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Communication Systems


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I'm evaluating an RT or GS to replace my GT, but don't know what's the latest with communication systems.  I'm spoiled by my Autocom superpro avi that connects a gps with XM, my radar detector and intercom (and FRS/CB radio on rare occasions).  Its corded so I have nothing to charge. It looks like everything is blue tooth now, like a Cardo system.  How do you only talk to your pillion if you are in a paired group?  Does cardo volume (music source let's say) drop back when I get a turn instruction from the gps or a radar warning?  Can I include a radar detector and how? Do I need BMW's nav 6 or are there iPhone true route building apps?  Any help is appreciated.

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It is very hard to beat a properly set up and functioning autocom or other wired system.  I made the switch  years ago from wired (with phone / GPS/ GMRS radio which most BMWST riders had at the time) to Sena and never was happy with it .  Sena has what they call the SR10 which is a bluetooth transceiver which takes wired inputs from a two way radio and/or radar detector .  You pair the SR10 to the main helmet device.  So on paper, it had the same functionality as my wired unit.   Seemed a good design ... no longer wired to the bike but with all the same functions.


Problem was, the whole rig never worked consistently.  The old wired system was golden.  Plug in the helmet, start the bike and everything worked , every time.


Not so much with the Sena.  It required a lot of setup and firmware updates.  Pairing on startup with the main unit, the phone, the gps and the SR10 was erratic and at times even if paired appropriately  the frs radio integration  just would not work right . The VOX for the microphone  also never worked to my satisfaction.   Then there was charging ... always a nightly routine. 


Switched to a Cardo system a while back.  Instant satisfaction right out of the box.  Charged the batteries, set up my wife and I as a group and bingo, we're connected every time .  I don't ride anymore with anyone who has compatible group communication, so its just me and my wife.  Pairs reliably and consistently with phone and GPS.  VOX is perfect for intercom or phone.  Smartphone App is a plus (Sena may have one as well, don't know)


The Cardo "mesh" system really does reconnect automatically if someone moves in and out of range.  An added benefit vs wired systems is the ability to communicate  when away from the bike.


Cardo downside ... no radar detector (or frs radio)  integration.  There are bluetooth dongles that might attach to the radar detector depending on model, but battery life can be an issue on longer rides. 


Battery life in the Sena or the Cardo can also be an issue on all day rides with consistent music listening and/or communication.  And still a nightly routine to charge helmets.  I understand that the newer Cardo systems can charge and function at the same time ...


2 hours ago, 2wheeler said:

How do you only talk to your pillion if you are in a paired group?  Does cardo volume (music source let's say) drop back when I get a turn instruction from the gps

The manual for the newer Cardo systems says it can be done, but strangely is not very clear on how exactly ...  and I can't say for Sena.  My Cardo unit is old enough that its no longer offered but even on mine its possible to  switch groups on the fly  (ie group1 for friends and group2 for more private conversations)  But I only use one group anyway so can't say how easy or not its is to switch.  And yes volume drops for other incoming alerts


2 hours ago, 2wheeler said:

Can I include a radar detector and how? 

That is the big downside with Cardo.  They don't have anything comparable to the Sena SR10 ..    And for Sena, maybe they are now much better ... my experience with them is a few years ago.  Although I've read a couple of posts on other forums where  folks with the Cardo helmet unit are using the SR10 ... its a bluetooth connection while the mesh is proprietary and you can run both at the same time ... but I have no actual experience with such a set up.

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I also used to have a Autocom system setup with GPS directions and Music, plus I had my Valentine 1 radar detector wired into the setup.

B2B was also handled by the same system.  After a lot of mistakes, it became a mostly reliable system.

It worked in the rain, it worked in the heat, but it also always had a few surprises at times. I had a lot of failed wires. I would leave in the morning and everything sounded great and after my first stop, it was like a complete different system.

So I bit the bullet and switched to Bluetooth, or as I like to call it Bluetooth ache.

I checked around and talked to folks, read a lot of forum posts and even called Sena and Cardo's technical help lines to find out if I could do what I was used to do with my old Autocom setup.

I ended up switching to a Sena 20S headset and a Sena SM10 Bluetooth Stereo Dongle, mounted on my 2007 R1200RT HexHead. I don't have B2B, and that isn't anything I really needed. I hard wired the audio of the radar detector into the SM10, I also hard wired the audio output of the Zumo 590 into the SM10, then I paired the SM10 as a music source to the 20S and I paired my phone to the 20S, to use for phone calls only.

This setup worked great until I decided to buy a 2018 R1200RT-LC, WetHead.

For that bike to get GPS directions from the Nav6, you have to listen to the built in speakers, since it is all wired to work as system. Radio & GPS.

To get a decent Bluetooth signal from the BMW setup, you have to buy the BMW headset. Or you splice in a Speaker bridge from Motochello into the speaker wires under the passenger seat. Then you wire in a 3.5mm speaker cable into the SM10, connect the speaker wire from the Valentine 1 into the SM10 and pair the unit with the 20S or 50S or maybe with a Cardo unit. I still have my phone connect directly with the 20S/50S for phone calls only.

As a result of the above setup, I can listen to music from the radio, or from my USB drive, I get clear GPS direction instructions (Recalculating!).

I can control the Radio/USB stick and GPS from the Wonderwheel, including volume levels. My radar alerts come across loud and clear, using the volume control on the Valentine control unit. I have no problems receiving and answering my phone and sometimes Siri will even read me a text message. 

To get started for a ride, after turning on the 20S/50S, I hear a confirmation that my iPhone is connected, then I switch on my SM10 and I receive a Media connected confirmation. That's it. 

As for intercom with other riders, Bluetooth is ok, as long as you only connect to one other rider. I t worked great when I traveled with my grandson as a passenger to the UnRally in Fontana. We always connected with no problems and the multitasking feature of the 20S allowed me to hear my GPS directions/V1 alerts with no problems. As for the new 50S, the mesh system so far has been a big improvement when trying to connect to other riders.

I do not work for any of these companies, I am just glad to have found a setup that works for ME. I am also sure the same thing can be duplicated with Cardo Packtalk, I just don't want to spend the money right now to find out.



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For what it is worth.... I also had a Sena 10 upgraded to to the 20,,, smh20 and never had an issue. Easy set-up for intercom to passenger and easy pairing to the Bike for Navigation prompts and Audio/Radio etc. 


I do not know what is current today but it worked fine for me...

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I think the best comm system depends on your riding / touring objectives.  Having tried wireless systems, they are good for short casual rides.


We do 3-5 week tours in all kinds of conditions. Having to worry about charging something on a 10-12 hour riding day is not something we want to worry about so Autocom has always been the goto for us.  The only negative for us has been declining quality of some parts in recent years.  The quality of the headset leads in recent years has dwindled and they often fray and start to malfunction.  Prior versions (Sport 7) lasted years before any such issues, newer units usually start to fail after 2 seasons.

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Well, Claudio, that was the problem with Autocom. tIt was a constant battle with the Autocom cables. And the only reason I switched to a Bluetooth headset.

The Autocom system did everything I needed or wanted to do. But every time I would get off the bike and unplug the system from the helmet, I would never know if it would work the same way again when I plugged back in.

Also after a while I couldn't find cables any more.

But if anyone is interested, I have 3 Autocom units and lots of cables, junction boxes and headsets and repair kits. Send me a PM.

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