They really cut down on all that side-of-the-road cluster... foolery.

If you ride with other people but have never used a helmet-based communication system, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: You’re missing out.

I’ve met a lot of people who have never used them but disparage them anyway. I have also met a lot of people who used to be in the first category, but then try out a comm system and say that it is nothing less than transformative. If your reason for not using them comes down to "I never have," well, it might be time to update your thinking.

Have you ever been riding with a group, even a small one, maybe two or three other people, when something happens, someone pulls over somewhere not so convenient because they’ve been having an issue for the past few miles and didn’t know the area well enough to find a place to pull over?

Or you look in your mirror for that regular buddy check and suddenly your mirror is sickeningly empty?

Or you’re starving or having some other severe biological issue and cannot get your riding partners to pay attention to your hand signals?

Or you see a cop up ahead but you don't know whether everyone else does, too?

A decent comm system solves all of these problems and more. You can decide at the beginning of the ride whether to be constant-on or if you’d rather be in your own world except when someone has a sudden need on the road. As with so many things where motorcycling is concerned, it is nice to have it and not need it, than the other way around. Also, some have cameras built in, so you can record your, or the other idiots on the road's, shenanigans.

When you are shopping for communication systems, it is good to have an idea about what you’d like yours to do. Many Bluetooth comm systems have good connectivity within ½ to ¾ of a mile. In hilly or twisty terrain they are pretty much line-of-sight. The fancier, more expensive systems have better connectivity, so you’ll have to gauge that usefulness for yourself. Also pay attention to how many, and what kind, of connections your headset will take. Do you want to only connect to your GPS for turn-by-turn directions, or would you prefer to listen to music and not be interrupted?

Does anyone in your riding group wear a half-helmet? If so you’ll want “push to talk” and not voice activated, since often wind noise will turn on that microphone, and let me tell you, listening to the static wind noise from someone else’s helmet for miles and miles is not a good experience. Many comm systems let you choose your own setting here.

But here’s the best feature of the comm systems: you can turn them on when you need them, and turn them off when you don’t.