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MO History: Earl Roloff, Jr., Part Deux

Earl Roloff’s Facebook fables are too good not to share with a wider audience. In this episode, we learn the value of perseverance and hard work, race with famous children of the swingin’ Southern California ‘60s, and continue growing onward and upward. Part 1, in which we explored the origins and earliest career of our young protagonist, is here. – John Burns

Take it away, Earl:

With less respect than Rodney Dangerfield, the Yamaha SC500 2-stroke Single was one of the worst motorcycles ever manufactured. Rated one of the worst motorcycles of the 70s by many, including a couple of major publications, its list of flaws was longer than War & Peace, a failure at almost every level: A 4-speed gearbox so spaced out that Jeff Spicoli would be jealous. Engine detonation so bad, you thought water was being mixed with the gas rather than oil. The direction-changing ability of a Peter Fonda chopper from Easy Rider. More seizures than our Border Patrol/DEA at the southern border on a busy night, the list goes on.

Yamaha SC500 (courtesy of Bonhams)

The real question: who would want one of these things? Unfortunately, one such buyer lived in my house, my dad. Of course, when we bought it new, we were unaware of what we’d gotten into. However, we quickly found out! When you show up at a race, and you’re the ONLY guy riding a particular bike it says something. (That happened to me on more than one occasion along the way. See also MO History: The Terminator.) So, as usual, my dad knew he could make it work, and I’d be the guinea pig.

2023 Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally First Look

Ducati revealed a new Multistrada V4 Rally in the latest episode of its 2023 World Première web series. And while the model name hints at improved off-road capability, the V4 Rally’s feature list leans more for long distance travel and passenger comfort than tackling Dakar.

Not that there aren’t any upgrades to make the Rally model more capable of venturing off the tarmac than existing Multistrada V4 models. The Rally’s semi-active suspension provides 7.9 inches of travel, front and rear, an increase over the 6.7-inch front and 7.1-inch rear travel offered on the other variants. The suspension changes increase the ground clearance by 0.4 inches to 9.1 inches. The Skyhook DSS EVO electronics were also updated for more precise and efficient control over the suspension settings.

Like the Multistrada V4 S, the Rally model comes with a Minimum Preload function to lower the ride height when stopping or at low speeds. The Rally takes this a step further with an Easy Lift function that softens the suspension on start-up to make it easier to lift off the side stand.

2023 BMW S1000RR – First Look

With the liter-class superbike category eternally in an arms race for top dog, BMW has today announced a heavily updated S1000RR is making its way here in 2023, bringing with it several changes first seen on the M1000RR, but also a few tweaks of its own. Central to those changes is an updated chassis, suspension, and aerodynamics. Of course, there will also be further revisions to its electronics suite as part of the deal.

What’s not getting much of an update? The engine. Well, sorta. The cylinder head gets new intake port geometry modeled after the M1000RR and a cast surface instead of the milled surface on the M model. From there, the airbox sees shorter intake funnels, just like the one on the M1000RR. This helps with high-rpm power output.

Other than that, BMW has basically left the inline four-cylinder alone. It’s stout enough as it is, with a claimed 205 hp at 13,000 rpm and 83 lb-ft at 11,000 rpm. Better still is the ShiftCam technology allowing for variable valve timing so you get a smooth spread of power from top to bottom. Helping to get a better drive once the throttle is turned, the rear sprocket goes up one tooth, from 45 teeth to 46.

Flex Frame, Suspension, and Steering Geometry

Is Ducati Preparing a 659cc Single?

We’re now a couple of episodes into Ducati‘s 2023 World Première launch series, but there are still another five parts to go. Ducati has already started teasing this week’s episode, which we expect will be for a GSA-battling Multistrada V4 variant, with a new Panigale V4 R, a Diavel V4, and a next-generation Scrambler expected in the weeks ahead.

None of these models we expect come as much of a surprise. They are all logical progressions of what Ducati has been offering the last few years, with the Diavel being the latest model to go from a V-Twin to a V-Four.

There may be at least one surprise in store, however, as we’ve found evidence suggesting Ducati will introduce an entirely new engine: a liquid-cooled 659cc four-valve Single.

The proof comes to us via a new vehicle identification number (VIN) decoder Ducati recently submitted to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

An updated VIN decoder for the 2023 model year lists new Ducati engines including an intriguing liquid-cooled 659cc four-valve Single.

MO Tested: Garmin zūmo XT GPS Review

The Garmin zūmo XT is the company’s top-of-the-line motorcycle-specific GPS. While the Garmin Montana 700 series has gained popularity within the adventure-touring community, I opted for the zūmo XT to review for a couple of very specific reasons. Although the Montana 700 has built-in inReach communication capability, I opted to combine the zūmo with the Garmin inReach Mini 2 (reviewed here) because I decided that, even though the combined cost was higher, I would rather have the inReach device on my person in case I got separated from my bike in a crash. The other feature of the zūmo that swayed me towards it was the updatable database of motorcycle shops that is included. Being out in an area without cell service and having the capability to plan a trip to the nearest bike shop, particularly in the Southwest where there are significant distances between cities, seemed like a good thing to have. 

MO Tested: Garmin InReach Mini 2 Review

Garmin zūmo XT
A GPS designed specifically for the needs of motorcyclists, featuring street maps, topographic maps, motorcycle-specific data points, and smartphone and inReach integration.
+ HighsBright, clear displayWorks well with glovesEasy to mount/remove from bike– SighsNo USB-C (USB Mini? Really?)Water can occasionally trigger the screenVulnerable to theft because it is so easy to remove

The Garmin zūmo XT has a clean, almost featureless design when it is off the bike.

Major Features

The first thing you notice about the zūmo XT is the bright, clear, 5.5-in. screen. It really is impressive, and the glossy glass screen, contrary to what you might expect, is much clearer than the last zūmo GPS I used. What you can’t see by looking at it is the IPX7 rating it carries. What this means is that the XT is capable of being submerged under three feet of water for up to 30 minutes, which means it should be perfectly capable of handling use on a motorcycle in a driving rain. 

When it comes to impacts, the zūmo XT has survived the MIL-STD-810 drop testing requirement of being dropped 26 times, on all faces (sides), corners, and edges. So, one expects that the XT would survive the forces generated by crashing in the dirt or dropping your bike in a parking lot. 

Garmin zūmo XT

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide

For generations, the image of bikers in black leather jackets and blue jeans has been a (somewhat accurate) stereotype of motorcycle fashion. Riders and non-riders alike donned this gear to portray this lone individualist image. In fact, the riding gear I wore during my first, formative motorcycle trip as a newly-minted rider was a black leather jacket and blue jeans. And for a long time, this plus boots, gloves, and a helmet were state-of-the-art for rider protection. However, technology has transformed motorcycling in more ways than just adding computers to bikes. Over the past five years or so, we’ve seen an entirely new market of riding apparel move from obscure to relatively commonplace. Riding jeans have moved from merely being denim jeans with a layer of abrasive-resistant material as an under layer to fully technical motorcycle gear with certified armor and a variety of styles and materials.

Naturally, we, here at, thought that it would be interesting to take a deeper look at what this popular class of riding apparel has to offer. In the end, we ended up testing 34 pairs of riding jeans. We spent months gathering them and coming up with a uniform way to look at them and convey their qualities, both good and not-so-good, to our faithful readers. You can go ahead and protest our failure to include your favorite model, but we know we didn’t get them all. It would have been impossible. Really, just getting 34 took a lot of effort.

Riding jeans, like these Scorpion jeans, started with internal Kevlar liners, and then moved to pockets for armor.

What Makes a Riding Jean?

At the most basic level, you start with denim or a denim-like fabric, but even that isn’t straightforward since denim comes in varying weights. Next, the manufacturer either adds an abrasion-resistant fiber to the denim weave and/or adds a completely separate layer of tough fabric, like Kevlar or Dyneema, inside the jeans on the abrasion-prone areas around the knees and the seat of the pants. That was how riding jeans started. From there, thanks to the development of armor that is thinner, more flexible, and less bulky, the manufacturers started adding more protection, and our knees will be forever grateful.

Scorpion offers two kinds of SAS-TEC armor: the thicker, knee armor (top) and the more flexible hip armor (bottom).

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide Part 4

If the Google machine dropped you directly on this page without seeing the introduction to MO’s Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide, and you are confused as to what’s going on, you should click here to read the introduction and the full listing of jeans. If you’re the adventurous type who just wants to jump to our individual reviews of 34 pairs of jeans, the Table of Contents below will only give you a direct link to jeans on this page. So, we still recommend that you go to the introduction. There’s a lot of good info to cover.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide – Introduction

Spidi Furious Pro

ReviewerEvans Brasfield
Construction and Key FeaturesWith the main chassis constructed of 13-oz. Cordura cotton for breathable abrasion protection, the Furious Pro jeans come with Warrior Lite Armor Level 1 knee and hip armor. Slim cut with accordion stretch panels above the knees and stretch panels in the crotch. Five pocket design. Jeans are prEN17092-3:2017 Class AA certified.
Available SizesUS waist 28-40 in.
Size Tested36 in.
True to Size?No, a tad on the snug side at the waist
Armor IncludedKnee, Hip
Armor TypeWarrior Lite Level 1 knee and hip armor
Available ColorsBlack/Blue, Black, Blue, Blue Used Medium
Care Instructions:Hand wash below 104° F. Do not bleach. Do not wring. Line dry. Iron at 230° F max.

When wearing the Spidi Furious Pro jeans, you won’t be mistaken for wearing street jeans. These are unmistakably techinical riding gear. From the slim, leg-hugging fit to the knee accordion panels to the stretchy crotch to the Spidi logo on the outside of each thigh, the Furious pro mean riding business. The fit on the legs and waist is snug but slightly stretchy. This is great for eliminating leg flap and keeping you flexible on the bike, but once you’re off the bike, the jeans feel like technical riding gear. The fabric is slightly stiff and feels like it will take some time to break in completely. However, the lack of internal protective layers means that the jeans breath a little better, garnering Spidi’s highest level claim of transpiration, the ability to allow sweat to evaporate. The 34-in. inseam places these jeans on the longer side, but those who, like myself, don’t like to fold up jeans will find that they bunch nicely around the boot. A good choice at a reasonable price for all this protection.

Spidi J-Tracker

ReviewerEvans Brasfield
Construction and Key FeaturesConstructed with a slim fit out of a Cordura/cotton blend. Elasticised fabric for comfortable fit. Warrior Lite knee armor easily removable via exterior zipper. Pocket for optional hip armor. Available in long and short versions that are +/- 3.9 in.
Available SizesUS waist 28-42 in.
Size Tested36 in.
True to Size?Yes
Armor IncludedKnee
Armor TypeWarrior Lite Knee Armor Level 1, Warrior Lite Hip Armor
Available ColorsBlack, Blue Used Medium, Blue Used Dark
Care Instructions:Hand wash below 100° F. No bleach. Line dry. Do not wring. Do not dry clean. Iron at 230° F maximum.

If it weren’t for the knee armor, I’d swear I was wearing a pair of my old, broken-in jeans. That’s not to say the armor is uncomfortable. It is soft and flexible and easily removable through an external zipper. The construction of the crotch keeps them from binding, despite the slim fit.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide Part 3

If the Google machine dropped you directly on this page without seeing the introduction to MO’s Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide, and you are confused as to what’s going on, you should click here to read the introduction and the full listing of jeans. If you’re the adventurous type who just wants to jump to our individual reviews of 34 pairs of jeans, the Table of Contents below will only give you a direct link to jeans on this page. So, we still recommend that you go to the introduction. There’s a lot of good info to cover.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide – Introduction

REV'IT! Lombard 3

ReviewerRyan Adams
Construction and Key Features15 oz Cordura Stretch denim, Safety seams and triple stiching for increased durability at the seam, Knee and hip armor included, Reflectivity at the hem when turned up, Certified to EN 17092-3:2020 – AA
Available SizesUS waist 28-38 in.
Size Tested33 in.
True to Size?Yes
Armor IncludedKnee, Hip
Armor TypeSeesmart (CE Level 1)
Available ColorsDark Blue Used, Dark Grey Used
Care Instructions:Wash cold, Do not bleach, Do not tumble dry, Do not iron, Do not dryclean

The Lombard 3 is, you guessed it, the third iteration of one of REV’IT!’s staple models of riding denim. The Lombard offers a regular fit that’s not too snug and has a classic five pocket jean style. The blue version has a deep dark hue to it. I’m not a fan of mid-to-high rise riding jeans because you’re usually bent over a bit on a motorcycle, but I do understand the fact that you get more coverage with this fit. That said, this third version comes in with enough stretch that the rise doesn’t bother me much. If you haven’t picked up on the trend right now, stretchy Cordura denim (15 oz in this case) has made its way to lots of motorcycle jeans, and they’re all more comfortable because of it. The Seesmart knee and hip protection is comfortable and flexible. At the knee, the armor is slightly cupped which helps it stay in place better compared to a flat, flexible armor design.

Overall, the Lombard 3 feels a bit more substantial than some of the other jeans here (which helps it gain the AA CE rating) and because of this the Lombard will probably do well into lower temperatures, while they can be somewhat warm when the mercury rises. The denim feels thicker and the armor does as well. If you’re looking for classic/dressy blue jean styling with a mid-to-high rise that offers plenty of protection, the Lombard 3 is a solid choice.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide Part 1

If the Google machine dropped you directly on this page without seeing the introduction to MO’s Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide, and you are confused as to what’s going on, you should click here to read the introduction and the full listing of jeans. If you’re the adventurous type who just wants to jump to our individual reviews of 34 pairs of jeans, the Table of Contents below will only give you a direct link to jeans on this page. So, we still recommend that you go to the introduction. There’s a lot of good info to cover.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide – Introduction

Alpinestars Barton

ReviewerRyan Adams
Construction and Key FeaturesBlack stonewashed denim, Cargo pockets, Reinforced seat, Alpinestars Bio-Flex Plus knee armor included, Optional Bio-Flex hip armor, CE – Category II prEN17092 draft standards – A class
Available SizesUS waist 28-40 in.
Size Tested32
True to Size?Yes
Armor IncludedKnees
Armor TypeBio-Flex Knee Armor (CE Level 1), Bioflex Hip Armor (CE Level 1)
Available ColorsBlack
Care Instructions:Machine was cold, Do not bleach, Do not tumble dry, Iron on low, Do not dry clean

I’m either getting old or just being fashionable. I think I’ll pretend it’s the latter, but man, these cargo pockets are really convenient! The Barton jeans from Alpinestars definitely come in on the more fashion oriented side with the only protective bit being the Bio Flex knee armor (which you can also get for the hips). Some of the edges are lightly distressed and the denim has a slight patina to it. There is also an extra layer of denim at the seat.

Perhaps because these are just jeans with knee armor basically, they’re extremely comfortable. The denim is soft and the fit is spot on for swinging a leg over any motorcycle, no matter how big or tall it is. The inseam measured at 32.5 inches.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide Part 2

If the Google machine dropped you directly on this page without seeing the introduction to MO’s Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide, and you are confused as to what’s going on, you should click here to read the introduction and the full listing of jeans. If you’re the adventurous type who just wants to jump to our individual reviews of 34 pairs of jeans, the Table of Contents below will only give you a direct link to jeans on this page. So, we still recommend that you go to the introduction. There’s a lot of good info to cover.

MO Tested: Massive Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide – Introduction

Dainese Denim Slim Tex Pants

ReviewerEvans Brasfield
Construction and Key FeaturesStretch denim in slim cut. Dainese Pro Shape 2.0 knee armor included. Pants are prEN 17092-02 certified at level A. Zippered knee opening for armor removal. Pockets for optional Dainese Pro Shape 2.0 hip armor.
Available SizesUS waist 28-44 in.
Size Tested38-in. waist. (Euro size 56)
True to Size?No, Slightly large
Armor IncludedKnee
Armor TypeDainese Pro Shape 2.0 Knee, Dainese Pro Shape 2.0 Hip
Available ColorsBlack
Care Instructions:Wash inside out below 86°F. No bleach. Tumble dry low. Iron at low temp (230° F) inside out. Do not dry clean.

The Dainese Denim Regular Tex Pants fit and feel like dress jeans. They have a slight stretch to them, making them quite comfortable on the knees and thighs when in a variety of riding positions. They appear to offer little more abrasion resistance than non-riding denim, although there are additional fabric layers to accommodate the pockets for the armor in the knees and hips.

The zippered knee pockets make it easy to remove the armor for the look of regular jeans, but I rarely do since the Pro Shape 2.0 armor is so flexible. The fit around the waist is kind of roomy since Euro 56 covers 28-29-in. waist size. Given the extra room, I might order the optional $40 hip armor. The legs are nicely slim and not baggy. These jeans seem ideal for commuting or wearing around town when looking more like you’re wearing street clothes is important. The do, however, appear to offer less abration protection than many of the jeans here.


Church of MO: 1997 Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer Softail

Twenty-five years ago, every Harley-Davidson review was laced with phrases like “for respectable older folks” and “aimed squarely at Harley’s newest riders: wealthy men over forty”… also, “not a bike for most women or smaller men.” Maybe all that was accurate in 1997, but now that we’re all respectable old gender-neutral weaklings, it’s quaint to look back and wonder how we ever got along with a tiny 1340 cc H-D? Egads man… and when will H-D bring back the Springer front end?

Harley Reaches Back Even Farther

By Don Crafts Mar. 15, 1997
Once upon a time, when our GI’s returned home from W.W.II, they noticed that motorcycles available to them at the time were large, voluptuous and beautiful. They were also big, heavy and slow — bikes built for respectable older folks, not twenty-something rebels. War was hell, now it was time to cut loose, have fun and be cool. Big stodgy bikes were definitely not cool. Since the right kind of motorcycle wasn’t being offered, these intrepid GI’s decided to make their own. They started chopping things off those big, heavy bikes. Things like heavy fenders, bags, even front brakes. They called these bikes “choppers.” And the motorcycles they were chopping things off looked a whole lot like the new 1997 FLSTS, a.k.a. Heritage Springer Softail.Sporting big, full-skirted metal fenders, fringe-laden bags and that classic springer front end, this bike comes straight out of 1948 — the Panhead’s first year and the last for a factory springer set-up. Like the original, H-D’s 1997 version was built for respectable older folks. The kind who just happen to be a large percentage of new Harley buyers.

A bike of details

In re-creating the past, the Motor Company has seen to every detail but have also donned a pair of thick rose-colored glasses. In this rare case, the original can’t compare with the copy. In fact, when you really examine old Panheads, you are surprised by how delicate they look by comparison.

They were certainly reliable bikes for their time, but were born in an era where cost was an issue and image wasn’t everything. By contrast, everything on the FLSTS is heavy-duty, designed for beauty and chromed to within an inch of its life. Gone are the exposed wires, the untreated metal pieces and, of course, that spring-loaded saddle floating 10 inches above the frame.

The ’97 Heritage Springer is an impressive looking machine. A bike of details. It benefits from the fact that it was designed in an era where cost is basically not an issue for bikes bearing the H-D logo. The original Pans didn’t have that luxury.

2023 Honda Hornet CB750 Details Emerge in Vehicle Certifications

Honda‘s been teasing its new Hornet for several months now, first with a concept at EICMA, some design sketches in June, and more recently, details about its new Parallel-Twin engine. While we wait for Honda to officially reveal the the bike, we’ve managed to get further specifications for the 2023 Honda Hornet, thanks to vehicle certification data from Switzerland.

The Swiss data lines up with what Honda has already revealed about the Hornet, including its 755cc Parallel-Twin Unicam engine and its claimed output of 90.5 hp at 9500 rpm, 55.3 lb-ft. at 7250 rpm. The vehicle certification also confirms the Hornet will bear the model designation CB750A, with an internal model code of RH12.

The Hornet will be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and at this point, there is no evidence of a DCT version. The gear ratio is listed as 2.81, which suggests a 16-tooth front and 45-tooth rear sprocket. The top speed is listed as 205 kph, or 127.4 mph.

The certification document does not provide much information on the suspension system, but it does confirm the presence of dual front disc brakes and a single rear brake disc, plus ABS, though none of that comes as much of a surprise. The front wheel is fitted with a 120/70 ZR17 (58W) tire, while a 160/60 ZR17 (69W) tire is equipped at the rear.

SSR Sand Viper Ebike Review First Ride

Like your Eskimos and snow, we here in California have 100 different words for sand. Regular sand. Powder sand, silt, chonky sand, fine sand, &, blowing sand, deep sand, you get the picture. The stuff’s all over the place, which makes sense as it’s a desert. So it’s nice to have a vehicle able to traverse it. Enter the SSR Sand Viper eMTN bike.

SSR Sand Viper
The fat tires aren’t just for fashion; this ebike can take you all kinds of places in comfort.

Editor Score: 79%

+ HighsHit the dusty trail and the sandy oneFat tires, cush seat, and shock absorber seatpost, uh, absorb shocksClass II means you get pedals and a throttle– SighsWhat’s not to like?I still haven’t managed to get the battery off the frame, but I haven’t tried all that hardManuals aren’t too helpful…

We don’t review ebikes much here at MO, but on special occasions (like when somebody offers one up), we’ll bend the rules. SSR Motorsports, just up the road in Santa Fe Springs, CA, has been importing all kinds of vehicles from China for 20 years now. The price has always been right, and in recent years, the quality of many of them has begun to rival the more expensive brands from other parts of the world too. The Sand Viper’s pretty swell, and retails for $1,999.

You can get going pretty good in compacted sand recently run over by a bulldozer.

Not to be confused with the earlier 350-watt version, the latest 500W Sand Viper is a 48-volt beastie that sprints up to 20 mph lickety-splitly enough. A little research informs us this is a Class II ebike, because you can get up to top whack by either pedaling or twisting the throttle that makes up the inner half of the right grip. You get there quickest by pedaling and twisting, but once you’re up to speed you don’t have to pedal at all to whiz along at 20. The throttle’s also really convenient when you want to keep pace with the cars leaving a red light, and even moreso when you’re trying to navigate through rutted bumpy churned-up sand.

Marc Marquez: Love Him or Hate Him

This article originally appeared on Bruce Allen’s blog, MotoGPforDummies.

Events at Aragon this past weekend have re-ignited the firestorm that has surrounded Marc Marquez since he rode in the 125cc class back in 2008 (the year I started covering MotoGP). The eight-time world champion, his boyish good looks having been displaced by a steely persona, has as many fans as detractors. Let’s see what’s at the root of this split.

First, whenever we see a rider win his first grand prix or his first championship, there is almost always an outpouring of emotion, often tears; such celebrations have obviously come at a cost to the rider and his family. The winnowing process in motorcycle racing is as brutal as it is in pretty much everything that calls itself a sport. For every first-time winner, at any age, there are hundreds of boys and young men who’ve had their hearts broken. The thought crossed my mind at one time that these dramatic, emotional reactions were put on for the cameras. But, in truth, these riders would probably prefer their fans not to see them in tears. So the emotions and the drive to win we see in every rider, including Marquez, is to be expected. (By the way, the process also occurs in golf, which calls itself a sport despite the fact that you can smoke and drink while playing.)

A number of Kool-Aid drinkers, who have the number 46 tattooed on their asses, hate Marquez for having allegedly cost Rossi the title in 2015. It seems to be an unwritten law of the universe that haters are going to hate. There have always been fans who despised Rossi for one reason or another; the same is true for Marquez. And, to be fair, pretty much all the great riders going back to 1949. Along with the emotion and drive to win, the great riders learned that to win in grand prix racing a rider will have to be, on occasion, ruthless. There will be charged moments in races in which it becomes him or me. One of us is going down, and it’s not going to be me. Is such thinking less than charitable? Undoubtedly. Is it necessary if one aspires to champion status? Absolutely. The same people who call Marquez a bully were the ones cheering Rossi as he put Stoner’s dick in the dirt at Laguna Seca in 2008, cutting a corner through a sand trap in the process, not bothering to rake afterwards.

One thing Marquez supporters can always say to his critics: Scoreboard. See below.

marc marquez

MO Tested: Sena Impulse Helmet Review

On rare occasions my wife allows me to drive her Mercedes GLE. It’s a treat compared to my aging Tacoma. One of its tastiest bits is the Harman/Kardon sound system. When I saw that Sena’s newest modular helmet featured the same brand name audio engineering, I was quick to call E-i-C Brasfield and coerce him into letting me test one. He did, and I’m here to report that the Impulse is the best-sounding helmet I’ve ever worn. 

Sena Impulse Helmet
The person at Sena who greenlighted the extra expense to utilize Harman/Kardon’s audio expertise in its new Impulse modular helmet deserves a promotion. The Impulse is the new benchmark for motorcycle helmet sound quality.
Desirability8.75/10Editor Score: 89.5%
+ HighsAwesome audio experienceIntegrated helmet/audio unitRetractable sun visor– SighsChin straps are too longOnly available in two colorsDidn’t always communicate well with Siri

With the user-friendly Sena app, a person can quickly establish communications with other riders, check battery life, and adjust equalizer settings, among other features. You can also share the music you’re listening to with your connected friends.

The phrase, “best-sounding helmet” may seem strange, but the Impulse is not a helmet with an attached audio system, it’s an all-in-one, integrated unit with a sleekness of design only an OEM can generate. Whatever magic Harman/Kardon sprinkles into the listening experience works wonders. With the Impulse I’m not just listening to music while I ride, I’m enjoying the music. 

There’s bass! This is a statement I’ve never made when reviewing an in-helmet audio system. For anyone who prefers more bass the Sena app lets you adjust the speaker’s output to Bass Boost (130 Hz and below) by choosing one of five preset equalizer settings. I preferred Music Enhanced because it seemed to deliver the best all-around music experience, but there’s also a Voice setting if talk radio’s your thing, as well as Treble Boost and Music Balance. 

For conversation purposes, the Impulse features Open Mesh for communicating with just about anyone with a similar mesh system, Group Mesh for up to 24 invited guests, and Bluetooth 5.0 intercom mode for private conversations with up to four people. All three variations worked fine when talking with my co-pilot, Maria, who was also outfitted with an Impulse helmet, while we were riding together, but I cannot attest to how large group communications affect the system. While riding a BMW K 1600 GA, Maria’s microphone was transmitting more wind noise than mine, which I attest to the turbulence a fully-faired motorcycle creates on the passenger. Adjusting her mic’s sensitivity down to level 2 took care of the problem.