Cardo Scala Rider
Review posted June2006 by Michael Thwaite and Jay Elmore
The Scala Rider Bluetooth Headset is unique in being the first
universal Bluetooth solution aimed squarely at the motorcycle
rider. Sure there have been other Bluetooth solutions but they’ve
been expensive integrated affairs like the BMW BT Helmet and the
This is the Motorcycle Bluetooth headset for the masses. Cardo or
the Cardo group of companies is a diverse bunch involved in
Internet start-ups, property leasing and even electric power
Cardo Wireless is the home of the Scala range of Bluetooth
headsets. They have the regular Scala 500 model; a traditional
in-the-ear design and the “Rider”, a totally different
unit is big and chunky; it has to be that way to be used by a
gloved rider. It’s a waterproof design that has to withstand the
rigors of motorcycle life so there’s no room for wimpy froufrou
buttons and connectors here. It feels solid and tough, the
connectors are large and “automotive” spec. It’s not military spec.
but close enough.
microphone also works at high-speeds
- Quick-release clamp to
attach or detach headset within seconds
- Super-slim speaker fits
any helmet and adjusts volume automatically
easy-to-reach control button
The main unit has a flexible boom microphone and a separate speaker
on a short wire. Like the body, these ancillary parts feel tough.
The unit is intended to be clamped to the rider’s helmet with the
boom microphone near the rider’s mouth and the speaker placed
inside the helmet on the lining; a Velcro backing holds that in
main unit is held firmly in place by a screw down clamp… it doesn’t
fall off. The core of the unit does release though leaving the
clamp wit microphone and speaker behind to allow for home charging
off of the Helmet. We tried it with a couple of helmets without
issue; they’ve taken care to design something that will fit
unit paired quickly and easily with Motorola RAZR, MS Smartphone
and Verizon V710 by Motorola. Controls on the unit for voice-dial,
pickup/cancel and volume are reasonably placed and easy to use in
motion once you’ve practiced a bit first.
The key to the units success is its focus on the very different
conditions that a motorcycle headset is subjected to compared to
the relatively easy ride an ear-mounted unit gets; no pun
For a complete
on-the-road test I solicited the help of a friend of mine, Jay
Elmore to put the Scala rider into an everyday 40+ mile commute in
and out of New York City on his 2004 BMW R1150GS Adventure.
Jay: "The Adventure has a good sized windshield so at slower speeds
(under 55), much of the wind is blocked from getting to the helmet.
Over 55 and especially at Freeway speeds, a significant amount of
wind gets to the helmet. For those not familiar with the Arai XD,
it is a hybrid street/motocross helmet, it’s louder than regular
helmets at higher speeds since much more air enters around the neck
and chin, keep that in mind if you use a full-face, more snug
fitting racing lid.
Tests took place in
winter during my daily commute from NYC to my office over an hour
away in NJ. Temps ranged from 60 degrees Fahrenheit with rain and
wind to 20 degrees and perfect calm. Driving through Manhattan and
the Holland Tunnel also added plenty of outside sounds (fire
engines, horns honking, etc). Both thick winter gloves and
fall/spring leather gloves were used.
Initial results were
mixed. Under about 60 mph, people I spoke to over the phone could
hear everything perfectly. They were shocked when I told them I was
talking to them while on my bike. The voice dial worked well and
the controls on the device were easy to adjust. The sound quality
from the speakers was crystal clear. As speeds went over 60, the
sound from the speakers remained very clear but the people I spoke
to couldn’t hear me nearly as well. They said it sounded as if I
were in a wind tunnel, any faster and they couldn’t understand
anything I was saying at all.
After a few adjustments to the mic, positioning more calls were
made and results at low speeds were identical while results at
higher speeds were vastly improved. In fact, several calls made
with an open throttle were plenty clear on both ends to keep the
conversation going (slight distortion from the mic but the speakers
were still loud and clear).
At any speed, the
automatic volume control in the speakers worked so well that it
felt as if the volume was directly connected to the speed of the
engine. A smooth clear signal was heard from a dead stop
accelerating right up to the limit.
superbly through rough NYC traffic conditions. Only nearby sirens
or horns were noticeable by the person on the other end of the
volume, answer and on/off controls took a little getting used to
but were relatively easy to use.
They were definitely more difficult to use with thick winter gloves
but no more than would be expected.
They were very easy to use with spring/fall gloves and I imagine
would be even easier to use with summer gloves or no gloves at
Using the controls in the city was more difficult for the sole
reason that less time is available because the clutch is used so
Through city driving or
lower speeds the voice recognition worked as well as speaking
directly into the phone itself. At higher speeds, the phone would
have a much harder time identifying the commands.
After the first full
charge, the unit stayed on my helmet, in the top case of my bike
for over a week before it died. About two to three hours of talk
time took place during this time period. These results were a
little better than I expected and as my talk time decreased after
that, the length between charges got better.
As I frequently ride
with a passenger, a direct link to another helmet would be ideal.
This feature alone would make the units worth the price tag. Hands
free controls that could attach to the handlebars would also make
using the unit easier. (Now possible with the Teamset, Q2 and
the Q2 multiset)
in all the unit works great for someone who wants to make calls
while on the road. The recreational rider may not find calls from a
bike necessary but for someone who commutes, makes a living riding
a bike or simply travels long distances, it breaks up the ride
nicely. If it was capable of helmet to helmet functionality, I
would rate it 5 out of 5 stars. As is, I give it 4 out 5 with the
price being the only thing that knocks it down a notch. Otherwise,
to helmet available Now with the Teamset, Q2, Q2 multiset, G4 and
the G4 powerset
works well • Battery life • Designed for the purpose • The only
universal solution • Keeps you “Connected” whilst you ride
Inevitably more expensive (Not at our store) :) •
Keeps you “Connected” whilst you ride
My take on the Scala; I think that it’s the only solution worth
considering for motorcycle use and adds to rider safety but when I
get on the open road and wind-on the throttle, I’m not there
because I want to talk to the office.
• Mounting hardware
with Mic. and speaker • A host of Velcro™ pads and fixings • Main
unit • Charger
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