Good Communications Are an Important Safety Factor

Note: This article was updated on June 27, 2024, to provide the latest insights and recommendations.

Motorcycle communication systems

Tips for Choosing The Best Intercom System

If you’ve never wished for better communication on the road, you probably haven’t ridden enough. Good communications are an important safety factor for motorcycle enthusiasts. Passengers need to be able to tell riders that they need a rest stop or feel like they’re going too fast. Riders need to tell passengers to lean farther in the corners or ask if the passenger is tired. And riders need to communicate with other riders—not just during group rides. Rides, and riders, are less safe when communication is poor.

Sure, we can devise hand signals or use widely recognized signals. But nothing beats being able to talk back and forth. There are many devices that help us do just that, whether to a passenger or to other riders, so picking the right one can be a challenge.

Exploring Different Intercom Systems: Pros and Cons

Simple Intercoms

The simplest intercoms work between you and your passenger and are pretty low-tech. You put one end of a rubber-tipped tube into your ear like you would an earplug. You talk into a tube with a mouthpiece. Your passenger does the same thing. All the tubes go through a junction box.

  • Dependable system that doesn’t require electricity.
  • No amplification, so hearing can be difficult.
  • Can’t communicate with other riders.

Wired Intercoms

Wired intercoms are similar, except that sound travels on wires connecting rider and passenger. You can add a handheld radio communication device to talk to other bikes. You and your passenger have to remember to connect and disconnect every time you get off or on your bike.

Wireless Technology Options: Which One is Best for You?

Wireless technology comes in four flavors:

FM Radio:
  • Uses a narrower frequency than regular FM radio.
  • Provides clear sound, especially when unobstructed, over a short range.
FRS and GMRS Radios:
  • Similar to walkie-talkies.
  • FRS radios usually have a maximum range of two miles.
  • GMRS radios can span several miles.
  • Handheld radios are available for communication with a buddy in a following car.
  • Not private and can pick up other transmissions.
Bluetooth Systems:
  • Communicate between rider and passenger and bike-to-bike.
  • Without added technology like GMRS or CDMA, communication is limited to a few hundred feet.
  • Allows for additional devices like cell phones, GPS, and iPods.
  • May be hard to hear at higher speeds.
  • Can be difficult to use with gloves on due to many buttons.
  • Older units connect only two people; newer ones support larger groups.

Mesh Communication: The Next Level

Mesh communication technology is the latest advancement in motorcycle intercom systems. It offers a more reliable and flexible way to stay connected with fellow riders.

Mesh Systems:
  • Allow up to 15 (or more, depending on the brand) riders to connect almost instantly.
  • Create a network where each rider is linked like a spider web, ensuring everyone stays connected even if someone drops out.
  • Provide a range of up to 5 miles (with 1 mile between individual riders).
  • Enable dynamic communication, letting riders change positions, exit, or re-enter the group without re-pairing.
  • Often include advanced features like voice commands, noise cancellation, and audio multitasking.

Key Features to Consider in an Intercom System

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Cuts out wind noise for clear communication.
  • Premium Speakers: Branded JBL or H&K speakers for top-notch music quality.
  • FM Radio: For those who prefer not to stream music.
  • Voice Commands: Keep your hands on the bars and eyes on the road.
  • Audio Multitasking: Maintain communication while listening to music. Each rider can play their own music—no need to all listen to the same tunes.
  • Dynamic Mesh Communication: Offers robust and flexible connections in large groups.

Ride Safe and Have Fun

Ever tried yelling over the wind and engine noise? It’s not exactly effective. That’s why a good intercom system is a must-have for any serious rider.

We hope this answers many of your questions about communication systems. Did we miss something? Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments!

You can learn more about communication devices here.

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