Posts Tagged ‘Scala Rider’

Scala Rider

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

As of July 2009, we have two Harley Davidson motorcyles, a Softtail and a Sportster Hugger.   Prior to getting the Sportster, we rode two up on the Softtail.  While not always easy, we simply shouted at each other to communicate.   But, when the second bike came along, it meant we could only talk when we were beside each other.  We normally wear full face helmets, so it was virtually impossible to communicate unless we were stopped and lifted our visors.

I spent a fair amount of time search for options, with my primary goal to find something that was cheap and would allow us to communicate – nothing else.  After a while, I decided to buy a set of microphones and speakers that could be installed in a helmet and that were supposed to work with Motorola FRS radios.  I received the package, connected the devices to my FRS radios and discovered they did not work.  It’s not that they didn’t work well.  They did not work.  I sent them back and received a refund.

Then I decided perhaps I needed to consider a system that was designed from the start with motorcycle riders in mind.  I went to a number of bike stores and search the internet.  I finally decided to try the ScalaRider Q2.   We have been using these for about a year and have very few complaints.  Overall, they do what they claim to do.

Let’s take a quick look at what they do. 

  • Interrcom (up to 3 helmets connect together with the Q2)
  • Ipod speakers (use a provided cable to plug your music device into the Q2
  • Bluetooth headset for your phone
  • FM radio (built-in)
  • Bluetooth to your GPS

At this point you might wonder how all of these things fit together.  Basically, there is a hierarchy of precedence.  So, you can be listening to the built-in FM radio receiver or you can plug in your iPod or other audio device.  If the intercom is activated by you or one of your fellow riders, it takes priority.  If you have connected your phone and a call starts coming in, that will take priority.  If you are using your Bluetooth GPS, it will take priority.   The Q2 can only connect to one Bluetooth device.  Initially, I connected to my cell phone.  However, I have now added a Garmin Zumo 550 GPS to the Softtail.  I connect the Garmin to the ScalaRider Q2 and I connect my phone to the Garmin.  I can actually dial a phone number from the Garmin touch screen.  I’ll talk more about the Garmin in a separate blog.  The important thing to know is that it works, and it is pretty simple.

We like the ScalaRider Q2 enough that we decided to order two more headsets.  As I mentioned, we normally ride with full face helments.  But, in really hot weather, we ride with 3/4 helments.  We wanted to be able to slip the Q2 on either pair of helmets.  No problem, you simply buy a second mounting system with speakers and microphone.  The electronics module simply slips on.  When you finish a ride, you remove the module and recharge it with an included charger.

The mounting system is well thought out.  You can either clamp it to your helmet or there is an included adhesive pad that can be used.  They warn you that the adhesive is a permanent installation, so be sure it is really what you want.  We used the clamping method.  I saw no reason to permanently bond the Q2 to our helmets.   We have not had any problem with the clamping arrangement and have been using the for one year now.

I suggest that you take a look at www.cardosystems.com to see pictures and get more details on how they work.  Basically, two or three headsets are paired.  Think of this as a buddy pair and a secondary buddy.  Ideally, have your bikes running when you power-up the Q2′s to get ready for a ride.  They are designed for noisy environments and it appears to help the Q2 establish the correct baseline if they start up with normal motorcycle noise around them.  The normal mode uses a voice connect.  Either rider activates it by speaking loudly, whistling, or somehow making enough noise to essentially “key” the microphone. 

We have occasionally had a problem where one of the Q2′s starts transmitting once the rider has exceeded some speed, presumably due to wind noise.  Sometimes we have corrected it by powering off the units and then powering them up again.  However, there is another option.  There is a simple procedure (press the two volume buttons simultaneaously) to switch to manual mode.  In that mode, a tap of the MC button activates the connection.  Another tap ends it.  If you want to connect to a third person (your secondary buddy) you use a double tap.

Pretty simple.  Pretty reliable.  Pretty good investment.   We purchased ours online through the Motorcycle Superstore.  Placed the order on a Sunday morning and received notice it was packaged and ready for shipment that afternoon.  Monday I received shipping info and I could watch it progress across the country, arriving as advertised.   It’s only one experience with the Motorcycle Superstore, but it was a good one.

Cardo has now released a Q4 unit.  I have not tried it, but according to the advertising information, the Q4 allows intercom connectivity up to 1 mile.  The Q2 advertises 500 yards.  We have been separated by several hundred yards and have been able to keep talking.  We have never tried to make an exact distance measurement, but I would guess that we have been close to 500 yards apart on several occasions with no problem.  The Q2 is advertised as fully weather protected and the Q4 is weather resistant.  Three Q2 units can be used simulataneously.  Four Q4 units can be used simultaneously.  So, unless you need 1 mile of separation or 4 units, I would stick with the Q2.

I didn’t comment on the built-in FM radio.  Let me simply say that it works, but I don’t find it to be very useful during a ride.  You don’t have much of an antenna and so you generally get good signals from stations that you are near.  While on a ride, that can change pretty regularly.  About the only time I use the FM is once I have stopped somewhere, I may try to pick up an FM station to get the weather report.

I hope that helps if you are trying to decide.  I wish I could have found some info like this when I was looking.

Enjoy your rides and keep the shiny side up.

Jack and Roxy