Remember when communicating with your passenger relied on hand signals, thigh pats and knee squeezes? ah, the good old days… OK, motorcycle intercom systems aren’t new, but Bluetooth technology makes them a lot easier to set up without hardwiring anything to your bike.
You can share pithy observations with your riding buddies, plus hear GPS directions, music, radio, phone conversations and more.
Midland’s latest offering—the BT Next Multi Rider Intercom System—connects up to four riders via Bluetooth wireless intercom. Everything mounts to your helmet instead of your bike, so it’s as portable as your helmet. Multi-pair technology lets you link to a primary intercom partner plus two other riders, with each linked rider able to talk with one other rider at a time. The BT Next is compatible with earlier Midland Bluetooth intercoms, too.
In intercom mode, voice activation lets you simply begin talking to reach your primary intercom partner. To talk with either of two other linked riders, press a button on the intercom unit. A nifty flip-up antenna helps extend range to intercom partners on other bikes. Midland claims a range of up to one mile, line-of-sight. That may be possible in flat open spaces, but expect man-made obstructions and uneven terrain to shorten range.
In addition to intercom, the BT Next lets you link to Bluetooth-enabled gadgets such as GPS navigators, GMRS radios and phones. I’ll wait for the next rest stop to use the phone, thank you. If you like tunes for the open road, you can access your music player via stereo Bluetooth or a wired connection (cable included). FM radio is built in as well. You can set the priority of audio inputs so, for example, the music drops out when your GPS speaks directions.
Sound quality is OK but it won’t thrill audiophiles, and music sounded better through the hardwired connection than Bluetooth, even when I used the same audio source (an iPhone). Volume is designed to adjust automatically based on the level of background noise, though I still found myself using the manual control to adjust volume to my preference instead of the system’s.
To help you access features, a female voice announces system modes as you toggle through them. The intercom unit has raised buttons with different shapes that I could recognize by touch wearing riding gloves.
Installing BT Next was straightforward in a full-face helmet and a modular helmet. Removing each helmet’s interior padding made it easier to route the wires (funny how many wires are involved in a wireless intercom).
The BT Next Single Pack ($249.99) comes with an intercom unit, charger, two types of mounting brackets, a pair of very thin stereo helmet speakers, two interchangeable microphones (flexible boom and thin wire) and cables for connecting separate audio sources and downloading firmware updates. The $449.99 Twin Pack includes two of everything including pre-paired intercom units, and the charger lets you connect two BT Next intercom units to one wall plug. Midland claims the rechargeable lithium batteries are good for 10 hours of talk time.
If you want intercom for up to four riders that’s as portable as your helmet and has the benefits of Bluetooth connectivity, Midland’s BT Next is worth a look.
For more information: midlandradio.com
(This review was published in the June 2012 issue of Rider Magazine.)