While some motorcyclists prefer the silence and solitude of riding – in fact, that’s the draw for many – some swing the other way and like to be connected to their smartphones, to make and take calls, listen to music, hear sat-nav directions or speak with their pillion or other riders in the group. If you’re the latter, then you need an intercom.
Generally comprising a pair of speakers, a microphone, a brain and a battery, these effectively replicate a wireless headset for phones and operate on Bluetooth, so you can also control your phone directly from the intercom. Most also allow for voice control to make operation safer while on the go and they can also trigger your device’s voice control as well.
Intercoms can either be universal or integrated fit; they are either designed to fit any helmet and generally sit a control unit outside the shell; or they can be integrated, designed specifically for one or two helmets and fit inside the lid in custom-made apertures. Which you choose is down to you and how often you change your helmet or how many you use.
How do motorcycle intercoms work?
Intercoms will generally connect to phones and sat navs via Bluetooth and also to other intercoms. For speaking to pillions, this is fine and generally, for close groups, it’s OK too. Bluetooth intercoms have a range of 1-1.5 miles quoted usually, depending on the antenna and can handle conversations with multiple riders though for greater numbers or range, MESH technology can be useful.
This is an automatic system that seamlessly pairs and remembers groups of rides so that, should one become disconnected from the group, they will automatically reconnect when they come back in range.
We’ve tried numerous intercoms and these are what we reckon are the top ones.
Best motorcycle intercoms:
Cardo Packtalk Bold
Top sound quality
The Cardo Packtalk Bold is top for sound quality thanks to its JBL speakers. Audiophiles will be familiar with the name; JBL has been producing speakers and high-end audio equipment for decades and their inclusion in the Packtalk Bold intercom gives superb levels of sound quality if you're listening to music on the go. Call quality is very good and the flip-up antenna helps to achieve a decent range. It includes both Bluetooth and MESH technology and the small unit comes off for charging. We've subjected the Cardo Packtalk Bold to a more detailed review, too.
The SRL2 system, produced by Sena, is designed to fit seamlessly within three helmets from Shoei - the NeoTec 2 (post-March 2019), J-Cruise 2 and the GT-Air 2. The unit replaces the two plastic side pieces and the main unit sits in an aperture at the back of the helmet. It is controlled by three buttons on the left-hand side and uses the same chipset as the 20S Evo for similar functionality. So while this will only work with one of three helmets, it is neat, subtle and fits easily and neatly. Note that most large helmet manufacturers (Shark, LS2, Schuberth etc) also produce integrated intercom systems.
Read our in-depth review here. ,
Motorcycle Helmet Bluetooth Headset
It's no big-budget multi-rider system but this budget intercom has to be worth a punt for less than £30. It's a simple, all-in-one Bluetooth intercom that connects to your phone but has no direct intercom function. If all you want is to make and take calls, listen to music or sat-nav instructions, then this is well worth a punt. It also gets decent reviews online and can swap from your motorcycle helmet to your bike or ski helmet, for example.
AGV ARK Bluetooth Intercom System
Best for AGV helmets
If you own an AGV helmet, specifically a Sportmodular, AX9, K-5 S, or K6, this is the best intercom you'll find because it's designed specifically for your helmet. The ARK is curved so it, erm, arcs around the bottom left of the outside of the helmet, to the benefit of aerodynamics. It's good for calls, music, communication with up to four others up to a mile away, and FM radio if you need BBC Radio.
Jabra Elite 75t
While not specifically designed for motorcyclists, these Bluetooth earbuds from Jabra will work under helmets if you're careful and offer exceptional sound quality, replacing separate intercom and earplugs. Of course, you can't get to the earbuds to control them but there's a phone app that allows full control. Sound quality is excellent and of course you can use them when you're off the bike as well. The only downside is call quality inside a helmet, you can hear callers but they can't hear you clearly enough.