Just passed Ham radio exam. Anyone running one while adventuring?

Discussion in 'Pacific Northwet - Where it's green. And wet.' started by tunus, Aug 8, 2016.

  1. tacosupreme

    tacosupreme Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2013
    Oddometer:
    483
    Location:
    Pendleton, Oregon
    I didn't know there was such a license, but because I'm always so remote I just never cared to be honest. I've worked with the FCC goons at work, there aren't nearly as many of them as you think and getting them to actually show up and ticket someone who is legit interfering with signals is almost impossible. I work at airports and use a 2M to talk to the tower and aircraft, never took any test or licensing. LE/Fire/Mil...never took any tests. Even did a stint as a tow truck driver and used 2M...you guessed it no tests. It just seems absurd to me to have to go through all that to use "public" freqs that aren't interfering with any other users, and HAM doesn't interest me at all because the people I want to talk to are in my dust cloud or waiting at the next intersection.
    #21
    Rover31 and Chain link like this.
  2. IronJackWhitton

    IronJackWhitton Chasing my Trunk to the next adventure

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2013
    Oddometer:
    286
    My wife and I both got our HAM tickets last year, and so far it's been a really fun hobby. We feel more prepared for emergencies, and can communicate with each other anywhere in our city even if the cell networks are down or, as in our case (Wind Mobile), woefully unreliable. We got our tickets for two reasons:

    1) Bike to Car comms on our Alaska trip last year
    2) Local Communication as a backup either in the city or while camping/hunting/etc.

    For Bike to Car comms it worked great as a concept with one problem (that problem seems specific to my bike, I'll talk about that later). For this though, HAM isn't as easy as GMRS. The key thing for me is to integrate everything. Keep in mind this isn't for shooting the breeze while riding -- imo that is dangerous. This is for "Hey, there's a grizzly bear on the side of the road" or "I need gas let's pull over" or "I'm nipping off on this cut up ahead to scout a campsite".

    This solution would also work for bike-to-bike comms, by the way.

    If you have a Sena headset or similar bluetooth rig, you're limited in distance and the number of folks on the line. Also, depending on the helmet rig, there's no push-to-talk option so when you want to talk out loud to yourself or sing a song, your co-travellers get the full amount. Radios give you a great way to remove or at least mitigate both of these issues.

    1) For HAM:

    You'll need your license, a radio, and a bluetooth adapter. Sena make the SR-10:

    https://www.amazon.com/Sena-SR10-10-Bluetooth-Adapter-Two-Way/dp/B008R0LIHO

    Wire everything up and you've got PTT Ham Radio linked into your helmet.

    2) For GMRS:

    This is actually a good bit easier, as the radio can also be the bluetooth adapter. This is what we initially tried before the Ham setup. Once you've got your helmet rig, buy one of these Motorola units:

    https://www.amazon.com/Motorola-MU3...8829&sr=1-1&keywords=Motorola+Bluetooth+radio


    A two-pack is just over 100 bucks. You can rely on VOX (Voice Activation) but again that screws things up if you want to talk to yourself. Or instead, you can spend a few bucks on one of these and use that as a PTT:

    http://www.staples.com/Motorola-169...tooth-PTT-Button-Pod-For-MU350/product_212399

    The other advantage to GMRS is anyone in your party can get linked up with cheap blister pack radios and even a wired headset fit into the helmet, so it's very budget friendly.


    Now here's the problem I've run into:

    I've tried both solutions listed above, but anywhere above 60 km/hour it's useless -- somehow, for some reason, my motorcycle kicks out broad-spectrum Radio Interference at speeds above that and all my transmissions are garbled. I can usually hear kind of OK, but not very well, and I'm not read by my receiving party at all. I think this is an issue specific to the Tiger but if anyone has any suggestions on how to fix that I'd greatly appreciate it!
    #22
    CavReconSGT likes this.
  3. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Oddometer:
    929
    Location:
    Oregon, The Wet Side
    I would at least mumble a call sign every hour or so. IH8LWS would be a good one for you. Some of the Ham guys make it a hobby of trying to bust pirates and have scanners sniffing around for them. Not an issue if you're mobile, but I wouldn't use it at the house. Work and Mil uses other 2m frequencies not included in the HAM regulations.
    #23
  4. tacosupreme

    tacosupreme Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2013
    Oddometer:
    483
    Location:
    Pendleton, Oregon
    I do not ever tx or rx any HAM freqs, and when I do use radios its when I'm so far out you can't even pick up an FM radio station, let alone a cell signal. I stick to the first 7 channels of FRS mostly. With a decent antenna, I might get 5 miles LOS on a good day (which is fine for what I do) http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/FRS
    #24
  5. AlH

    AlH Long timer

    Joined:
    May 8, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,658
    Location:
    SC/NC
    ^^^
    Except it is illegal to use an external antenna on FRS:lol3


    As for hams making a hobby of catching offenders> in the old days that was a BIG deal and many guys made it their passion.
    Nowadays the general public, including hams, don't respect laws and regulations like they used to so......:dunno
    #25
  6. richard.bessey

    richard.bessey Hard Rider

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Walla Walla, WA
    I am also a licensed ham, and like the others commented on there, its kind of out dated technology. The locals chat up on the repeater for the area and most of the time, its chit chat about weather, gear, etc...
    Regardless, there are a couple areas near me that I ride where there is no cell signal, but I can hit the local ham repeater. So, often on solo trips when going to these areas I load my hand held radio in my gear, just in case. I have never had to use it but ya never know. Cell phones and my spot GPS are better tools for my opinion.
    #26
  7. tunus

    tunus Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2014
    Oddometer:
    285
    Location:
    PDX
    I've been doing a ton of reading lately on all things ham and there are a couple of different opinions that I've come across. One is "ham is outdated hobby for old men". The other end of the spectrum is what some people are doing with digital modes, mesh networks and SDRs. I haven't gotten my feet wet yet, but it appears only hanging out on vhf/uhf local FM repeaters gets boring after a while. Ham radio as a whole has so many different facets and applications that I would not discard it completely as an outdated tech.
    #27
  8. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Oddometer:
    929
    Location:
    Oregon, The Wet Side
    If you're into digital modes and mesh that's awesome. Some of these guys get all excited about being able to send a small pic over the radio somehow. It's not really my idea of a fun way to spend the weekend. Ham is like trying to do work in an 80 DOS based PC with a floppy drive when you have a Macbook Pro sitting on your desk. The advantage is that the Ham will still work if you can get 12v power to it somehow and doesn't need all the infrastructure.
    #28
    tunus likes this.
  9. Sinnergy

    Sinnergy Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2012
    Oddometer:
    317
    Location:
    Boring, Oregon
    Not to come off as too defensive; neither case is really true to my experience. There is still a lot of leading edge experimentation going on in Ham Radio, and Hams pioneered many of the electronic technologies that we use today. There are also many hams that enjoy working with older technologies--especially for the social aspect.

    The take-away opinion that I get from the above posts is that while these things are all cool, they don't really add much to the safety side of riding.

    By which I also don't mean to say that motorcycling can't add anything to the Ham experience as noted by myself with 'ancient modes' and K7MDL with his VHF Rover station. For me it is the social aspect, and (while I can't speak to his personal motivation) the data points being built up through weak signal VHF/UHF work ARE part of what will shape the next generation of high-speed data interlinks and the way we use the 'net in ten years... just like spread spectrum digital experimentation of the late 80s and early 90s shaped how your Mac-Phone works today.

    The OP's original questions were about what types of radios and setups were being used on a bike, and looking for any tips, etc. I tried to give a brief outline of what/why I carry when I do it. Mr. K7MDL went one better with pictures. Anyone else want to share?
    #29
  10. Chain link

    Chain link Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    406
    Location:
    Woodinville, WA
    COOL! I use two Baofeng UV-5X VHF/UHF portables for bike to bike comms on group rides. One for the leader and one for the sweeper. I get a reliable three to four mile range depending on terrain. They beat the heck out of FRS or blue tooth comms hands down.
    #30
  11. dirtwigle

    dirtwigle Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2015
    Oddometer:
    51
    Location:
    The Shitty of Seattle
    Baofeng BF-F8+ w/a Nagoya NA771 antenna as a beater setup. Upgraded to an Icom ID-51a w/a Diamond SRHF 40A antenna. The new Icom HT's can hook up to some android phones for text/email use in the field.
    #31
    Chain link likes this.
  12. BlueSmokeWrench

    BlueSmokeWrench Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    154
    Location:
    Enumclaw, WA
    Yup, I have an ID-51A plus that really works nice with the Android tablet.
    #32
  13. Zagando

    Zagando BMW uber alles!

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,039
    Location:
    EL18 Rockport, TX
    www.arrl.org is a good place to start.

    I used to do a lot of VHF/UHF contest roving and hilltopping from my car, a big solar panel and marine gel cells once I became a licensed ham in 1996 in California. If there where any hills around where I live now I's still be at it but it's too flat to be fun for a jaded old soul like me. I got into HF DXing after moving to Hawaii, upgrading to General. I built lots of antennas and enjoyed talking to folks all over the world---places like Greece, Australia, France, Russia, Brasil, Sweden, Japan, Tonga, Panama, Ascension Island, Morocco, South Africa---you name it and I' probably worked it and dozens of other places most have never even heard of. It is a hugely rewarding hobby with many facets.

    Getting on the HF bands and talking hundreds or thousands of miles is a huge difference than chatting on local FM repeaters which gets old very fast (although handy for emergencies or keeping in touch with other ham friends). But for bike communications it can come in handy when you're stranded out in the boonies, too---and can be implemented via HF/VHF/UHF depending on gear and antenna(s) used. Technician class licensees can use a portion of the 10M (HF) band although propagation up there is not so good because of the current sunspot cycle's decline.

    General class opens up a lot more HF/MW frequencies and Amateur Extra class gives one full access to all ham bands (which is why I later advanced to Extra a few years ago).

    My wife finally studied for the Tech license exam and got her license several months ago---just so she could keep in touch with me around town via our local 2M repeater. Ironically that single repeater was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey---but we still can talk directly (simplex) for several miles via her walkie-talkie and a base radio with a decent antenna on our upstairs balcony.

    "Look ma, no freakin' cell-phone charges!" Once licensed ($15 test cost) anyone can remain so for life by simply renewing every ten years for free.


    73,

    Jeff, NH7RO
    #33
    tunus likes this.
  14. AUWalker

    AUWalker Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    448
    Location:
    Silver Lake/Snohomish
    -.. --- - / -.. --- - / -.. --- - --..-- / -.. .. - / -.. .. - / -.. .. - --..-- / -.. --- - --..-- / -.. .. -
    #34
  15. Zagando

    Zagando BMW uber alles!

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,039
    Location:
    EL18 Rockport, TX
    Shamefully I never fully learned the code---if I wasn't so dyslexic now I'd really like to give it a try---CW can get through a lot better than voice modes when the conditions are poor.

    73, Jeff
    #35
  16. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Oddometer:
    929
    Location:
    Oregon, The Wet Side
    inReach goes on every ride with me. Ham just sits at home for the last 5 years. There's just too many places in the state where you'll never reach anyone on a 2m handheld to bother with it for safety. It's just more stuff in the tank bag to me now.

    Unless you have time to master the regional repeaters, and don't plan on breaking down in a canyon, I'd say it's a very poor safety device outside of the Willamette Valley.
    #36
    tundradirtbiker likes this.
  17. Derek939

    Derek939 Available in Extra Medium

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2015
    Oddometer:
    675
    Location:
    Portland, Or
    I use the Baofeng radio. Can use repeater towers and communicate almost anywhere!
    #37
    dowdell likes this.
  18. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Oddometer:
    929
    Location:
    Oregon, The Wet Side
    Yeah bullshit... As long as "almost anywhere" is close to a major city. Pull that thing out in the back country and see how it does. I had a Kenwood 50 watt in an SUV and a 4' antenna. Once you get very far off the main routes it's just crickets.

    It's hobby level technology, not safety gear.
    #38
  19. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Oddometer:
    929
    Location:
    Oregon, The Wet Side
    http://www.arrg.org/rptrguide.htm

    That's the repeater list for the state. In my opinion once you get out of range of the Bend area repeaters heading east it's game over with a little handhelds. You need to be within 20-30 mile range line of sight, hope it's actually still working, and you know the current access code.

    I talked a guy on the repeater in Burns a couple times. It reached about 20 miles out towards Frenchglen.
    #39
  20. Derek939

    Derek939 Available in Extra Medium

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2015
    Oddometer:
    675
    Location:
    Portland, Or
    No need to get angry buddy.... The Baofeng radio set up with repeater towers can easily connect with someone about 50-100 miles away as long as you know how to link everything up right. I can communicate with anyone in my group within about 20 miles. Just posting what I have done..... Sorry if it doesn't jive with what you've done... Its a hamm radio basically. I have not taken the exam to be certified but my buddy has and knows everything about it.
    #40