Do you enjoy listening to music while riding? Do you want to be able to be reached on your phone at all times? Of do you like to chat with other riders or with a passenger on the bike? Then a communication system can help you out. Shouting from helmet to helmet has its charm, but it’s not all that ideal. The raspy sound of your voice sure makes us laugh while having a beer after a day full of riding. But it becomes less funny when you have to give a presentation for stakeholders at work the next day. Cardo is one of the companies that offers a solution; a communication system for riders. Cardo developed two series. The Cardo Packtalk series and the Cardo Freecom series. The Packtalk series is quite a bit more expensive than the Freecom series. This is due to the ability of the Packtalk series to connect and communicatie with up to 15 riders. We don’t really see the necessity of that. So we chose for the Cardo Freecom 4.
The Freecom series consists of the Cardo Freecom 1, the Freecom 2 and the Freecom 4. The most basic version is the Freecom 1. This system allows you to connect the headset to your smartphone or navigation system. You can listen to music, follow orders from the sat nav of make a phone call. So you can’t connect with other riders of passengers. The Freecom 2 offers a bit more. This communication system was developed for riders who wish to communicate with a passenger. You can connect the Freecom 2 with a device that’s close by (up to 50 metres maximum). Furthermore, it offers the same functions as the Freecom 1. The Cardo Freecom 4 allows you to connect with a group of up to 4 riders. This way, you can chat with your friends who ride in the same group. The signal allows a distance between riders of 1,2 kilometre.
The box of the Cardo Freecom 4 contains more than just the communication module. You wouldn’t be able to do anything with it without the little speakers, so naturally they are included. Same goes for the microphone. You can choose between a microphone for modular helmets and a wire microphone for full-face helmets. And don’t forget the charger. It’s included in the box as well, of course.
Besides all that, there are two mounting options included. You can stick the Freecom 4 to your helmet with an adhesive system or attach it to your helmet with a clamping system. You can slide the pastic holder over the shell of your helmet. Then you click the Cardo module into the plastic holder. We’ve used the clamping system ourselves and are quite enthusiastic about it. The clamp never moved or slipped off, so it works like a charm.
Installing the Cardo Freecom 4 system is easier than you might think. You just need to know how to do it. The box contains a multi lingual manual. Is your helmet prepped for a communication system? Then the installation takes less than 10 minutes. We installed the system into a HJC RPHA 11 full-face helmet, which was a piece of cake. We also installed it into a X-Lite X-803 RS full-face helmet. This was a different thing. It’s wasn’t such a surprise. The latter is a real racing helmet and was built for optimal performance on track. You won’t use a communication device while racing your butt off. But persistence wins, so we succeeded in installing it in the X-803 RS too. When wearing the HJC with the installed Cardo system, you won’t feel any pressure or irritation from the speakers or cables. We did notice some pressure from the system after a long ride while wearing the X-Lite X-803 RS.
The sound of the Cardo Freecom 4 is surprisingly good. No, it’s no Bose surround sound. The bass could be a bit better, but it’s not that bad. The sound quality decreases at speeds above a 130 km/h. Not such a surprise since the wind noise increases. The two helmets with which we’ve tested the Freecom 4 are also both not the quietest of helmets (due to their racing roots).
So get ready to chat your friends ears off with the communication system. Talking with passengers on the bike works well, also while riding fast. It works well with other riders as well. We did experience it differs per helmet how well you can understand what’s being said. For example, RRB-riders with a built-in Cardo system in an HJC RPHA 7, a Schuberth modular helmet and an AGV K5 were more intelligible than riders who wore the HJC PRHA 11 or X-Lite X-803 RS with a built-in Cardo system. The amount of wind noise that your helmet blocks therefore contributes to the intelligibility.
The Bluetooth function of the communication system works well. The device connects quickly to your smartphone. The Cardo device also remembers the connection, so it will automatically pair with your phone the next time you use it. You can change the settings of the device in the Cardo app which you can install on your phone. You can turn the VOX voicecommand on and off. Do you often shout to fellow road users round you (“Go go go, little snail!”, “Come on, hurry up a bit!”) or do you like to sing along with your music? Then you can turn it off to prevent the system from calling your mother-in-law.
You can also pair the Cardo Freecom with other communication devices through the app. With a Sena device, for example. You can connect the Cardo device with two other communication devices, so you can have a group conversation with thee people in total. Connecting with a Sena module demands a bit of your patience. Pairing with other Cardo units is a piece of cake. But pairing with Sena units requires more timing and patience. It will work, but take your time. Do it during the coffee break at a cosy gas station. Great coffee gives some distraction from the frustration.
When connecting with other Cardo devices, the connection allows you to pair with three other units. So the connected group consists of four people in total. The signal range of the connection between two or more riders should be 1,2 kilometres, according to the manual. When connected with Cardo devices, that seems quite right. But when you’re connected with a Sena device, the signal range is a bit less.
Not everything goes well in our life on 2’s. For instance, we’ve -unintentionally- tested the Cardo system for resilience. And we can say wholeheartedly; the Cardo Freecom 4 can take a beating. One of our riders didn’t slide the Freecom device into the plastic holder on her helmet properly, after charging the device. So the module fell out of its holder at a speed of 100 km/h. She quickly turned around, picked it up, clicked it into the holder (properly this time!) and got on her way again. The result? The Cardo module still works like a charm. The Freecom 4 has also survived a kiss of the tarmac as a result of a traffic accident. Tough little cookie.
The Cardo Freecom 4 is a tough and handy piece of technology. The communication system is fairly easy to install and connects well with your phone or other Cardo devices. The connection with Sena communication systems could be a bit better, but it’s not impossible. Those pairing stuggles with other devices are therefore the biggest downside of the Freecom 4, we think. Because futhermore.. it just really is a solid communication system. Perhaps it’s less suitable for your racing helmet. But hey, maybe it’s not that convenient too, to use a real racing helmet as a helmet for your daily rides. Riders of REDRIDINGBOOTS are just a bit odd sometimes. The sound quality is fine, as is the connection with other Cardo devices. The connection to your phone or sat nav is rock solid. The successor to the Freecom 4, the Cardo Freecom 4+, is also available with JBL speakers for the tech lovers among us. That means; even more happy faces while listening to your favourite music.