While there is no doubt that one of the many advantages of riding a motorcycle is being out on the open road by yourself, there are times when you may want to be able to talk to other riders, your passenger or even listen to your favorite tunes. A good motorcycle headset provides just those options, providing high quality, clear and static free sound. Some motorcycle headsets even offer Bluetooth, but this is not necessary to get high quality sound and reception.
There are different types that use a variety of features from standard tubes through to batteries and electronic components that can be used to amplify and enhance sound. The older style and less expensive types of headsets typically use a system that doesn’t require batteries or power, meaning you have fewer problems on the road. Batteries don’t go dead, electronics don’t fail and the tube system basically works by transmitting sound to a microphone positioned by your mouth and an earpiece. While you can increase the volume on the earpiece there is no way to amplify beyond that maximum level. In some cases road noise, wind and even the helmet itself may muffle the sound or make listening a challenge.
A more advanced option is a wired headset that allows the passenger on the bike as well as the rider to be connected to a central unit on the bike through wires. These wires need to be connected and disconnected as you dismount or get on the bike, however the sound is much clearer and can be boosted or amplified to suit each person. They can also be set up to interact with other bikers.
The cables run down your arm from the earpiece and microphone and plug into the respective jack on the bike. In addition a sending unit attaches to the belt, much like a cell phone case. These can be used with open faced or closed in helmets, and should have noise canceling technology to add to the clarity of sound.
Wireless options are offered, allowing freedom from any type of wires or connectors on the bike. They come in a wide variety of prices and with different types of radio technology to allow for various types of usage. For most riders a short distance radio set is all that is needed to stay in touch with the passenger and other bikers in the group. For those wanting to be able to talk over much longer distances something like the General Mobile Radio Service of GMRS, which works very similar to a walkie-talkie or push to talk system is the best option. There are still limitations as to how far you can be apart for a clear signal, but a few miles on relatively level types of roads should not be a problem.
It is important to try out the various earpieces and systems to see how comfortable they are for you to wear. If you are using them only for occasional rides in beautiful weather you may be able to get by with a less expensive one, however for heavy use or use in all types of weather get a fully waterproof model. Some have two earpieces while others have only one and some systems may also have voice activation, which shuts them off when no one is talking.
Another advantage to some of the motorcycle headsets is that they come equipped with a jack or auxiliary input for an MP3 player, an iPod or even satellite radio. Depending on how much you ride as well as what your budget is these may also be great options to add music through your headset for both you and your passenger.