Tired of putting up with the hassles of a helmet communicator? While helmet comms such as those offered by Sena or Cardo have improved the riding experience for many motorcyclists, they come with some limitations. Syncing comms between riders can be frustrating, whether you’re trying to connect the same brand or two different brands. Usually, it’s because the riders didn’t bother reading the instruction manual, but still, it’s often inconvenient. There’s also the matter of expense—good helmet comms aren’t cheap.
Helmet maker Ruroc intends to end the problem with a new Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) app aimed at motorcyclists. Called “Chain,” this app bypasses the helmet comm assembly entirely, and uses your smartphone to communicate bike-to-bike.
It’s super-simple, at least in theory. You download the app to your phone, and then use it to connect to other riders with the same app. You can set up group chats, and invite riders to these chats with a passcode. You then communicate with everyone else who’s logged in with a set of wired or wireless earphones. Or, you can use your Bluetooth helmet comm to connect to your phone, forgoing its “connect to other riders” feature, relying on the Chain app to take care of that.
If you’ve used enough different communicators, you can immediately see some advantages to the Chain app. Although high-end comms now allow practically unlimited numbers of bike-to-bike connections through new wireless mesh technology, low-end comms still limit riders to 1-4 connections. The Chain app is free, and allows you to connect to an unlimited number of riders.
And, because it uses VOIP technology, Chain isn’t limited to line-of-sight connection, which is still a problem with most helmet comms. If you have wireless data signal, you should be able to use Chain, whether or not you actually have close visual contact with other riders.
However, this is also Chain’s biggest downfall—no data connection means no communication. In the GTA, you’ll almost always have 4G or LTE available, but in rural Canada, it’s no guarantee. Once you head north, you can ride all day and see only one or two cell towers.
The other potential downfall is Chain’s reliance on a set of earphones. In some jurisdictions, it’s illegal to ride with an earbud in place, and some riders may find it uncomfortable. You could always pair your smartphone to a Sena/Cardo/etc., but then you’ve ended up spending the money on a helmet comm anyway, so have you saved money in the long run?
So, there are downsides. However, as the app is free to download and try, it’s worth checking out. See more details on the app at Ruroc’s website; currently, it’s approved for iOS, and is awaiting Google’s OK for the Play store.