Biker Bluetooth Review
With more and more motorcycle wireless helmet communication systems hitting the market every day there certainly is no shortage of choices for riders. Basically, they are broken down into two categories each with their own unique attributes. One is a hub type system that generally allows for greater connectivity and the other is a stand-alone helmet-mounted system.
Open Road Solutions’s BikerCom is a hub system that requires you dedicate space on your motorcycle for a control box that’s about 5x3x1 inches. You may also need to save space for another wired unit that cleans up your two way radio signal if you have one of those set-ups. I had plenty of room for both units under the seat of my Yamaha FJR1300. For this reason I think a hub system is best used on a larger touring bike that has ample storage room.
Even though I did not have a two-way radio system, I installed their push-to-talk button on my handlebars for another reason: you can power up the control box without having to open the seat (in my case) by merely pressing the PTT button. Additionally, make sure you turn your headsets on before your control box so that they will connect properly.
The patent pending BikerCom includes two wireless helmet headsets: one for the rider and one for a passenger. I easily mounted the helmet headsets to the helmets with the twist of two screws (each) and they wirelessly connected to the Control Box flawlessly to receive audio signals. The Control Box is equipped with two wireless Bluetooth connections for connecting with other Bluetooth equipped devices plus five 3.5mm audio jack sockets for connecting multiple wired input devices.
Not being tethered-by-wire to the iPod was also liberating for me. More importantly the audio quality of my iPod was superior to other systems I have used in the past. That’s especially true regarding the stand-alone type systems.
Unlike some other systems, your headset volume control does actually control the volume on your iPod. This is very convenient because it’s pretty difficult to control the volume wheel of an iPod with gloves on. One issue I had though was that the control box would not remember my cell phone when I paired it using Bluetooth. This meant having to re-pair it each time I turned the box on. However that has now been fixed and the official word from Open Road is; "The Control Box MPR and Other Connections now store the pairing information of the current or last used Bluetooth device. After you Power Off the Control Box, the next time you Power On the Control Box, the MPR and other connections will automatically search for the previously paired Bluetooth device; the searching and reconnection process should occur within 30 seconds."
Additional features include a wireless rider-to-passenger intercom, two-way radio connection for bike-to-bike intercom, wireless bluetooth connection for mobile phones to make and receive phone calls, wireless bluetooth to receive navigation instructions, plus you can also have wired connections to receive radar detector alerts and an audio player’s signal.
Since I use heads-up visual radar, I did not utilize this radar audio feature but all of the other audio switching on the BikerCom is very good and clean so it stands to reason that the radar would also beep audibly when the unit detected a radar signal. To clarify, when an incoming call occurs, it quickly mutes your iPod and a clear ringtone is heard. The problem I had with the BikerCom’s phone feature is it automatically picks up every call. It’s done as a safety measure to prevent you from risking the chance of a mishap when reaching to press a button to answer a call. After getting used to this feature, the BikerCom answers cell calls well on its own, the audio is very loud and clear.
BikerCom levels are highly adjustable so finding the "sweet spot" takes some doing. There are levels you can set for voice activation of the intercom, music and more and they vary greatly. So in order to have a solid experience you must go through some trial and error to find your personal adjustments on all fronts. But once you determine the setting, you will be amazed at how well things like their ambient noise adjustment feature works. As your speed and resulting wind buffeting increases, the audio level rises just right to compensate. I found this feature to work exceptionally well once I got the settings properly finessed.