For some people, the idea of motorcycling is to get away from it all, so the thought of riding with a pillion and having them able to talk to you might sound like a nightmare.
However, with modern bikes packing so much technology, the lure of connectivity has never been greater. A Bluetooth headset can enable anything from the ability to listen to music from your phone to making and taking calls, to turn-by-turn navigation from Google Maps or Waze, all the way up to being able to communicate with your pillion or indeed with a group of your riding mates.
If you’ve ever seen another biker with a small black widget attached to the side of their helmet, often with a flashing blue light, then the chances are they’re riding with a Bluetooth helmet and listening to Radio 4, getting directions from their sat nav or perhaps asking their other half what’s for dinner.
Most generic systems attach to the outside of your lid and you attach the mic to the inside of the chin bar and stick a soft speaker into the lining of your helmet by your ear.
If you’re the sort of rider who rocks an open face lid (respect!) or a flip-up helmet then you need to buy a Bluetooth headset that comes with a boom mic attachment. Most do come with one in the box but if they don’t, you’ll be able to buy one for that model.
A decade ago, if you wanted to listen to the radio on your motorbike or talk to a passenger, chances are you’d have had a kit like an Autocom; a favourite of dedicated tourers and motorcycle instructors. These systems used radio waves rather than Bluetooth to communicate.
These days a Bluetooth headset can perform many roles. For a majority of users, they just want the ability to connect to their own devices, to stream Spotify or make calls.
Most Bluetooth headsets enable you to talk to a pillion simply by buying two headsets by the same manufacturer and pairing them, et voila!
The same applies if you want to talk with a riding buddy – if you both buy the same brand and keep within a reasonable distance of each other, you’ll be able to communicate on the go.
It’s mainly about connectivity but also about range.
If you want to talk with a riding buddy, the best way is to ensure you both have the same make and model of Bluetooth headset. You can get some different makes and models to talk to each other but as a general rule, don’t expect different makes to play well together.
The next thing to look at is the range of your headset. Some cheaper options are sold as ‘City’ headsets as they have a shorter range, usually around 250m.
For touring, you’ll need a longer range. Most quality manufacturers make versions which have a range of around 1-mile. Check before you buy as you don’t want to fork out on a short-range Bluetooth headset. Our pick below is a great choice for touring.
If you’re looking for the best quality, then make sure the headset uses Bluetooth 4.1 and not 2.0. It’ll have a better range, better quality and it’s less demanding on the battery too.
Any headset that connects to another (thus enabling rider to rider) will also do all the standard things you want a Bluetooth headset to do: play music, take calls and give you feedback on your riding ability. OK, thankfully the last one was a lie…
Interphone makes quality Bluetooth headsets and the Link model packs a load of features at a great price. It’s compatible with all types of helmet. You can receive calls, turn-by-turn directions, listen to music or the radio and connect it to another headset to talk to your pillion – you can even share music with your pillion. With a battery-life of 15 hours and a range of 300-metres it’s ideal for solo riding.
Keep in touch with up to four riding companions with this excellent Bluetooth headset. It has a long range of 1-mile and the Bluetooth 4.1 technology means you’ll get HD quality audio and a decent battery life. Pair up to two phones with handsfree calling, voice prompts, turn-by-turn sat nav directions, listen to MP3s and audio and the built-in FM Radio. The 12-hour talk time and 10-day standby time make the 10S a great option for touring.
You don’t need to spend upwards of £100 on a Bluetooth intercom. Generally speaking the more you spend, the better the range, battery life, audio quality and connectivity. However we’ve picked a great option for those on a budget. At under £40, you can’t go wrong.
This FreedConn Bluetooth headset gets great reviews on Amazon and for good reason. It costs under half of most of its rivals but still offers the features you’d want.
You can make and take calls, connect to up to 3 other headsets, listen to music from your phone or audio device or get turn-by-turn instructions from your Sat Nav. It has a lower operating time than most other headsets and a shorter range and lower quality audio but as a first step into the world of Bluetooth headsets it’s a great choice.
Each manufacturer has its own way of rigging up your headset and what comes in the box varies too.
All kits will come with the main unit, a charger cable, a microphone and a speaker (almost always a pair or speakers). Some kits will include extras such as a boom mic, wall charger and different attachments.
When it comes to fitting, you’ll either get a stick-on fitting or a clamp on. The stick-on fittings use seriously tough glue, which might affect your lid if you come to remove it. A little bit of petrol would help break down the glue so you could ease off the pad but remember to clean up the petrol as that too could damage the helmet’s shell.
Some systems use clamps which fit snugly on the edge of the lid, just under the lining. These can be adjusted and more easily removed than a stick-on clamp.
If you and a mate ride frequently together, buy a Bluetooth intercom set that comes as a pair and split the cost. They'll easily connect together and can be used separately.
Check to see if your helmet manufacturer makes or recommends a specific Bluetooth headset. If they do, chances are it'll fit well to your lid and be more comfortable too. As an example, Schuberth make a Bluetooth headset that fits around the neck skirt of some of their helmet models.
Check to see what weather-proofing your headset has before you buy it. If you're likely to ride in all weathers you'll need a waterproof headset, not just a water-resistant one.
If you wear an open-face or flip-up lid make sure your headset comes with a boom-mic rather than a stick on mic as it'll work with an open face and stop wind noise being as big a problem.
Can I get a Bluetooth headset with built-in radio?
Does anyone make a Bluetooth headset with a camera?
Amazingly, yes! Sena make the 10C-01 Bluetooth headset with built-in camera meaning you can record your journey (and presumably any bad driving) with this all-in-one device.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this Bluetooth headset guide:
Bluetooth 4.1 Frequently Asked Questions
Bluetooth technology for short-range wireless apps