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A good pair of headphones can really add to the experience of biking, but the choice can be bewildering. Join Bikesure as we take a trip through the wonderful world of portable audio and discover the best setup for bikers.
While a pair of standard headphones can probably do at a pinch, they’re not usually designed to be loud enough to be heard over engine and wind noises. Mix in wrangling cables through helmet and jacket if you’re wired up, and keeping earbuds in position if you’re wireless, and the case for having a system specifically designed for motorcycles is pretty compelling.
It’s not against the law to wear headphones while riding your bike in the UK, but if you’re planning on using them abroad you should check the local laws, as there are plenty of places where it’s illegal, such as France.
You can either buy kits to install in your helmet, or there’s a growing number of manufacturers who make helmets with built in intercoms.
In terms of tech it’s an exciting time for motorcycles as more manufacturers begin to include deeper smartphone integration with their products, for example the new connectivity being introduced into Triumph bikes soon.
Sena have a full range of helmets and Bluetooth systems, from relatively simple intercoms to slightly more complex systems with an HD camera built in.
Their complete helmet systems are probably the cheapest and most available smart helmets right now, with none of the uncertainty of investing in a kickstarter project. One thing to consider is, will it be simply increasing the volume as you go faster and increased wind and engine noise, as that could lead to hearing problems long term.
It’s always nice to support a British company, and the good news is Autocom’s gear seems pretty good and they’re designed to fit in any helmet. However, as with any of the brands on this list, you should probably try and find a dealer in the real world who’ll let you try and fit it into your helmet before making any purchases.
It’s a bit bare bones in terms of features, but one of the big advantages to Autocom’s system is that its exterior control system is small and discreet, unlike some of the systems that insist on having a large box stuck on the side of your head.
A good choice for groups, their top tier headsets are capable of maintaining connections with up to 15 others simultaneously. It’s also possible to use it with different brands of intercom via Bluetooth, meaning you don’t need to all be brand buddies. If you’re just looking for a personal communication setup, or something to allow you to talk to your passenger, then there are cheaper versions too.
An Italian brand, it does pretty much exactly the same as every other system, but has large single function buttons rather than the double functionality jogwheel of the Cardo, for example. Like all these brands, you have to take the whole “max range 1 mile” with a pinch or two of salt. Because as with any small radio transmitter it will be affected by many factors, so in actual use the range will almost certainly be much less than advertised.
These earphones have been designed by bikers and do seem to be pretty convincing. They’ve been made to be easy to wear underneath a helmet, and while the chin mounted mic will cause scratched chins at first, it makes a lot of sense and apparently works well enough. If anything it’s suffering from first version problems, and any second iteration should iron them out. As it stands it’s still a pretty decent solution right now.
One of the few non-specifically bike centric products that makes the list, Shure manufacture in-ear monitors designed for professional musicians so they know a bit about making themselves heard over background noise and staying in the ear without too much fuss. They also make consumer earphones with much the same tech as the pro gear, but at a fraction of the price. If you’re looking for just earphones then you can’t go far wrong with the pro-am option.
Bit of a wildcard here as it’s mostly a speaker rather than an intercom system, but if you’re looking for a simpler setup, something to allow you to hear GPS instructions for example. The Analogue Plus Ahead is a bit of a bargain at around £50, depending on exchange and duty rates.
Whichever intercom system you decide to buy, before heading off on the road make sure you have the right motorcycle cover.
What have we missed here? If you’ve got a suggestion or you want to let the world know what you think the best earphones for motorcycles are, leave us a comment!