You don’t realise til you get a motorbike how much stuff you need to buy to make it work. There’s all the clothing to minimise scraping off the road situations, there’s the bags, boxes and the like to make it usable day-to-day, and then there’s the fact that you can’t take any phone calls whilst you’re on your bike. Unless you’ve got a bluetooth headset specially adapted for use under helmets – such as the Scala Rider headset from Cardo. It’s a speaker that sits inside your helmet with a boom mike that you position inside the front mask. The idea is that it’s simple enough to use on the road, without having to stop your bike to chat.
Securing the headset is easy, as you clamp the battery pack to the outside of your helmet using the clamp they supply. It’s weather resistant, so there are no worries about the conditions you’re biking in. It also doesn’t leave a mark on the helmet, which given how much you’ve just shelled out on the helmet (definitely a piece of equipment you don’t want to skimp on) you’ll be thrilled about.
You then position the boom mike by your mouth, and the speaker by your ear, which is fixed on with velcro. It’s a speaker, rather than an in-ear piece, presumably to ensure that it doesn’t fall out if you’re on a particularly bumpy ride.
To make calls, you set up your phone with speech recognition. Alternatively, you can answer calls and dial your last number using the buttons on the battery pack. Once I was on a call, I was amazed by how clear the sound was – the speaker really does make it easy to hear people. The speaker also adjusts the levels according to your speed levels, so it doesn’t become deafening when you’re at a standstill. I’ve also been on the other end, and can vouch for the fact that when someone is using this, it really is impossible to tell that they’re on a bike even up to speeds of 70 mph (apart for the "hang on a sec, just overtaking.." type comments).
Whilst the sound quality is great on a closed helmet, the microphone does suffer when you’re using an open helmet. Despite the manufacturers saying that it’s wind-resistant, if you don’t have your visor down, you do know about it.
Whilst they’ve made the buttons as big as they can, it can still be tricky to adjust, particularly when you’re wearing gloves. There is a large answer button, as well as a separate re-dial button, but it’s the volume buttons that are really tricky to get to. If you do have to adjust the volume, you might find that it’s altogether safer to pull over.
There are also certain additional features that it would benefit from. For instance, there is a sudden crop of bluetooth headsets designed to work in tandem with your MP3 player. This would be perfect for the Scala Rider, as listening to music is something you miss on a bike – what could be better than cruising along listening to Bat Out of Hell, or some equivalent biker type music, and knowing that you’re not going to miss any calls. It’s also impossible to get it to pair with a GPS device, which again, would be a great application of the technology.
In our opinion
It’s a great piece of kit, and it’s really surprising to hear exactly how clearly people can hear you. For anyone that travels regularly on their bike, £75 will be a small price to pay for the assurance that they’re not missing calls. As for whether it’s the safest thing in the world? Probably not.