I don’t know about you, but I use whatever bike I’m riding, in all weathers. I ride as much as possible.
I ride for work and play, so inevitably I end up having to stop to take and make phone calls, interrupting my fun. I’ve often toyed with the idea of an intercom, but never really believed they work. How can they, I usually have to wear earplugs, so surely there’s no way I could hear an intercom?
In the summer (remember that?) after a long ride was interrupted multiple times by calls, I thought enough was enough and got myself a Cardo Packtalk Bold to try. Let’s get straight to it, is it any good? Yes, I was really surprised at just how good it is.
My Cardo system uses Bluetooth connectivity, but it also has an ace up its sleeve with its Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC).
Bluetooth is ok, but has limitations; A limited range of under a mile. Rigid networks that break down when one rider loses signal. Can only accommodate relatively small groups of riders.
DMC has many advantages, read about it in detail here, but in summary, a few of its advantages include:
Creates a communication network between up to 15 riders at once.
Offers much greater distance than Bluetooth—up to 1,600m (one mile) in perfect conditions and 1,000m in a typical road environment.
Self-healing network that accommodates riders dropping in or out without network interruptions.
Exceptional audio clarity and fidelity.
Networks only need to be set up once, and pairing is a snap. Just set your intercom once and forget about it. It's that simple.
DMC works really well in practice. If you are riding in a group, it is particularly good. Once you have connected, riders can come and go, dropping out and reconnecting at any time. When you all get a bit spread out, a Bluetooth intercom tends to lose signal quite easily, but with DMC, things are much better. If your group gets split up, the individual groups can still talk amongst themselves, then reconnect automatically when you all catch up.
Pairing is simple. You simply all enter DMC pairing mode and the group admin presses one button, then one by one the flashing green lights on your units turn purple, telling us pairing is complete. Another cool thing about pairing is that our Packtalk Bolds will now remember this group and automatically reconnect if we meet up again.
DMC is great but Cardo has also incorporated 'universal connectivity' which means you can connect your unit to any pretty much any Bluetooth headset.
It’s also a very durable system and is completely weatherproof. I have used mine in everything from very heavy rain to blazing sunshine without issue. It works every time, without fail.
Battery life is fantastic with 13 hours talk time. I unclip my units and charge them in the house, but you can charge while you ride if you need to. Just plug into the 12v socket if you have one. You can also have private conversations with another member of the group, maybe your pillion perhaps. You need the app to access this feature but it's a fun feature.
One of the most crucial attributes for any intercom is sound quality. My Packtalk Bold came with 'Sound by JBL". This means it comes with 40mm-wide, high-definition speakers.
Fitting the kit is pretty straight forward. You have a couple of mic's to choose from depending on the type of helmet you're fitting it to, so wires to tuck away in the lining, and a couple of options to fix the mounting plate to the outside of the helmet.
I fitted my first kit to an AGV Sport Modular which is a flip front helmet. I used the stick on, external mount instead of the clip-on and the hybrid Mic rather than the wired mic because the front flips up. Positioning of the speakers is critical and I do have to adjust mine from time to time.
Cardo state that people won't know you're on the bike. I simply didn't believe this because bikes are just noisy. However, at normal speeds, it's true. I have made many calls without and trouble. The person I'm speaking to can hear me clearly and can't hear any ambient noise. For me, the speakers (when correctly positioned) are clear and have a decent quality sound.
As speed increases, I struggled slightly. It's not a problem with my Cardo, it's down to my helmet being pretty noisy at speed. The wind noise means I could do with slightly more volume (or a quieter helmet). I'm going to try a fixed front helmet which I'm sure will make all the difference. At slow speed, even riding with the front up is no trouble at all. It's a great system.
Phone calls are easy to make and answer. You can answer with a touch of the finger or use voice control to control your phone or the Packtalk Bold. There's also automatic volume, so as your speed increases and ambient noise in teases, the volume of the system compensates.
Like everything these days, you control most of the features through the app. It's simple to use, simple to connect and unlocks a host of features. Through the app, you can adjust the sensitivity of the automatic volume control, select EQ profiles such as regular, bass boost or vocal from the JBL sound system.
All in all, this is a great system, and for me has really enhanced my riding.