paid some real money-about $175-for a communicator set so we could talk while she rode behind me. These actually worked-for a while, at least-although we got a lot of static and interference, occasionally picking up other people's cell phone conversations. At times we'd get a high-pitched squealing and we would both just start saying "Blah, blah, blah" in order to squelch it.

On top of that, the communicators included a boom, that is, an extension that came forward and had to be positioned in front of our mouths to pick up what we were saying. And if it wasn't perfectly positioned it didn't do its job very well. We only had some regrets when these units died.

Oh, how times have changed. As has happened so many times, technological advancements developed in order to provide our soldiers with good-working gear has trickled down to us motorcyclists. Today you can buy helmet to helmet communicators that incorporate this made-for-military technology and the difference is night and day. That annoying boom? Gone. Now the speakers that sit close to your ears also hold a microphone that picks up every word you say. Noise canceling technology filters out wind and road noise, the rumble of your motorcycle, and everything else except your voice. And with advancements in speaker quality, the sound comes through much, much better than before. Heck, these things are designed so you can sync it up with your MP3 player and listen to music while you ride, wirelessly.

Of course, there are other types of communicators, too. Each has plusses and minuses. But it's worth going down to your local motorcycle dealer and seeing what's out there. You're going to get a lot more for your money today than you would have 10 years ago.