What if there was a way to communicate with your riding buddies where you didn’t have to worry about hardware compatibility or Bluetooth range limitations? Better still, what if said moto communications solution was free? No, I’m not talking about Discord—I'm talking about an app solution called HelmChat.
By this point in the global pandemic, many of us are more familiar than we’d like with Zoom. HelmChat uses the open-source videoconference software Jitsi, which some prefer over competitor Zoom due to privacy concerns. As long as you have cell signal on your smartphone—and older smartphones are totally fine to use here, too—you should be able to talk to your HelmChat group via audio-only conferencing.
Presets in HelmChat are optimized for conditions unique to riding, such as noise-cancelling for loud helmets. If you have speakers in your helmet, that’s obviously helpful, but if you choose to use wired or wireless earphones inside your helmet instead, no problem. HelmChat is hardware-agnostic, so your buddy with the Sena can talk to you with your earbuds with no problem.
Regarding privacy, here’s what the HelmChat website has to say:
“Jitsi uses DTLS-SRTP encryption for all of its communication. 1-to-1 chats are connected directly between phones. Group chats do use our server as a central point, but the contents are never stored to any persistent storage and only live in memory while being routed to other participants in the meeting.”
Cell reception can obviously be an issue, but it’s one that HelmChat accounts for. If your cell signal drops while you’re in a chat, it should immediately reconnect once you have signal again, and a notification tone will sound to let you know. You will require a data plan on your phone, since chatting via the HelmChat app (which is available for both Android and iOS devices) requires around 30MB of data per hour, with a 6-hour ride taking roughly 200MB in total.
If this sounds great to you, you’re not alone. The good news is, you can check it out without having to shell out any money, and see if it’s right for you and your friends. The person behind HelmChat goes by u/doflnl on Reddit, and is quite responsive to questions, concerns, and comments in this Reddit thread about HelmChat.