I had to double check with Surj on this one and felt like a total fool when asking, “So do I have to plug my helmet in?” because whatever the response, it was the silliest question ever asked about a helmet. The answer is yes by the way, as the Sena communicator is integrated, rather sleekly, into Cycle Gear’s Bilt Techno 2.0 Sena Bluetooth Adventure helmet.
So then I had to find an appropriately-placed outlet in my old apartment, that would allow me to charge the Bilt but wouldn’t leave it sitting on the floor or on a potentially wet kitchen counter.
At the end of the month, I may have to hand in my Millennial card. One of the requirements for my generation is rampant love and use of any and all technology, but I continue to battle with it. Quite shockingly, in 2017 I cannot get my Apple phone to connect to my Apple computer via Bluetooth. I’m happy to blame technology, not my own skills, on that one, but I digress.
Pairing my phone to the Bilt’s Sena unit was surprisingly simple, and for that I was very, very grateful. Sena clearly has it better figured out than Apple.
There is a 45-page pdf available online, to teach you all of the combinations of pressing, holding, pushing and tapping on the three buttons of the Sena. It also gives instructions on pairing multiple devices, setting up speed dial and intercom, making phone calls, using voice operation and more. For a newbie to this technology, the amount of information was a bit overwhelming—let’s just say I got as far as connecting it to my phone, listening to some tunes and programming the only number I would “want” to call while riding, 911.
When I’m on the bike, I want everyone out of my head and space, so the thought that any loved one of mine can suddenly tune in while I’m trying to tune out just encourages me to put my phone in airplane mode. But a headset is great for a lot of things: hearing your directions read aloud, calling if you need to communicate to your dinner date that you’re running late, using the intercom to clue in your friend riding behind you that there’s a speed trap up ahead or, my new favorite, ambushing them with your current overplayed tune.
The speakers aren’t loud enough to listen to a podcast while riding on my bike, but with music it is perfectly fine as I make up half the words and notes anyway. While the speakers are backed with Velcro, they’re about 1.5” and mounted inside a recessed area positioned right over the ear, about 2’’ across, not allowing for extending adjustment of position. But the speakers are seamlessly integrated, with zero pressure on the ears or head—far more comfortable than the pressure on my ears from earbuds under a helmet. They also have a soft cloth over them, providing protection and comfort.
The microphone is adjustable and can be almost hidden, right up against the extended chin bar. I tend to hang rest my helmet on a footpeg and often carry it with my arm through the chin bar, so I worry that continuing such behavior could damage the foam cover, but that is easily replaced.
Trying different brands and learning more about helmet fit over the years, I’ve moved from a large Scorpion, to a medium Arai and now to this small Bilt.
The interior is softer to the touch than my Scorpion or Arai, but the padding is thinner. The Bilt is comfortable, although the plushness of my Arai can’t be beat, even if the liner is a real pain to put back in after washing. The Techno has a removable liner with snaps, so removing and installing are both very easy, with none of the complicated puzzle feeling some other helmets create.
As with all peaked helmets, there is an unavoidable little wiggle at highway speeds and when checking blind spots, a small trade-off for blocking the low hanging sun and your friends dust. The integrated drop-down visor provides limited shade from the sun and wasn’t a good replacement for forgotten sunglasses. The slide for the drop down was also a little difficult to use, especially while riding. The attachment point for the front peak is right next to the slide, so with motorcycle gloves on and my focus on the road, I sometimes wound up fumbling with a screw rather than the slide.
With the extended chin bar, the visor is further away from your face, so less fog builds up compared to helmets with closer face shields. But on a cold morning after a night of rain, no matter how far my breath was from the face shield, it was completely fogged up, forcing me to ride with the visor up. On warmer days, the extra space allowed for a welcome amount of airflow.
Bilt’s Techno Adventure helmet comes in very sexy (my word) matte black, or a not-so-matte white, very Storm Trooper-esque with its many black accents. There are also two spots of reflective sliver, on the crown of the head and strangely underneath the back, towards the neck, on the ridge where the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (aka the shell) and the expanded polystyrene (aka the impact absorbing foam) meet.
The helmet is only DOT certified; some other Bilt helmets also meet the ECE standard. But for around $220, you are getting quite a lot—many add-on Bluetooth communicators cost more, and that isn’t factoring in the time you’ll spend installing the unit or the cost of the helmet you are installing it on, never mind that you’ll never be able to integrate the system as well as Bilt has in their Techno 2.0 helmet.
$219.99. Learn more and get your own at CycleGear.com.
This story originally appeared in our January 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.