I like staying in touch when I’m riding; I enjoy listening to music on long, straight runs and being able to decide if I want to make or take phone calls. I know not all riders feel the same but that’s the attraction of riding – you do it for yourself, not for others. So I like an motorcycle intercom in my helmet, so I can connect to my phone or other riders.
This 20S Evo intercom from specialists Sena is the latest in their range of Bluetooth-powered hardware. It isn’t mesh compatible (though you can add it with a £99 optional adapter), so it will ‘only’ connect with a maximum of eight other riders (or passengers) via Bluetooth 4.1 architecture with a maximum range of around a mile but for most riders who travel in groups or with a pillion, that should be fine.
In fact, I tried it paired with another headset using universal pairing and voice clarity was crystal-clear over almost half a mile. Inevitably the re-designed ‘sharkfin’ antenna that replaces the older flip-up version helps here.
1. Sena 20S Evo
While it’s good to know that you can converse with other riders, I tend to ride alone but use an intercom to bring my smartphone’s functionality inside the helmet. Pairing the 20S Evo as a headset is dead easy – hold down the main button, select pairing and search for it on your phone. Bingo.
Once connected, it extends all your phone’s functions to the helmet. You can listen to – and control – music from the headset as well as get sat-nav instructions, either from the phone or a separate device.
Fitting the unit is straightforward – it’s a universal intercom so should suit almost any helmet. The mounting bracket clamps to the lower edge of the helmet and the main intercom unit slides on and off, for easy charging. It comes with both an adhesive (for full-face) and a boom microphone (for flip-fronts).
The speakers are a fairly standard 40mm in diameter and come with a selection of spacers and mounts to hold into the helmet’s interior.
The only real downside of the fitment is that the mounting brackets hangs very low from the bottom of the helmet – more so than many others. As a result, it does generate some external noise, though in the grand scheme of things, this is marginal compared with a host of artic lorries on the motorway.
Control is relatively straightforward. There’s a main central dial that rotates in each direction – for volume - and acts as the main action button as well with a separate button to answer calls or activate voice dialling.
In use, the large button is easy to find and use in gloves though the mechanism to move forward or back a music track is a bit clunky – you have to hold the button in and rotate the dial – a bit tricky at speed. You can add a variety of optional remote controls if you prefer.
In use, the sound quality is nice. It’s not audiophile standard but certainly good enough with music to help entertain and pass a few straight-line hours. Calls are also crystal-clear at both ends irrespective of which microphone you are using and there is also a built-in FM radio if that’s your thing.
Related: Best Bluetooth motorcycle helmets
There is voice control so you can keep your hands on the bars and if you are on an Apple phone, for example, then you can also use Siri if music is playing. You can also control the unit through Sena’s smartphone app which adds a host of functionality and extra layers of settings.
I like this unit. I used it for a few weeks including a day-long jaunt around country lanes followed by a four-hour motorway journey home, listening to music and it did exactly what was asked of it.
It was reliable and offered good quality of sound and there was plenty of battery life with no warnings even after being on standby for eight hours, maybe an hour of calls and three hours of music and sat-nav instructions.
It performs well with a host of functionality that mean it should suit most riders.
Universal fitting for any helmet
Bluetooth 4.1 architecture
Pair with smartphone, sat navs and other intercoms
Fairly large external presence on the helmet