I’ve been hearing voices lately. They tell me all sorts of useful information, like where to go and how to get there. Don’t worry, it all ends right when I take off my motorcycle helmet. That’s because it’s connected via Bluetooth, and I love that I can keep my smartphone in my pocket while driving and have all my directions delivered right to my ears.
It’s the best upgrade I’ve ever made to my driving experience. You should forget about mounting your smartphone on your handlebars and upgrade too. Your mind will thank you.
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Eyes forward, ears up
Ever since I read about smartphone cameras being jarred apart by vibration when mounted on the motorcycle handlebars, I’ve been afraid of damaging mine. I also generally don’t like looking at a screen for navigation directions while driving. People can do a lot of stupid things behind the wheel of a car in one second.
Call it defensive riding or whatever you want, I like my eyes to be on the road at all times, especially when I’m on a motorcycle. There’s an unwritten law of the universe that says the smaller the vehicle you drive, the less likely other drivers are to notice you (or scoff at you occupying part of the road). That’s bad enough for a small car. Multiply that multiple times if you’re on a motorcycle.
I’d rather have all my directions fed through a bluetooth headset from Apple Maps or Google Maps on my phone and delivered right to my ear without having to take my eyes off the road. It’s safer and makes driving a lot less stressful.
Yes, you can just use wireless earbuds, but I’ll make you one better: the Cardo Freecom 2X. It’s my favorite Bluetooth headset. The controls – a big, chunky scroll wheel – are easier to use with motorcycle gloves than the touch controls on most wireless earbuds, and the 40mm JBL speakers deliver pretty great sound. This is helpful for clearer directions and for listening to music and making phone calls (though I rarely do the latter two when driving).
At freeway speeds, the JBLs are loud enough to clearly hear wind noise, although you won’t exactly deafen yourself with excess volume. You can hear music well enough to hear it, but it’s not loud enough for a true blue headbanger.
The Freecom 2X can be used alone or connected to another Freecom device if you like riding with a partner, and its half-mile range means you can chat worry-free. If you ride in larger groups, you can upgrade to the Freecom 4X ($216). It’s the same device, but you can connect up to four headsets over a 0.75-mile range.
The finer details
The Cardo Connect app, which pairs your smartphone with the headset, works seamlessly and I’ve had no issues using it on my iPhone. The Freecom 2X charges via a USB-C port, which is a nice modern touch. No more Micro USB!
It comes with hardware to mount it on both a closed and open helmet. For closed helmets, stick a self-adhesive microphone (to record your voice) on the inside of the chin bar. On open face helmets there is a flexible stem that mounts near the ear and hangs in front of the mouth. Routing the cables and speakers under the helmet padding requires a bit of DIY, but it’s nothing that a little determination can’t solve, even if the instructions aren’t great.
Cardo offers you options to mount the headset on the side of the helmet yourself. There is a clip if you are using a thin sided helmet and an adhesive mount if your helmet is too thick for the clip. I’ve used the adhesive clip to attach the Freecom 2X to my Shoei RF-1200 helmet with the face closed, and it’s held up through the hot East Coast summers and cold late-year rains with no sign of weakening and going to pop off .
If you use GPS apps while driving, who doesn’t these days? — consider wiring your favorite helmet (or helmets) to a Bluetooth headset like this one. The phone calls and the ability to listen to Spotify while driving are perks, but the real sweetness is keeping yourself safe enough for another day of driving.
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