REVIEW: SENA 10C
26 Apr 2017
I can’t help myself; I drool over tech. All my friends know that I love my gadgets! I currently have wireless speakers Velcroed to the sides of my helmet so I can listen to music, my tires, and friends, all at the same time. These speakers cause my partner Trey to lovingly call me princess Leia. I love tracking my rides and geeking out over Strava’s leaderboards and BikeParkPRO’s overall point system. I guess I’m kind of a nerd disguised as a wannabe cool kid. When presented with the opportunity to try out a deluxe hands-free multipurpose, blue-tooth, video camera, and communication system while out on a mountain bike ride, I became quite giddy at the idea. The thought of being able to hold a conversation while pedaling my mountain bike around is more than enticing. I did reserve some doubt about the capabilities of a do-it-all device. So, it was important for me to try out all of its' functionalities, but, with a focus on the mountain biker in mind; It's also important to take into consideration that the original intent of this device was for a motorcycle helmet. In this article I’ll explain the pros and cons, and also explain the changes I had to make in order for this device to seat properly on a cycling full-face helmet.
(The mounted device - 3 views – Last photo is the sticker mount)
The SENA 10C is not a pop-it-on-your-helmet-and-go sort of device. If you are the kind of person who needs instant gratification, then take heed from this advice. From one ADHD type of person to another, you must sit down first and read the instructions. SENA.com offers a smart phone app which has a “Quick Guide” map and there are multiple video tutorials on their website, as well. When I emailed in with a really stupid question, they were there for me with a quick response back. I decided, instead of trying to learn everything all at once that I would break down each piece of functionality individually. So, for my first ride, all I wanted to know was how do I power on the 10C so I could use the camera and video. There are just a few buttons to memorize but it’s easy enough to learn. If you find yourself confused while out on the trail make sure you’ve loaded the app so you can easily look up the 10C user guide. It came in handy for me.
(Photos 1 & 2: Showing the two different styles of microphone)
Let me first talk about the video capabilities before I delve into what I found to be the absolute must have/couldn’t live without functionality of this device. The 10C is specifically designed for a full-face helmet. They do have easy stick on mounts much like go-pro, with 3M tape that can be used to attach to the side of— in my case— a GIRO Chronicle helmet, i.e. a brain bucket. However, this is not ideal, as you can’t use any of the other attachments that go along with the system. The fact that you can’t see what you are filming because there is no viewfinder nor can you view live on your phone; it’s hard to test the placement before adhering the sticker to your helmet. I learned this the hard way. Also, it's important to note that, unlike the Go-PRO with its' wide angle lens (149.2 degree), which allows for riders to follow each other closely on the trail, the 10C's lens field of view is set at (128 degrees). What you really want to do with the 10C is follow at about 10 feet or more from the rider in front, so you won't risk them bobbing in and out of the frame. It took a couple rides, with my partner Trey, to figure out the best distance between us on the trail, which turned out to be ~10-20ft.
(Photo 1: The speaker inside the helmet. Photo 2: The clamp mount)
My next quest was to check out the intercom system. Little did I know that my mind was about to be blown! First, let me tell you about a few things I had to adjust in order to make the device compatible with my GIRO Switchblade (full-face helmet)*, with removable chin guard. I needed to add some padding in order to get the clamp to grab properly on the helmet. So, I cut up an old inner tube, because what good mountain biker doesn’t have an old tube lying around? Then, I had to add a wedge (see photo) to get the camera facing the direction that I wanted it to aim. I made a quick trip up to ACE Hardware for some longer screws and voilà – I was ready to ride!
* want to know more about how you could WiN a GIRO Switchblade? Go here
(2 views of the tube adjustments)
Trey and I hit the trails again. We pushed up to our favorite local downhill trail and turned on the devices, hit record, and here is the outcome, or should I say, the real-time conversation while riding a trail called Black Jack, in Goodyear Arizona!
Being able to hold actually hold a perfectly clear conversation while riding is so cool! There are multiple pluses about the intercom system. Let me list them here:
1. You can calmly say things like “Rattlesnake!” or “Cougar!” to the riders with you. (up to four people can be connected at one time)
2. You can easily alert your friends when you’re making a left turn at the trail intersection.
3. You can tell your friends when you had a pinch-flat or a burp.
4. You can announce things like “DROP!” or “That’s not a Tabletop jump!” or “PEDAL! PEDAL! PEDAL!”
I’m sure you can imagine all the scenarios where being able to hear your friends would come in handy. It brings together an element that is missing on group rides, being able to actually have a legible conversation while riding. However, it should be noted: Trey and I also tested the distance radius. We wanted to see how far away we could get from each other before the conversation would drop. We only made it about a 1000ft or 330meters. It seems that if you loose line of sight, the conversation become crackly. So this is definitely something that will work well for a group of friends who’s riding capabilities are similar.
There are a few other pieces of functionality, which I tested, in order to make a fair judgment of the 10C. Even though the device had me sold with the intercom functionality, it wouldn’t be fair not to try out other key features that I know mountain bikers would use. So, I tested its connectivity to my phone. I ran Pandora for over an hour and jammed out to some tunes. It never dropped its connection and the sound was clear. I also had Trey call me while I was listening to the music, the music paused, and the phone rang. We chatted for about 5 minutes, with no issues, and there was great clarity with the call. Once he hung up, the music resumed playing!
(Inside view with wires)
Overall, I was very impressed with the 10C. I can see it coming in handy for snow sports as well, like skiing and snowboarding (it is "water-resistant"). Although, you would need a helmet that covers your ears in order to place the speakers inside. There are a few things that would take this device to next level. I would love to see the app offer a real time view of the camera so you can easily mount it and aim it where you want it to go and a wider-angle lens would also be nice for mountain biking usage. It would also be awesome if I could use the intercom with a standard biking helmet. The only way I can see that being a possibility is with ear buds, or have the device be completely wireless, and just have a loud speaker attached to the helmet or handlebars.
Having fun, looking good and feeling protected all because of these guys!
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