I’m still fairly new to the motorcycle riding world and while I love moving around on two wheels, there are just some things as a tech lover that I’m not use to when out and about. One of those is being able to use the phone when needed and just having some cruising music. I did some research on the top brands in motorcycle communications systems and today I’ll talk a little about Cardo Systems and their latest PackTalk Bold Bluetooth communication system. Cardo Systems was nice enough to send me a unit to use and I installed it on the newest helmet I recently picked up the Scorpion EXO-R420. After installation I’ve used this unit and helmet as my primary whenever I went riding for the better part of this riding season. Now let’s talk about it!
First like many things involving having a motorcycle, this unit is not on the inexpensive side of the scale. Being a motorcycle owner can be a expensive hobby and while there are more affordable models from Cardo Systems, if you want the latest and greatest THIS is it! The PACKTALK Bold and PACKTALK Slim go for $339.95. The newest thing about this model is now it comes with JBL speakers for the system, bringing along that JBL audio quality.
When it comes to the installation of the PACKTALK Bold to say the least, it isn’t an exercise in fun. But this can be said of quite a few systems, especially ones that need to clip onto the side of the helmet. Now once you choose the helmet you will use with it, be sure as you won’t be switching the whole system back and forth between a bunch of helmets. After installing it, I was done with that experience and definitely not in a rush to do it again. The unit comes with all the items and wires you need to install it, and most of the major install is just routing wires throughout the helmet and tucking it away on the inside. It did take removing some pieces of the helmet to give you better room to work on the inside. The PACKTALK Bold had a clip-in mount and one with adhesive. I went with the clip-in mount, so if I did want to change helmets I can reuse the clip-in better than the adhesive. Once I was done with the installation which depending on how familiar you are to doing this, I want to say it should take 15-20 minutes. It took me about maybe a little over a half an hour. Once this was done, now it was time to power on and pair with my phone.
Pairing with my phone was simple enough and once it was paired, the fun times began. But while we are on the subject of pairing, before we move on I must talk about the part of pairing that wasn’t as easy as you might think. This was pairing the device with other riders. Nowadays as groups ride and just in general group meet up as I’ve started attending more of, pairing with another rider has become quite the exercise in monk like patience. Whenever I attended a group ride, I’ve seen quite a few riders with systems and we don’t link up, not because we wouldn’t want to but because man it can be frustrating to do so. Not simply with other brands, but even when I attempted to connect to other Cardo systems this was never a simple process. We hit all the required buttons, were within close enough distance from each other, and it was never a simple set and done situation.
Often times it took several frustrating attempts before we either got lucky and it connected or we just gave up. With the PackTalk Bold, I’ve had the hardest time with its DMC mode and other Cardo users. Funny enough the ones that worked out with the most consistency was Cardo to non-Cardo brands via Bluetooth. So just a note on this when thinking about connecting with others. This needs to become a better experience and something to think about if you are purchasing one.
Now if you are just riding solo and not worrying about connecting to the rider next to you, the PackTalk Bold was a joy to use. Those JBL speakers have some great quality whenever I listened to music, held a phone call, or was just listening to navigational directions. When it comes to the controls, they are easy enough to use, with the hardest part being remembering which buttons do what if you don’t ride everyday and gotten to the point of doing it often enough. Most times I found myself fiddling with the controls trying to remember which toggle the FM radio, and which switched to the music on my phone, etc. Once you get this down navigating the device is simple. It even works quite well (with a few misses) when using it with Google Assistant. Voice controls are great in those moments you can’t use your hand. And almost forgot, you have another way as well with their Cardo app, which definitely comes in handy if you forget what some of those button commands do. The app gives you a super easy way to control some of those core functions, just don’t use that while you’re riding!
All in all the Cardo PackTalk Bold is one impressive Bluetooth system for the motorcyclist. It has a steep pricing entry point, but for that you are getting all the bells and whistles combo-ed with a great battery which last about 13 hours on a charge. I’ve gotten through multiple short ride days and a few very long almost all day rides without having to charge up again. I’m sure if you look around you can find it cheaper, and if you do decide to pick a PackTalk up, my highest recommendation would go to the slim version if your helmet is compatible. It just looks better and more streamlined. No matter what you’ll do well with both!