Our Derek Mansfield isn’t one to slavishly follow trends, so specific electronic brands don’t concern him. But in-use practicality does
Most readers of Overland Magazine will know that I navigate using dice, a compass and a single sheet of A4 printed with a Google map. The A4 map will often show a route of 10,000 kms or more, and is often unreadable after its first dowsing with petrol. But hey.. it’s the journey right?
Yes but, (and it’s a big but) I travel to meet people. And the people I meet live in impenetrable cities or way out in the boondocks, and all speak languages not usually English. So I must stop and ask directions. And with a failing memory I must stop and ask a lot. It’s a slow business.
“Easy” you say. Get Sat Nav. Well I have one on my phone which runs, when it is feeling strong enough, but is moody and recalcitrant. The trouble is, in the sunshine I can’t see a damn thing on the screen. So I need audio direction.
Today I ride a Guzzi café scrambler thingummy and my Hedon helmet is not made with, or for, bluetooth anything. The open face is made to be ridden with head-up style and pride. And I, personally, couldn’t possibly have a strap on bluetooth controller marring the lines of the lid. Style is everything darling!
Thus research began and, having read some reviews and feedback about poor bass and the inability to record directly into a camera attached to a drone in flight, I thought I’d better define precisely what I wanted. Really all I wanted was to hear Sat Nav directions. Anything else was a bonus. And I really didn’t want to pay more than two tanks of fuel.
Every “best of Bluetooth” review that I read recommended a transceiver control that glued, drilled, or was held on the outside of the helmet with magnets or magic. Price range £450 to £50. I looked at bluetooth ear buds, with and without wires to a controller that had to be… you guessed it, glued on the outside of the helmet. Price range £300 to £30. But I’ve been the ear bud route before in the days when all was wired; the pain removing the helmet, and the buds, was, after eight hours in the saddle, truly disturbing.
Frustration grew. I returned to an online superstore, typed headset for motorcycle helmet in the search bar, chose a budget of £15 of £50 and looked for anything that didn’t have a fat controller. I found something called a “motorcycle helmet wirless (sic) headset” and shouted, “That will do”. Click. The Freedconn L1 motorcycle helmet wirless (sic) headset arrived the very next day.
The items inside the box were disturbingly simple and few. Two headphones joined by wire, one of which had a microphone attached. Two sticky Velcro patches, two more for spares and a micro USB connector for charging. Needless to say they are manufactured in China, ShenZhen to be precise, where Freedconn Electronic Co Limited have been making electronics since 2006.
First challenge is that the female end of the micro USB has a shroud to ensure a solid connection; however this means I will have to add yet another cable to the electric spaghetti I already carry so I’ll be chopping off the shroud in order to use any male micro connector. Thankfully, no special plug charging was required or supplied.
I charged the earpiece and when the tiny light on the end of the microphone turned blue, I followed the instructions and paired the headset with my phone. Holy Moly it worked first time, and stationary, the volume was loud! My Hedon helmet is extraordinarily beautiful, comfortable and quiet, even though it is open face. The inside is finished, it seems, with shaved teddy bear skin; certainly lovely, but don’t use too much Brylcream. The padding is not removable, but there is a slot cut out for earpieces to fit into. After a dry run to see if it would all fit and tuck nicely out of sight, I pulled out and sliced off some excess material covering the ear slots in the helmet. This was so that I could stick the Velcro tabs in.
Tabs in, earpieces stuck to Velcro, wire carefully tucked between helmet casing and the padding, micro charging lead and microphone carefully tucked in too. The microphone actually tucks further into the padding on the right hand side of the helmet; I let it show in the picture so that you’d know how I’d done it.
Out on the bike to test volume levels in national speed limit conditions and all is tickety-boo. I can hear Sat Nav directions clearly at 70 mph as the Nav voice is set automatically to override music. Opera is wonderful up to 70 mph and the ‘Stones are still rocking at 80 mph. I wouldn’t try phone calls on the move, but I did successfully call my wife when I was wearing the helmet at a standstill. She told me supper was ready.
Pairing, switching and music shuffle is all controlled by two inset buttons on the business end of the slim microphone. There is no outside controller to get wet and look ugly. I am able to use voice commands too, which is pretty amazing. Please note. This set is adequate for my needs and is sold at an equable cost. It is not like being in a recording studio or the Royal Albert Hall. If you want that quality of sound while on a motorcycle, you may need to question why.
You can also buy a Freedconn headset for chatting to a pillion and/or for bike to bike comms if you so wish. Personally, I can’t think of anything worse, which is why I ride solo.
Amazingly simple to fit and control. I have little idea about music values but Puccini’s work sounds great to me. Most of all, I can clearly hear and understand Sat Nav instructions. £25 and 15 minutes work… it’s a steal.
More details here, but you can buy from many online outlets. Price from £25 in the UK $30.00 in the US.