Hearing a fellow rider preach about the virtues of their Bluetooth motorcycle helmet is par for the course as a motorcyclist. Bluetooth helmets can be expensive, as can kits to add to your current helmet, so are Bluetooth motorcycle helmets worth it?
Helmet Bluetooth comes in handy for a range of uses, whether you’re going on a group ride with your family or buddies, are a true audiophile and want the built-in speakers for your tunes, need to stay connected and take calls on your commute, or are heading to new parts and need a hand with GPS directions.
As far we can tell, the first helmet with built-in Bluetooth dates back to 2004 (1), when Motorola added a Bluetooth headset to an open face helmet. Sure, the technology has come a long way, but should you be dropping a few hundred dollars on the best bluetooth helmets for motorcycles?
We’re going to explore:
- All the reasons why you’d want a helmet with Bluetooth capabilities
- The arguments against Bluetooth intercom and other features
- Other solutions to get the same helmet features
To help you decide if in-helmet audio is a feature you really need.
The Case for Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets
An integrated Bluetooth set in your helmet means you’ll be able to take calls, use the intercom, listen to music, and get your directions right out of the box, no playing with wires or velcro stickers. This is on top of a great lid itself: some newer Bluetooth helmets even come with a drop down sun visor and tail light, in the Sena Stryker‘s case. Whether a helmet with integrated bluetooth technology is worth it for you will depend on how these factors weigh out.
Price of Motorcycle Bluetooth Kit
As you’d expect, the price of a helmet with Bluetooth already included is more expensive than a normal helmet. While there are a few options for cheap bluetooth motorcycle helmets, we generally don’t recommend them.
However, helmets with integrated Bluetooth devices are generally cheaper than a comparable helmet and a standalone communications kit. As an example, our pick of the best Bluetooth helmets is the Sena Stryker, a premium full-face lid packing Mesh technology letting you intercom between up to 24 riders privately or virtually unlimited riders with Open Mesh. This helmet even packs speakers and a microphone built by Harmon Kardon!
For those headset specs alone, you’d need to buy a Sena 50S which costs over $300, depending on the deal you find. A comparable helmet to the Sena Stryker without integrated Bluetooth will cost around $200-300, so the whole kit will cost you $550-600. The fully integrated helmet comes in cheaper than that.
When you run the numbers, the price of a Bluetooth helmet starts to look like good value. However, you do need to consider whether you actually need a new helmet – if not then maybe a Bluetooth intercom kit added to your current lid does make more financial sense.
Safety of a Bluetooth Helmet
Obviously, you wear a helmet to try and prevent the worst injuries if you have an accident. When you’re spending good money protecting your grey matter, you don’t want to go and compromise it with a communication system.
The general rules apply when looking for a Bluetooth sportbike helmet. You want to make sure:
- You have a quality shell material – at least polycarbonate if not fiberglass or carbon fiber
- There’s multi-density EPS foam – higher density for bigger knocks, lower density for smaller ones.
- It’s DOT certified at a minimum – Snell is better, ECE is great and FIM is the best.
Of course, having a full face or modular helmet will be better than a 3/4 or half helmet. In terms of the Bluetooth kit, having all the wires and batteries inside the Bluetooth helmet definitely reduces the chances of a short due to water contact. You’re also less likely to catch wires on your ears, tree branches, etc when you take it off.
You don’t want to have to reach for your phone when a call comes in or you want to change the music. Lots of Bluetooth helmets will let you use Google Assistant or Siri so you’re completely hands free.
Even when you do need to make contact with your Bluetooth, good kits have large buttons or a glove-friendly jog wheel control, like the Sena Savage.
Overall, if you’re looking for a safe way to maintain communication with your riding buddies without relying on basic biking hand signals or want to take calls on the go, a Bluetooth helmet is the way to go.
Music and Media Capabilities
The noise in a normal or Bluetooth helmet can be annoying, so having music while you’re riding can drown out the worst of the wind. Bluetooth helmets aren’t the perfect answer for a noise-cancelling helmet, but they can help you ignore the road noise for sure.
When you connect your phone to your Bluetooth motorcycle helmet, you get the ability to be listening to music with apps like:
- YouTube Music
- Apple Music
What’s more, you’ll find that the best Bluetooth street bike helmets have FM radio built in. You can get a different range of music, catch the local traffic and weather reports, or even catch the scores for the day’s game all while still cruising.
For anyone who needs music in their life and inside the helmet they use, having a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet is a game-changer.
Bluetooth Communications while Riding
We’ve already covered how you can use Bluetooth helmets to take and make calls handsfree. It can be super useful for riders who work on their bike, like couriers, or people who use their motorcycle to commute and need to take a call to know when the kids’ soccer practice has been cancelled.
Keeping in hands free contact with other riders can be vital when you’re:
- On a long trip
- In a competition
- On enduro rides
- On an adv trail
Giving a warning about rough terrain or even staying up to date with your place in the competition can make a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet with an intercom very much worth it.
It’s worth cautioning that the useful range on Bluetooth helmets’ intercom can be much lower than advertised – a few hundred meters is the norm.
Other limitations can include a reduced battery talk time when you spend a lot of time on calls, and difficulty being heard with wind and road noise. There are some Bluetooth helmets with noise reduction on calls – the Sena Cavalry half helmet does surprisingly well.
Cons of Using a Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet
You’ve probably figured that we like a good Bluetooth motorcycle helmet. They have so many uses and have really changed the way group rides work with the advent of intercom and have made motorcycling more accessible for people who need to be connected.
They’re not perfect for everyone, though. Here’s why you might not want to spend the money on a Bluetooth helmet.
Quality and Tech Problems
It’s always possible that a part of your Bluetooth system on your motorcycle helmet dies. If it’s under warranty, then it’s not the biggest deal – although with the Sena range of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets, for example, the warranty only lasts for one year (2). However, you will often have to send in your whole helmet for repair, leaving you without a lid.
After warranty, when something goes wrong with integrated Bluetooth motorcycle helmets, there’s not a lot you can do except tinker and hope.
Another tech issue is cross-brand connectivity. The Sena Stryker that we’ve already looked at has a universal intercom so it can work with different Bluetooth helmets and budget brands, but not all Bluetooth helmets do, so you need to make sure you and your riding pals can connect and use your communication systems.
Upgrading your Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet
Some of the components of your Bluetooth communication tool might not be at the spec you want. The main issue lots of riders find is poor speaker quality.
You want speakers that will cut through the wind noise when riding – at least up to a reasonable speed – and that don’t get tinny and distorted with heavy beats or high trebles.
It is possible to upgrade the speaker system to get better control of your music, but it might not be so easy with fully integrated Bluetooth helmets. While you’re going to be able to get music and other audio in your helmet, don’t expect crisp, clear notes on every beat like with other music devices.
Limits of Using a Bluetooth Helmet in Groups
As well as sound limitations, there are limits on how many riders you can communicate with at any one time.
Even if you’ve ensured that everyone that you usually go riding with can connect with each other, there will be a maximum number of people in a network.
Some Bluetooth headsets will only link two or four riders while Mesh technology on some Sena and Cardo Bluetooth devices feature tech that takes that up to 24. You need to choose devices that give you the communication ability you need.
Having a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet adds another device that needs charging to your kit. If you go on multi-day rides and camp out, you’ll need to make sure you have enough juice in your power banks to keep your helmet on.
You can set your helmet to standby, but that tends to require a long press on a button – it’ll be safer to stop to turn it off, but then you have the hassle of pulling over, removing your full-face helmet, taking off your gloves, and finding the power button.
Do you always want to be connected to the world? Isn’t biking about hitting the road, taking in the views, the thrill, the air rushing past, and your connection to the road rather than to people?
Intercom and the ability to talk to people on the phone might kill that feeling of freedom for you. If you’re a rider who appreciates the sounds of the open road, maybe it’s not worth the price of buying a full-face helmet including Bluetooth.
Alternatives to Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets
Not sold on the idea of investing in an integrated full-face or modular Bluetooth helmet? If you still want a communication system but don’t want a whole new motorcycle helmet, there are other options.
Add a Bluetooth Headset
There are lots of Bluetooth headsets that you can add to your current lid. It’s easy to get attached to motorcycle helmets and changing it just to get built-in Bluetooth doesn’t always make sense.
You can invest in a solid kit, mount it yourself and add audio capabilities to your beloved helmet.
Pros of mounting a Bluetooth headset to your motorcycle helmet
- You get more choice, including on the budget and the technology you need – you might not need mesh for 24 riders but you want the best speaker system money can buy.
- It’s easy to change the mounting between helmets – most velcro or clip on so you can migrate your Bluetooth setup when you get a new helmet.
- You can upgrade when a new Bluetooth feature comes out or if you decide that you do want noise cancelling technology after all.
Cons of adding a Bluetooth headset to your motorcycle helmet
- The kit isn’t built-in so you’ll have to route the wires yourself, keep the speakers from rubbing against your ears, and deal with the bulky communicator unit on your helmet.
- Some Bluetooth headsets can be pretty pricey – add that to the price of your next helmet and it could be a false economy to take this route.
Any skeptic reading this is probably screaming at the screen “use earbuds!!” These can be a reasonable option, but they don’t replace all the features your Bluetooth helmet system offers.
Pros of using earbuds instead of a Bluetooth helmet
- You can use them in more instances than just riding your motorcycle, so they could be better value for you.
- Most wireless earbuds come with a charging case that will have two or three more charges in them, along with the 3-6 hours you’ll get on one charge.
- You’ll be able to use them to activate hands free voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant.
- High-quality – and high-priced – earbuds tend to feature active noise cancelling technology that can help cut out wind and traffic noise as you ride.
Cons of using earbuds instead of a motorcycle helmet Bluetooth rig
- Depending on your phone and earbuds, you may still need to reach for your phone to take some actions, negating the safety element of a more full-featured Bluetooth headset.
- Earbuds can be easy to lose, especially when you’re pulling off a good-fitting helmet from over your ears.
- You can’t easily connect with other riders for comms – you could make phone calls but that’s only one-to-one and talk time eats battery life.
- Earbuds in general will have a shorter battery life than a dedicated Bluetooth helmet system.
- Safety laws on wearing earphones when riding vary from state to state so you’ll need to do research on legalities.
Are Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets Worth It?
A bluetooth helmet can be a worthwhile investment if you need a new helmet, want communication and media features, and find the discount versus helmet + add-on unit attractive. It’s worth getting the best Bluetooth helmet you can afford so you can future-proof your investment – one with Mesh connectivity and Bluetooth 5.0 will be top-of-the-range for a few years yet.
Should I buy a helmet with Bluetooth?
You should buy a motorcycle helmet with Bluetooth if you need the ability to communicate with others when you’re riding, take and make phone calls, listen to music as you ride, and get GPS directions on your ride.
It’s best to buy a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet if you need a new helmet anyways. Otherwise you can add a Bluetooth kit to your current motorcycle helmet.
Are Bluetooth helmets illegal?
Your helmet Bluetooth is legal to use across the USA as of the time of writing, although motorcycle rules and laws about helmets can change so you should check state laws for your own safety. While built-in Bluetooth and adding kits to motorcycle helmets should be fine, there are states that ban using in-ear options, so again, check with your local law enforcement.
Can you listen to music with a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet?
An important feature of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets is to let you listen to music as you drive. It’s worth noting that Bluetooth helmets can still get loud and you may not be able to hear much music over 50-60 mph.
Do Bluetooth helmets work with Harley Davidson’s Boom! Box?
Harley Davidson’s Boom! Box system should still work with your motorcycle helmet’s Bluetooth system. Headsets made by Sena do work with the Harley Davidson technology, although you’ll need to add a Sena Freewire Bluetooth transmitter to your bike. Here’s a video about how to set up your motorcycle helmet communication with your Harley Boom! Box.