Review: HelloBiker - Bluetooth Intercom
Posted at 06:07:34 PM
File under Bluetooth Gadgets
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
SpyBall (a Cobra Automotive Technologies company) produces a Bluetooth intercom and mobile telephone headset for motorcycles called Hello-Biker. The unit is aimed squarely at motorcycle riders, and consists of a control unit, headset(s), microphone(s) and a charger.
The unit functions as a headset for a Bluetooth mobile telephone and as intercom with your pillion rider. For the intercom function, the pillion rider must be equipped with the same Hello-Biker unit.
The set arrived in the post, and this is what it looks like (partially unpacked):
#1 Two Hello-Biker control units
#2 Battery charger
#3 Two helmet fixation units per unit (so four in total)
#4 Two microphones
#5 Slim headset with two loudspeakers
#6 Box containing #4 and #5
There are two helmet fixation units (#3), allowing you to use two different helmets. There are also two microphones, one to be used with an integral helmet, the other for flip-up or jet. Nice to see that two microphones are supplied, and not optional charges.
The helmet fixation unit is a thin plastic contraption, that you glue on your helmet.
There are three pre-glued points that are stuck on the rear of your helmet.
You'll also find two plastic keys used to remove the Hello-Biker control units from the helmet.
You stick the key in, which frees the unit.
To place the communicator, you insert the unit in the holes, and twist into place.
They seem to hold very well and I had no fear of losing them.
You really need the key to remove the unit from the helmet.
The Hello-Biker control unit is quite large and very simple. At the bottom there's the loudspeakers and microphone interface #1, and the power plug (#2) which goes to the power charger.
There's one button (#3), which does it all (on/off, pairing, volume) and one LED indicator (#4).
When charging the unit, there's no indicator on the control unit. The charing indicator is to be found on the charger itself. When it's green, your control unit is ready.
Loudspeakers and Microphones
The Hello-Biker comes supplied with a headset consisting of two loudspeakers.
Additionally, small pads with on one side Velcro, the other side glue, are supplied. The Velcro is industrial strength.
At the termination side of the loudspeakers are two connectors. One, the biggest, is inserted in the Hello-Biker control unit (see above photo). The other is to hook up the microphone.
There are two microphones supplied. One (#1) is used for flip-up modular or jet helmets, the other (#2) is to be used for integral helmets.
This is the first time I've seen such a setup, and it makes a lot of sense, since having a boom microphone in an integral helmet causes problems putting it on. Good idea!
There are several Velcro/Sticky pads available to fit the microphone. Once fitted, you insert the microphone lead in the main electronics lead (mentioned above).
Finally, this is what the whole package looks like (without a helmet).
All devices fit nicely in each other, and I had no problems connecting things up.
It looks like the connectors are very well watertight.
Fixing the unit
Fixing the Hello-Biker on the helmet was very easy. Take off the paper that protects the glue, place it at the rear of your helmet, hold a few seconds, and it's placed! The glue holds very well.
All other Bluetooth communicators tested are place to the side of the helmet. The Hello-Biker is different and is placed at the rear. On one side, it makes a lot of sense; it's not going to catch any wind turbulence, so it will not cause any drag.
It's also nicely sheltered from the elements.
On the other side, you may need to press the button on the rear (not a frequent occurrence), and with gloves, the last thing you want to do is fool around at the back of the helmet.
Luckily, once installed, paired and volume sorted out, there no real need to use the button for the intercom.
On a personal note, I find the control unit kind-of big. It's very visible on the rear of the helmet.
I fixed the unit on my GPA modular helmet (French Police model). I will not bother you with fixing the headsets and microphone, since it's very straightforward. There's no need to lift any foam, or open up your helmet. Specially if you're going to be moving the unit to another unit frequently, no need to hide away the cables.
It fits snugly, and fast.
Pairing a Phone
For Bluetooth devices to work with each other, you need to pair them (like introducing them to each other).
Pairing one of the units to my HP iPaq 6915 Bluetooth phone was easy.
Hold the unit's button until you hear two beeps through the loudspeakers. It's ready to pair now. Get your mobile phone in discovery mode, and press the button on the Hello-Biker again until you hear another beep.
After a few seconds your mobile phone will "see" the Hello-Biker.
Select it, and enter the password (in Hello-Biker's setup, it's 1234). Done.
You're ready to receive and make calls.
Pairing the Intercom
To pair two Hello-Biker units, on both units, press the button until you hear two beeps and let go. The LED will be flashing. On the Hello-Biker that will be used by the rider, press the function key for a short time. The unit scans until it finds another Hello-Biker and pairs with it.
That's it. You're ready.
First off on the test program was the phone usage. I went of on the BMW motorcycle and after 10 minutes, my wife rang me on the mobile. Due to a problem with the unit, it did not beep, but since my phone vibrates, I knew it was ringing.. Normally, most mobile phones that have a handsfree interface, can be set to automatically answer. If not, you can press the rear button to answer. If you don't want to answer, press the button twice.
My phone did not answer automatically after a few rings, so I had to press the button. Once picked up, I could hear the conversation crystal clearly. Having two loudspeakers is very good for the sound quality.
Riding at 90 kph, the sound level was very acceptable. On the other side, my wife did hear noise coming from the motorcycle, but in all fairness, the GPA helmet is old, and leaking air and noise everywhere.
Once I hit the autoroute at 130 kph, the sound was reasonable, but not enough. I had the volume turned to maximum. At higher speeds (I didn't do it, honestly Office), it's very difficult to hear. Again, the GPA is not the best sound proofed helmet, specially at its age. But still....
The other Hello-Biker was installed on my wife's BMW Evo 4 helmet, and off we went. Sound was great on the country roads. There was still some residual sounds coming from my helmet, but let's blame my helmet, since the sound coming from my wife's BMW helmet was fine.
The sound is crystal clear. Once we hit the autoroute, the same noise level interfered at higher speeds. At 130 kph, we could hear each other, but at times we had to repeat words. It's clear that the sound is not high enough.
The unit I was given has a few problem. Powering down, at times gave problems, and I had to remove the audio leads. But most important, I could not get the intercom AND phone working together. Once a phone call came in, the intercom was not re-established after the call. I had to power down, and then power up again.
Also, since the ringing sound did not get to my headset, I had to rely on the vibrator. The non-availability of the auto-answer is also a pain, since I don't really want to be fumbling around at the back of my helmet.
Since the units were demo units, it could have been due to that.
Spyball are one of the few who have openly stated that there are problems with Bluetooth GPSs. The TomTom Rider gives the least problems between spoken instructions and the intercom. But the Garmin Zumo gives problems when using both. At this moment you need to select GPS or intercom.
It's not a real Hello-Biker problem, since many others have reported these problems. Many intercoms have been showing problems between intercom and GPS instruction. Since neither Garmin or TomTom have seen it fit to supply me with a test unit, I can not say how serious the problem is. Maybe TomTom Rider 2 works better.
Bluetooth mobile phones are at odds, and often things will work with one phone but not with another. With my phone (used in other tests), I had problems.
It's an interesting unit. The fact that it's placed at the back has advantages. You don't feel anything from wind drag (the unit weights 80 grams). As for the phone sound, it doesn't bother me that much, since you're not expected to ride and talk. You know you're getting a call, you can answer it while pulling over. Once safely parked, continue your conversation. We bikers have problems with car drivers talking on mobile phone, so we shouldn't be doing it ourselves. Pull over and talk.
According to SpyBall, you've got 10 to 12 hours talk time, 20 hours standby time in intercom mode and 100 hours standby time in phone mode.
As for the sound level on the intercom, this is slightly more serious. You want to be able to hear your pillion at all possible speeds. I don't know if the volume should adapt itself to outside noise levels (like some other intercoms do), but that would be a great add-on. Or, have a "turbo" volume, which increases the volume dramatically.
With the limited sound level, it's impossible to ride with earplugs.
Click here to access the Hello-Biker website.
NOTE: Yamaha helmets (BYE) are incorporating the Hello-Biker as the Blue-Voice helmets.