by Nathan Porter (aka XxMerlinxX)
Technology is increasing in leaps and bounds it seems, especially when it comes to communication. Not only has it become more advanced and reliable, but it's become cheap as well. How many times can you spot someone talking on their cell phone while driving their vehicle, chatting away while doing twenty other things at once? To a motorcycle rider, this sort of thing seems ludicrous, even dangerous at times. Often times the driver pays more attention to who they're talking to, than what's happening on the road. While such a luxury, or hindrance, hasn't been available to riding enthusiasts, it is now. Intro the Cardo Scala-Rider, Cardo's answer for the helmet integrated bluetooth headset.
The Scala-Rider is compatible with any bluetooth V1.2 or lower cellular phone that uses a standard bluetooth signal, enabling it to interact with your phone up to and including 30 meters away. It uses a rechargeable battery that has a listed 7 hour talk time/1 Week Standby and is housed in a weatherproof rubber housing. The speaker that slips up inside of the helmet uses a flat pancake shape, letting the user install it in even the most cramped of helmets. The microphone is also wind resistant and comes with two different cover sponges, incase you find the need for more room.
Operation of the Scala-Rider could not be easier. If your phone supports the feature (each manufacturer has their own set of handsfree options) you can initiate and end calls with only saying a word. If need be, you can use the buttons located on the unit itself for a more hands on approach. Two buttons on the back control volume up/down, while a button on the rear is used for redial/ending a call, and a button more towards the front controls power/initiate/accept calls. As said before though, all you need is your voice. I found that for the most part, even with my thick southern accent, the Scala-Rider picks up on the names of people I want to call very easily. If it doesn't get the name right on the first try, a voice prompts you to say the name again. If it thinks that it's close, it will ask you if "so-and-so" is who you wanted to call. The only problem I've found is that if I have only put in someone's name in the name field, without adding something for cell/home/work since my phone has another category for each entry. I meant to call someone's cell, and ended up calling their house. This is simply solved by adding cell to the end of the name entry, so that the Scala-Rider can differentiate between the two numbers.
Installation was fairly simple, though I had somewhat of a hard time trying to find an ideal place to mount it on my helmet. My helmet has a semi-windscreen surrounding the bottom, so I didn't have a readily available edge to mount it on. I soon found that I could simply jam the mounting clip in between the lining and shell of the helmet, and then tighten it up with the included allen wrench. After that, the unit itself slides down on top of the docking mount which is now attached to the helmet. The microphone I bent down and under the liner, positioning it directly at the corner of my mouth, as directed by the instructions. The speaker was also easily threaded behind the padding and into the pocket built in for just such speakers. If you do not have such a pocket, don't worry, as the back of the microphone is made to attach like velcro to the inner lining of most helmets. All total, the installation took at most, 5 minutes.
After that, it was time to test it out. I jumped on my bike and got up to a good 45mph, with my visor open. The other person on the line mentioned that they wondered if I had left yet? I informed them I had, much to their surprise, and was cruising steadily with the wind whipping around in my helmet. I then increased speed to 65mph, to see if they could hear any turbulence then. They said that it still sounded like I was simply standing in a room with a normal cell phone. At this time, I noticed that the volume had picked up to compensate for the increase in ambient sound. I hadn't noticed that was one of the features until I got back to the house to read over them again. I hung up and then tried the name and number dial, to see how it picked up my directions. It was a bit hesitant with the name at first, but after a second try, it worked flawlessly. There is, apparently, a way to attune it to your individual speech pattern, though I haven't gotten around to tinkering with that yet.
All in all, the Cardo Scala-Rider is an excellent product for those desiring cell phone use on the go. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of use and the excellent design and quality. The only thing I wished it did have was an intercom for another rider with another headset, though that maybe something in the works for the next line.
Pros: Easy installation and use. Above
average performance. Competitive pricing.
Cons: No intercom.