Less than the sum of its parts.
Smart Helmets have become more and more of A Thing over the past couple years. It stands to reason, then, that Sena would want to throw its hat in the ring, so to speak. That they did, with the introduction of the Momentum line of "smart helmets". I had the opportunity to live with a Momentum over the past year, and I've definitely formed some opinions about the helmet and its included technology. So, just how smart is the Sena Momentum? Let's talk about it.
For those of you who don't know, the Momentum line is a family of DOT and ECE-approved full-face helmets produced for Sena by an unidentified helmet maker (I reached out to Sena to find out just who, exactly, makes these helmets and I never heard back. So your guess is as good as mine. If I had to guess, and this is just wild speculation, it's either HJC or Shark). They have a composite fiberglass outer shell with a multi-density Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) interior. The liner is removable and washable like you'd expect, and each helmet is fitted with a pinlock visor. Ventilation is provided by capacious crown and chin vents and a big aft exhaust port. Colors are limited to matte black and glossy white. It is, at first glance a handsome (if kind of basic-looking) full-face lid that doesn't stand out in a crowd.
Inside the helmet, between the EPS and the soft liner—that's where the real action is. The Momentum is equipped with an integrated comms system that's basically the guts of a Sena 20S spread out around the helmet so you can't see its workings. It features Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity to talk to your phone, noise control, AM/FM radio, a shielded mic for issuing voice commands and talking on the phone, and the requisite intercom for talking to your riding pals. When the helmet is connected, it can control your phone through various pre-programmed voice commands or with the buttons built into the side of the helmet.
The helmet's comms system works in concert with the Sena smartphone app, which is available for Android and *cough* other, lesser phone operating systems. With the app, users can set up their Momentum, control the helmet's functions, make minute adjustments to sound quality (which ultimately don't do much), set up speed dial numbers and radio station presets, etc. The app is easy to navigate and even allows you to read PDF versions of the Momentum's quick-start guide and user manual.
The onboard battery charges in about 2.5 hours and lasts about 6-8 hours of constant heavy use (music, navigation, occasional phone calls, etc.). The intercom has a claimed range of about a mile in open terrain and supports up to eight riders, but I never used that functionality so I can't really speak to its efficacy.
I can, however, speak to the efficacy of the audio portions of the onboard comms systems. Frankly, this is where the whole thing falls short of the mark. First off, the sound quality from the onboard speakers is atrocious. When set in normal listening mode, you can barely hear your music over your bike's engine and the wind noise (this lid is surprisingly loud, we'll talk about that in a sec). There's a sound enhancer setting that is supposed to boost the loudness, but all it does is strip all the bass out, flatten the midrange, and crank the treble all the way up. This makes your music technically louder, but it sounds terrible. Problem is, when you have that setting enabled, any other voice alerts—voice command responses, phone calls, the Waze lady—SOUND LIKE THEY'RE SHOUTING AS LOUD AS THEY CAN DIRECTLY IN YOUR EAR. This is sub-optimal at best.
Oh, and speaking of the voice commands, I discovered that the helmet doesn't listen very well at all. The voice commands work great when you're at a standstill with your bike off, but as soon as you have any loud noise around you at all its responses are infrequent at best. I've shouted, "Hello, Sena!" (the command phrase) at the top of my voice while cruising along and got zero response. Strangely enough, I discovered that the helmet will respond to a bunch of other phrases even when you're not talking to it. These phrases include, but are not limited to:
- "Are you shitting me?"
- "NASTY BOYS!" (I was on a big Janet Jackson kick for a while)
- "Oh, for God's sake really?"
- "What the..."
- "Crap, which is it again?"
The helmet cheerfully and dutifully responded to all of those totally not command phrases and more. One time, it even responded to "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that. Please say your command." (or something to that effect) when I said, "I'm not talking to you, Sena!" after it responded to a random phrase. While this is charming at times, ultimately it's infuriating because I couldn't get the helmet to respond when I wanted but it sure did like bothering me when I didn't. Much like my kids, on occasion.
So... Pros and Cons?
Well, to start off, the Momentum is pretty comfortable. The lining is soft and cushiony with ample support in the cheeks. The helmet breathes extremely well thanks to its big vents, and I was cool and comfortable even on the hottest, muggiest days. It's a little heavy thanks to all the onboard tech—pushing four pounds for the XL size I wear—but the weight is distributed well and you don't really notice it until you take it off after a long day of riding. The stock visor is nice and clear with a fantastic field of view and easy to open and close with gloved hands.
It's not all skittles and beer, though. My biggest complaint—aside from the audio system's bad levels and lackluster sound quality—is how loud the helmet is. Around town, the Momentum isn't too bad, but once you get up to highway speeds the wind noise is pretty noticeable even with the lower chin shield mounted.
Also, to be honest, I worry about Momentum's future-proofing. Sure the app and firmware are updateable, but what about the hardware? When you buy a Momentum, you're basically stuck with the old 20S technology as long as you own and use the helmet. That's in contrast to a clip-on system that you can change out as easy as kiss your hand as comms technology evolves.
In conclusion, the Momentum is more clever than actually smart. While it's a good looking, comfortable, well-ventilated helmet, those attributes are largely offset by the helmet's weight and the awful sound quality of the integrated comms system. There are just too many quality of life issues with this helmet for me to recommend it in good conscience. That sucks, too, because I really wanted to like the Momentum. I'm stoked about smart helmet technology, but the Momentum isn't the right choice. If you're looking for something that'll allow you to control your phone and talk to fellow riders, you'd be better off grabbing one of Sena's other, newer, clip-on units like the 30K or the 20S Evo.
Sena Momentum Helmet Quick Specs
- Composite fiberglass shell with EPS liner
- D-ring fastener
- UV coated pinlock visor with 120-degree field of vision
- Integrated Sena 20S Bluetooth comms system
- 3.75 pounds
- Sizes XS-XXL