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Review: BikerCom - Ultimate Motorcycle Communication Gear? #1

27
May
2009
  Posted at 02:23:13 PM
  File under  Bluetooth Gadgets Product Review
  Author: Mike Werner
  Location: Normandy, France

This is part 1 or 3 parts of the BikerCom Open link in a new window Product Review
Part #2 - Installing the equipment
Part #3 - Testing the equipment

Read the special articles on Bluetooth and motorcycles:
Wireless motorcycle communication gear, mostly using Bluetooth Open link in a new window, comes in two flavors; stand-alone and hub. Stand-alone Bluetooth gear is mounted onto your helmet, and possibly your pillion's helmet, and allows you to communicate with your pillion and a Bluetooth equipped mobile phone and maybe some other devices. You can also communicate with a GPS, as long as it's equipped with Bluetooth, and usually it means you need to pair your mobile phone with the GPS, not the helmet. In other words you're self-sufficient, but limited in functionality.

The hub communication gear is a central box, that's mounted on your motorcycle, and "sits" in the middle of your communication hub. The hub interfaces with a variety of gear, like phone, music player, and bike-to-bike walkie-talkies. With a hub you have a lot more functionality and possibilities. But hub systems are obviously more expensive and not that easy to take from bike to bike. But the quality is superior over stand-alone units, and you can use it for almost anything.

There are not that many hub manufacturers around. Here is a "very" detailed review (so detailed I had to split it into three parts) of the latest hub communication system on the market, OpenRoad's BikerCom Open link in a new window.

Open Road Solutions Open link in a new window is a Taiwan based company dedicated to developing a motorcycle specific communication hub equipment. Since it is one of the latest entries in this market, it has all the bells & whistles you'd want for your gear.

NOTE
: This is a very detailed review with many photos. Most photos are clickable (you'll see a magnifying glass at the bottom of a photo) to get a bigger version allowing you to study the detail. But it does mean that this page will load slowly, so be aware.

NOTE2
: Below in the article I refer to some of the photos shown. Each photo has a "Figure #" below it, and inside the photo there are often numbers used for explanations. When referring to a photo in the review, you will see this: (#X-Y). The X determines the Figure # (photo number), the Y the number found on the photo. In most case you can click on the (#X-Y) to have a small window open with that photo. This will save you many trips up the page.

NOTE3: There seems to be a problem with FireFox 3 running the photo window/zoom. After 2 or 3 times opening a photo, your screen will shift and you will no longer be able to click on anything. The only thing you can do is re-load the page. I'm working on it!


A first look at the devices

Usually the most exciting thing is the box the unit comes in. It usually tells you a lot. I'm a firm believer in BBSBBigger Boxes Sell Better. A marketing philosophy that says the bigger the box, the more the customers believes they have purchased something substantial.. Here's what it looks like:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom box
Open image in a new window

Figure #1 - Front of the box


This is the front, and here's the back:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom box
Open image in a new window

Figure #2 - Back of the box


Once we unwrap the box, this is the content:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom
Open image in a new window

Figure #3 - Content:


  1. The Hub unit (the core of BikerCom) that is mounted on your motorcycle

  2. Two headset units that are mounted onto your helmet

  3. Charger for the helmet units (#3-2)

  4. Velcro helmet & device attachments

  5. Two Helmet headset unit travel pouches/carry cases

  6. Push-To-Talk (PTT) cable and PTT button

  7. Power cord and fuse to hub (#1)

  8. Bike-to-Bike leads (K and L types)

  9. Audio leads (3.5 mm jacks)

  10. Nothing... I skipped a number

  11. Allen/Hex key


Click for bigger version of BikerCom Hub control unit
Open image in a new window

Figure #4 - Control Box


This is the main unit, the one that gets installed on your motorcycle. It's the hub part of your configuration. The unit has several buttons and LEDs:

  1. The cable and connector that goes to the power cable (#3-7)

  2. Button for enabling the rider's helmet headset connections

  3. Power on indicator (HHR means Helmet Headset Rider)

  4. Button for enabling the pillion's helmet headset connections

  5. Power on indicator (HHP means Helmet Headset Passenger)

  6. Power button for the whole unit

  7. Power on indicator

  8. Button to turn on Bluetooth enabled device connections

  9. Power on indicator

  10. Button to turn on Bluetooth mobile phone connection

  11. Power on indicator (MPR means Mobile Phone Rider)


When you turn the control box over, this is what you see:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom control hub
Open image in a new window

Figure #5 - Control Box Connectors


  1. The cable and connector that goes to the power cable (#3-7)

  2. Connects to the Push-to-Talk (PTT) button

  3. Connects to the Walkie-Talkie

  4. Connects to auxiliary connections without Bluetooth (eg radar detector or GPS)

  5. Connects to another auxiliary connections without Bluetooth (eg radar detector or GPS)

  6. Connects to a non-Bluetooth audio/music device (like a CD player)


Now, let's have a look at the helmet control unit:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom helmet unit
Open image in a new window

Figure #6 - Helmet Control Unit


This is part of the unit that gets attached to your helmet:

  1. The unit itself

  2. Fast release clasp from the unit holder (allows you to release it from your helmet)

  3. Multi Function Button

  4. Status indicator


On the side of the helmet control unit are some other parts:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom Helmet control unit
Open image in a new window

Figure #7 - Helmet Control Unit - Side View


  1. Volume UP button

  2. Charging port

  3. Volume DOWN


Here's the Helmet Control Unit on its own:

Click for bigger version of BikerCom Helmet Control Unit
Open image in a new window

Figure #8 - Helmet Control Unit on its own


This is the unit that you can release from the helmet. You can store it in the carrying case (#3-5)

Click for bigger version of BikerCom Noise Filter
Open image in a new window

Figure #9 - Noise Filter Unit


The noise filter is an optional extra, and can be used if a) there's too much electrical noise coming from your engine and/or b) to connect your walkie-talkie to an external antenna, allowing you to increase the broadcast range.

Depending on your walkie-talkie, it should be a good idea to use one. Walkie-talkies are notorious for picking up engine electrical noise.

  1. The Noise Filter Unit

  2. Connector to the PTT switch and to the Control Box PTT input (#5-2)

  3. Connector to the power cable

  4. Walkie-Talkie charging/power

  5. Connector to the control box power cable (#5-1)


That was a quick view of all the elements. Now comes the hard part, putting it all together:

Click here to continue reading part #2 - Installing the units





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