I’ve always been skeptical of the idea of in-helmet communication devices, even scolding friends for phoning me using an in-helmet setup while riding. Granted, I am something of a minimalist, which for me begs the question: Who really needs — or wants — a communication device? As it turns out, I do.
My first experience with the SENA 10S headset was on a ride through the Flint Hills of Kansas with my girlfriend and perpetual passenger. We clocked 500 miles on a two-day excursion through gorgeous rolling hills, and it was one of the most enjoyable motorcycle rides I’ve ever taken, in large measure — surprise for me — thanks to the 10S.
Easy to operate, the 10S features a single, large dial to jog between different settings. Intercom pairing with another headset (Sena or otherwise) is a snap and the 10S can be connected to three other units simultaneously for group communication. You can link with up to two mobile phones, and you share music with your passenger, a nice option. A simple tap on the jog wheel activates the intercom or answers calls, and sound quality is remarkably good thanks to quality 39mm speakers that tuck nicely into the ear pockets in most helmets. Talk time is a claimed 12 hours, with an impressive 10-day standby.
Using the 10S, my skepticism quickly gave way to enjoyment, and I was surprised by how nice it was to be able to talk about a picturesque herd of cattle grazing on a hillside as we passed and how convenient it was to say, “Hold on, I’m gonna goose it!” before I goosed it. But to me a headset still seemed merely a convenience, not a necessity, and I wasn’t yet sold on the idea that it was an important addition to my riding gear.
A few weeks after the Flint Hills ride, I passed the 10S headsets to a co-worker to try out. As they say, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” That same weekend I was back on the bike, my perpetual passenger riding pillion. Setting out on my trusty 1977 Suzuki GS750, it didn’t take long for both of us to realize we missed having the 10S. My riding partner and I were immediately reduced to a caveman-like system of nods and hand gestures to communicate, and by the time we got to our destination, a Sunday morning ride-in at a Kansas City coffee shop, I had a laundry list of musings from the road. We passed a showroom of classic cars, a Mexican bakery, a particularly foul piece of roadkill, and numerous texting drivers, occasions that could only be denoted with a primitive point (or other primitive hand gestures in the case of the texting drivers).
Since getting the 10S back, I’ve become even fonder of it. The Bluetooth connectivity feature allows me to play my favorite playlists from my phone and control volume with minimal interaction. And contrary to my fears, I don’t get distracted by it, although I’m still not convinced anyone has any reason to make or receive a phone call from the pilot position of a motorcycle.
For me, far and away the biggest benefit of the 10S is fully sharing the ride with my passenger, and if she decides someday to get her own motorcycle, the 10S’ 1-mile range will make it easy for us to discuss road hazards, bathroom breaks — or the bee that found its way inside my jacket. It’s now a must-have part of my riding gear. Price: $239 single headset, $439 dual pack.