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Turn Your Motorcycle Helmet Smart With These Affordable Mods

I enhanced my rides with group calls, an action camera, music, and lighting for a grand total of just $187.

helmet mod in use
Trevor Raab

From the first time I hopped on a motorcycle, I imagined just how much better the experience could be with some tweaks. Riding alone without any distractions is fun, for a time, but after a few miles I wished I could hear some music rather than just the wind. And when I was with a group, I found myself waiting to pull over at stoplights to talk to friends. I’d tried a couple of things to improve the experience. Initially I slipped AirPods into my ears to listen to music and podcasts. In order to protect my eyes from the sun and capture footage from my beach or city trips, I wore Snapchat’s bulky Spectacle camera sunglasses.

Both hacks were uncomfortable, especially on trips lasting longer than half an hour, where the AirPods pressed into my ear canals while the glasses pushed directly into my temples due to my helmet’s thick padding. So I did some research. While my friends had $400 Sena setups with even pricier GoPros hanging off the sides of their helmets, I wanted a compact, all-in-one solution. Here’s how I did it, and what you can use to make your existing motorcycle helmet smart without breaking the bank.

R1 Plus Bluetooth Communicator with Action Camera

R1Plus Bluetooth Helmet Communicator
FreedConn amazon.com
$136.99

  • Quality speakers
  • Clear 1080p action cam with 120-degree-wide angle
  • Stands up to the elements and falls

  • Audio could be louder

The single biggest upgrade you can make to your helmet is a Bluetooth communicator. And while Sena and Cardo products work well, they’re often super expensive. For a third of the price of those, I bought the R1 Plus from FreedConn. It’s a Bluetooth music system, intercom, and camera in one device that mounts to the side of your helmet. I use mine to control music with the wheel button interface, capture drives, and listen to my playlists while keeping my hands focused on steering.

helmet mod in use
The R1 Plus on my helmet.
Trevor Raab

To get started, you simply run the speakers through your helmet’s foam padding, pressing the ear pads down with an adhesive on the back. Next, you connect a microphone and stick it underneath where your mouth goes. You can either clip on or adhere the mounting plate to the dominant-hand side of your helmet for quick operation. The sliding click-lock system makes it easy to remove the R1 Plus for charging. I found the 1500 mAh battery provided on average a week of power.

The 1080p camera’s 120-degree wide-angle lens captures great footage. I’ve used it in the rain, sun, and dark to get some really nice videos. Even after I took a nasty low side that scratched the lens, the camera still works as well. Abandon all hope of trying to use the GoPlus app to wirelessly transfer footage to your phone, though; it’s much faster to simply remove the SD card and edit footage on your computer or tablet.

While you will hear some wind above the 40 mile per hour mark, the speakers still sound pretty good but lack bass. Go faster than 65 miles per hour, and the system can sound a bit like a washed-out car radio. If you can convince your group to ride with this system, then up to six of you can use the intercom at distances up to 1,000 meters.

Lighting

Motorcycle Helmet Light Wire
YnGia amazon.com
$13.99

  • Bright neon light
  • Stylish design

  • Bulky battery pack

Since my schedule means I ride at night more often than in the day, I looked into ways to make myself more visible. Outside of grabbing a reflective mesh jacket, it can be hard to make yourself seen if you have a dark-colored bike like I do. To draw more attention to myself, I used these YnGia lights. They glow and, in my opinion, look pretty sweet for under $15.

helmet mod glowing up
Trevor Raab

Installation is incredibly easy. Simply line the lights up on your helmet, press down while removing the adhesive backing, and then plug them into a battery pack. I mounted the battery pack to the back of my helmet using mounting tape. But you can easily ride around with it in a pocket if you don’t like the added bulk.

Surprisingly, these lights don’t chew through the AA battery like I expected. I can get about a month’s worth of constant use. If the Cyberpunk look doesn’t do it for you, you can always grab one of these helmet brake lights for roughly the same price and stick it to the back of your lid.

Shaded Visor

Star/Vortex/RS-1 and Revolver Helmet Faceshield
Bell amazon.com
$39.95

  • Snaps in easily
  • Provides eye protection from sun

  • Is a magnet for fingerprints

While a clear visor is great for visibility in all conditions, grabbing a swappable shaded visor keeps you cool and your vision clear on a sunny day. It’s nice to leave my Ray-Bans in the trunk to alleviate pressure on the sides of my temples while riding. Plus, it’s easy to swap back to my standard clear visor with a click and press when it starts to rain or get dark out.

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