- Built in mic and speakers lets you communicate with fellow riders while observing social distancing
- Communicate via Mesh Intercom™ up to 0.5 miles radius
- Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone for listening to music/fitness app or answering calls
- Noise cancellation minimizes wind noise
- Rechargeable battery
- Built in taillight ideal for commuters (solid, night flash, daytime flash)
- Dial at back of helmet for one handed fit adjustments
- Well padded for added comfort
- Adjustable and lockable side straps
- Removable visor for added sun protection
- Cloth storage bag and extra visor mounting tabs
- Heavier than most road helmets (405g – size M)
- No rotational colision saftey features like MIPS or WaveCel
- Initially was difficult to set up using an Android phone (no issues on iPhone)
- Taillight not very bright in daylight
- Visor attaches via double-face tape, thus not adjustable or easily removed
- Limited to 2 colorways
https://www.sena.com/product/r1-evo (Helmet page)
Price: $159 USD
Colors: Matte Black, Matte White
Sizes: Small (50-55cm), Medium (55-58 cm), Large (58-62cm)
Weight: 405g (size medium)
Battery Life: 7-10 hours (varies depending on LED usage)
Charging Time: 2 hours
Source: Sena web site
How Obtained: Sample from company
RBR Sponsor: No
Smart Helmet Without Distractions
I saw the new Sena R1 EVO helmets at CABDA Midwest back in February. They arrived at my house in early March just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. Who knew these helmets with built in microphones and speakers would be perfect for social distancing on the bike? When trail riding, just Mitch and I or with a small group of friends, this helmet is perfect for keeping together while staying apart.
Most recently we took 4 of our friends MTB and there was a mix of skill levels. Mitch stayed up front, I did sweep. With coverage of a half mile radius, Mitch could tell me if he went left or right at the fork and I could communicate from the back if anyone was having trouble keeping up. At one point we did get separated and eventually Mitch was out of range. I was able to grab my phone and call him. The phone rang in his helmet and he could answer it through the helmet without digging in his saddlebag for the phone.
Mesh Intercom™ Enables Communication Between Riders
The Sena R1 EVO uses Mesh Intercom™ to enable hands-free communication between riders within a half-mile (900 meters). Multi-channel Open Mesh supports 9 channels, letting you switch between different groups on different frequencies. (Note: We only had the two helmets so we couldn’t test this particular feature.)
The helmet has a microphone built into the front of the helmet and speakers on the sides. The mic uses a feature called Advanced Noise Control, so it doesn’t pick up wind or ambient noise during conversations. Sometimes it’s so quiet I have to ask Mitch if he still has the intercom on. Just a word of warning, don’t get into a “hot mic” situation and leave it on while in the bathroom. Also, you’ll get funny looks from people when they hear you talking but no one else is around.
Since the speakers are located in the helmet and not in the ears, I was still very aware of my surroundings and could talk to other riders or hear another rider coming up from behind.
Voice Commands for Hands Free Control
Just like the iPhone Siri or Amazon Alexa, the R1 EVO utilizes voice commands to provide hands free control. To activate the voice command feature just say “Hello Sena” and the helmet responds acknowledging that it is ready for a command. Tell it to turn on the taillight, enable Mesh Intercom, play music or even configure settings.
Sena also offers optional remote controls that mount to the handlebars. The company did not send samples to test, but they would have been nice for adjusting volume or using phone features (music or calls) without removing hands from the bars.
The Sena Cycling App is used to create groups of friends with Sena helmets, set up presets for FM stations, play music, control taillight settings or access the Quick Start Guide. I had no issues using my iPhone 11s for initial setup, but Mitch struggled with his Android phone and it was more difficult to get going.
The R1 EVO then connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone, letting you make calls, listen to music (including FM radio), or hear GPS turn-by-turn navigation.
Built in Taillight
The helmet comes with a built in taillight with 3 modes; solid, blinking daytime and blinking nighttime. While it is a nice feature, I didn’t feel the light was bright enough as a daytime running light. On the flip side, you always have a light with you.
Some Other Key Specs
Charging the R1 EVO is fast, taking about 2 hours for full charge and 20 min for a quick charge (3 hours of intercom). According to the company a full charge should last between 7-10 hours depending on LED usage. We were testing it primarily on trails and found more like a 5 hour battery life.
I found the helmet to be on the heavier side, which is to be expected with the extra weight of a mic and speaker technology. Mitch did not feel weight was an issue even with his medium helmet coming in at 405g.
While the R1 EVO meets all safety requirements, there is no rotational collision safety features like MIPS or WaveCel. There was ample padding for increased comfort and a rear dial to secure the helmet with one hand. Side strap locks provided a more custom fit and padded chin strap reduced any rubbing.
Included in the box is a helmet storage bag and a visor that attaches with double face tape. A spare pair of adhesive tabs are included in the box. Since the visor is taped on, it is rigid with no adjustability. I would have preferred to use a Velcro type attachment instead of tape.
Currently the helmet comes in only two color options, matte black or matte white. Hopefully down the line Sena will add a few more options, letting riders match their bike and helmet.
Being able to communicate safely and easily on the bike made rides more enjoyable. When in a group, we could keep everyone together while socially distancing or if just the two of us, we could easily hear each other when riding single file. After testing for a few months, Mitch and I came to miss chit chatting on rides if we forgot to charge the helmet or I was testing another helmet brand.
Added features like being able to listen to music (best not used on the road, but a nice feature for trail rides that aren’t too busy) or answer the phone without stopping to dig through the saddle bag helped to enhance the ride. At $159, the R1 EVO is competitively priced with standard helmets. Sena also offers the R1 helmet for $129 which connects only 4 headsets and comes in five different colors.
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Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.