Now, more than ever, Bluetooth (BT) headset and accessory technology is growing in leaps and bounds – but not from all manufacturers. During the past three years of reporting for Ultimate MotorCycling about BT devices for motorcyclists, we have witnessed the evolution, sophistication and expansion of capabilities, partially due to the robust nature of the BT 4.0 standard.In the early days friends would ask which brand to buy. Each had its positive and negative aspects and they would choose based upon their intended use. Music, phone, group intercom, GPS and 2-way radio pairing made the choice difficult. Often, you couldn’t get all you wanted in one unit. In 2015 the game has changed.
No manufacturer I know of has made more strides, offers more products, and has the most modern designs than Sena Technologies, Inc. Its product releases during the last year have been plentiful, and the variations and features far outshine all others with 10, or more, headsets; several BT adapters; myriad accessories; two camera units; and integration of BT voice with video recording. The competition, in the main, has been repackaging old tech and is sure to be green with envy.This weekend I rode with the Sena Handlebar Remote. It is a BT 4.0 device that clips on your left handgrip and allows the user to control the BT headset without being required to reach up to the helmet. If you are like me, you may doubt whether you need this thing, but after 300 miles, I’m hooked.The reason I’m hooked on the Sena Handlebar Remote? I can do all the controlling I need without taking my eyes of the road. While using the Sena Handlebar Remote, I didn’t need to make the move to my helmet, fiddle around (with gloves on) to make sure I was aligned with the correct buttons, then press the required button for my selection. I was able to do the same thing with my left thumb in a second, making things much easier – and safer.When Patsy Cline came on and I was more in the mode for Steppenwolf, all it took was a one-second tap of the Sena Handlebar Remote joystick to the right. Volume adjustment is way easier and I find I use the Sena Handlebar Remote about 10 times more than I used the controls on the headset. It’s just so much easier. Without it I tended to just let it be.The only niggle is the half inch it takes up on the grip. I found on the two bikes upon which I used this unit that there was plenty of room, but my thumb didn’t reach the turn signals and horn switch quite as well. I must loosen my grip a bit to stretch the thumb over – but that is of little concern. At first I would mistake the joystick for the turn signal but muscle memory soon eliminated that problem. I didn’t try it on the right hand grip but imagine those with a limber right thumb may like it that way.The Sena Handlebar Remote is simple and paired with the headset on the first try. It’s clamshell design and strong spring allow installation or removal, without tools, in two seconds for easy bike swapping. Users pull the jaws open, slip it over the grip and let go. Once done one never needs to reach up again to play music, intercom, phone, FM radio and even initiate pairing with another compatible headset. This last item is pretty slick as you can pair with a friend while riding together.At this time Sena claims compatibility with headset models 20S, 10C and 10U, and battery life of a “few months.” I haven’t had it long enough to test that statement and have only tried it with the 20S headset.It is water-resistant and charges with the same micro-USB cable used for the headset, also included but with no charger. I found it to be easy to use, do everything it claimed to do, and look good in black and silver satin finish.The Sena Handlebar Remote sells for an MSRP of $99; for additional information, visit Sena.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.