Is a hands-free helmet-mounted communication device a useful or practical upgrade? To find out we attached the Scala Rider to a Scorpion EXO-400 helmet.
Communication is such a key factor of our lives today. We have cell phones within reach 24 hours a day, and we can instant message each other or access our email at a moment's notice with a Blackberry. So what about while we are riding?
Some may say talking takes away from the freedom that comes with being on a motorcycle, and others are skeptical about the safety of talking while riding. How about we ponder the freedom you get by riding your motorcycle without worrying about missing that important call? Or what about not having to find a safe spot to pull off the road every time you need to make a call to get directions?
The Scala Rider
is a Bluetooth communications unit that links wirelessly to a cell phone. It consists of a helmet-mounted receiver and rechargeable battery, a microphone and a speaker.
I attached the unit onto my Scorpion EXO-400 Helmet with very little trouble. The clamp secured the main unit to my helmet well, without damaging it in any way. The microphone easily bends into position and the placement was
Attaching the main portion of the Scala Rider to the helmet was a cinch, with the clamp fastening down without damage to the helmet. The flexible microphone is easy to bend into the right position.
achieved without difficulty, provided you pay attention when first attaching the main unit.
The installation of the speaker into the helmet was a little more difficult, as this was not covered in the instructions. With some common sense on my side, however, everything came together relatively easy once I began installing the unit. My helmet has an empty spot in the foam where my ear fits in, so logically I placed it in there. The speaker comes with the rough side of Velcro on the back, and it took some work to find a spot where the Velcro would stick, but eventually I managed to get the speaker securely attached in a well-placed area.
Linking the phone and the Scala Rider together is a breeze once the unit is in place. I started out with an LG C1500 phone, which does not have a voice dialing feature but would answer a call with the touch of a button. We tried the second unit out on a Motorola V551 phone, which features voice dialing, and we were able to get it to recognize a name about 25% of the time.
A tap of the button on the Scala controller either initiates a call or answers an incoming call. Once connected to a call I was able to hear the other person clearly, and they claim to have heard me just fine. Up/down buttons on the unit sets
Finding a place to fit the ear speaker was easy on the Scorpion, but proved more problematic on helmets that did not have a clearly defined area for the ear.
the loudness of the incoming call, and the volume is automatically adjusted for road noise, so I never had to struggle to hear the other person even when speeds picked up.
With the hands-free wireless features, I never found myself distracted from the road during the limited amount of time I spent on the phone while riding. The built-in rechargeable battery has a claimed 4-7 hours of talk time, and I could go nearly a week without adding fresh juice to the lithium-ion battery.
After getting the first unit set up and working, it was time to connect the second, so I quickly set out to hook up the Scala Rider onto my wife's HJC CS-12 Look Helmet. This task was complicated by the fact that the padding is glued into the HJC helmet instead of snapped in like my Scorpion, so I had to peel away part of the padding from the helmet to allow the unit to slip into place. The speaker placement was a little problematic because it was far less clear as to where the ear was placed on this particular helmet. The foam didn't have a clear spot for the ear placement, so I had to attach the speaker to a general area. This proved to be annoying as the speaker rubbed on the ear slightly. The Scala Rider setup was fraught with similar problems when attaching to an Icon Mainframe Hooligan Helmet.
The most glaring flaw of the Scala rider design is the lack of direct unit-to-unit communication. Seeing as how the most practical application of the design would be to keep in contact with a rider partner or group, it was a hassle to have to dial a call out.
While riding tandem, my wife and I immediately noticed a few flaws that jumped right out at us. First was the missing feature of direct communicating from unit to unit, so we had to call each other's cell phones to be able to talk while riding. In contrast, Motorola's $179 universal Bluetooth helmet kit can be used from pilot to passenger without the need of a phone.
In addition, we were bothered by some kind of interference between the two units. If we kept our distance, say on two separate bikes, things seemed to be okay and we could hear each other. When riding tandem, however, communications were frequently interrupted. Also, on more than one occasion the head unit would disconnect from my cell phone altogether. In those extreme instances, my phone would be connected to the call but the sound was not making it to or from the headpiece.
Today's technological world relies so much on communication, and the Scala Rider allows you to be on the open road without missing that important call. Its easy use (as long as you know which button does what) and has clear sound,
Overall the Scala Rider is a great idea, but it could benefit from some more refinement. For communication between riders in a large group, a radio-based system would be a better fit.
which makes it a great choice with just a few features missing.
If you ride with other people and want to communicate with them, I don't believe this is the ideal device for you. The hassle of making a phone call stops many potential conversations before they start. For group rides, a radio-based system makes more sense.
Instead, the Scala Rider makes more sense for a person who rides alone and simply wants to make and receive calls. We hope Cardo Systems' next model of the Scala Rider will include a feature to better converse with other riders or passengers, and preferably without making a phone call.
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