We were travelling to Penang for our anniversary. We were excited, looking forward to some fun on the beach, visiting historic sites and fattening up on Penang food.
As we crossed the bridge over Sungai Perak, Nurul tapped my shoulder and pointed ahead. I glanced to the left, looked at the river (which I’ve seen a million times) and gave a thumb’s up.
She tapped my shoulder again, more authoritatively this time. I was puzzled as there weren’t any interesting sights around here, but I did see a BMW R 1200 RT (her favourite bike) approaching from the opposite direction and I waved, only to have her smack the back of my helmet.
I slowed down and flipped up my visor. She yelled, “Bathroom!!! NOW!!!”
An argument ensued after the stop. Well, that escalated quickly.
Riding in a group of 23 bikes, we passed along 3 walkie-talkies to the lead marshal, runner (myself) and sweeper.
Only once or twice did the radio work correctly through the 300km-plus trip, since all we got was loud static when we keyed the talk button, even when we’ve stopped side-by-side (despite the quote 5km range). The connecting wire also tripped up our fingers over the clutch, handlebar and whatever else it caught itself on. The headphone kept coming off the ear when we slipped on our helmets or pressed on the ear causing a great deal of discomfort all the way. Confusion reigned and the group got separated.
We dumped the radios into our backpacks and resorted to using hand signals.
What we had there were failure to communicate.
Communications is imperative, regardless if you’re travelling solo, with a passenger, or with your buddies. Time tested hand signals are fine but they don’t seem to work when you’re out of sight, do they?
Although there are walkie-talkies that work well, they only offer one-way voice communications. This is a major disadvantage in case another person would like to point out certain dangers (for example) while the others are having a conversation (happened during “The Lost Convoy").
Bluetooth communicators have been in the market for a long time and are getting better all the time. From the many brands to choose from, there is an award-winning maker and model that you should consider.
This set from Cardo is called the award-winning Scala Rider Q3. While it’s the company’s entry-level model, it boasts some truly amazing features that are easy to use. Most functions are customizable, either via Cardo’s Smart Set phone app (available for iOS and Android) or on the community website.
The main unit fits comfortably in the palm and is lightweight.
It comes in a snazzy package, which also contains all the accessories you’ll ever need. Besides the standard speakers, Cardo provides different choices of microphones, mounting options, cable to connect your phone directly to the main unit (thereby saving battery from using Bluetooth), charger and plenty of Velcro pads.
The system also supports music played from your phone. The music pauses when a conversation is started or for an incoming call.
Besides playing stored music, it has a built-in radio tuner, which means you do not have to rely on the phone to tune in to a station. It’s especially useful when your phone’s battery is low. An RDS (automatic radio signal seeker) is also built-in, if you wish to activate it.
Most importantly, audio clarity is great over the speakers. Speech and music are heard clearly, and the Automatic Gain Control function increases or decreases volume according to speed. In a good helmet, audio could be clearly heard all the way up to 150km/h.
Not only that, I’ve asked how I sounded to the persons on the phone while I was riding and they couldn’t tell the difference (no wind noise) - including the time when I answered a call while leaned well over in a corner on the Ducati Multistrada! This shows that the Packet Loss Concealment (PLC) feature works by processing the sound input, then eliminating ambient noise before outputting speech or music. Smart!
I always wear earplugs when I ride, especially those from NoNoise. As these earplugs filter out harmful noise and frequencies, audio from the headsets could be heard very clearly. You need to turn up the volume on normal earplugs, on the other hand.
The system stores up to 4 “Hot Dial” phone numbers. 3 presses on the unit will have you dialing a chosen one, while calls to any stored contact in your phone can be initiated via voice command. You only need to speak loudly into the microphone to answer the call via the VOX feature or press the button on the main unit.
We’ve also ridden in pouring rain, with no loss of signal or sound quality, but please do remember to seal the access port tightly after charging.
We’ve had nothing but positive experiences in using the Cardo Scala Rider Q3. For myself, I can now listen to my whole list of AC/DC songs during a long ride. But most of all, I know I won’t get smacked on the head again.
- Bike-to-bike intercom between 4 riders up to 1 kilometre range in full duplex (2-way communication).
- Click-to-Link - for spontaneous intercom with other Scala Riders nearby (although not “paired”). Good way to warn other riders of dangers ahead.
- Music Sharing - Rider and passenger shares music from the same source.
- Hot Dial Numbers - set your favourite phone numbers for easy calling.
- Make, receive or reject calls by voice command or a push of a button.
- Can connect to 2 mobile phones simultaneously.
- Receive GPS voice directions via Bluetooh.
- Built-in FM radio receiver with RDS, 6 station presets, auto selection of presets with strongest signal, automatic radio muting for incoming calls and GPS voice instructions.
- Connect wirelessly to A2DP/AVRCP enabled MP3 players or smartphones to enjoy stereo music. (Connecting via cable also provided.)
- Automatic Gain Control (AGC) - Self-adjusting speaker volume according to speed and ambient noise (customizable).
- Packet Loss Concealment (PLC) - Real-time compensation of audio losses in challenging environments.
- Voice activated functions (VOX) - Start a conversation by speaking into the mic, or receiving and rejecting incoming calls (customizable).
- IP67 certification - Water- and dustproof.
KLCL Enterprise Sdn. Bhd.
Unit D-01-3A, D-03-3A
Pusat Komersial Setapak (STARPAC POINT)
68, Jalan Taman Ibu Kota
53300 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4144 3319
*Cycle World Malaysia advises our readers in using communicators responsibly, by selecting a volume level which allows you to focus on riding safely. Similarly, although phone calls are addressed wirelessly, the safest way to talk is still to stop at a safe location, rather than discussing that billion-Ringgit deal while riding.
Review and pictures by Wahid Ooi Abdullah