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Bluetooth helps motorcyclists connect to their devices and other riders – but how far does that really stretch?
The original Bluetooth 1.0 only worked across 10 meters (1), which is only a little more than cat-swinging distances. Nowadays, you can connect with your passenger, communicate at fairly long distances with a riding buddy, and even chat across a whole group ride.
Whether you’ve got an integrated Bluetooth helmet or you’ve added Bluetooth to your lid yourself, you’ll know that Bluetooth range can make or break the usefulness of your kit. It’s not going to affect listening to your own music or taking a call from home, but if you want to chat with your pack, you need range.
Range isn’t the only thing to consider; you want to make sure the people you ride with can all connect. At the lower end of the price scale, you’ll find Bluetooth helmets and headsets are locked to one brand, while higher-spec Bluetooth will connect to any brand. You’ll also find that cheaper units tend to overpromise and underdeliver in the range department.
Want to understand the range of your Bluetooth helmet better? We’ve got all the information you need, including:
- The factors that affect your helmet’s Bluetooth range
- Which helmets and headsets have the best Bluetooth range
- When range specifications don’t measure up in reality
- How to understand Bluetooth range in real terms
And we’ll finish up with some of your burning Bluetooth questions.
What Affects a Bluetooth Helmet’s Range
It’s worth understanding how your helmet’s tech works so you can troubleshoot issues when you’re on the road. Can’t connect? Losing your riding buddy? You’re not going to have the user manual on hand so here’s what you need to know to understand why things go wrong.
How Does Bluetooth Work?
Bluetooth is a system that sends information – 1s and 0s – between devices across specific wave frequencies.
Bluetooth signal is about 1,000 times weaker (2) than the signal your phone uses, though. It’s designed to connect devices directly to each other, rather than via cell towers.
Over the years, advances in Bluetooth have brought improvements in data transfer speed, reductions in power consumption, and extensions in the range it can function over. On the market nowadays, you’ll find devices working off different Bluetooth versions, like 3.1, 4.2, and 5.0. The higher the number, the more recent the version.
Compared to 4.2, Bluetooth 5.0 can:
- Transmit eight time more data
- Work at double the speed
- Connect over four times the range
Bluetooth devices need to make tradeoffs – one of the common ones being between signal strength and battery life. Some of the longer-range devices require bigger batteries, or simply offer less battery life than shorter-range devices.
The sensitivity of the receiving device’s hardware will also be a factor for range – the more sensitive it’s tuned the weaker – or more distant – the signals that it can hear.
At the highest power and tuned all the way up, you can expect theoretical Bluetooth ranges of:
|Bluetooth 3.0||Bluetooth 4.2||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Normal range||200 ft / 60-70 meters||200 ft / 60-70 meters||1,300 ft / 400 meters|
|Maximum range||300 ft / 90-100 meters||300 ft / 90-100 meters||3,200 ft / 1,000 meters|
Many Bluetooth motorcycle kits today can also support Mesh networking protocols in addition to Bluetooth. In a Mesh network, your helmet acts like a node in a network to let the rider behind you piggyback through your headset and communicate with the one in front of you, extending the range you can intercom across.
Along with the tech, where you’re using your motorcycle helmet Bluetooth will also affect how far your chat can travel.
If you’ve ever tried to make a phone call from an underground parking lot, you’ll know concrete walls can really cramp that connection. Since Bluetooth also uses radio waves to communicate, the same concept applies.
Even when you’re out on a drive, issues like (3):
- Hilly terrain
- Rock formations
- Electricity pylons
Can all get in the way of your signal. Even rain and humidity can affect the range of your Bluetooth headset since they can scatter the radio signals.
Other radio signals can also screw around with your Bluetooth comms getting through. If a truck is on the highway using their radio or you’re close to a cell tower, you could see your range reduced temporarily.
Because you’ll rarely be in absolutely perfect communicating conditions, you can expect your Bluetooth range to be lower that the numbers we quoted up top. The more recent the tech, the better the range should be.
What Bluetooth Helmet Has the Best Range?
Sena Stryker Range
The range of the Sena Stryker is advertised as up to 1.2 miles or around 2km. However, in practical terms, you’ll be able to communicate with someone who’s around half a mile to three-quarters of a mile away.
The Bluetooth you get in the Sena Stryker – our pick for the best Bluetooth helmet on the market – is the same as the Sena 50S. After using the older Sena 30K (which boasts a similar range) for two years, one motorcyclist said that their hands-on experience of the range was about half a mile to three-quarters of mile – basically as long as he could still spot the other rider in the distance.
He also said that going around corners in hilly or mountainous terrain would knock out the comms. However, Sena’s systems do auto-reconnect so that’s not a huge issue (4).
Another rider did a proper test to measure the range of the 30K and got a range of 0.6 km or 0.37 miles with a clear line of sight in windy, damp conditions (5). Even Mesh communications still only work when riders are within line of sight, according to a group of five riders (6).
Make no mistake, for all the functionality and price point, we still reckon the Sena Stryker is the best Bluetooth integrated helmet.
Sena Savage Range
The advertised range of the Sena Savage open-face helmet is 1 mile or 1,600 meters. In reality, you can expect to get about 400 meters or around 0.2 miles before comms cut out, according to the same tester as the 30K/Momentum Evo quoted earlier (5).
We should again point out that the testing was actually done using a Sena 10S, which is the same hardware that you’ll find in the Sena Savage. That hardware doesn’t support Mesh intercom so these numbers are the best you’ll get with this Bluetooth helmet.
The Sena Savage was discontinued in 2022, but if you’d like to pick one up they are still selling on eBay – both new and used.
Torc T15B Bluetooth Integrated Mako Full Face Helmet Range
The Torc T14B range is much lower, at around 30 to 50 feet or 9 to 15 meters. This is enough for you to communicate with your passenger or someone riding right next to you, but not much else.
The reduced range in the motorcycle Bluetooth has a lot to do with it being Bluetooth 3.0. It’s an entry-level Bluetooth helmet which is probably more suited to listening to music or making phone calls, although a few reviews point out that you won’t hear much over 40 mph (7).
Fodsports M1S Range
The range on the Fodsports M1S doesn’t live up to the hype. The details from the manufacturer put the range at 2,000 meters in ideal conditions, but then further down the page backtrack that claim down to 500m (11).
Reviews from buyers pull that number down even further, though. One buyer said, “Headset connection range is great to about 200 yards [180 meters] then it gets a little hard to hear” while another commented, “we ran the intercom at 300-400 yards for 6 hours no loss, no disconnect” (8). That’s around 350 meters of effective range.
These numbers aren’t unexpected for Bluetooth headset ranges, as we’ve seen, but it’s probably the most dramatic difference from what the box says.
The Fodsport is by no means awful:
- It’s the best priced Bluetooth 5.0 headset
- You get two mics in the box – boom and wired – so it’s super versatile
- Actual users say it’s got a great battery life, with 50% of the juice left after a seven hour ride (8)
So don’t scratch it from your shortlist unless range is an absolute deal-breaker.
Sena 50S Range
The Sena 50S shines when it comes to real-world tested range. While it isn’t available pre-integrated into any motorcycle helmet, you can install it in your own helmet. This headset uses Mesh technology in addition to Bluetooth, extending its range and number of participants greatly.
The helmet-to-helmet range of the 50S is advertised as 1.2 miles or 1,900 meters. For Mesh, Sena claims to work over 1 mile or 1,600 meters between riders connected on the same Mesh network (12).
One motorcycling group in the UK did some testing and found that on a long, straight road, the Sena 50S actually had a Bluetooth intercom range of 1,230 meters and a Mesh range of 1,030 meters. Testing the Mesh range between riders, they found a range of 960 meters between riders with three riders spaced out down a road (9).
Another rider did a similar review and found the Mesh connection between 50S headsets started to drop out around 400 meters. By 800 meters, it was disconnected (10). While that is short of what’s advertised for the 50S, it’s better than the competition.
Overall, it’s one of the more expensive Sena Bluetooth motorcycle helmet kits, but for the Mesh technology, universal Bluetooth connectivity, and overall ease of use, it might still be worth the investment.
How Far is 1,000 Meters?
Most Americans don’t work in meters, yet Bluetooth manufacturers seem stuck on giving their motorcycle headset ranges using it.
To put it into perspective:
- A blue whale is 25 meters
- An Olympic swimming pool is 50 meters
- An NFL field is 109.7 meters
- A running track is 400 meters
- The Grand Canyon is 1,829 meters deep
- Central Park in New York City is 4,000 meters long
If you were on a flat plain looking out at the horizon in perfect atmospheric conditions, you could see around 5,000 meters ahead of you. Putting it like that, the 1,200 meter range you get with the longest tested range, would mean the biker in front of you would be pretty much a dot on the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Bluetooth helmet is best?
The best Bluetooth motorcycle helmet is the Sena Stryker. As well as having a very respectable ~600 meter Bluetooth range in real conditions, it works with Mesh technology and features Harman Kardon audio.
What Bluetooth helmet has the best range?
The Bluetooth helmet with the best range is the Sena Stryker. The best Bluetooth headset for range is the Sena 50S which has a tested range of up to 1,230 meters before it cuts out. You can add this Bluetooth headset to any motorcycle helmet.
Can I extend my Bluetooth helmet range?
To extend the range of your Bluetooth helmet, you can upgrade the kit to one with Bluetooth 5.0, use a Mesh network, and drive in optimal conditions. It will also help for the person or people you’re communicating with to have Bluetooth 5.0 so their helmet can receive your signal from a far distance as well.