Now you’ve realised that a dedicated helmet intercom is essential to your ride (because chats and tunes, obviously), which one is right for you? A quick google search will take you to various brands and you’ll see Sena products at the pricier end. If you’re prepared to pay for quality, robustness, design and capability, then consider the 50 series. Maja Kenney, of “Maja’s Motorcycle Adventures” and I tested the ‘dual pack’ because we spend more time riding with each other than our actual partners.
Fresh out the box, the Sena 50R is a great looking headset. I was eager to replace my ageing Sena SMH10, a bluetooth only bulbous blob on the side of my lid. The sleek, angled and arguably aerodynamic 50R was already an attractive upgrade. Eagerly tipping the box contents onto my kitchen table, I was a little overwhelmed with the multiple packets of wires, connectors and adhesive patches. The same furrowed brow appeared on Maja’s face when she unboxed her paired headset. Straight to the online instructions for both of us rather than the enclosed ‘quick fit’ pamphlet.
Many hours later, our headsets were fitted. The wires can be well hidden inside the rubber seals and foam lining of your lid; most modern helmets come with speaker recesses and cable routing channels. I opted for the rigid ‘slip-in clamp mount’ to hold the 50R in place, but it did feel harsh as I pushed it onto the external shell of my Nexx helmet. Maja chose the ‘hook and loop’ option; both felt secure. The first inconvenience was the inability to remove the 50R easily, if at all. My old SMH10 could be removed from its helmet ‘cradle’ for charging. The 50R cannot be so easily extracted. Fortunately the battery life is 8 hrs for Mesh intercom and 13 hrs for Bluetooth only so visits to charge my ‘Sena & Helmet assembly’ will be infrequent.
Of course there is an app. Easily downloaded and simple to set up, the ‘Sena 50 Utility’ interface is an excellent compliment to the headset. Getting a WIFI update took longer than it should, but the alternative cable made sense and it’s good to know the 50R software will be developed and shared. It’s a positive outcome to the Sena price tag. With the Bluetooth synced, Maja and I sat in our respective living rooms with our lids on, enjoying the music from a popular music streaming service. The “redesigned HD speakers optimised for volume, bass and clarity performance boost” were excellent.
When you are riding (both Maja and I wear ear plugs), you need to remember to max the volume on your phone, so you can actually hear music and voice calls in your helmet. The volume controls are fiddly, I miss the handy ‘jog’ dial on my SMH10 but my muscle memory is improving on the 50R when I’m trying to find the volume buttons or skip tracks. Maja was able to have reasonable conversations when she received a phone call, the microphone was effective in wet weather but her ear plugs made it tricky. I think there is always going to be a compromise if you wear ear plugs but still wish to hear an intercom and music.
The best bit about our 50Rs was the intercom function. Maja and I often ride together and were resigned to shouting at each other at traffic lights to share information. The dual headsets took all that stress and pressure away. Our paired 50R devices didn’t even need setting up, we were instantly connected helmet to helmet once we had turned them on and clicked the 50R protruded middle button. Maximum chatting ensued for the duration of our ride out, sharing the features of our respective ‘loan’ bikes as our Ducati Supersport bikes were being serviced. Our day was concluded as we followed a beautifully moonlit Peak District road before parting ways for the final ‘range test’. We managed to say goodbye until we were an impressive 1km apart, even in undulating countryside.
Verdict? The 50R works with excellent range and sound quality, whether chatting or playing tunes. The sleek design is a complement to our helmet’s aesthetics, you just might want to decide whether it’s a three button or a rotary jog dial when you buy yours. I didn’t try out the ‘voice activated digital assistant’ but I’m glad it’s there, ideal for hands free phone calls on the move. Robust, weather proof and with Sena heritage, I’m keeping it, but partly because I don’t want to endure fitting another!
For more information on the Sena 50R Dual Pack here sena.com/product/50r
Sena 50R Dual Pack kindly supplied for this review by Sena, for more information on Sena products visit sena.com/
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