Cardo Scala Rider G4 Power Set Review
Bluetooth bike-to-bike communication has never been better
With its Click-to-Link technology, a range of up to one mile between riders, plus Bluetooth connectivity to cellphones, MP3 players and GPS units, the Cardo Scala Rider G4 has set a new standard in wireless communication systems.
Pointing to your fuel tank is the international hand signal for “I need gas.” The easily understood gesture is one of many in the lexicon of motorcycle sign language. Born from the need to communicate when dialogue isn’t an option, these gesticulations convey fundamental information but fail to impart the details.
Advantages of using the G4 system go beyond discussing fuel needs and wrong turns. The open channel of communication allows a lead rider to announce road hazards while the clean-up rider can keep the group together when a laggard gets caught in traffic or at a stoplight. The voice-activated, noise-canceling microphone transmits a wind-noise-free communiqué from within most full-face helmets. As long as riders remain within sight of one another, the G4 will continue communication up to one mile. The unit’s flip-up antenna helps extend the range.
The G4’s voice-activated microphone functions perfectly inside traditional full-face helmets, but the extra wind flowing into a helmet with an extended chin area (like the Arai XD in the photo below) can cause unwanted mic activation, transmitting annoying wind noise to your mates. Volume from the ear pieces is more than adequate at lower speeds, and is even audible at highway speeds. However, we noticed that the placement of the speakers directly over the ear canal is vital for clearly communicating above 65 mph.
Mountains, trees, buildings and other large objects can interrupt the connection between riders, but the system will re-link either automatically or by pushing the A or B channel buttons located on the unit. While the auto re-link isn’t instantaneous, the systems will pair up within a couple minutes. The intervals the system needed to re-link seemed to vary depending on distances between the units, but even the worst-case scenarios never struck us as an excessively long period to re-link.
While most Bluetooth comm systems can wirelessly link up two riders, the Cardo G4s can connect as many as four. Officially, the G4 provides three-way communication with Rider 1 paired with Rider 2 on Channel A and paired with Rider 3 on Channel B. In this configuration, Cardo claims a 1-mile range between riders, which we verified on our trip to the USGP at Laguna Seca earlier this year.
The system can be tricked into linking four riders by Rider 1 pairing with Rider 2 on Channel A and pairing with Rider 3 on Channel B, while Rider 3 is paired to Rider 4 on Channel A and paired to Rider 2 on Channel B. This way Rider 1 and Rider 4 can communicate with each other via the paired connection between Riders 2 and 3. This configuration is intended to serve a pair of two-up riders, so its range is said to be only 35 feet, but we remained linked up at far greater distances.
The G4’s controller is compatible with all helmets, some easier than others. The audio kit’s clamp slips between a helmet’s shell and its neck roll, making for a quick and easy install. But some helmets, like Pete’s Bell Star, has its neck roll secured directly to the helmet’s shell, necessitating use of the included adhesive backing plate that replaces the clamp and allows the audio kit to mount directly the helmet’s shell.
A single charge easily lasts a long day, and we were amazed when Troy used his for days without recharging. Very impressive.
Quick and convenient is the G4’s ability to mate with other Bluetooth toys. Connecting it to my smartphone took mere seconds, and I was able afterward to place and receive calls and listen to music I have stored in the device. You can also sync the G4 to a GPS device and the spoken instructions play through the speakers just like they do in a car. A built-in FM radio tuner can be toggled to seek stations or scroll to six pre-set ones, but this function is barely worth mentioning as it has poor reception, and who listens to FM anyway?
The G4 is the only communication module in Cardo’s line-up to feature the Click-to-Link function, allowing a Scala Rider to connect to another Scala Rider without having to pair the two devices. “Think of it as a private bike-to-bike channel that you can set up on-the-fly with other Scala Rider G4 users that you spot next to a traffic light or along the road,” is how Cardo describes the function.
Easy to install, lightweight and fun, the G4 elevates the motorcycling experience between you and your passenger or riding buddies. After using the system for our week away at Laguna Seca, we were sold on the benefits of the $490 G4 PowerSet.
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