A History of Radio on Motorcycles – From the 1920s to 2020

Vintage Radio

Motorcycles may not seem like a likely place to find a radio, but they do. According to the site “All About Motorcycles,” radios are required on motorcycles in some countries (such as Italy) and optional in almost every other country.

This article will go through in detail the history of motorcycle radios, from when it was first appeared in 1921 when Harley Davidson installed a radio on one of their bikes for an advertisement to if they are even a necessary addition to a bike.

Motorcycle radios throughout history

The first mention of a radio on a motorcycle came from Harley Davidson in 1921. At first, the radio was an advertisement for a motorcycle and not available as a standalone purchase. The earliest radios were expensive to buy and install so they weren’t widely used until after WWII when technology started getting cheaper.

Motorcycle radios in 1930s

In the 1930s motorcycle radios became more common as motorcycle manufacturers started installing them to add value to their bikes when they were first introduced. Harley Davidson was the most popular manufacturer of radios for motorcycles during this time and these early models also came with a microphone so that riders could talk on the phone while riding.

Motorcycle radios in 1950s & 1960s

The 1950s and 1960s were a period of rapid change in the radio industry. The transistor and integrated circuits started revolutionizing all aspects of life including radio on motorcycles. Radios became smaller, lighter, cheaper to buy and install which lead to greater adoption by motorcycle manufacturers who were looking for ways to increase sales. By 1980 radios had become standard features on all new

Motorcycle radios in 1970s

All the way to the 1970s motorcycle radios were only available as factory options. Riders would need to order their motorcycle from the manufacturer with a radio installed or they had to buy one separately and have it custom-fitted into their bike by an expert at a motorbike shop. This is because most radios were heavy, fragile, and required more power than motorcycles could provide on-board so riders needed another vehicle to provide power.

Motorcycle radios in present day

These days it is much easier to add a motorcycle radio because there are now many options available that will fit the needs of most riders and manufacturers have found ways to make radios lighter, more durable and they no longer need any extra power sources for operation so all you do is plug your bike into an outlet or connect it to your battery.

But do we even need motorcycle radios in 2021?

The answer to this question will depend on a number of factors including where the rider lives, what type of motorcycle they own, and how serious they are about listening to something while riding.

Bluetooth Headsets have taken over motorcycle radios

In recent years Bluetooth headsets and earbuds have become increasingly popular and they offer a number of advantages over traditional motorcycle radios.

Reasons that riders are finding Bluetooth audio devices better than traditional radios:

  1. First, Bluetooth devices are much less expensive than radios which can cost between $200-$300 depending on the features you need.
  2. Second, since headsets or earbuds connect wirelessly to your phone it means riders don’t have to worry about getting tangled in wires and they can easily change songs by just tapping the screen.
  3. Third, once riders have their phone set up with music apps like Spotify or Pandora they will never have to worry about not having something good to listen to since these services are constantly updating their playlists and giving new suggestions based on your listening history.
  4. Lastly, with voice-activated assistance such as Siri and Google Assistant, you can focus on the road and not have to worry about trying to change songs or find a new station.

Our top 4 motorcycle Bluetooch headsets are:

  1. The Sena SMH-55, this is a great headset for those who are looking to talk hands-free on the road, and it packs a punch in terms of sound quality too.
  2. The Sena 20S is also another great option that has some of the best battery life out there with an incredible 18 hours of continuous usage time.
  3. The Cardo Scala Rider G20 (with DSP) is a great option for riders that want to listen to a wide range of music and talk hands-free, all while getting an amazing 20 hours of battery life.
  4. The Plantronics BackBeat Pro is pricey but worth the investment. This is a great option for those who are looking to purchase an expensive headset that will last years and has some of the best sound quality out there.

Not everyone has the same needs in terms of what they need from their headset, so we hope this list can help you find the right one!

In conclusion, it seems as though radios were a fad throughout history they have ultimately been overtaken by Bluetooth headsets and for good reason, they are wireless, more convenient, and can be used in conjunction with voice assistant to make phone calls and keep your eyes on the road.

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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