3/27 – Onboard Technology FTW

Just tested out custom audio cables for my Nolan N-43 helmet and iPhone. I’m far too excited at the prospect of possibly conversing or commanding Siri around while I’m riding. Thanks so much to Matt for intricate wire soldering skills, and then sealing up the jack ends all neat. Receiving these doctored cables in the mail just made my day. Click on for nitty gritty.

Before.
After. Just look how tidy those are.

I’ve been enjoying my in-helmet earphones for a while now (I have the Basic Kit 2 for my Nolan N43), but never installed the microphone. I couldn’t justify the cost of their bluetooth N-com kit and well, I’m primarily a solo rider with no one to talk to. Just the ability to listen to music on long rides without getting headaches from the slight but constant pressure of earbuds in the side of my head for hours made long rides infinitely more enjoyable. For a while, I also used an affordable clip-on bluetooth device that I’d attach to my riding jacket collar, that let me accidentally answer calls or attempt to change music with big clumsy gloves. It was nice being wireless, but the buttons were hard to feel, wind noise made the mic feature useless unless stopped, and the batteries ran dead in ~6 hours of use. Distance rides easily extend beyond that, not to mention a likely scarcity of outlets for recharging at campgrounds. When the battery ran dry, I would simply connect to my phone with a cheap 3′ audio cable from Radioshack, and ignore bad shuffle choices or Mapquest directions (a quick unplugging also automatically paused music at toll booths or for other human/emergency interaction too).
Enter my current, though yet untested on the road, setup.

3.5mm in Nolan N43.

The audio jack on the Basic Kit 2 is a standard 3.5mm, the same as the phone I currently have (iPhone 5s, I fried my 4 on a rainy ride to Gettysburg. Bah). After a bit of research online, I found Nolan’s Basic Kit 2 pin-out. In summary:

Tip: Audio L+Ring 1: Audio R+Ring 2: Mic+Sleeve: Ground

iPhone’s 4-pin jacks however, are laid out as such:

Tip: Left Audio OutRing 1: Right Audio OutRing 2: GroundSleeve: Audio In

See why my audio cable didn’t work at full capacity (besides my cable only being 3-pole)? I’m not an electrically fiddly person, but I figured if Ring 2 and the sleeve could swap places in an audio jack, I would have access to the in-helmet microphone. Here’s where I was glad to know someone who is familiar with fiddly work like that. Initially, I thought I would attempt soldering myself, since I have operated before…in middle school. But after explaining my cause, ordering relevant parts (~$16 including shipping for two each, in case they got bungled: 3′ TRRS 4-pole 3.5mm male audio cables, 3.5mm 4-pole male connectors), and then seeing how tiny the actual wires are, I handed them off to my soldering wizard.

Happy day, a package for me!

A quick in-helmet in-livingroom call, and asking Siri for today’s weather, seems to indicate success! Except that Siri reported that it was still freezing out and rain was headed my way. But anyway.
I may be calling you, while sailing down long empty straightaways crossing the Midwest.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Onboard Technology FTW, with less hacking and more velcro.

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