Industry insiders have made numerous projections and opinions about the trending slump of motorcycle sales that began in 2006. Some opinions blame a “greying” population of once-loyal buyers, while others point to a more safety-conscious generation less likely to assume the risk inherent in riding. Brands that have withstood wars and depressions, massive changes in society, and an onslaught of regulations suddenly are in jeopardy of failing according to many motorcycle opinion writers. Many industry professionals saw the Covid-19 pandemic as the potential last straw for many of the world’s great motorcycle manufacturers already struggling to draw buyers through the doors.
It’s true that new motorcycle sales are only about half of what they were 10 years ago, but new sales only capture part of the picture. Like automobiles, motorcycle owners are keeping bikes longer and resisting the urge to go and buy the newest bike off the showroom floor. Many people have found that purchasing a used bike is a cost-efficient way to get into riding. It might even be a surprise to some readers to know that powersport sales have actually increased this year, and for many companies, 2020 is turning out to be one of the best years in recent memory. It seems the pandemic that has forced us to physically distance ourselves, avoid public interactions, and wear protective equipment has encouraged many people to get into riding. One of the first things many riders look to upgrade on their “new” bike is the audio system.
Audio Options Now Available
Only a few years ago, it was very uncommon for any motorcycle smaller than a massive cruiser to have any type of audio available. Smaller street bikes simply lack the space, and most off road bikes and ATVs are simply too loud for audio to have been practical. All of that has changed with the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity. Suddenly, any rider, on any bike, can link up their phone to built-in speakers in their helmet and rock on down the road. Bluetooth also allows for wireless, hands-free calling, giving team riders a new dimension in communication while on a cruise.
There are many different ways riders can include audio options on their bike. The easiest and least expensive way is by using a helmet with built-in Bluetooth speakers.
The Best Built-In Audio Helmets
A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment any rider uses. Most states require helmets, but riders have the freedom to choose different styles according to their preferences. We selected some of the best audio helmets on the market to show the types of technology riders today have available. Always choose a helmet based on its safety certifications, not it’s cost or appearance. Be smart and protect your head when riding.
- ECE/DOT certified
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Hands-free calling, music, GPS
- Weighs 3.2lb
|Buy on Amazon.com $219.99|
Torq T14B Smart Helmet Quick Review
Torq is one of the largest motorcycle accessory makers in the world. The T14b is a mid-priced helmet that is both ECE and DOT-certified for impact protection. It features dual slide down visors, one of which is tinted. The built-in Blinc Bluetooth module allows for hands free calling, streaming music, and voice navigation GPS.
Users report the Bluetooth is easy to operate and works well. Buttons are conveniently located and can be operated even while wearing gloves. Calls are clear and easy to understand up to around 45 miles per hour. Music playback works well, but the tiny speakers lack bass response. Most helmets with built-in Bluetooth are only capable of communicating with helmets by the same manufacturer, including this one.
- Affordable Bluetooth helmet
- Great call quality
- Safety certified
- Wind noise can be excessive
- Music playback is hard to hear above 65 mph
- Flip-up, non-removable bubble face shield
- Blinc Bluetooth built-in
|Buy on Amazon.com|
Origine Pilota with Bluetooth Quick Review
This ¾ face helmet is retro-inspired and just screams of old Italian sports bikes, cafe racers, and Vespa scooters. The bubble-style screen is effective for keeping bugs out of your eyes, while the integrated Blinc Bluetooth allows hands-free calling, two-way communication (with other Blic-equipped helmets) and voice-command GPS.
This helmet meets the needs of riders that don’t like a full face helmet but want a little better protection than a brain bucket. It's stylish and affordable, but users state the wind noise becomes excessive for calls and music at speeds as low as 45 mph. To a degree, this is to be expected, as the openness of the helmet allows good airflow, which is a reason many riders pick ¾ helmets.
- Comfortable and good-looking helmet
- Blinc Bluetooth works great at lower speeds
- Wind noise is great at higher speeds
- Battery charging port is inconveniently located under padding
Sena SPH10H Half Helmet Add-On Quick Review
Riders that prefer the traditional “brain bucket” style of the half helmet can add Bluetooth functionality easily using the Sena SPH10H ear pads. The design is truly brilliant, allowing the ear pads to be easily swapped from one helmet to another while offering industry-leading sound quality.
The Sena SPH10H has a built-in boom mic and speakers integrated into ear pads that securely fasten to almost any half helmet. The ear pads allow hands-free calling, voice GPS, music streaming, and FM radio, which many Bluetooth-equipped helmets lack.
- Low-profile design
- Easy to install and use
- Wind noise makes phone calls difficult while riding
Best Speakers for Cruising: Boss Audio Motorcycle Bluetooth Speakers
- Bluetooth speakers for audio playback only
- Class-D 600 watt amplifier included
Boss Audio Motorcycle Bluetooth Speakers Quick Review
Helmet speakers aren’t for everyone. Most of the time, they simply don’t work well when riding at freeway speeds. If your bike is loud, or you are a regular freeway commuter, it might make more sense to invest in a set of Bluetooth speakers. These add-ons from Boss Audio are easily installed on the handle bars, frame, or any creative place riders find. The included 600 watt Class-D amplifier lets the little 3.5” speakers pump sound even at high speeds.
These speakers are a great add-on for street bikes and cafe racers that are short on space. Bigger cruisers may benefit from larger speakers to overcome the engine sound, but these little speakers will fit the bill for most riders. They also work great on ATVs, sand rails, and dune buggies. Check out our full list of best motorcycle speakers.
- Compact design that is easy to install
- Plenty of sound for most riders
- Some users had durability issues
Adding a Receiver
Big cruisers often have integrated stereos with speakers as large as 6”x9”s. But, fear not scooter riders and small fairing-equipped bikers! These days, there are a number of excellent options for compact marine-grade receivers. Marine grade units are the ideal units fora motorcycle to withstand the elements outdoors – moisture, UV, heat, etc. If you thought you couldn’t get functionality on your tiny fairing, think again.
Infinity INF-PRV250 Quick Review
If you’ve got the space on your bike, ATV, or scooter, adding a compact Bluetooth receiver might be the solution to getting great tunes. The Infinity INF-PRV250 is a marine-grade receiver that features an ultra compact design. It’s weatherproof and easy to install.
The advantage to using a receiver on a bike is obviously the extra power you can get, along with functionality more in line with what you expect from a car stereo. Many big cruisers can use off-the-shelf car stereos, but more compact bikes may require different solutions. Infinity built this stereo to provide simple, efficient, and easy to use connectivity to MP3 players, smart phones, and such while keeping the controls basic. It’s a no-frills experience, but hook up a set of 5” component speakers, and you are suddenly a rolling concert.
- Durable design is more than robust enough for motorcycle use
- Compact size allows easy custom installation
- Easy to use Bluetooth features
- No hands-free calling available
Maybe America’s love affair with motorcycles isn’t doomed the way many writers believe: instead, maybe it is just a shifting market that dealerships haven’t capitalized on yet. But there is no doubt that if you want to go out and cruise with friends, blast some tunes, and spend time together, teaming up for a motorcycle ride is an excellent way to do it. The Covid-19 pandemic may in fact alter the way we live our lives in the future, but maybe it will also introduce a new crop of riders to the thrills and freedom a motorcycle allows. Technology we are becoming familiar with in our homes and cars is now starting to make a splash in the motorcycle world, freeing riders to enjoy the road less traveled while staying in touch with loved ones, friends, and fellow riders.