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Monday, September 8, 2008

High Tech MotorCycle Safety

The Dainese Airstream Course D-Nect (left) and the Nolan N102 N-Com.
Photo: Thomas Hannich

Riding a motorcycle while talking on the phone is just plain dumb. But if you really must take that call, Mr. President, please consider a Bluetooth helmet. Some connected headgear can even tie in to your GPS and MP3 player, pausing tunes for directions on long trips. Might we suggest "Freebird"?

Nolan N102 N-Com
Every new N102 works with Nolan's N-Com connection kits, so if you're not ready to ride into debt, you can get the base helmet for $350 and add Bluetooth when the next paycheck rolls through town. Modular models like this — where the entire front flips up to expose your face — are in vogue only with the AARP set, but as the demographic profile of the classic Cadillac owner proves, old men know how to live it up: This incredibly nerdy brain bucket is also incredibly comfortable and incredibly capable.
Wired: More hookups than JDate: Bluetooth, intercom, even a 3.5-mm jack for your iPod. Quick-release chin strap is mega-convenient. Flip-front easily accommodates bifocals. Volume control. Tough paint hides scratches well. Can I get this Geordi La Forge-style flip-down sunshade installed on my skull?
Tired: Noisy, but all modulars are. Microphone boom requires constant relocation when taking the helmet on and off — and apparently makes you sound like you're trying to eat it. Can't we get some Bluetooth stereo? Fulfills its destiny as the Winnebago of the helmet world by being one of the largest headpieces on the road.

Dainese Airstream Course D-Nect
The Airstream Course is Dainese's premier skull shield, sharing its shell with the models pro racers use; the D-Nect version adds Bluetooth. Despite it having fewer connectivity options than the Nolan, we found ourselves grabbing the Airstream more often. Why? It's simply better at its primary job: motorcycle helmet. It's lightweight, comfortable, and quiet. No, it won't jack into your MP3 player, and yes, the interface is maddening — but after a few hours in this composite sanctuary, we really didn't feel the need to call anyone to complain.
Wired: Gorgeous lines draw more compliments than a playoff ring. Outstanding ventilation and polystyrene foam liner keep your head cool — until someone cuts you off. Top-mounted spoiler stabilizes your noggin at speed. 1-900 operators reported excellent sound quality. Rear reflective patch makes up for the too-stealthy matte paint job.
Tired: Limited techno-functions: All it does is pair with your cell phone or GPS. One-button interface responds only to Dainese's Morse Code-ish tap-language. Available in any color you like, so long as it's black.


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