Philosophy on Music Systems for Sportbikes

  Why add tunes to your riding? Because it’s relatively easy to do, and once it’s there, you’ll use it. But not all the time. If the road is scenic or challenging, or there are a bunch of other riders with me, I don’t listen. But alone...a late October night...down familiar roads headed for home...well, cranking up some Junior Brown is as good for my ride as electric grips. Music can make those thousand-mile days across featureless miles of Midwestern superslab a bit less boring too.


  How do you get the music to your ears with minimal kludge? Anything that’s effective above 70 mph on an unfaired machine is a real challenge, but everything depends on starting with a quiet helmet like the two featured on pages 28 and 29.

  If you are a pretty good model builder, you can disassemble your helmet’s upholstery and install effective speakers. I’ve done it at least ten times. For longer distance traveling, I prefer using earmold or earplug speakers but helmet speakers are more convenient for everyday use and commuting. If you want speakers built into your helmet (instead of the kind you simply Velcro into place on the liner’s fabric) then you’ll need about two hours of time and a soldering iron. This will allow you to remove some of the helmet’s polystyrene impact-absorbent material to make room for the speakers. Obviously, this will adversely affect the helmet’s safety. On Shoei X-9 series helmets, the entire cranial section stays in the helmet and the ear-to-chinbar-to-ear piece comes out as a single horseshoe-shaped unit (after breaking a dot of glue at the center of the chinbar). Bending the back sides of the “horseshoe” inward allows you to move this piece toward the back and then remove it without breaking it. Many other helmets are similar. Close study will usually reveal how any helmet comes apart. Absolutely do not work on your helmet unless you are very confident you can get it back together so that it will retain its primary safety function, and are also willing to accept responsibility for its failure to provide that function as a result of any changes you make. It is impossible to retain 100% of a helmet’s safety function after installing speakers.

  If your helmet fits close at the sides you may need to make a recessed space in the polystyrene impact material. After pulling back the soft liner fabric and foam backing, use the tip of a soldering iron to make a cavity shaped to accept the speaker. The foam shrinks cleanly away from the heated tip of the tool. Attach the speakers; then redo the upholstery and install the wires so the plug exits at a handy location.

  If you experience a lot of wind noise around your helmet and use foam earplugs which make it hard to hear helmet speakers clearly through them, try melting a 1/8" inch hole through the ear plugs using a hot finishing nail held with a pair of pliers. This converts them into noise attenuators that allow part of the sound through to your ears. Even after all this, you might have trouble above about 70 mph on an unfaired bike, but hearing the radio isn’t as important as hearing the radar detector in those situations.

SAFETY WARNING: The previous information about installing speakers in helmets is an account of my personal experience only. It is not intended as a recommendation or as instruction. Any alteration of your helmet exposes you to significant health risks, up to and including your death. If your helmet has been modified it is not safe to use. The previous information is for your amusement only. "Do not try this at home!"