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I commute to work by bike, sometimes I share the journey with a co-worker. The problem is because of the wind and distance between the bikes, it's very hard to hear what the other person says.

It would be great to have some kind of hands-free radio headset to communicate while riding. For example, one solution might be a bluetooth headset, like the ones used with mobile phones, coupled with some kind of mobile phone or radio.

The best I could find were wired units meant for two people sharing one motorbike. The radio based units I found were again for motorbikes and also seemed very expensive.

Do units like this exist for cyclists?

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Not a proper answer, but I often set up a set of signals with touring partners: One ding on a bell means "I'm here" and please ding back, and dinging several times frantically means "let's stop here". I suspect you're not going to find bicycle-specific headsets, and the challenge will be to find a headset that fits a walkie-talkie that will both play well with a bike helmet and with wind noise. Perhaps something designed for boating might work, or something military-grade? –  Neil Fein Nov 14 '10 at 18:15
    
Some kind of pretty decent units must exist, because the UCI recently banned them for US road races below category 1. velonews.competitor.com/2010/02/news/… –  freiheit Nov 14 '10 at 19:55
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@neilfein: the key thing to look for in the microphone is "bone conduction". Those pick up your voice through your jawbone and are much less prone to picking up wind noise. –  freiheit Nov 14 '10 at 20:19
    
I suspect that the motorcycle gear is the closest you'll find. Unfortunately, it's apt to be heavier and bulkier than you'd like, in addition to being expensive. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 19 '12 at 16:45
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@freiheit: Throat mics are another option, and easy to source through paintball related sources. The only issue I've encountered is getting real throat mics, where you only need to whisper to communicate. –  OMG Ponies Mar 20 '12 at 2:27
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7 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Years ago, when my wife and I started riding together, we got a pair of cheap two-way-radios, with headsets that included VOX. This allowed us to talk even when we weren't riding side-by-side. And since we weren't trying to talk from a mile away, it didn't matter how cheap the radios were.

Of course, this requires you coordinate with your co-worker, both have radios set up and tuned to the same frequency.

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FRS radios are quite inexpensive, most seem to have VOX, and would fill the bill quite well (as it's designed for this particular type of use). Bluetooth can be made to work too, but really isn't designed with that in mind. Plus, if you need more range, you can buy a combo FRS/GMRS radio, get the FCC GMRS license and talk over much greater distances (like if you're in a big event and get separated). –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 15 '10 at 14:50
    
What is VOX? Is it a brand name? –  Neil Fein Nov 16 '10 at 23:24
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice-operated_switch - basically, instead of having to push a button to transmit, you just speak into the mic, and it'll automatically start transmitting for you. Useful on the bike, where you don't want your hands to be busy with buttons while riding. –  zigdon Nov 17 '10 at 0:27
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Most bluetooth accessories (like headsets) expect to pair up with something smarter, like a cellphone or computer.

One simple alternative would be to each use a bluetooth headset and cell phone. Start a call at the beginning of the ride and stay connected until you finish or part ways. You will ideally need a cell plan that allows unlimited calling to a specific number (your cycling partner's) or else plenty of minutes.

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Keeping the call connected through the whole ride would also drain the batteries. You could probably get it set up so that pushing the button on the headset initiated a call to the other rider, with either auto-answer or a single button push to answer. Still, I like this alternative because it (for most people) involves equipment they already have, just need to add a good headset (preferably bone conduction microphone). –  freiheit Nov 14 '10 at 20:17
    
Another concern about using a cell phone -- roaming charges. –  OMG Ponies Mar 20 '12 at 2:19
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Bluetooth tech is meant for short range use. Under 10 meters if it's clear line of sight. I'd suggest you get a retail level portable 2-way radio (FRS) and a headset with mic.

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I can recommend the Motorola T5522 radios with VOX (though PTT is more reliable). Used to use them to co-ordinate at 24 hour races. It's discontinued now, but similar systems can be had for around £25 or so.

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The Cardo BK-1 is a new product and first of its kind on the market, Bike to Bike intercom and Bluetooth connection to phone/MP3 player, from the makers of the scala-rider Motorcycle communications systems.

Coming soon according to their website.

http://www.cardosystems.com/bk-1.html

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Link is broken now –  Peter Bridger Aug 16 '13 at 13:39
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They are a bit pricey, but the solution my wife has used for a number of years is Eartec's Simultalk 2.4Ghz radios. Roughly $300 for the pair. Advantages are small, lightweight, simple and very user friendly since it's like talking on the phone.

The disadvantage besides the cost, is that adding a 3rd rider is problematic.

FRS/GMRS radios with VOX and a good headset that will fit under a bicycle helmet should be a more cost effective solution, but I suspect you might have to try a couple of radios and headsets combinations until you get a setup that works will for VOX and bike helmets. A radio with VOX adjustments would be highly desirable.

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