In the motorcycle world, Sena is best-known for their universal-mount helmet communication systems. You can clamp these units on to just about any helmet, string the speakers into the inside of the helmet shell, mount the boom mic, and you’re good to go.
Sena also offers a series of helmets with these comm systems already built in. Some of the helmets in the series include such features as built-in HD video camera and sound-cancelling tech—Sena calls them “smart helmets.” Though they don’t have heads-up display and other technology that companies like Skully and Jarvish promised, Sena’s helmets are generally readily available.
What if you don’t need all that tech—you just want a basic motorcycle helmet with built-in comm system? Sena offers that too, with several affordable and simple models, including the Outrush modular helmet.
Last spring, Sena sent me an Outrush to test. Here’s how that worked out:
With most universal-mount intercoms, you end up with bulky electronics stuck to the side of your helmet. Not so with the Outrush—when you pull it out of the box, you see a “jog dial” control knob on the left side of the helmet. It has a decently streamlined form factor.
The setup is similarly streamlined. There’s no faffing about, running wires inside the liner, mounting speakers and mic, clamping on the comm unit to the exterior. You charge up the helmet (the charger is in the chin strap), sync it to your phone via Bluetooth, and that’s it. Much better than trying to rig it all together in a hotel room on the first night of your tour, which is what I usually do …
The Outrush helmet carries a DOT safety rating, and has a thermoplastic shell. It’s a modular helmet, meaning the front will flip open for easy removal, or gas station snacks, etc. There’s a drop-down sunshield as well, which I rarely used.
The Outrush has three basic functions: Communication with other comm sets, FM radio, and Bluetooth integration with your mobile device or GPS. All three functions are fairly simple to operate.
To change settings, function, or volume, the Outrush uses the jog dial on the side of your helmet, similar to Sena’s popular universal-mount comm units. The basic interface is quick to learn, if you’ve already used other Sena communicators. If you haven’t, a few minutes reading the manual will sort things out. It’s a more intuitive system than trying to remember button combos.
It’s a quick process to set up Bluetooth integration; I was connected to my phone in seconds, and even my GPS didn’t take long. There was some loopiness when using the Sena to control the GPS which then controlled the phone’s music playback. Was Garmin to blame, or Sena? Either way, it worked itself out, thanks to the miracles of modern technology.
Turning the FM radio on is also easy, and the radio seems to have much better reception than the last two Senas I’ve tested. Hold the jog dial down for a few seconds, and the radio turns on; press the dial in and twist backwards to move up to the next radio station, or twist forward to move the other direction.
However, while the Outrush is simple to operate, the built-in comm system is dated. It uses Sena’s older two-way intercom technology, instead of the new mesh technology. You’re only supposed to connect to one other rider’s comm with this helmet.
At least, that’s how I think it’s supposed to work. While riding with two other Sena-equipped riders, we’d sometimes be able to use a garbled three-way chat—perhaps it was some quirk from integrating a newer comm set?
The Outrush’s comm unit had some other bugs, too. When I synced it up to the Garmin Zumo XT, for turn-by-turn navigation instructions, it would frequently drop the conversation after the GPS’s voice commands interjected into that comm conversation.
Also, I found the speakers were too quiet for audio conversations, if wearing earplugs at highway speeds. I’ve found this is a common issue with most helmet comms over the years. No doubt some people will wonder how I expect audible sound if I’m wearing earplugs, but the fact is, some comm sets do it better than others, and the Sena Outrush should have more volume. I will note that music volume wasn’t too bad, unless it was a very windy day. Then, the wind noise drowned out the music sometimes; not much Sena can do about that, although the Outrush is not a very quiet helmet to start with.
I also noted the Outrush, like all helmet comms, is basically only good for short-range line-of-sight comms. Although it’s supposed to be usable for up to a half-mile between comms under ideal conditions, in reality, it’s basically limited to just beyond shouting distance. Again, this is a common issue across all comm manufacturers, in my experience. It seems that in the real world, those ideal conditions rarely exist.
I was unhappy with the Outrush’s face shield. The initial detent leaves you with a too-wide face shield opening, instead of a “just-a-crack” setting. This was especially frustrating since the face shield’s antifog coating is basically useless—I haven’t had a helmet that fogged up this badly in years. That sounds fussy, I know, but, the Outrush feels like someone tried to make a touring-friendly motorcycle helmet without actually knowing how to do that properly.
The Sena Outrush helmet has its issues, as noted above. And yet, if I was on the market for a helmet like this, I’d buy one with my own money, because the pricing is excellent. US customers can buy a Sena Outrush for $200ish; Canadian customers pay $240ish. Considering you get a helmet and a communicator for that price, I think it’s a good deal, as long as you can live with its limitations (two-way communication only, low volume, a face shield that fogs up). Despite its drawbacks, the Sena Outrush is easy to use, charges quickly (three hours) and has decent battery life (15 hours). And, it’s compatible with a wide range of Sena’s other products. It might be old tech, but for many riders, this is all they need, at a price they can afford. It’s like a KLR650; not fancy, but inside specific parameters, it works. If that’s all you want, then it will work for you.
However, if you want easy communication with more than one other rider at a time, buy a more expensive product from Sena or one of its competitors.
See more information on the Outrush at Sena’s website.