— PRODUCT EVALUATION: Communicate with your fellow rider —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Rugged Radios has almost cornered the market in communication systems for off-road applications. These days, it is becoming more unusual to see a UTV that doesn’t have one of their systems installed on it. Having the ability to communicate with your passengers or friends in other machines is not only safer, it adds to the enjoyment of recreational riding and racing. Rugged also caters to ATV and motorcycle riders with their RH-5R two-way motorcycle UHF/VHF 5-watt radio communication kit that sells for $255.60
WHAT IT COMES WITH
The Moto kit comes with Rugged’s RH-5R UHF/VHF 5-watt radio that is filled with many impressive features. A dock charging station is included, along with a tether and a belt clip for the radio. Their motorcycle harness, a push-to-talk (PTT) button and a music audio cable are included. Last, Rugged’s HK-OFSP-3.5 helmet kit comes with the Moto kit. The helmet kit is essentially two speakers that can be wired into most helmets, along with a microphone and wires that connect to the motorcycle harness and audio cable, all in one loom.
The first thing to do is install the helmet kit into your helmet. Generally, helmets have cutaways above the cheek foam of your helmet that make a good spot to stick the speakers. You will want to test where the best spots to place the speakers are by connecting the audio cable and playing some music through the system. This way, you can slide the speakers around under the helmet’s foam padding to make sure they are in the right location for your ears. This will require putting the helmet on and taking it off many times to ensure a proper speaker location. You can then stick them on with the adhesive pad that is already attached to them. Once the speaker side with the wiring loom is connected, you will want to glue the loom in the helmet behind the padding.
Next, you will want to find the proper location to install the microphone. This can get tricky. You may want to have another person give you a hand with putting it in the right location. The microphone should be flat while touching your lips with the ability to flex the microphone away from your mouth while putting the helmet on. At this point you can use a hot glue gun to glue the flexible microphone cable in place, under the helmet padding, from the base forward so you can still bend the mic cable.
Now, all of the helmet padding should be back in place without modifying the helmet’s integrity in any way. Slightly different modifications might be needed depending on the type of helmet you have.
Finally, you will have to figure out how you want to mount the radio to yourself and run the cables so they are out of your arms’ way while riding. Also, you will need to make space on your handlebar to mount up the PTT button so it is easy to press while you are riding in a safe manner. Usually, placing on your clutch side of your handlebar is your best bet so you can still use the throttle while riding.
HOW IT WORKS
The 5-watt radio is the most impressive part of this kit. On its own, you can communicate with others up to three miles away with a clear line of sight. It has up to 128 programmable channels, an FM radio, voice-activated transmission mode (you don’t have to press the button to talk in this mode), high and low power settings, a battery-save function, dual-band VHF/UHF frequencies, and much more. We could write this whole review on just the handheld radio alone, but the instructions that come with it can fill you in on everything you need to know about it. A major bonus is that you can link up to riders in UTVs that have Rugged Radios components or even other communication companies’ components with your radio.
Once we got our helmets wired up and our wiring to our quads and packs figured out, we took off to the trails to test out the Moto kits. Communicating through them was easy. You simply depress the PTT button when you want to talk and make sure you aren’t pressing it when you are done talking so you can hear the reply. We tested out the Vox mode, which works well as long as the microphone doesn’t pick up any wind or engine noises and keeps transmitting when you aren’t talking. We picked up communications from two miles away clearly in a straight line with a clear view of the other rider, but if you get in mountainous terrain, the reception doesn’t work as well.
The Moto kit is a great tool to have. The battery lasts a very long time, while communication was clear and could be heard easily. If you play music through the system, you can’t have it turned up too loud or it will drown out your riding buddy’s voice. The radio will not cut the music volume down when someone is trying to talk to you. That is unfortunate but not all that important when you consider how safe it is to ride with a radio.
There were multiple times where the front rider warned us about what dangers or trail debris were coming up while we were stuck in the dust. If we had to stop to adjust our pack or take a quick water break, it was quick and easy to push the PTT button and tell the group what the plan is. We came up to a few trailheads where the front rider didn’t warn us what trail they took, so we could simply ask them and not stop and wait for them to come back. For a kit that costs $255.60, it would be stupid to not get it! Go to www.ruggedradios.com or call (888) 541-7223 to check out their impressive lineup of communication systems.