by Spyder for webBikeWorld
Editor's Note: This is a two-part article on
installing an Autocom Active-PLUS motorcycle intercom system.
Part II: Installing the Autocom Active-PLUS on a 2006 Yamaha Road Star
Silverado (This page)
After a few days of scooting around fine-tuning the headsets
it was time to hook the unit to bike power.
Over a period of several days I
encountered few problems with the Autocom kit, although I was forced to
"adapt/overcome/improvise" when it became obvious that the
microphone was suffering
from false key-ups due to wind.
Autocom states very clearly that for
open-face helmets you need a windsock kit but I overlooked this purchase...
oops. When riding two-up with no accessories connected to the unit (MP3
player, for example) the false key-ups aren't really that big of a deal but
once you bring the tunes in it gets a little annoying because the volume
drops to 50% and stays lowered for about 5 seconds after whatever noise
keying it up stops. Seems to happen a lot at the good parts of my songs.
Also, forget about singing along! Lip-synching only, or you'll key it up and
the volume drops revealing how bad of a singer you really are - a bit like
saying something stupid in a crowd of people just AFTER everyone stops
I used some "hook" side Velcro cut to the size of the front
of the mic disk, a tie-wrap and some foam earpiece pads from a cheap pair of
old walkman headsets to make my shade-tree windsock kits but I have a doubt
as to the thickness of the actual foam.
I'd be willing to bet the stuff
Autocom sells is thicker and denser since it is probably designed to prevent
sound ingression whereas the headset foam is designed to let sound it. My
solution added about 10mph to the wind threshold (from about 40mph to 50mph)
so it's OK for low-speed cruising.
With the visor down it's not an issue,
but it's entirely too hot here to be running around like that unless the
lorry in front of you is showering you with it's cargo - also, your voice
sounds much louder inside the helmet with it down.
I was not impressed with the bike-to-bike audio quality. I
originally used a pair of old Motorola T5710's but Scott from Autocom had
this to say:
"Just to let you know that the T5710 is not the best
Motorola out there, I would suggest the T6500 or higher. The T5710 has a
very low output volume, very hard to hear at highway speeds."
I went out and got a pair of T6500R's but I'm still not
impressed. My wife (in the van) can hear me pretty good but I have a
difficult time understanding her; she sounds "tinny" and there is what
sounds like interference or something, even when I'm right behind her. I
think it's more a function of the radios than the Autocom system, however. Autocom sells various Motorola radios and some of them are pretty pricey,
but this may be the solution. I'll need to do some more research on this
aspect of it.
Sidecutters, scissors, 2-inc wide adhesive backed heavy duty
Posi-Lock wire connector, DMM
(Digital Multi-Meter) and some heat shrink. My son to hand me stuff ("I want to work on the bike
too, Daddy!") and my wife to help with the stuff my son couldn't.
I had already completed the first step (deciding where to
mount the kit) last week. I had the entire thing installed but it was
running on battery power, so today's evolution was hooking it to the bike
and generally cleaning up the wires.
My particular motorcycle allows me to
remove the seat quite easily by unlocking the latch with the key in the
ignition. I removed the little bag of tools and mounted the box right there
using Velcro. If you do this, be sure not to cover the battery compartment
with Velcro so you can change the battery easily. My unit ran for about 5
days on a 9v battery with only a few two-up rides (but lots of MP3) - I had
to change it this afternoon, which led to the decision to just wire it in
and be done with it.
Bikes are different, so where you put yours will depend on
where you have the most room. Autocom recommends installing it somewhere
where it will not get direct water spray on it, and they also advise against
sealing it in a bag because the unit needs to breathe. Pick your location
carefully so you have access to it if you want to change the rider/passenger
volume or hook accessories to it.
The next step is to consider where you will be getting your
power from. I chose the rear running lamp since it is powered by the
ignition and is always on when the bike is running.
Take care tracing your
circuit and pay attention to wire colors - you don't want to suck power from
a critical system like ABS (if you have it) or your brake circuit, in which
case your system will only get power when you hit the brakes. I removed my
plate and inspected the wiring - on my bike the running lamp/brake lamp is
powered by this big white plug. Black is return (ground), blue is the
running lamp and yellow is the brake lamp.
I used my DMM to verify the circuit by disconnecting the
plug and measuring the source side with the meter while my wife hit the
brakes and the boy held the meter. If you do not have access to a DMM you
may want to contact your dealership and ask them if they have an electrical
schematic or interconnect drawing of your bike's electrical system.
also probably get good results by taking your scooter to them and asking the
dudes in the service department to show you the wire you need. It's a good
excuse to get out on the bike for a bit.
Once the wiring was sorted I back-tracked it into the
compartment under the seat and found the blue wire I needed. I disconnected
the field side, tested the source side to be sure, then slit the plastic
tubing on the field side to expose the wire. I did this because I had more
wire to work with on the field side of the plug.
I found that when I put the "vampire tap" Posi-Lock on this
little wire the tap spike tended to push the wire aside and not penetrate
the sheath. It also left a small gap between the barrel and the threaded
insert because the insert tended to bottom out inside the barrel of the Posi-Lock
before it seated fully against the wire. I overcame this by trimming some of
the threaded portion off which allowed for a good seal on the wire once it
was installed. When it was time to install the tap I centered the wire in
the base with a DMM lead and screwed it together.
Now it's time to start connecting stuff. Make sure you do
this carefully and take all available safety precautions (i.e. ignition off,
plug disconnected, etc.). 12 volts isn't much, but remember it's not the
voltage but the current that bites you. Accidentally getting bit (even with
low current) could startle you causing you to do bad things with tools, like
drop them on your pipes/paint/foot/son/cat and any number of other things. When you look in the mirror you are looking at the person most responsible
for your own safety, so use caution.
I removed the 9v battery plug/wiring and replaced it with
the bike power set. It pulls on and off, but it can be a little tricky
because it has little locking tabs on the side so don't get too rough with
You might want to get one side lifted off a bit and then use a small
eyeglass screwdriver or something like that to pry it up so you can avoid
pulling on the wires. It only goes on one way, but the red/black
(power/return) for the 9v option are on the LEFT side of the plug while the
same wires are on the RIGHT side of the bike power plug.
This pinout is
noted on the printed circuit board right below the plug receptacle in small
white letters. I mention this because most people tend to pull something off
and put the new one on the same way as the old one.
You'll need to cut a little tab off of the unit that seals
the bottom of the case when you are using a battery, and the reinforced
rubber part of the new wiring that passes through the case is not grooved
since you need to slide the cover backwards to open the compartment.
you get the cover on give it a good tug to make sure the rubber collar on
the inside is seated against the inside of the unit housing. You might want
to put a tie-wrap on the outside flush with the housing to keep it from
pushing back inside in the event you have rowdy pipes and your bike is a
mobile earthquake simulator (mine sets off car alarms).
In keeping with the "test before install" school of thought,
it's a good idea to scab in the wiring, power it all up and test it before
you start running your wires where you'll want them. Make sure it works!
I ran the ground lead to the negative side of the battery
first. I laid it in with the existing wiring in the cable tray, left some
slack, cut it and stripped the bitter end. I slipped some shrink tubing over
the wire, crimped the included terminal lug to the wire, slid the heat
shrink over it and shrunk it on.
Then I trimmed the positive wire (leaving
some slack), slid some heat shrink over the wire and landed it in the Posi-Lock. Because of the difference in size between the Posi-Lock barrel and the wire
I put a tie-wrap on to seal it up - it's a good idea to install the tie-wrap
when the heat shrink is still hot so it makes a good watertight seal.
If you have a heat shrink gun that'd be ideal, but if you
don't you can use a match or a cigarette lighter. When using an open flame
on heat shrink you need to move the flame back and forth a lot so as not to
concentrate too much heat on the tubing or it'll catch fire, and you don't
Most hair driers don't get hot enough, but if you have a
soldering iron you can heat it up and put the tip close (but not on) the
tubing and the radiated heat will shrink it right up for you.
It's a good idea to power it up again and test it before you
finalize your cabling if your install will require that you bundle slack
wiring. I work on an offshore oil rig and powering up a modification
intermittently during the install is a good habit to get into - it can save
you some real headaches down the road (no pun intended).
If it works you're
good to go and all you need to do now is finalize the job. I like to leave a
job clean and squared away, especially considering someone might want to see
how you installed your kit. You don't want an ugly bird nest under there,
Coil your service loops, trim your tie wraps, seal up whatever cable
sheath you cut, then have a beverage of your choice and bask in the glory of
your work. When you're finished with your beverage, ride your bike!
I run a little MP3 player in a cell phone case on the
starboard side of the pillion seat, clipped to the strap. I used a hole
punch to cut a hole over the power button on the face so I can get to it
without removing the unit.
When I want to do bike-to-bike (or in my case,
bike-to-van) I run the Motorola on the port side clipped to the same strap. When I'm not using the radio it is stowed under the seat. There is enough
slack in both leads to slip them under the seat if I am going to be away
from the bike for a while and decide to take my electronics with me or stow
them in the saddlebag.
Note that I elected not to use a PTT button on my
install for the FRS radio because my grip clusters wouldn't allow for a
good mounting solution within easy reach (to my satisfaction, anyway).
I didn't want to be fiddling around reaching for a
button while riding so I elected to stick with VOX. The Autocom unit
handles the VOX, and they suggest if your radio has VOX capability to
turn it off as it apparently causes some problems.
Since I only use the radio when the wife isn't on the
bike this doesn't inhibit the way we do things, although folks who do
true bike-to-bike would probably want a PTT for that since they probably
wouldn't want the other riders hearing everything they are saying to
Naturally, Autocom sells a PTT loom that would be wired
in series with the FRS lead from the unit.
Posted: May 2006
See Also: Part I -
Installing the Autcom Active-PLUS in the
Bell Mag-8 Helmet