How Do Motorcycle Helmet Communications Work? (Explained)

I confess that I and my riding buddies don’t have motorcycle helmet communications. We’re old school and take a bit of pride in our hand signals, and we’re particularly fond of pulling over all 20 riders every time someone has an issue.

After doing the research, I’m convinced we are missing out on one of the modern rider’s greatest tools. 

Turns out, a quality motorcycle helmet communications system can streamline the joy of riding, save time, hassle, and even lives. 

If you’re hesitant about adopting a private network comm, let’s get you up to speed on how these simple devices can change your ride-outs for the better!

Here’s How Motorcycle Helmet Communications Work

Helmet communication systems utilize both Bluetooth technology and a newer, more integrated tech called DMC-Dynamic Mesh Communications. DMC technology offered by industry giants Cardo and Sena is the future of bike-to-bike communication, but for now, are much more expensive than their affordable Bluetooth counterparts.

Bluetooth communications for motorcycle helmets pair easily, much like your phone pairs with your car, speaker, or headphones. They are now commonly sold as lightweight units that install easily inside of your helmet, or are already integrated into a helmet! Simply connect to your mobile device or another Bluetooth comm, and voila! You’re cruising along bumping tunes, following GPS directions, and pointing out that rad cactus ahead to your pillion rider or your packmate. 

The relatively newer DMC systems have improved on Bluetooth by providing connection between more riders at a further distance without interrupting connections when packmates go in or out of range. Higher-end DMC units made by Cardo and Sena connect in a web-like fashion between up to 15 riders and up to a mile apart.

Problems with Bluetooth arise because the communication lines are built in a chain- if one rider disconnects from the chain, all connections are lost and you have to start over. You can’t connect to as many people as you’d like on a pack ride and even the priciest models have a range of just over a half-mile.

Mesh communications technology is simply better, albeit costing a hefty sum. You’re going to pay a premium for much better range and connectivity, but these more-expensive units also come equipped with primo quality speakers and microphones, better mounting systems, and the ability to seamlessly leave the range and return to the group connection.

What Are the Different Technologies?

 The two primary communications are Bluetooth and DMC (Dynamic Mesh Communication). 

Bluetooth Helmet Communication

Bluetooth revolutionized bike-to-bike connection with wide availability, easy installation, and reasonably affordable units. In the before-times, CB radio technology allowed the extra-inclined touring riders to communicate via bulky CB equipment attached to their gear and helmet. 

Then, Bluetooth technology radicalized the market by premiering the hi-tech, if not a little goofy looking, MOMO DESIGN/Motorola, which promised easy usage and air force pilot helmet design. A 2004 message board user lambasted it because- “who wants to talk on their phone while they’re driving? “. Oh, how the times have changed.

Not only do the multitude of modern riders utilize Bluetooth every day for bike-to-bike communications, but we are also used to having the latest communications and media technology at our fingertips 24/7. 

Our cars, homes and our lives are getting so much ‘smarter’ and Bluetooth technology allows us to rip our bikes alongside, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century!

If you have a constant pillion rider, a couple of riding buddies, and the desire to jam your favorite tunes, get directions and pick up the call when Granny’s on the line, Bluetooth is for you. And you can’t beat the price, with 5-star reviews for devices starting around $65.

Dynamic Mesh Communication

Dynamic Mesh Communication picks up where Bluetooth left off-covering more distance per rider, greater numbers of riders linked into the same comm system, and improved controls. 

This technology is simply the future of motorcycle helmet communications. 

Cardo’s groundbreaking DMC system, released in 2015, has been elaborated on by competitor Sena in a breakneck technological race for domination of the bike-to-bike helmet communications market. 

The Cardo PACKTALK was the herald of the post-Bluetooth industry, and the birth of a new age in motorcycle helmet communications systems. Canceling out the connectivity problems of its predecessor and increasing the range of communication considerably, DMC network users can connect a group of riders a mile apart, even allowing a string of riders to communicate over a distance of 5 miles total!

Ultimately, a set of devices like the 2021 PACKTALK ($449) or Sena’s Spider ST1 and RT1 ($359) are going to free up some space in your bank vault. Not to worry-this technology is such a seamless evolution in motorcycle helmet communications and in a short time the market will be flooded with affordable versions. 

Related: Do Motorcycle Helmets Have Air Conditioning? (Explained)

How Do You Connect Two Motorcycle Helmets?

I thought it would be fun to dig into how easy it is to pair Bluetooth and Dynamic Mesh Communications, so let’s start with the 5-star FreedConn T-Max Pro!

Connecting (or pairing) a set of FreedConn T-Max Pro Bluetooth headsets required these steps:

  1. Press the pairing button on each device at the same time, for 8 seconds, or until you hear a voice say ‘pairing’ in your headset.
  2. Once the headset unit begins to flash red and blue light, alternatingly, you are in the pairing phase, ready to connect.
  3. Now push down on one unit’s pairing button and it will search for the other device, right away!
  4. When the lights blink blue on both sets, you’re all connected!

Maybe you didn’t get the FreedConn, but we’re just trying to illustrate how easy this all is-20 seconds for a day’s worth of comm while riding is more than worth it!

Connect Your DMC- Let’s experiment with the OG- Cardo PACKTALK involves these steps:

  1. To get started, the units have to be flashing green for DMC mode.
  2. Press both intercom buttons on both units for 5 short seconds or until you hear the third beeping.
  3. Push the intercom button on the first device and the light will flash green and red intermittently. Now this device is the ‘admin’ of the two devices.
  4. After just a second or two, the second device will pair to it, almost instantaneously!

Yes, the 2015 Cardo DMC device is just that easy to pair! 

Can You Connect More Than Two Helmets?

Both types of motorcycle helmet communication systems included in this article have the option of connecting their intercom features between multiple helmets.

The research we compiled showed that the most helmets you can pair together with Bluetooth intercom technology are 6. Most affordable, middle-of-the-road Bluetooth systems connect 2-3 riders, with only 2 riders able to speak on the intercom at once.  

On the other hand, the greatest selling point of Dynamic Mesh Communications systems is the ability to clearly connect up to 15 riders at once on a network that won’t falter. There’s even talk of having more riders capable of using the mesh networks, but that sounds like a whole heck of a lot of voices all talking at once!

Related: Do Motorcycle Helmets Have UV Protection? (Explained)

How Long Do Motorcycle Communication Systems Reach?

Early Bluetooth communications systems were more rudimentary and couldn’t extend beyond 30-40 feet from rider to rider, but thankfully the last 15+ years have brought about much longer ranges. It is commonplace to find quality Bluetooth devices that extend 1000 meters, or a little over a half-mile.

The thing about DMC communication intercom systems is that they can piggyback off of the ‘admin’ signal, jumping from rider to rider. This means that both leading contenders from Cardo and Sena can extend a mighty 5 miles between the front and rear riders!

What Is the Best Motorcycle Communication System?

Guys and ladies, I have to tell you, the best bang for your buck is going to be a Bluetooth system. For the baller on a budget, may I suggest the aforementioned FreedConn T-Max Pro, which boasts over a ½ mile of range, intercom systems for up to 6 motorcyclists, music sharing, and the best part is that it’s waterproof. Slightly more than 100 dollars for two units put twice the riders sharing road information for the price of one DMC unit. 

I still hold high hopes that advances in mesh technology will put a diversity of devices on the market, lowering prices and competitively creating innovation. But, in between the giants upon whose shoulders the future will be built-Cardo and Sena-we’ve done our due diligence.

The clear choice, in this case, is the newest Cardo PACKTALK and I’ll tell you why. 

Even though the price clocks in a little less than a hundred dollars more for a pair than its Sena counterpart like the Spider ST1, the devices are waterproof. An overlooked element of these great devices is the weatherproofing, and Sena’s devices simply can’t stand up to the elements, leaving you running for cover or risking a busted system and money down the tubes.

Related: Matte vs. Glossy Motorcycle Helmets? What You Should Know

Can All Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets Talk to Each Other?

Because all Bluetooth devices operate on the same principle and the same network, all the devices should be able to talk to each other. Unfortunately, different devices communicate via different frequencies and that keeps them from being compatible. 

Fortunately, advances in tech have brought us ‘universal’ compatibility! In both Bluetooth and DMC. 

There are still some hiccups and bugs in universal pairing between motorcycle helmet communications systems, so if you’re going to blow your wad on a new system, make sure it’s compatible with your riding buddies’ systems!

Can You Put Bluetooth in Any Helmet?

Truthfully, you should be able to put Bluetooth in any helmet worth wearing. The wider availability of motorcycle helmet communications has brought about a world where helmet/comm tech compatibility is becoming a necessity for helmet manufacturers. 

If the helmet’s not already equipped with quality Bluetooth or mesh technology, most modern brands and models allow space for speakers, comm unit, microphone, and necessary wiring.      

Check with the manufacturer’s specs before buying a helmet with hopes of installing a communications unit, but chances are you’ll be able to find the exact style, in the right price range, that’s ready to link you up with your road dogs!

Motorcycle Helmet Communications: The Last Word

The one thing we didn’t cover today was the obvious safety benefits of motorcycle helmet communications systems. We’ve covered how they work, the ins and outs of the network, yada yada yada, but the functionality of safety can’t be overlooked. 

Motorcycle intercoms and communication systems are proven to be safe and road legal. Bluetooth speakers allow environmental noise into the helmet, keeping the rider’s hearing a sharpened safety tool. Less time on the side of the road for a whole pack, over one guy’s mis-strapped bag, is safer for everybody, as is everybody’s ability to easily communicate directions or even obstructions in the road or traffic stops.

Get cued up to these motorcycle helmet communications systems, and stay safe out there! Ride on!

Sources

SimpleMotorcycle.com | Cardo vs. Sena: Motorcycle Headset Showdown

CardoSystems.com | How DMC is Impacting the Future of Motorcycle Communication

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