However, this can be difficult when you’re out on the road unless you have your laptop with you.
The 50 series now comes with wifi capability allowing you to automatically download firmware updates with the special charging cable.
Just plug in the wifi charger and connect to a nearby wifi source such as your phone’s hotspot.
Mesh is an intercom software system that allows multiple riders to connect even when some riders are out of line of sight.
It’s not a system I use much, but for group rides it is very convenient and is a vital safety feature. (In fact, on one occasion, a rider behind me yelped and I knew straight away he had gone down even though I couldn’t see him.)
Critics say the Mesh software is unreliable, but Sena claim the flaws have been fixed.
I haven’t found any difficulties at all. In fact, there is less “crackling” interference from surrounding obstacles such as blind corners, trees, buildings, trucks, etc.
Sena says the intercom range s up to 2km in open terrain, which is about right by my tests.
I haven’t tested its full capacities with a “virtually limitless” number of riders in Open Mesh and 24 riders in Group Mesh intercom. (I don’t have that many friends!)
However, I have no reason to disbelieve Sena’s claims that Mesh extends range up to 8km (5miles) between a minimum of six riders.
Sena 50R tech specs
Price: $545 (single pack), $965 (dual pack)
Warranty: Two (2) year from date of purchase on manufacturers defects
Dimensions: 97mm x 48mm x 27 mm (3.8in x 1.8in x 1.0in)
Speakers: 40mm diameter, 7.2mm thick
Weight: 65g (2.29 oz)
Operating temperature: -10°C to 55°C (14°F – 131°F)
Working distance: up to 2 km (1.2 miles) in open terrain; Mesh extends up to 8km (5miles) between a minimum of 6 riders
Bluetooth Intercom: 4 riders
Open Mesh Intercom: virtually limitless (9 channels)
Group Mesh Intercom: 24 riders
Microphone Noise Cancellation: Advanced Noise Control
So we have high expectations for their “Rekon wireless smartphone interface”.
Rekon is more than just another intercom
It works with push-to-talk mobile/cellular networks to connect users and is compatible with WhatsApp, Line, Kaokao, WeChat and other voice communication platforms.
That means potentially up to 6000 users can be networked into a riding group. Now that’s an interesting concept on a ride!
The Rekon is expected to be available in the next couple of months, depending on the current unpredictable pandemic ramifications.
It will cost $US349 (about $A580) and will connect with any aftermarket speakers.
Or you can buy the Rekon with their XSound 2.1 speakers for $US399 (about $A665) or with the updated XSound 3 speakers for $US499 (about $A830).
Classy style and function
So they are not cheap, but they are crafted more like a luxury watch with steel, glass and polished aluminium rather than plastic like most intercoms.
The thin, light and minimalist unit features a three-way control with tempered glass face for ease of use.
Its glass face exposes the details of the mechanical movement and, as a showstopper, it’s backlit!
Rekon uses Hi-def aptX and ADP2 wireless audio formats for high-fidelity sound and operates on Bluetooth 5.0 low-energy power management system, which delivers 250 hours of standby with 10 hours of operation time.
The units slides and locks into position on a special mounting bracket which can be easily detached.
Quick-release mounting bracket
Each Rekon comes with two mounting bracket kits.
Interestingly, it attaches at the front of the hemet, rather than on the side, which may affect aerodynamics and head rotation in a crash.
If you’re sick of fiddling with the fiddly screws to mount your Bluetooth intercom, this budget EJEAS Quick20 is worth considering with its excellent audio quality.
It is Chinese made (as most Bluetooth units probably are!) and costs just $A185 each ($US129, €113,￡103) through their EJEAS website.
This unit is as slim as the top-of-the-line Sena 30K which is good for reducing drag and wind noise.
It features a fast-attaching bulldog-clip-type clasp attachment, so there is no need for fiddling with small allen keys and tiny screws that you can drop and lose.
The clasp simply grips the side of your helmet. There is also a stick-on pad and velcro attachment, if you prefer or your helmet doesn’t have access.
I thought the clip-on clasp might shake loose, but it hasn’t moved after prolonged riding in high winds and on bumpy roads.
However, the control unit doesn’t lock into the clasp firmly and while it won’t shake loose, you can bump it off when taking off your helmet, so be careful.
As for the quality of the Bluetooth 4.2, it’s excellent.
It will only link up with one other EJEAS unit and won’t connect to other Bluetooth brands I have, but it does work very well between the two units.
It pairs quickly to your phone, GPS or another EJEAS intercom with handy audio prompts and always re-pairs when you turn the units on.
In fact, if you go out of range, it will revert to music or FM if you’ve been listening to them and will automatically reconnect once back in range.
They claim range up to 1200m, but it starts getting crackly about 800mm and you need line-of-sight connection.
Deploying the antenna improves reception a little as well as improving weak FM signals.
The button arrangement is similar to the Sena units with a rotating knob and central “multi-function button” (MFB) that is easy to access even with thick winter gloves.
However, the raised motorcycle icon which is the on/off and intercom button can be difficult to find with thick gloves.
There is a separate FM button on the back and a “RST” reset button on the top that quickly turns off the unit.
Not sure why you need the RST button as you can turn the unit off and on using the motorcycle icon button by holding it for two seconds. Perhaps that’s a second you can save!
I also found that holding the MFB button two seconds only ever switched the unit on at the second attempt.
The rotating button handles both volume adjustment and radio station selection or skipping/replaying music tracks. To toggle between functions you have to hit the MFB again which makes it a little confusing.
Selecting FM stations is also difficult as there is no audio prompt to tell you the station you have selected.
The thick and large diameter speakers provide excellent audio quality with nice bass and plenty of volume.
But that makes them quite bulky, so they may not fit in some helmets.
The Sena +Mesh Adaptor is designed to seamlessly and easily link riders into a group conversation without broken links. We sent rider Jim Hulme out to test the $259 unit on the road with his riding partners. Here’s his review:
Out of the box
The +Mesh adaptor click-locks into either a rubber-strap-connected base or a surface-mount adhesive base. The adaptor containing the electronics and screw-on antenna easily separates from the base with the press of a button.
For my test, the rubber strap base could not be used on my BMW handlebars as there is no available handlebar real estate.
So I tested it in my jacket front pocket, inside my top box and finally on the pillion grab handles.
While mounted on the grab handles, it was easy to reach and activate the mesh intercom because Sena has provided it with a nice big button on the front of the unit.
The waterproof rubber-sealed USB port for charging can be difficult to access.
Setup and range
The +Mesh adaptor is easily paired with your Sena headset, then it automatically connects each time.
The 30K in the test was used to create a mesh group and the +Mesh client (Sena SRL integrated into the Shoei Neotec II helmet) was added to the group. During use, the main button could be used to leave and return to the mesh group as required.
The +Mesh adaptor is claimed to have 800m range in an uninterrupted straight line.
My experience with measured stops and voice quality checks verified this is accurate.
Sena claims it works with both Bluetooth4.1 and Bluetooth3.0 models, however, the audio quality is best with Bluetooth 4.1 models.
The +Mesh Adaptor takes up one of your bluetooth intercom spaces. If your headset is capable of connecting with three other headsets for four-way intercom, the +Mesh will take up one of those three spaces, leaving two spaces remaining for bluetooth intercom connections.
At least 2 mesh devices are required to be in a Mesh Intercom.
My use of two Sena SRL models provided almost flawless performance, but connections between the SRL and a Sena 30K were frustrating.
The biggest problem with the SRL is that it is not possible to use while charging. It also has an “irreplaceable rechargeable battery”, so when the battery ages, you have to buy a new SRL.
However, the 30K can connect to others in either “bluetooth intercom” mode which requires pairing, or mesh intercom which doesn’t require pairing.
Link and sound quality
Once the mesh link is established, increased distance and lack of “line of sight” due to curves and hills etc have a dramatic effect.
While the sound level can be still good, speech is unintelligible.
In most cases, this will recover as the link path improves, but can sometimes remain poor. This is a problem I experienced in other Sena devices such as the 30K.
To fix it, try disconnecting/reconnecting the link or turning it off and on again.
I also experienced intermittent, short, loud “screaming” sounds which my 30K partner could not hear.
I thought it was caused by the +Mesh adaptor, but later testing between two 30K units in a mesh connection resulted in some similar noise, but less often.
Following the adaptor test, we changed to two 30K units and tried them in normal paired connection and mesh connection.
In normal paired connection, there were significant sound quality issues, failure of the link after separation, and this didn’t recover without a reboot. There was no apparent increase in the range.
Then we changed to mesh connection and while the sound quality was not always perfect, the overall communication satisfaction was better.
As the two units recovered from the lost link connectivity, they seamlessly reconnected to the mesh. As reported with the +Mesh adaptor, the occasional loud screeching noises were still happening but not so often as when using the adaptor.
I think the +Mesh adaptor provides a better functional experience when connecting dissimilar units.
They also improved range and sound quality over a mesh of more than two units as they enhance the network signal strength.
The combined cost of the adaptor and your existing communication unit is significant so unless you really needed to use it to participate in a group of mesh users, you are probably better off just buying a 30K instead.
If you have been looking for an open-face helmet with Bluetooth communication, the new Sena Savage is the answer.
It features integrated controls, speakers and a microphone discretely in the brow section of the helmet.
As you would expect, it’s noisier than a full-face helmet, the microphone is not as quiet as in a full face helmet, but it’s equal to or better than the boom-mic units people attach to their open-face helmets.
And it is neater as well. The compact two-control functions on the side of the helmet are sadly visible, yet easy to use.
They work the same as the Sena 20S controls wth a button and a dial/button/toggle control.
With just those two controls, you can switch on/off, summon Siri, play music, answer and reject calls, pair t your phone and another intercom, summon an intercom user, skip tracks and change the volume.
The only problem I found with the Savage is that the amplifier and speakers are not powerful enough to provide adequate sound when I wear my filtered earplugs.
The filtered earplugs reduce the overall sound a little, but mainly they filter out the damaging wind noise that gives you tinnitus.
They allow you to hear important traffic sounds such as emergency siren and horns, plus listen to your music and phone conversations at a lower volume that doesn’t hurt your ears.
Unfortunately, this system is a little too quiet, so it’s really only useful up to about 80km/h.