Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Motorcycle Rider to Rider Communication

Without going into a lot of detail, in discussion with my riding buddy, we came to the mutual conclusion of having some way that we could talk to each other while on the road.

I did a lot of googling looking at all the specs of the Bluetooth units and decided that the best choice would be either the BlueAnt Interphone F4, or the Cardio Scala Rider G4. I kind of liked the G4 since it had an FM tuner but it wasn't waterproof, while the F4 was. The only thing that I did not like was the fact that only units of the same brand can link with each other, and only two units can be paired. These BT units can also pair with a BT cellphone, or BT GPS

imc bts330
(typical BT units designed for helmet mounting)

I remembered that a few years ago I purchased a headset unit from IMC at a motorcycle show that had remained unused for many years

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(I've probably had these units for 5 years, in original packaging)

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(IMC HS400)

while these are not Bluetooth they are made to connect to a standard FRS/GMRS radio, as well as to a cell phone through a wired connection. The idea of using a standard radio appealed to me as then others on the same channel would be able to hear our chitter chatter. I had lots of FRS/GMRS radios that I had purchased over the years but the cables used the single pin connector, while all the radios that I already had used the 2-plug system, so I needed an adaptor.

Luckily I remembered Mr Lee from IMC Electronics NA Ltd who just happens to live near Port Moody, BC so after work last week I made arrangements to meet him at his home office where he gave me two adapters to connect my radios

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I have 4 of these Midland units which are rated for 12 miles under ideal conditions, but if they can manage to stay connected for a kilometer (while riding) then I would be more than thrilled. These radios can also be used while off the bike and make excellent communicators to keep in contact at the hotel (room to room).

When I got home from work I decided to mount the flat speakers and boom microphone into the helmet. It didn't take long and all the wires are hidden under the helmet liner

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There is a master quick disconnect to unhook yourself when you dismount your bike

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There are two flat helmet speakers, one for each side which are secured with double sided tape (supplied) . I didn't want anything stuck to the outside of my helmet so I stuffed the velcro mount for the flexible mic under the padding so that it would be behind the faceshield to minimize wind noise.

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I decided to mount the boom mic on the left side with the quick disconnect, but there is enough wire to mount on the right if so desired

I noticed from the forums that due to wind noise the VOX (voice activated) function is not all that reliable due to noise at high speed, and these cables come with a PTT (Push to talk button) with a velcro strap which makes mounting to the handlebar a breeze. I will have to experiment with different positions under actual conditions this coming weekend.

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I think being able to communicate with your riding buddy during a long trip is essential. Trying to get the attention of the person in front while on the freeway in heavy traffic would be hard to do when you are looking for the washroom at the next exit.

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I also noticed that IMC has a BT adapter available for use with their BT headsets. I asked Mr Lee (IMC Electronics NA Ltd) about this and it seems that I would be able to power this using the 12V from the bike and be able to stream my Sirius satellite radio through my helmet, in STEREO, using the helmet speakers, and also the fact that you can pair your GPS and cellphone too. There is already built in priority. When the phone rings it will shut off the music automatically.

It is something to consider when I am riding alone

10 comments:

  1. Being a solo rider, I have never considered gadgets such as these. My GPS, a Garmin 60csx, doesn't have any audio output, and I have no interest talking on the phone while riding. Music, maybe but so far, I still really enjoy the mechanical noises my old Beemer makes. Plus, I wear earplugs due to not wanting to damage my hearing from wind noise.

    Interesting to see how well those radios work. Everytime we've tried them, we couldn't find free frequencies.

    Richard (my blog)

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  2. Ron and I have chatterboxes. It's nice being able to chat while riding. And I don't have to constantly be second guessing when Ron wants to stop somewhere.

    My chatterbox doesn't like the rain. I now keep it in my tank bag, which I like better, but I haven't rain-tested it yet. I like not having the extra weight on the helmet. Ron's has never had any trouble with his.

    A PTT button velcroed to the handle bar has worked well for us. My only problem is I tend to hit the PTT when trying to turn on the blinker. We've never tried the VOX.

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  3. I have some experience of this subject, which I am pleased to be able to share with you. Bike to bike comms is excellent if you are in a group, good if there are just two of you. The Scala system I tried had controls on the unit which fixed to your helmet, which was just too fiddly to operate. The way you have gone now by using a proper standard radio is by far the best way. I see you have the quick disconnect close to your helmet – in my experience that is no good and reconnecting it when you get back on your bike is really difficult as you can’t actually see the connector – it is far better to have another quick disconnect further away, so you can see it. I had one that sat between my legs which I found worked as I could connect it when already sitting on the bike. If you can, find a way of fixing the quick disconnect near your helmet to your helmet – I didn’t and I was constantly plagued by pulling on the wires by accident and having to tuck them in again under the helmet lining. The in-helmet flat speakers are ok, but you must get them perfectly aligned with your ears, or there is a lot of volume drop off. I now use in ear protectors with speakers in-built. Vox doesn’t work well and PTT is 100 times better. Using a phone is good for the first few times you do it, due to the novelty factor, but I reckon you will be turning it off on day two or three, as one of the great things about riding is you don’t have to answer the phone! When do you leave on your trip?

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  4. Dear Bobskoot:

    I have a great deal of interest in this subject.

    I bought a Scala Q2 system last year, and have yet to use it. This is because of the guys I ride with, I am the only one who has it.

    Having looked at a number of similar systems, I am shocked and highly annoyed at their limited scope. The company that make an easy-to-use Blue Tooth system, tha communicates with up to 5 or 10 different bikes, is going to make a killing.

    I was very interested in your installation. What I initially wanted was a set-up that would work with a similar radio communicator like yours. But I wanted it totally voice activated, battery powered, using a minimum of wires, no longer than a connection to my chest pocket.

    As yet, there is nothing that gets this job done.

    I may fool around with the Scala this weekend. Personaly, I have no interest in cell phone discussion while I ride.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

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  5. Think KISS when setting up your system, it will make using your kit much more enjoyable later on. I agree with Gary, try to mount the connector to your helmet and use a extension, such as a coiled cord if possible so that you can disconnect/connect in your visual range. If the supplier doesn't have a coiled cord you can probably get one from Radio Shack. Using a coiled cord will also help to keep it from tangling in around your arms. I have dabbled some in communication gear and found that the better the equipment you start with the better the end result. For me it was an expensive experiment as I ride most of my mile alone, and the club rides I attend seem to always have different riders. Good luck.

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  6. I use the Scala two unit system to talk with Katie when she rides pillion. Mostly we communicate by taps. Like her thumping me on the head. Katie forgets about voice activation and doesn't wait for the mike to pick up. Also, I can hear the GPS via Bluetooth and she can't. So she thinks I'm ignoring her.

    The old standby of nasty handsignals when riding others still works the best!

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  7. I am reminded of the comment by Thoreau on hearing that Miane was connected to Texas by electric telegraph. "What if Maine has nothing to say to Texas?"

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  8. I have the same inclinations as Richard. When Jennie was a regular passenger, she used to hassle me about an intercom. Always managed to find an excuse as I generally don't want to talk whilst riding!

    On a similar theme, I love music but have never wanted to play any on the bike as I've always found more than enough going on to fill the senses. (Especially on the twisty roads round here!)

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  9. Bob,

    Can you hear your in-helmet speakers with earplugs in?

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