Sena R1 Helmet Review

Safe, legal, and robust eBike communication.

Sena R1 worn by bicyclist.
Unless you see the buttons on the left side, the Sena R1 looks like a regular performance bicycle helmet.Courtesy of SENA

Making hands-free calls or listening to music on your phone is easy and legal in a car or on a motorcycle with modern auto infotainment systems and motorcycle helmet Bluetooth communication headsets. To get the same connectivity on an eBike, though, has required the use of headphones.

While sound quality and ease of use of wired or Bluetooth headphones is fine on eBikes, wearing them compromises safety and in many states is illegal. The ability to hear nearby cars, emergency vehicles, pedestrians, and noises from the bike are critical to safe operation.

Sena R1 underside.
The speakers and microphone are well hidden in the shell of the Sena R1.Courtesy of SENA

The Sena R1 integrates phone connectivity and speakers into a sleek bicycle helmet. The speakers are in the base of the helmet, just above the ears, allowing a rider to easily listen to music or communication while still being able to hear all the sounds of the street or trail around them.

Beyond just phone connectivity is rider-to-rider communication. Sena has been making short-range communication systems for motorcycles and industrial applications for 10 years. Being able to communicate with fellow motorcycle riders revolutionized the shared enjoyment of that sport. Sena brings this rider communication to eBikes and bicycling with the R1 as well.

We rode with two R1s and found that the ability to communicate with another rider in a normal voice while looking at the road made the ride more enjoyable and more fun. Sure, you can yell at a fellow rider, but it normally takes a head turn and a raised voice to get the sound to pierce through the passing wind. Bike talk is limited at speed.

Sena R1 ventilation from back.
The R1 ventilates well despite the brow area of the helmet being slightly taller than a regular lid.Courtesy of SENA

The Sena R1 saw us talking more and enjoying the ride more. And when the bikes would get separated, we were still able to communicate with no issue. Sena claims a half-mile of range, though we never got that far apart from each other.

Riding alone, the Sena R1 effortlessly streams music and podcasts through the speakers. It also has a built-in FM radio with the ability to program 10 presets. Modes, stations, and volume are adjusted by three simple, rubber-coated buttons on the left temple of the helmet.

Sound quality of the intercom is surprisingly good. The other rider’s voice through the R12 speakers makes it seem like he/she is right next to you. Podcasts come through clear and understandable as well. Music lacks bass, though, which is understandable considering the small speakers have to push that music though a few inches of air before reaching the ears.

Bicyclists riding with Sena R1 helmets.
The ability to easily communicate with each other while keeping eyes on the road is a game-changer for riding with friends.Courtesy of SENA

The R1 has sleek, modern styling and has an external size of a regular bicycle helmet. It weighs a bit more at 380 grams (13.4 ounces), but once rolling, the extra weight was not noticed. It ventilates as well as any midrange performance bicycle helmet, and it protects with CE and CSPC safety certifications. We found it to be sized slightly on the large side compared to other helmets. If you are between sizes, pick the smaller of the two.

At $229, the Sena R1 runs between the cost of a non-communication, midrange and high-end bicycle helmet. And even if you are not using the connectivity features, it works well just as a regular helmet.

Listening to music or a favorite podcast will make a commute go by much quicker, and the ability to communicate with other riders off road or on road brings a whole new enjoyable element to riding. This is something motorcyclists have enjoyed for years, and we’re glad to see it come to eBikes.

The Sena smartphone app.
The Sena smartphone app allows quick and easy setup of preferences and FM station presets.Courtesy of SENA