Motorcycle Gear: Cardo PACKTALK Communications System

I was never a fan of helmet-to-helmet communication. I used to like being in my helmet alone, my only thought being of the road ahead. Keeping a conversation going while riding seemed like a distraction. Plus hearing my riding buddies drone on and on about God knows what, I get enough of that while enjoying a beverage after the ride. Sorry, of course, I’m kidding. The conversation is always a delight. Is this reading as sarcastic, hummmm?

All jokes aside, I used to be opposed to the comm thing, which changed this summer while testing out the Scala Rider PACKTALK from Cardo. Cardo was one of the first companies to create a clear and noise-free Bluetooth headset for cell phones with wind-suppressing technology. It’s called Scala.

Cardo PACKTALK helmet-to-helmet communication
Here’s what is included in the Cardo PACKTALK motorcycle communications kit.

One morning while riding to work, one of the Cardo crew had an epiphany: What if we use this same technology, wrap it in a waterproof shell and attach it to a helmet? That’s all it took to get the ball rolling. Handing this idea off to one of their engineers the project took shape and eventually culminated with the Scala Rider. A hands-free device that would connect riders to their music, cell phones and each other. Obviously, Cardo wasn’t all that creative when it came to a name for this brilliant new device, but who cares, it’s awesome.

Now, I said I used to be opposed to the comm thing. I was recently schooled the hard way on why a device such as this can be extremely useful and dare, I say it, fun.

My friend and longtime riding compadre Jon and I recently rode up to New Hampshire from Connecticut, well, Jon from Brooklyn, to cover an American Flat Track race. Great race, Bronson Bauman won the Big Twins event on an Indian FTR1200. Our ride up was great, beautiful weather and back roads for miles. We’ve ridden together for years, never once with any more communication than hand signals, and, um, simple gestures. But this time we both installed Cardo’s Scala Rider PACKTALK system.

My helmet is the Shoei GTII Air and Jon has an Arai. We had no problem attaching the devices to our helmets, using one of the many mounting brackets provided. Syncing the two was also a breeze. Simply hold down a sync button on each unit until they connect. Getting the device and my phone to talk took a few steps, but once the PACKTALK signal was recognized, it connected every time I turned it on. Connecting to your phone is key for listening to music and using Google maps. Have to say, having turn-by-turn directions given to you while riding, that’s nice. You can also give Suri commands to make or answer phone calls and text. And if you have music playing, it lowers automatically when any other voice functions are used, nicely done.

The headset and mic fit nicely into my helmet. Being a new model and communication-friendly, cutouts were in place to accept speakers and wires. Most touring helmets come with these cutouts, making installation much easier. Glove-friendly buttons and a roller wheel for volume are positioned on the device allowing riders to choose commands easily while riding.
The audio is great and virtually wind free. My music sounded good, and the conversations between Jon and me were clear. Surprisingly, we both enjoyed the helmet-to-helmet connection, go figure.

This connection came in very handy on the ride home. We started off in a light rain that quickly grew intense. We were on the highway for about an hour when my bike suddenly lost power. I was in the third lane at the time, and it was pouring, not ideal. Jon was leading when this happened. Using the intercom, I told him I had lost power and needed to get to the shoulder immediately. Without hesitation, he dropped back, used his bike’s signals, and guided me in. Without this Scala Rider, I would have been stranded alone, not even able to get to the side of the road or worse. Hard lesson learned.

So I’m a believer now in helmet-to-helmet communication. It’s pretty clutch in sketchy situations and damn nice to have your tunes along for the ride. This Cardo ScalaRider PACKTALK delivered pretty much as advertised, plus somehow made the droning banter, old friend, well, delightful. RC