The Sena 20S Evo is an extraordinary piece of kit that has made my riding life so much easier in the time I’ve used it.
Put simply, it’s a motorcycle Bluetooth communication system with FM radio – but all is not as it seems.
It has a plethora of other features including advanced noise control, audio multitasking and an optional remote control.
This system is a refinement of its predecessor, the 20S, replacing the old flip-up aerial with a slick fixed fin so you no longer have to clumsily paw at the side of your helmet to put the aerial up.
The other upgrades are to the hardware, ensuring the system performs when and where you need it to.
The intercom allows you to connect with up to eight other riders, meaning that whether it’s just you and a mate on a Sunday bimble or the whole squad on a big rideout, you can all be in contact with one another at all times.
You can also change settings using the Sena phone app, for example switching the high-definition intercom on and off, re-ordering the list of other intercoms you’re connected to, and accessing the full configuration menu.
Being able to communicate with the other riders around you, not only allows you to have a hell of a laugh with your mates but also helps to keep those around you safe as well.
The ability to let other riders know of any dangers ahead or lying in the road has saved me and others that I ride with more times than I’d like to admit, but because of it I’m still here and riding daily.
Admittedly, the more people that are connected, the worse the quality of the intercom connection. It’s not a terrible difference in quality, however it is not the same quality as when talking one-to-one.
I find there is a little interference, almost like a static noise in the background, when using the group call feature. It’s not a major flaw, but the difference is noticeable if you use one-to-one chat a lot.
Using the HD Intercom feature (accessible through the Sena phone app), the one-to-one chat is so clear it sounds better than talking on the phone; it’s almost like you are talking to the other person face-to-face.
Apart from the slight interference in group chat, the only other time the quality lacks is when the range is stretched to its limits. The 20S Evo is quoted to have a range of approximately 2km (1.2 miles) in open terrain, although in my experience this is more like half a mile in most terrains.
This is reduced further when in and amongst dense terrain such as woodland or buildings, but the range is always enough to tell whoever you’re riding with that you are losing them or can no longer see them.
So, although it’s not what has been quoted by Sena it is enough range to use in most conditions and scenarios.
I have used both the Sena 20S and the newer 20S Evo and have found they will withstand almost all weather conditions.
I’ve used it in everything from blazing sunshine to Scottish snow and only had one problem, which was on the old 20S. Rain water got into the charging port because its rubber cover had come loose. Admittedly, I should have checked that it was secure, but we all make mistakes and luckily the unit was replaced under warranty.
There will be no such trouble with the 20S Evo. This protective flap has been replaced with a better one that seems to return to its original position even if you forget to put it back – a subtle but important tweak on the Evo model.
The Sena 20S Evo has so many features that I haven’t used all of them. In fact, I have turned most of them off.
The unit’s configuration menu is accessed using a jog dial that cycles through the features so you can alter them. I found it very difficult to use the jog dial and phone button to set up the options. It is a farce and is much easier to just use the app on your phone.
Making or taking phone calls through the 20S Evo is fairly effortless, once you’ve learnt the controls. You can do either without having to pull over and get your phone out – I actually accepted the offer for my current job while riding home from the interview.
There is an option for voice control, which works fairly well but can be a little annoying. Also, if you try to control anything that originates from your phone, use the voice commands on your phone and the phone button to activate them. For example, iPhone users can activate Siri by using the phone button.
The FM Radio works fairly well, although there can be a lot of interference. This is why I prefer to connect to my phone and listen to my own music without any interference.
The layout is the same as the previous 20S, so it was very easy for me to use. However, I know from experience that the lack of buttons on the unit can be daunting when using the system for the first time.
But after reading through the instructions very carefully and a little bit of trial and error I was soon able to use the system without really thinking about it.
So much so, that using it daily is a seamless operation in which I generally listen to my own music, with full playback control and can still talk to up to four fellow riders when riding as a group.
The 20S Evo is perfect for what I use it for and I wouldn’t ever be without a system like this again.
The 20S Evo has more features than I can possibly use at once, however it does everything I want it to without fault. The functions work together seamlessly, allowing me to carry out multiple functions at once, and there’s further control through the Sena App.
Ease of fitting
If your helmet is designed to take intercom systems, the 20S Evo will fit like a dream. Some helmets have wide trims that interfere with the fit of an intercom, but that’s the same with any system so it’s not a specific criticism of Sena. The 20S Evo comes with a range of extras to fit a variety of helmets and to suit varying preferences. For example, it comes with three microphone options.
Ease of operation
This unit can be confusing and frustrating to use at first, because it relies mostly on audio cues, with only one visual indicator on the unit to let you know exactly what you are doing. However, once you have figured it out and know how to enter commands, using the system is almost second nature.
As with ease of fitting, this will depend on your helmet. If it is designed to accommodate an intercom, with recesses near the cheekpads to accommodate the speakers, it will almost be like there isn’t one installed at all. However, the clamp occasionally caught my jacket or rucksack during over-shoulder checks when I first started using it. Once you get used to this you learn to avoid this issue.
I can happily listen to music, talk to my mates and follow GPS instructions at the same time while cruising down the motorway, with earplugs in too. The only noticeable drop in clarity is at high speeds when talking via an intercom chat, or when there are a lot of people in a group intercom.