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Sena Momentum INC review: A noise-cancelling motorcycle helmet for the masses

Can this feature-rich, budget-friendly helmet stand up to other heavyweights in the motorcycle helmet game?

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

For the most part, motorcycling is a solitary activity. Even with someone on the back, you're still stuck with yourself in your helmet, taking in the world as you try not to crash. Bluetooth communicators by companies like Sena and Cardo have changed this somewhat, but generally, they are clunky add-ons rather than integrated solutions.

For someone who is a bit of a neat freak, the tangle of wires and the asymmetrical bulge would be enough to drive you batty, but thankfully things have progressed enough that there is now a better way: Bluetooth helmets. There are a few companies doing this now, Schuberth being among the first, but now Sena is in the game with its Momentum line of helmets, which I recently had the chance to try.

At first glance, the Sena Momentum INC looks like any other full-face motorcycle helmet, giving no clue to the tech that it's bringing to the party.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

What makes the Momentum INC so cool in terms of tech is its Sena 20s communication system being fully and seamlessly integrated into the helmet. This means that you can use the wireless intercom feature with up to eight of your pals at a distance of up to 1.2 miles. It also uses what Sena calls the Universal Intercom protocol which allows it to pair with both Sena and non-Sena devices. Super convenient.

The INC part of the Momentum helmet stands for Intelligent Noise Control. That's right true believers, this helmet has built-in noise-canceling technology. Goodbye earplugs, right? Not so much. In town, the INC system is amazing. It curbs noise sufficiently that I don't feel it necessary to wear earplugs to save my hearing. On the freeway though, even with INC enabled, the Momentum is noisier than my Schuberth S2 without earplugs.

The Momentum INC's controls for the active noise cancelling and ambient sound booster are sleekly integrated into the side of the helmet where they are easily found by a gloved hand.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

Another cool part of the INC package is the ambient noise booster. This essentially works like a hearing aid, boosting the sound of the outside world, allowing you to carry on conversations without having to remove your helmet to hear. This was really convenient until I forgot to turn it off when I was pulling away.

The battery life for the helmet is excellent. I've been riding with it for a couple weeks, including having several long phone conversations via Bluetooth. I've had INC on basically the entire time and haven't had to charge it yet. Sena advertises that its build-in battery will give you a borderline-crazy 20 hours of talk time and significantly more standby time.

Sena simplified things by putting Bluetooth controls on the left side of the helmet and INC functions on the right.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

The Sena Momentum won't be much use to anyone if the helmet part of the whole Bluetooth helmet equation is crap. Luckily, it isn't, but there are a few areas where it could be vastly improved. First of all -- and this is a glaring omission in my opinion -- the Sena Momentum line of helmets only carries the bare minimum DOT safety rating. That means no Snell rating and no ECE.

Let's elaborate on that for a second. In order to be sold as a motorcycle helmet in the United States, a helmet must meet the standards set out by the Department of Transportation. These standards are self-enforced and are, at this point, a little outdated. Snell is a non-profit foundation that tests helmets submitted by manufacturers to a more rigorous standard than the DOT and many race tracks in the US require a Snell-approved helmet in order to ride. ECE is the motorcycle helmet safety standard set out by the European Union and is much more stringent than DOT. This is the certification required by MotoGP and can be thought of as being on par with Snell.

The Momentum INC being sold with only a DOT certification is unacceptable in 2018, particularly for a helmet that costs in the neighborhood of $500. This feels like a well-built fiberglass helmet, as opposed to a cheap polycarbonate unit, but without safety certifications beyond the self-enforced DOT standard, how good will it really be in a crash? We have no way of knowing.

That the Sena Momentum INC is only DOT certified is a real disappointment. It feels like a well-built and safe helmet, so we hope that Sena bucks up for the additional certifications.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

The Momentum series of helmets is designed to fit people with an intermediate oval head shape, or around 70 percent of the population. The fit is pretty spot-on, though I found that I had to size-up to get a fit that was snug but not painfully so. Still, I found this lid to be comfortable for a day-long ride, without much in the way of pressure points or hot spots. This is without having a super long break-in period.

The ventilation on the helmet isn't great, and your head is going to get hot. Thankfully the Pinlock visor insert, which is included in the box with the helmet, makes foggy visor a non-issue. I rode with this helmet in Los Angeles in the summer and there was literally sweat rolling down my face on 90-degree days. In cooler climates, it may not be as much of an issue.

The visor mechanism is pretty decent but could be easier to use. With no built-in drop-down sun visor, you'll be changing face shields on the regular and the process is a little fiddly. Thankfully, Sena's mechanism doesn't require the use of any tools and there aren't any helmet side pods to break off, as is the case on helmets from Arai.

The neck roll on the Momentum fits tight to help keep wind noise out. The liner is made from moisture-wicking fabric and is removable for cleaning.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

Everything else feels pretty standard for the helmet's price point. The inner lining is soft and appears to dry quickly, which is good considering how much your head will be sweating. The double D-ring strap is bog standard. From a looks standpoint, the Momentum is fairly bland, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in my book.

The Momentum helmet line starts at $449 for the standard unit and goes up to $549 for the Momentum INC. There is another tier on the way called the Momentum INC Pro with a built-in action cam on top, but as of now, we don't have pricing or an on-sale date for it.

In the end, is the Momentum INC worth the money? If you're an everyday city commuter, then yeah, it is. The INC system makes riding with a full-face helmet a pretty easy, hassle-free proposition. If you're a long-distance touring rider, you'd be better suited by something a little more plush. If you're planning on doing any kind of track riding, look elsewhere, what with the INC's lack of a Snell or ECE certification.