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Review: BikerCom - Ultimate Motorcycle Communication Gear? #2

  Posted at 03:49:00 PM
  File under  Bluetooth Gadgets Product Review
  Author: Mike Werner
  Location: Normandy, France

Part 2 of 3 of the BikerCom Open link in a new window product review.
Part #1 - Introduction and review of the equipment
Part #3 - Testing the Equipment

Read the special articles on Bluetooth and motorcycles:
NOTE: 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!

Installing the Helmet Unit
The BikerCom unit must be installed on your helmet. Obviously, helmet types differ, and your skills in putting them are probably better than mine. I have tried putting the unit on different helmets with varying results.

First, let's look closer to the attachment:

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Figure #10 - Helmet Attachment Tightening Screws

The helmet attachment unit (#6-2) can be loosened or tightened with the supplied Allen/Hex key. Best is to open it as wide as you can, since most helmets are thick.

In between the sides of the unit, is a thick piece of rubber:

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Figure #11 - Helmet Unit Rubber Piece

I figured out that it's best to remove the rubber (it's glued to the unit), giving it more space to slide into the helmet. It's probably meant for thinner helmets.

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Figure #12 - Helmet unit without the rubber

Here it is without the rubber. Notice the difference:

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Figure #13 - Helmet unit attached with rubber piece

and :

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Figure #14 - Helmet unit without rubber piece

You can see that it's attached much more snugger. That will hold in a 150 mph ride...Ride Smiley

First I installed the unit on my BMW System 4 Helmet, since that has been the one I installed all other review units, so it's a good reference point. The helmet is torn at all sides, but installing these communicators is an easy task. I just can't use the helmet for riding anymore. Maybe one day, BMW might just send me a new helmet that I can use for testing... hint..

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Figure #15 - BMW Helmet

The above photos (#13 and 14) are also from the BMW System 4 helmet. The fit is prefect and easy to manage. The side of the helmet can be detached completely to rig the thin loudspeaker leads.

Installing the Loudspeakers:

The Bikercom kit has several foam pieces that can be used to position the loudspeakers. It's very handy, since it's about the thickness of a loudspeaker and its Velcro fastener. One side is a glue (which can be easily removed), so you put your helmet on, slide the foam piece towards you ear, until you've reached a perfect position (you should really ensure that the loudspeakers are positioned perfectly alongside your ear for best results - believe me!). You take off your helmet, and the positioning foam is still in place. Now you know exactly where to place the loudspeaker's Velcro (if you've lost your positioning foam, use some sticky paper like a Post-it). Easy and no messing around. Other manufacturers should take note!

Note to Bikercom
. Most helmet insides are black, and the positioning foam is black as well. It would have been nice to have a lighter color...

Positioning the microphone

For the best possible result, you need to make sure the microphone reaches the center of your mouth, and is turned towards your mouth. BikerCom has a nice touch for this... they have a silver strip at the end of the microphone boom (just before the foam). It's the silver that should be turned towards your mouth. I have had several units where the microphone start moving around from the opening and closing, and apart from taking off the foam, I never knew if the microphone was turned towards my mouth. This little indicator shows you where it's supposed to be. Nice touch.

That's all you need to do.

BUT.... you need to be sure you're doing everything right. It may seem easy, but you want to make sure that all moving parts of the helmet (specially for modular ones) work. Here's why:

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Figure #16 - Roof Boxer Helmet installation

Here's the BikerCom installed on a Roof Boxer. Looks good, doesn't it?

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Figure #17 - Roof Boxer Helmet - Problem

As you can see, despite that the unit sits perfectly, the chin guard straps can not be closed. The only thing I could do was move the BikerCom unit more towards the back. It does work, but it's "just". The microphone boom reaches my mouth without any spare millimeters.

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Figure #18 - BMW Enduro Helmet

The easiest fit was on the BMW Enduro helmet. It took seconds. Too bad it's not exactly a helmet that would use a communication gear like this, unless it's to stay in touch with other enduro riders via walkie-talkie.

The worst helmet to fit the BikerCom on:

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Figure #19 - Schuberth C2 Helmet

The Schuberth C2 helmet has consistently given me problem to install communication gear. Some had more success, but always proved to be very difficult to install. You can see from the photo what the problem is.

With most helmets, you can either remove, or open the side cheeks. With the Schuberth, you can not! This means, you can not push the BikerCom far enough to hold firmly. In the above photo, I managed to tighten the screws enough for it to hold, but I would be very afraid at 100+ kph speeds. I do NOT recommend this!

BikerCom do have a solution:

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Figure #20 - Schuberth C2 Helmet and Velcro

BikerCom deliver several special heavy duty Velcro fasteners that you can stick onto your helmet (self adhesive) and the headset unit. It's not pretty, and I would not have much faith in high speeds, but it does work. It's a sort of last resort solution.

Dear Schuberth
. Understand that bikers have special needs, and some may want to install communication gear other that yours in their helmets. Why not make sure that they can do so. Your helmet is expensive enough....

Recommendation: Before you buy this (or any other Bluetooth communicator) check to see if you can insert an eating knife more than an inch into the side of your helmet. If you can't, you'll have a problem.

Installing The Control Box

The Control Box (#4) is the central hub of your communication system. It gets installed on your motorcycle. It is not battery powered, so you'll need to connect it to your motorcycle's electrical system, either to the battery, or to another part. You can actually wire it directly to your battery, since the unit has a Power-Off switch (#4-6).

You can connect the 12V lead (#4-1) with integrated fuse wire (#3-7) directly to your motorcycle's electrical wiring.

The Control Box can be placed anywhere. There are a lot of buttons and indicators, but in real life, once you've got the system going, you don't need it anymore. You could place the Control Box in your tank bag, top case, or even under your seat. But remember, you need to connect your devices to the box!

The Control Box IS NOT RAIN PROOF, so don't leave it exposed to the elements.

Recommendation: If you have multiple bikes, or don't want to leave your unit on the bike (despite the quick release), and you have a 12V accessory plug on your bike, you could wire the connector to a 12V plug, and use that.

Recommendation: If you've got a tank bag, put everything in there. It's easier and you can take it all with you in seconds.

Preparing The Headsets

For those of you who have either been following my Bluetooth device reviews, or know a thing or two about Bluetooth devices, you'll know that you need to "pair" Bluetooth devices. It's akin to introducing devices to each other, and usually involves you pressing a button, entering codes, releasing buttons, etc. Each manufacturer has its own way of doing things.

A nice surprise awaited me... the BikerCom headsets are paired to the control box out of the factory. Nothing needed to be done to introduce the headsets to the Control Box. Easy... just turn on.

Installing a GPS

To install a GPS you have several choices. You can connect using Bluetooth (if your GPS is equipped with it), or you can connect using a wire. There are some advantages and disadvantages for both. If you're running your GPS of its own battery, better use the wired connection since Bluetooth will eat away at your GPS battery. But on the down side, it's yet another wire...

You also have several choices in how you want to interact with the GPS. Do you want your pillion to hear the navigation instructions, or just yourself?
BikerCom Garmin connect

Figure #22 - Garmin Zumo connect to MPR

Pairing the GPS to the Control Box MPR:

Connecting your GPS to the Control box via the MPR (Mobile Phone Rider) means that your pillion will not hear the navigation instructions.
  1. Press the MPR button on the control box (#4-10)

  2. The MPR status light (#4-11) will blink red and blue, meaning it's ready in Bluetooth pairing mode

  3. Set your GPS into pairing mode, searching for Bluetooth devices (see the instructions of your GPS)

  4. Your GPS should now show "BC-MPR" on its display of Bluetooth devices (see above photo). Select it!

  5. Your GPS will prompt you for a passcode. Enter 0000

  6. You are now connected, and the Control Box and GPS will now have memorized that they "know" each other. The MPR light will now display a blue color.

BikerCom Garmin connect

Figure #23 - Garmin Zumo connect to "Other"

If you want your pillion to hear the GPS instructions, use the pairing to the "Other" port. The way of pairing it is as above, the only difference is that at instruction #4 above you'll see "BC-OTHER" (see above photo).

In my case, I paired the BikerCom MPR, and later Other, to my Garmin Zumo 500.

BikerCom Garmin Connect

Figure #23 - Garmin Zumo connections to BikerCom

If you pair both, you have the choice which one you want to connect.

Installing a Mobile Phone

BikerCom to iPhone connection

Figure #24 - BikerCom pairing with the iPhone

You can install a mobile phone on your BikerCom. You can connect it directly using Bluetooth, or if you have it, connect it via your GPS. The advantage of going via the GPS is that you have more ports available for other gadgets, and most motorcycle GPSs have special functions for mobile phones, like storing your address book, and displaying who is calling you.

BikerCom will answer your phone automatically, so you don't have to worry about answering...

Recommendation: If you have a Garmin Zumo or TomTom Rider, I strongly recommend that you connect your mobile phone to the GPS, and the GPS to the BikerCom.

Continue reading Part #3 of the BikerCom Review - Initial Tests

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