First off, I would like to thank Hurricane Ike, he started it all.
Because Ike pretty much did a complete black-out of the Houston area, my dad had to work weeks of 16 hour shifts with no days off. In turn, this left him trying to regain his sanity, but also with some extra cash. When he told me he wanted to get us both set up with Autocoms, and that he wanted me to do all the research, I was all over it. So, THANK YOU DAD!
One cool “Pops” on his Transcontinental Supersport Touring machine.
Years ago, we started off with Chatterbox Tandem Pro (I believe they called it the 50 Series).
They worked ok, but the constant stereo on gets annoying and there is no bike-to-bike capability.
Next, we moved on to the Collett Platinum 900 system.
We used the Colletts for about 2 years. They worked good bike-to-bike as long as both riders had their VOX settings correct. Each one has a battery that must be carried along, usually in your jacket, but it is one more thing to worry about charging on a trip. We would still be using them today if they didn’t have one major problem. The downfall of the units is one short 4 inch cord. It’s a cord that goes between the unit on the rider’s helmet and the battery pack cord. For some reason, Collett chose not to hard wire this cord to the unit. Instead, you plug it in and then use a tiny screw to hold it in place. Either the connection or the cord itself goes bad often and requires replacement. When it does go bad, it either makes constant annoying beeping, or it just doesn’t even work. We were tired of fighting them and wanted something that would work.
Everyone always seems to say with getting communications systems, just spend the money the first time and be done with it. Well, all I can say is: LISTEN TO THEM!
So, back to the Autocoms. I started researching everything and decided on what we needed to buy to fit our needs. We wanted everything to be able to communicate with a passenger and bike-to-bike.
The items below were ordered (per rider):
-Autocom Active-PLUS Duo Kit
-Autocom M4 Quick Disconnect Power Cable: Unit Side; Part # 1537
-Autocom M4 Privacy/PTT Switch: Quick Disconnect; Part # 1456
-Autocom Kenwood Transceiver Interface: Straight 6”; Part # 1429
-Kenwood FreeTalk XLS TK-3131 (actually a 3130 reconfigured to be a 3131)
Viper, thanks again for your help with the kits.
The Autocom Duo kit comes with everything included that is needed to communicate with a passenger only. The reason we ordered the auxiliary power cords/connections was to make the systems versatile. We want to be able to move the system to other bikes by using a tank bag installation instead of a bike mounting method.
When everything started rolling in it was better than Christmas morning!
First was the installation of the headsets. The main things Autocom stresses are to have the earphones directly over your ear and the microphone directly in front of your mouth. My wife and I have Scorpion EXO-400 helmets. I removed the cheek pads and cut two small strips out of the velcro provided. I then formed the microphone stick into the shape I wanted. Then I installed it with the two strips, just using them pretty much as tape.
Here’s one of the strips. The other is further back to hold it in place.
Then I took the speakers and made the connection to the mic. In our helmets, there is a void in padding for your ears which allows a good spot to install the speakers. All I did was place a small piece of velcro inside the helmet to give the speakers something to hold on to. For some helmets you have to cut padding and do all sorts of things, but I guess I got luck with the Scorpions.
After that, I just hid all the wires behind the padding. As for the tail that comes out of the helmet for connection, I applied a small piece of velcro to the plug and one on the underside of my helmet padding. This is to keep it in control while riding and not using the Autocom. So far it works ok, but sometimes it does catch on my jacket. I’ll leave it like this until I figure out a better alternative.
Next step is to get power to the Autocom unit. The kit comes with two options: using a 9 volt battery or power from the bike through one straight wire (used if you want to mount the unit on/in the bike; not to be used with a tank bag). With the set-up we desired, we ordered extra parts, so there is a quick-disconnect between the unit and the bike power. The cord that is on the bike side of the quick-disconnect, also has the PTT switch wired to it.
Popping the back off of the unit requires a decent amount of downward pressure while sliding the back out. Plug in the wiring you want to use to the inside of the unit. If you are using any power other than the 9 volt battery, you will need to cut off the tab to allow the cord to go out of the unit. I cut it off with a knife and then smoothed it out with a little sandpaper.
For a nice clean fit.
(If you are wondering what the silver line is, I was brainstorming and thought for a while about mounting it on a plastic plate in my tank bag. So I traced it out on the plastic with a silver Sharpie. Well, it doesn’t come off, so I guess I will always know which one is mine. )
For hooking up the power to the bike side, Autocom recommends tapping into something that is only hot when the key is turned to the on position, such as the brake light. So, this is what I was shooting for. Now, which wire is that? After looking at the wiring diagram and a lot of confusion, I went out and looked under the seat. Luckily, right in front of my face there was a small fuse box with “10A Tail” on it. Sweet! So, I disconnected the box from its holder and maneuvered it under the cross support the tank is bolted to. It’s a tight squeeze, but it will go under there. This gave me a little bit of wiggle room to work with the wires. I looked under the box to see which wire was feeding the tail fuse, and it was the red/blue one. Ok, that’s the one I’m going with. I pulled back some of the taping to get to and pull the wire out some. I stripped the red/blue wire and mated it with the positive one from the Autocom cord. Then I just stuck the ground side under the tank bolt. This was done just to test things out and make sure I had the correct wire, a dry run if you will.
I hooked up my battery and rider headset connections, turned the key on, and viola, I could hear myself through the speakers. I turn the key off and power is gone from the Autocom, nothing through the speakers. Sweet! That’s good enough for me.
For connecting the wires, Autocom recommends soldering. This would be the first soldering experience of my life. I did pick up a new (to me) soldering kit to get the job done though. After a little bit of practicing with spare wires, I realize it isn’t going to be pretty. Oh well, let’s just get it over with. There isn’t a lot of play with the wiring, so I put some protection on the tank and surrounding area while I soldered. No pics of the soldered wires though, since it would be quite embarrassing. After that, I taped the wires up good and ran the small fuse box back under the tank support and re-mounted it.
I separated the panel under the tank away from the frame on the right side of the bike to route the positive wire. It is running under the tank right now and I had no way to tie it down good, but once I pull the tank for the first time I’ll secure it better. In the pic below, you can see the red wire running under the tank, but you really can’t see it in person. In the second pic below, you can see the point at which the positive, ground, and PTT switch wires all meet (this is how the part came) and I secured it in that location. As for the ground, I separated it from the positive wire and bolted it down near the battery. To the right of where the battery is grounded, there is something else being grounded. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but that’s where I grounded the Autocom as well. I left the cord long, just in case, so I just coiled it up.
I removed the right fairing and from here I ran the newly wired power cord and PTT switch wires through the slot in the foam and up to the dash area. I then mounted up the fairing, side panel, and seat.
For the power lead, I routed it up to the underside of the right handlebar. For now, it tucks under their nicely when not in use, but I plan to get some sort of cap for the plug.
I routed the PTT switch over to the left handlebar and mounted it on the grip with the supplied tie wraps. Under the red button, there is a 3 position toggle switch. From Autocom, “This toggle switch allows the rider to switch between VOX transmit, PTT transmit and constant transmit.” Even though it hasn’t bothered me yet while riding, I realize now I should have paid more attention to where the “blocks” on the tie wraps ended up. I may end up changing these just so I don’t have to constantly look at them. If I do I will hide them on the back side of the bar or under it.
That’s all for the headset and bike installation, not too painful. Next was to figure out how I wanted to have everything arranged in my tank bag. I’ve had a Nelson Rigg CL-300 Mini Magnetic Tank Bag for several years now. I LOVE THIS TANK BAG! For being a supposed “mini” it can hold a ton of stuff. My first thought was to somehow mount the Autocom unit in the main compartment, but the more I looked at it the more it seemed logical to put it in one of the side pockets. So that’s what I did. In the pics below, I have the Autocom zipped in the left side pocket. I have a lead going into the tank bag for the IPod (yes it’s purple… it’s my wife’s ) and for the Kenwood radio. When not in use, I can zip the passenger headset lead into the main compartment as well. Then I have the Autocom power cord routed around the back of the bag and connected to the right handlebar. And finally the rider headset lead out the front to my helmet.
And all closed up, ready to Supersport Tour.
When I come to a stop and do not feel comfortable leaving everything on the bike, all I have to do is unplug, throw in the wires, and the Zumo even fits in there.
There is a ton of money tied up in that tank bag, between the Autocom, Kenwood, Zumo, camera, IPod, phone and wallet. I think I’ll just take it off and carry it with me.
Well, that’s all for my installation. You may be asking yourself, “this is all great, but how does it work?” That’s a great question, and I’ll answer it like this, “I don’t really know.”
The truth is I just got it all set up and the only ride I’ve done since then was a solo one. I did hook the IPod up to it and it sounded great, even through my earplugs. Well, it did sound great until I hear, “Its Britney bitch!” Remember, it’s my wife’s IPod, so that was the only bad part.
I’m still waiting to get out on a ride with my wife and also my parents to see how the passenger and bike-to-bike communications work. Don’t hold your breath, but I will report back with my findings.