Here are my top 5 tips to help you make up your mind.
1. Decide on the level of the protection you’re looking for
If you’re up against radar, you need one of the top performing radar detectors. On a bike you need the extra time that a decent detector provides!
My own company (www.speedcheetah.com) make specialized motorbike detectors for the UK and European markets, but in the US go for one of the top North American detectors like the Valentine 1 (www.valentine1.com), the Bel STi Driver (www.beltronics.com) or the Escort 8500 X50 (http://www.escortradar.com) that you can also use in the car.
If money is no object consider a remote system like an Escort SR7 or SRX which have a waterproof detector head that can be permanently installed under your bike’s fairing.
If you’re up against laser, you’ll also need a laser jammer (our lawyers advise us to add “in states where they are legal.”) One product just isn’t enough anymore to do everything. Laser guns can easily pick off bikes in less than a third of a second, so getting a detector alert when a laser hits you is pretty pointless.
For laser jammers on a bike, the new Blinder M25 (www.blinderxtreme.com) is a good choice. The basic system comes with two heads so it can protect against front and rear targeting. Other good laser jammers are single head systems but they will allow you to purchase extra heads for 360 degree laser protection.
2. Decide on how you want to get the alerts.
Forget about relying on the standard internal speakers and displays of radar detectors – you just can’t hear or see them on a bike. You’re going to need extra equipment and the choice comes down to whether you want to see the alerts or hear them.
There are as many opinions about the best solutions as there are riders, so you’ll have to make up your own mind as to what works for you. In my experience, sportsbike riders prefer visual alerts, tourers prefer audio and cruisers can go either way.
VISUAL ALERTS – You’ll be concentrating hard on the road ahead so I’d always recommend using a heads up display system, attached to a helmet, to make sure you don’t miss an alert.
There are now various helmet display systems on the market from Cheetah, Legal Speeding and SportVue. The new Cheetah Vizalert display (www.speedcheetah.com) is the only motorcycle heads-up display in the world that is wireless, waterproof and works with both radar detectors and laser jammers.
It is motion sensitive, daylight sensitive and has many unique features like different colors for different types of alert and the flash rates get faster to show signal strength as you get closer to the threat. It even looks cool!
AUDIO ALERTS - Standard earphones are the cheapest and simplest solution but I tend to advise against them. They can quickly become very uncomfortable under a helmet and don’t deal well with the ever changing volume coming from the engine.
Some manufacturers make amplified speaker boxes for their detectors but by far the best way of hearing alerts on a bike is to use an intercom system. Autocom (www.autocomamerica.com) are the market leaders and I really like the audio quality that you get from the Intaride kit, particularly at higher speeds. (www.intarideusa.com)
3. How are you going to mount the products on the bike?
Radar detectors work best with full line of sight, but they can be concealed behind plastic fairings or windscreens with only a slight impact on detection range.
If your radar detector dealer doesn’t carry an appropriate motorcycle mount, Ram Mounts (www.ram-mount.com) in California usually have something suitable for every bike on the market. Industrial grade Velcro (sometimes called 7Kg Velcro) is a god-send.
Remember, laser jammer heads must have line of sight.
4. How are you going to power the products on a bike?
A bad wiring job can quicken flatten your battery or, worst case, set your bike on fire! Make sure you never leave any accessory powered up all the time.
Like any 12V product, it’s best to power detectors and jammers from a switched live circuit but if you’re not 100% sure about bike electrics or you don’t want the hassle of figuring out that mass of tangled spaghetti on modern bikes, use our little POWERSENSE node instead.
It’s a clever little engine running sensor that will only apply power when you start the bike and automatically cuts power when you turn the engine off.
It simply hooks up to the battery terminals so there is no complicated hardwiring. We include one of these sensors as standard in each detector or jammer interface but we often get requests for it on its own, often from BMW riders fitting intercom kits.
5. Does the equipment need to be waterproof?
Even if you never intend to ride in rain or plan to take your radar detector down when it does, think about getting some kind of plastic cover.
Getting caught in an unexpected shower can mess up your expensive detector so it’s not worth the risk. Inexpensive plastic covers are now available which don’t impact on performance and will offer some dust protection as well.
Jammer heads are a permanent fixture so they are designed to be waterproof and can usually be fitted discreetly under a fairing.
Don’t forget about equipment under the seat. This is where you’ll keep the jammer interface box, any wireless transmitters or your intercom system. I’ve twice ruined Ipods, cleaning the bike with a pressure hose.
One final piece of advice - where you can, go wireless. Trust me, there’s nothing more embarrassing than going to pay at the gas station and forgetting you’re still cabled up.
Information for Editors
Cheetah Advanced Technologies Ltd was founded in Scotland in 2002 and is a world innovator in specialist speed trap detection equipment. Cheetah USA LLC is based just outside of Phoenix Arizona and is the exclusive distributor of Cheetah products in the USA. Alisdair Smith is a director of Cheetah, based in the UK Head office.
About Cheetah Vizalert (motorcycle products)
Vizalert Helmet Display systems are now available in North America.
• The Vizalert RADAR package has everything you need to use the best detectors on a bike.
• The Vizalert LASER package has everything you need to use the best jammers on a bike.
• If you want to use a detector and a jammer on the bike at the same time, buy a Vizalert RADAR with a Laser Jammer Interface.
• Buy the Cheetah waterproof handlebar switch if you want to shut down a jammer manually.
• Our Wireless Fitting Kit for cars can be used to covert laser jammer audio into a suitable format for intercom systems.
About Radar detectors and Laser Jammers
Using a radar detector on a motorcycle is legal in all US states with the exception of Virginia, Washington DC, and on military bases.
Using a laser jammer on a motorcycle is legal in 40 US states and there are no US federal laws prohibiting their use. Some states have passed their own laws against jamming police laser guns.
The States where laser jammers are illegal to use are Nebraska, Minnesota, Utah, California, Oklahoma, Virginia, Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, South Carolina and also Washington DC.
Always check your local and state laws concerning laser jammers and radar dectectors to make sure you are not in violation of any laws.