Tips For Choosing The Best Intercom System

by Damien Heenan
If you’ve never wished you could talk to a passenger or another rider, you probably haven’t spent enough time on the road.

Being able to communicate with other riders is a critical safety factor for motorcycle enthusiasts.
  • Passengers need to be able to let you know 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 bikers need to communicate with other bikers—and not just during group rides.

Everyone’s less safe when communication is poor.

Sure, we can use the standard hand signals or improvise on the fly. But nothing beats being able to just talk back and forth.

We’re fortunate in that today there’s so many different devices available for communication but picking the right one can be a challenge.

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

On the plus side, this is a dependable system that doesn’t require any electricity. On the down side, there’s no amplification, so hearing one another could be a bit dicey.

And of course, you can’t use it to communicate with other riders.

Wired intercoms are similar, except that sound travels on wires that connect rider and passenger. You can add a hand-held radio communication device to talk to other bikes. It’s a step up from the simple intercom system, however, you and your passenger need to remember to connect and disconnect every time you get off or on the bike.

Now full-blown WIRELESS technology comes in four flavors:

  • Frequency Modulation (FM) radio uses a narrower frequency than regular FM radio. It gives clear sound, especially when nothing obstructs it, over a relatively short range.
  • Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) are like the old-fashioned walkie-talkie. FRS radios usually have a maximum range of two miles; GRMS radios can span several miles. You can get handheld radios for either, so you can communicate with a buddy in a following car.
None of these three systems (FM, FRS, or GMRS) is private and all can pick up other transmissions.
  • Bluetooth systems can communicate between rider and passenger and bike-to-bike. Unless the device has an added technology, such as General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), you can only communicate within a few hundred feet, which isn’t a problem on group rides.
  • With Bluetooth, you can add lots of doodads, such a cell phone or GPS device. One challenge with Bluetooth is they can be hard to hear at higher speeds. Plus, the older units could only connect two people, while newer ones let you talk with larger groups.
  • What’s more, especially if you have lots of features (and therefore lots of buttons), they can be hard to use while wearing gloves, especially since you’re focused on the road and really can’t see what you’re doing.
  • The newest models use Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC), which allows riders to change positions, exit, or re-enter the group without having to re-pair, or having the chain broken. Also, they often have voice commands, which lets you focus on riding without having to fumble around and trying to remember which button combination to press depending on the function.
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