The time I’ve spent using the Sena 50S while riding solo has been excellent, but that is only half the story. The Sena Mesh Intercom, Music Sharing and Bluetooth Intercom are the features that will attract many riders to the Sena range.
The Elephant in the Room
As you are reading this, there is a good chance you are thinking about buying a Sena 50S. It is a significant investment, and you want to know if you are making the right decision.
Sena’s Trade-Up offer that can help smooth the way to upgrading, the details of which can be found on Sena’s website. (It is a time-limited offer)
All of that said, the answer, for me, to the question “Should I buy one?” is Yes. My interest started with the Sena Mesh intercom and grew from there.
If you don’t need the Mesh Intercom feature, then Sena has just announced the Sena 5 series that benefits from the 50S technology enhancements, but without Mesh Intercom and some of the other refinements, all of which allow for a lower price.
The 50S is a sophisticated device that goes way beyond being just an intercom. Knowing the features you need is the key to getting the maximum value from the Sena (or any other manufacturers) range.
Sena Mesh Intercom
The best way to describe the Sena Mesh Intercom is to think of the motorcycles in a line. The lead rider says something and the message goes to the rider behind them. The message then continues down the line, passing from rider to rider, until the last rider hears it.
In the real world, the transmission delay is minimal – we are talking sub-second – but the concept holds. And of course, you don’t have to be in a line. Groups of riders work just as well. It’s the meshing together of the Sena units that give the feature such flexibility.
With the Mesh Intercom on your Sena enabled, the unit is continuously looking for other units to connect with and with Open Mesh, disconnection and reconnection is automatic.
The reconnection feature is why we use it so much on group rides. If you get stuck in traffic, there is no need to reconnect your intercom when you catch the group; the Sena will simply rejoin the Open Mesh.
The same is true when an Open Mesh breaks into two groups. The members of either group remain connected. When at least one member from either group come into range of each other, Open Mesh brings all of the riders from both groups back into contact.
If Open Mesh – which you can think of as a public group – isn’t your thing, you can form a private mesh.
Private Mesh groups are limited to 24 riders, but otherwise, it has all of the benefits of Open Mesh, along with the extra step of needing to be “invited” to join.
With Group Mesh you get all of the Mesh Intercom benefits and privacy too.
With the flexibility of Open or Private Mesh, it is easy to forget that sometimes you just want to talk with only your buddy or pillion. Naturally, the Sena 50S can do this, although I’d be tempted to use Private Mesh, even for just two of us.
What we did find during the testing, though was that when using the normal Bluetooth intercom mode, it would not automatically reconnect if you become separated. Whereas this is never going to happen with your pillion, it can happen when there are two or more riders.
Having discovered the limitation, we all switched to the Private Mesh Intercom and have been using it ever since.
To discover the maximum range, we took two units to the Lincolnshire countryside. Why Lincolnshire? The Fens area is flat and sparsely populated, giving us ideal conditions.
As advertised the Sena 50S has a range of a little over ½ mile for both the Mesh and traditional intercom connections. To ensure the Sena was out of the Open Mesh, I kept riding for another mile before turning around. When I returned to within ½ a mile of the group, I reconnected without any fuss or button-pushing.
The same range without the automatic reconnection is available for the traditional Bluetooth intercom. The connection is good until the ½ mile marker and then drops out. As I rode back to rejoin my colleague, the two Sena units didn’t reconnect until we went through the 1:1 intercom pairing process again.
When we were testing the Open Mesh Intercom, we had to remember to include this feature. It wasn’t something that naturally occurred to us to test, mostly because we were to busy talking.
With the Open Mesh intercom connecting us, I started music playing from my phone and then selected “Music Share” using the jog dial. A couple of seconds later, everyone in the Mesh was subjected to my playlist.
The feature works and works well, but in truth, this convenient feature is perhaps aimed at a rider and pillion, rather than something for a group ride.
Hey Google or Siri
Yes, we tried it and yes, it works. Siri had more success than Google with being triggered, yet with either digital assistant, once the requested phone call was ringing, the audio quality of the calls was outstanding.
Whereas I could often get Google to “wake-up” my annunciation or the noise inside my helmet, gave Google trouble understanding who I wanted to call.
It is there, it works but is perhaps just a good way of calling someone without having to take your helmet off.
The good news is that if you use the phone while connected to the Mesh Intercom, what you say isn’t shared. Your phone conversation is private. When the call clears, you rejoin the Mesh Intercom.
The Bottom Line
Through all three articles, the features and smooth functionality of the Sena 50S has been outstanding. The Open Mesh intercom is impressive as is the ability to connect multiple devices, in some cases running multiple applications. The Sena 50 does all of that, all while talking to other riders.
The Sena 50S is a brilliant device. The level of functionality is astounding and for a device of this quality, the price is reasonable. If you don’t need all of the features that the Sena 50S has, then take a look at the Sena 5 Series. Both offer excellent value for money.