Advanced Helmet Communications
I must admit to being a bit old school here. When I ride, I like to hear the sound of the bike beneath me, the wind rushing by around me. And yet, I concede the lure of listening to music, getting turn by turn GPS directions, or even taking a phone call in the helmet, has begun to have its appeal. Heck, our Road Dirt guys ride with varying degrees of connection while out on the road. Joshua rocks open-faced helmets, “biker” style, completely unplugged, yet Ted plugs in tunes via earbuds to soundtrack his adventures, while Phil blasts classic hard rock through the fairing mount sound system in his Harley. And the rest of us kind of fall in among those variations.
So when we were granted the opportunity to review a pair of Cardo PackTalk Slim helmet communication units, I knew Ted already had one, Phil being the tech geek would jump at the chance, while I was a bit intimidated by it. I needn’t have been, as these high-tech, very advanced devices turned out to be really quite simple to learn, install, and put to use. The capabilities Cardo has built into both these Slims and the somewhat larger Bold, are quite extraordinary.
The Slim comes with an impressive array of features, including a simple, easy-to-nav app (Cardo Connect) to finger control the unit; Bluetooth connectivity to your smart phone, some Bluetooth capable cameras and even other headset brands; a clean sounding JBL speaker system that’s easily mounted inside the helmet ear pockets; FM radio with RDS, that automatically finds local stations for you to choose from; DMC “mesh” technology that can link up to 15 riders to chat at the same time (crazy!); and of course, finger touch or voice activation for everything, from phone calls, intercoms between riders, and blasting music.
I found the step-by-step directions in the box and on their website (Cardosystems.com) to be very simple and easy to follow. I roll with a Bell Qualifier full face lid, and everything installed with ease. The kit comes with several adaptations for different types of mounting, like clamps and mics for standard full face to modular and even open face mounts, and (fortunately for me) extra Velcro mounting pads. I always mess up at least one of those. Be sure your particular helmet is on Cardo’s compatibility list. Turned out, Road Dirt tech guru Phil had a helmet not compatible, so we couldn’t get it properly installed. No matching mounting brackets. He’s helmet-hunting, now armed with the compatibility list. Also be prepared to remove all the inner linings in your helmet, to slide connecting cords around the back and sides. Not a problem, as most snap in/out with ease. The only issue I had with my installation was fitting around the left side slot Bell built into my helmet for a Sena, making it easier for me to just snap it in with the cord exposed, which I didn’t mind.
The battery pack charges via a standard mini-USB port, and yields around 13 (claimed) hours of use time. As I learned the system, I found it difficult to train my gloved fingers to tap the buttons on the unit while it was snapped into the left side of my helmet. I did, however, learn the voice commands, and now they are all I use when I’m riding and using the Slim. I was able to synch up my Spotify “Road Dirt Classics” channel to the device via the phone app I’d downloaded (go check out our tune collection!), and call my wife while out on a ride one day- “Hi sweetie! Guess what I’m doing? Talking to you while riding the bike! Isn’t that cool?! Ha!” “That’s nice, hon. Be careful and pay attention.” Yes dear.
One of the features I really like is how the audio system self-adjusts while riding to account for the ambient noise outside the helmet. It’s called “Automatic Volume”, so when you’re at speed, you can have it set to whatever you like decibel-wise, but when you slow down and the ambient outside noise diminishes, the Cardo adjusts accordingly, keeping the unit from overwhelming your eardrums with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” while waiting for the light to turn green. Also cool- you can share your favorite (Road Dirt Classics- shameless plug again) music playlist with your backseater while “Rocking Down The Highway”. Unless of course one likes Metallica and the other Neil Sedaka (not offering that from experience).
Our initial features and install video. Later found the mounting brackets wouldn’t work for the back of Phil’s helmet.
The Cardo PackTalk Slim offers a plethora of more fantastic features, such as “Call to Intercom” whereby an incoming call can join the Mesh convo with the crew while riding (let the wife say hello to all the fellas), a “Private Chat” for isolating out just one rider from the pack to talk privately with, and apparently a way to record and broadcast via phone apps out to your podcast, if you have one (like we do- “Road Dirt” on most podcast platforms). Of course, these will be tested as soon as we can get a compatible lid on Phil, or can get together and ride with Ted again soon, or one of the other hooligans who call Road Dirt home. So stay tuned for an update in the near future.
What have been your experiences with the PackTalk Slim? Or the Bold, for that matter? Let us know in the comments below!
For more info- https://www.cardosystems.com/shop/packtalk-slim
*Images by Cardo Systems (except my helmet, of course)