Few tech products have ever changed motorcycling as much as the Bluetooth communicator. In addition to connecting riders to each other, Bluetooth devices brought the power of the smartphone inside the helmet, which puts a whole world of tools at the rider’s disposal.
Modern Bluetooth comm units allow riders to talk to each other, hear directions for navigation, listen to music, use voice assistants, or even record rides. (Not that you shouldn’t keep a working knowledge of old-school hand signals, too!)
Bluetooth tech advances quickly. Nowhere is that more evident than the absence of Sena from our list of best picks for 2020. Sena has been a staple of the motorcycle comms market for a long time, and they’re still a solid choice. In our testing, we found that other players in the space have simply outpaced Sena’s offerings for now.
The selection process
RevZilla’s gear experts handle all the latest Bluetooth tech as soon as it comes out. Zillans ride countless miles with them, too, and our customer service department fields calls about all aspects of Bluetooth: fitment, pairing, controls, feature sets, range, and all the rest. All these data points lead us to these standout products for three classes of riders. So whether you’re an average rider, an early-adopter technophile, or simply the kind of rider who wants the best of the best, there’s an option for you in our 2020 Gear Guide.
|Cardo Freecom Series||Best for most||$125 - $225||
|UCLEAR Motion Infinity||Most innovative||$275||
|Cardo PackTalk Series||Best overall||$289||
The upside to frequent innovation is that it’s easier than ever to find helmet-mounted comms that fit your needs. The downside? It’s just as easy to get overwhelmed by all the options and features. Don’t stress it. We’ve rounded up our top Bluetooth communicator picks for 2020, arranged by how they’d be used.
Best for the average rider: Cardo Freecom + Series (1+, 2+, & 4+)
For 2020, we’re recommending Cardo’s Freecom + units for the average motorcyclist. Most folks just need to get some directions, listen to music, and talk to another rider or two. They want a communicator that’s easy to use and pair without breaking the bank. The Freecom + units provide exactly that, so congratulations to Cardo for earning our choice for most riders. Nothing fancy, and no compromises where it counts.
Cardo played it smart by creating three different units within the Freecom + line that get more features as they get more expensive. Each Freecom’s name tells you how many other riders can link up to it in total. Need to talk to your pillion or just get audio via Bluetooth? Get a Freecom 1+. Run a Freecom 2+ for two, and Freecom 4+ for four. (There is no 3+.) All the Freecom + devices use a simple button layout, with the addition of a slim jog wheel for the 4+. These units keep a low profile when mounted on a helmet.
There is a catch with the Freecom 1+, though. It can function as an intercom to talk to a passenger with another Freecom communicator, but its range is too limited to connect to other riders on other bikes. You can still stream music and hear turn-by-turn directions from your app of choice, so this is really for connecting to your phone or talking to your passenger via the basic boom mic. As the cheapest Freecom, the price reflects its limitations. If you want better sound quality, especially for listening to music, take a look at the JBL speaker upgrade, although you won’t really need it for turn-by-turn directions or chatter with your passenger.
Move up to the Freecom 2+ if you commonly ride with one riding buddy. The Freecom 2+ adds communication between two riders on two different bikes, out to 500 meters. The Freecom 2+ also gets a wired mic option (along with the basic boom mic option). The JBL speaker upgrade is also available for the 2+.
Frequently out riding with your three amigos? You’ll want the the last unit in the series, the Freecom 4+. It can pair with up to three other devices over 0.75 miles. Additional features include “natural voice” technology for smartphone voice commands, a jog dial, and upgraded JBL speakers included as standard. All three Freecom units are available as single units or in dual packs. The dual packs save you a few bucks per unit.
Nitpicks: Only the Freecom 4+ comes with Cardo’s upgraded JBL speakers. You’ll have to pay more for the JBLs if you want better sound quality from the 1+ and 2+.
UCLEAR walks away with our innovator choice for 2020. Their new Motion Infinity communicator is our top pick for the rider who wants the most cutting-edge technology on the market. UCLEAR is the first major comms manufacturer to utilize Bluetooth 5.0, the highest quality Bluetooth connection currently available.
On top of that, the Motion Infinity also features Usafe, Uclear’s proprietary emergency alert system. If Usafe detects a crash, it sends an SOS to emergency contacts and the intercoms of other riders you’re connected with. The message details the crash location and your medical history, as well as the nearest hospitals. The message is sent over a cellular signal, so don’t expect the system to work in place of a satellite-based safety system like SPOT. It’s still a huge leap forward in crash alert technology.
Other innovative tech on the Motion Infinity includes its gesture controls, new for the Bluetooth comms world. A sensor in the unit can interpret movements of your left hand to adjust volume, answer calls, and more, all without touching a button. If you’ve ever tried poking at your communicator’s buttons at speed, while wearing bulky gloves, you’ll understand how nice this could be.
The last big feature for UCLEAR is DynaMesh, a pairing system that supports an unlimited number of riders with Motion Infinity units. That’s right: unlimited riders. If you’re new to mesh connectivity, it’s the new gold standard in Bluetooth communications. It allows riders to organically join a group, drop out, and rejoin when they’re back in range without hitting a button. There’s no substitute for a mesh network on a large group ride, and with the Motion Infinity, that group can be as big as you want. That’s a ton of functionality for a $275 unit.
Nitpicks: Uclear’s gesture tech is very cool. It’s also very sensitive. This is the first iteration of the feature, so we’re not expecting them to get it perfect. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to get used to the sensor’s limits.
Whether you opt for the Cardo PackTalk BOLD or the PackTalk Slim, these units are now the RevZilla choice for best overall Bluetooth communicators. That’s due to Cardo’s audio quality, mesh technology, and ease of use. These units are functionally the exact same. The Bold is one complete unit, whereas the Slim relocates the battery to the back of the helmet for less wind drag. Take your pick, because both options are equally brilliant.
Cardo’s excellent mesh tech can connect a rider to a group of up to 15 riders. Even better, you’ll be able to talk to any PackTalk-equipped rider you can see up to one mile away, with a total group span of up to five miles. How’s that possible? Imagine three riders spread out over a distance: Harley, David, and Sonny. Cardo’s mesh technology can join lead rider Harley to Sonny in the back via David’s communicator in the middle, pushing the group’s range far beyond a single communicator’s abilities. That’s great, but what about pairing with a different brand of communicator that doesn’t support mesh connections? The PackTalk units can connect with them, too, over plain old Bluetooth.
The true beauty of the mesh system is in real-world riding, where a group might spread out, then join up again. Cardo’s mesh network automagically reconnects as riders drop back into range. No more stopping to mash buttons in an attempt to link back up. Add best-in-class noise cancellation, upgraded JBL speakers, voice command technology with multilingual options, and up to 13 hours of talk time, and Cardo’s PackTalk Slim/PackTalk BOLD units easily take the top honors for best communicator of 2020.
Nitpicks: We couldn’t find much to criticize on the PackTalk BOLD and Slim communicators. If anything, the BOLD’s flip-up antenna could be a break point when deployed. The communicator still works with the antenna stowed, so this is not much of an issue. Just remember to tuck it in while not riding. The Slim version doesn’t even have an antenna to deploy, so if that’s something that worries you, just get the Slim.
Buying the best Bluetooth communicator… for you!
From the lone rider to the tech lover to the social butterfly, there’s a communicator to do whatever you need, and we cover all the intricacies in our Choosing a Bluetooth Communicator 101 article on Common Tread. Don’t forget that most Bluetooth communicators can be purchased in dual packs for a per-unit discount. Be sure to check out our other Gear Guides for all the best in moto gear for 2020.