q Having the perfect riding buddy can turn a normal trail ride into an epic one. You trade the lead, you watch how one another tackle each obstacle and a few hours of riding turns into years of memories. For us, nothing can be better. If you think it would help to be able to talk to your riding buddy while you are riding, there are products that can help you do that.
The latest in helmet intercom technology comes from a company called Cardo. Their new product is labeled the Scala Rider G4 PowerSet. Retailing for $489, this is an expandable two-rider kit that allows for hands-free communication between two riders or a rider and passenger (in case you ride in a UTV or a two-up machine). One of the worst things about UTVs is that you can’t talk to your riding partner without yelling. If you like to go on group rides, you can pair your PowerSet system with up to two more riders that are using the same system. Cardo claims that the G4 PowerSet will work for up to one mile between two riders using the built-in flip-up antenna. A claimed 13 days of standby power and up to 10 hours of talk time is available through each unit’s rechargeable Li-poly battery. This kit comes with a pair of USB and wall-mount chargers. We think a 12-volt cigarette-style charger would have been convenient. You can use the USB connector to do software updates or to change the preset FM radio stations.
Other features of the PowerSet system include the ability to listen to FM radio, MP3 players or even make a phone call through your cell phone. The day we get so busy we need to ride and talk on a cell phone at the same time is not something we are looking forward to. However, this is a great option for an emergency situation. Keep in mind that the cell phone feature only works if you have Bluetooth capability and ride somewhere where there is cellular reception.
We mounted the G4 PowerSet on a pair of $135 AFX FX39D helmets. This is one of AFX’s best-looking and fitting helmets. This model has a flip-down, plastic, scratch-proof shield covering the eye port. With the shield flipped up, you can use standard goggles as well.
Each PowerSet device clamps with two small Allen bolts to the side of virtually any helmet. If needed, an adhesive mounting system is included as well. With the unit in place, the flexible boom microphone gets positioned in front of the user’s mouth. Next we ran the dual-wired speakers under the helmet’s removable liner and used the supplied velcro pieces to affix them in the helmet’s ear sockets. We used our own electrical tape to secure the wires firmly to the helmet’s inner shell. This way, if we remove the foam to wash it, the wires stay right where we want them to.
When the boom microphone, speakers and unit cradle are mounted on the helmet, you can easily remove the control device for charging or do the occasional software updates, so there is no need to plug your helmet in for charging. Your wife will be happy that it can stay in the garage. The complete system adds less than a pound to your helmet, and the weight and feel are completely unnoticeable.
HOW DO THEY WORK
As advertised, the intercom system allowed us to ride a full mile apart and still communicate. This was in an open area with very few trees or hills. On a trail, this distance is considerable. Even in the most dusty conditions, we usually ride less than a quarter-mile apart.
When you stretch that distance even further, the communication abilities just drop off. When you ride within that mile range again, there is no need to push any buttons or reset the system; all you do is start talking again, and the system reconnects on its own automatically.
Once you turn the system on, communication is totally hands-free. The only time you need to push any button is to adjust the volume or change radio stations.
The cell phone feature actually works very well. Since your head is enclosed in a helmet, you can hear the phone conversation very clearly; it’s even better than using a standard Bluetooth headset. Same goes for the MP3 player. The music is crystal clear at any speed. If you need the motivation of hard, rocking music when you ride, this is the way to listen to it. The FM radio feature worked flawlessly as well, but usually where we ride, radio stations are pretty sparse.
For under $500, having the ability to communicate with the ones around you is a great asset. It makes our riding and testing more enjoyable. We don’t have to ride in each other’s dust to keep from getting lost, and it’s really helpful to be able to discuss upcoming hazards in the trail to someone behind you. Furthermore, when we are teaching new riders how to ride through certain rough sections on a trail, it’s easy to talk them through the section without yelling.