In-Helmet Comm Systems Work for Advanced Riders

It’s an interesting dilemma – reviewing motorcycle accessories that are cool, but might not be practical for the average rider.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

That’s the case with both the HBC100 UCLEAR Helmet Communicator and the Sena SMH10 Dual Motorcycle Headset and Intercom. In both cases, they’re very high-tech communicator/intercom setups for wear inside a motorcycle helmet. Both work very well. Both might be dangerous for a rider who’s less experience or less responsible.

Retailing for about $170, the UCLEAR Helmet Communicator allows the wearer to listen music, make or answer cell calls and speak to other riders (similarly equipped) via intercom from inside the helmet. There’s no boom microphone extending down from the ear to get in the way of a full face head protector. The device uses military technology not unlike bone induction to offer a wireless and handsfree multifunction tool.
The design also squelches out standard riding noise such as traffic and wind resistance. It has its limits as the device can be overwhelmed by extreme noises – like a broken exhaust, a passing truck or a straight pipe motorcycle. Still, under normal riding conditions in or out of traffic, the user’s voice does come through clearly for calls and intercom connections.

Installation is simple enough, and the controls work predominantly via voice control. You can also plug the unit it into snowboarding or other basic helmets. I’m waiting to see on sneak into some Major League Baseball catcher’s hockey mask someday soon.

The Sena SMH10 Dual Motorcycle Headset and Intercom also offers a Bluetooth intercom designed specifically for motorcycles. You can also make and receive handsfree calls and listen to music as long as your Bluetooth capable on the MP3 player end (obviously).

If your GPS navigation system (a rarity on most motorcycles) can manage Bluetooth, you can get your voice direction pumped into your ear.

The Sena offers a simple button interface (accessed easily enough even while in motion) to activate all of these features.

I tried out both items inside my own helmet while on a ling ride in Florida and found them similar and equally effective. They both installed with relative ease, though uninstalling one for the other was trickier. They both worked as advertised with similar sound qualities. The UCLEAR seemed more comfortable in my helmet, though the Sena was hardly a burden. Unfortunately, on this particular trip, I was armed with a GPS without Bluetooth connectivity and vocal directions, so I was not able to test that particular feature of the Sena.

With the help of a co-rider, I was able to test the intercom capabilities. That feature was particularly effective in both units. In fact, it was a little bit jarring to have another rider’s loud voice directly in your ear and a potential distraction. Even though noise cancellation is in full effect, it’s natural instinct to yell when you’re on the back of a bike. That tendency can give your fellow rider a shock.

And that’s why I recommend either unit without recommendation – but only for advanced and experienced riders. Recreational, weekend cyclists looking for the latest toy should try something else. You have to make sure your concentration abilities in the saddle are well-honed to deal with all of an in-helment audio system’s features.