Two Way Radios

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by rodr, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. rodr

    rodr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2008
    Oddometer:
    640
    Location:
    Fairfield, CA, USA
    What radio equipment has worked well for you with group rides? I'm thinking CB or GMRS/FRS (I'd like to stay away from single-brand solutions and those that only work for two riders). If you have used external antennas, what kind and what type of mount? What sort of range did you get? And of course feel free to comment on helmet headsets.
    #1
  2. ironmtnracing

    ironmtnracing MotoQuest Seattle

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    Oddometer:
    691
    Location:
    PNW
    We use VHF handheld radios with helmet kit. The kits come with a PTT switch that is mounted to the handlebar.

    Check out PCI Race Radios or Baja Designs for the only headsets worth having (at least off road with dirt style helmets).
    #2
  3. SnowMule

    SnowMule [angry moth noises]

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    19,115
    Location:
    I LIVE IN A GIANT BUCKET
    personally I'd go FRS.... radios are cheaper, work better, and don't have the propogation problems (and quantity of idiots on the band) that CBs do. Buddies use FRS when sledding and unless you're real far apart, they're more than enough. The Garmin Rino line is pretty badass, GPS + FRS/GMRS radio has a "polling" feature that will put your Rino on other Rino's GPS screens.

    FRS doesn't allow for external antennas, and you're limited to 1/2w ERP. Not a whole lot of power, enough for line-of-sight. Generally you can get a mile out of it, depending on terrain. The radios are small enough that they're easily pocketable.

    I carry an FT60 with me; downside to this one is you need licenses. Radio chills out on my pack, speaker/mic feeds through the shoulder strap. Easy to hear with a helmet on, and easy to get to; doesn't require taking off pack/helmet to get to and use radio. A lot of FRS radios have the ability to use an external speaker/mic.

    Let me know if you've got any questions... I deal with a fair amount of two-way communication equipment (And the FCC).

    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. nitsuj

    nitsuj Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    394
    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    Not hijacking the thread, I'm only asking because I too am in the market for radios. My question: What is it about the above radio that requires a license? And is the license hard to get?
    #4
  5. SnowMule

    SnowMule [angry moth noises]

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    19,115
    Location:
    I LIVE IN A GIANT BUCKET
    At the minimum you'll need an amateur license... they're pretty easy.
    GMRS is $70-something-ish, need that because you're not on type-certified equipment. There's a modification that has to be done to the radio to "unlock" it, and unless you're real good with electronics I wouldn't go that route.
    #5
  6. brfinley

    brfinley Brooster

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2003
    Oddometer:
    426
    Location:
    Republic of Davis
    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates radio communications in the United States. Radio communication is divided up by frequency ranges. Transmitting on most of these ranges requires some kind of license from the FCC. The exceptions are FRS, MURS, and CB (and short range embedded transmitters like Bluetooth or radio-control models) . The most common licensed ranges are the HAM and GMRS frequencies. You can buy any kind of radio you want, but if you use it to transmit on a licensed frequency, you first have to get the required license from the FCC. Otherwise, the FCC or rogue HAM vigilantes will hunt you down for dog meat.

    The problem with using licensed frequencies on a motorcycle is that all the people you may want to talk to must be similarly licensed and equipped. You might want to stick to the commonly used FRS and GMRS frequencies for that reason. You can still shop around for better equipment of that type.

    BRF
    #6
  7. rodr

    rodr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2008
    Oddometer:
    640
    Location:
    Fairfield, CA, USA
    Well I seem to have talked myself into getting an amateur license now... just because I can. And it might be good for evening entertainment when motorcycle camping and such.

    The FT-60 looks nice, and reasonably priced for what it does. Do you have any riding buddies also using an amateur unit? If so, what sort of range does that get you? If not, what's the appeal to you?

    Problem with FRS is, I don't think I would be satisfied with just line of sight.
    #7
  8. 911racer

    911racer dare to explore

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    Santa Cruz Mountains,CA
    Bump.. interesting thread.

    I too am interested in a bike to bike radio system and like the idea of using a portable radio with a helmet kit. something that I can use on my dirt bike and touring bike. I would like something that has a very good range and can take some abuse and not cost $$$$.

    :deal I have been a 911 police-fire dispatcher for 8 years but am still required to get a FCC lic to talk on a radio when off duty.. a bunch of BS if you ask me..
    #8
  9. Nightrunner

    Nightrunner Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2003
    Oddometer:
    2,335
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    First off there are lots of threads here on this so suggest a serch.

    Someone correct me but I thinkthe GMRS can be used w/o license but only like at 1 or 2 watts. FRS is low power and requires no license. For more range you can get the GMRS license and run like 5 watts off a handheld. I think this license is special for GMRS and only requires a fee, no test. Yes, the Rinos are very cool. Your buddies wll show up as blips on your screen and vise-versa.

    If you want to go first class, you can get the techncian class HAM license. There is one radio, the Kenwood TH-D7AG, that will simultaneously transmit both voice and data on separate frequencies. You can connect your GPS to the radio and have the same ability as the Rino but with longer range and a gazillion frequencies to choose from. The down side, as you mentioned, is that all your buddies need a TH-D7AG as well. A buddy and I went this route and frankly the Rinos would have been less grief. And like others have said, do not use HAM frequencies without a license. HAMs are very protective of their sport and protect it. With GMRS, I doubt you would ever get in trouble w/o the license, but its just a fee.

    You can check out the helmet-mounted Chatterbox radios which come in FRS, GMRS, and even a cheap model that works on baby monitor frequencies (which can be good for a few laughs as you roll into a small town on the back roads).

    Also search for threads on the Autocomm. I don't know much about it but very popular on motorcycles.

    Helmet speaker-mics are available for whatever yyou decide you want.
    #9
  10. Axiom2000

    Axiom2000 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    72
    Location:
    Delmarva
    It has been awhile since I looked into this but when I did, the cost of an FCC license for GMRS is $85.00, no test, just complete the application on-line. <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:stockticker>FRS</st1:stockticker> radios are limited to 1/2 watt output and no modifications to the antenna are permitted and no license is required. Many of the new hand helds have the ability to transmit on both GMRS and <st1:stockticker>FRS</st1:stockticker>. I believe the frequency selected will determine the output. On any of these radios the limiting factor is the highly inefficient rubber antenna. If you want to realize any substantial increase in range you will need to have a remote mounted Non-Ground Plane antenna. I added one that produces a 3dB gain and when using the GMRS freqs. at 4 watt output my range is more than I have ever needed.
    #10
  11. wheatwhacker

    wheatwhacker It's raining here

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,996
    Location:
    Cork, Ireland
    This might seem a little overkill, ut, I went and got a set of these.
    http://www.fastradios.com/icomf221s-mobile-radios.html

    UHF, 45 watt. They fit in a tank bag and easily go for 5 miles. I have gotten 10 miles in desert terrain without any problems. I also have a set of 5 watt handhelds on the same freq that I got use. These are fine for 2 miles, after that forget them unless you are on open terrain, then 4 miles.

    Some manufactures are selling radios with "27 mile" range. This is bull. I got a set of these and all I got was 5 blocks in the city where my UHF handhelds were getting over 2 miles.

    The 45 watt radios I bought for a trip a buddy and I are doing to Panama this winter. In the event we split up for whatever reason in the city, lights etc, without cell coverage, meeting up again can be difficult.

    Scenario 1.
    We are riding along, me in front. I see vista, pull over and stop. Semi passes by. Same time rider 2 is passing semi. Rider 1 thinks rider 2 is behind him and takes his time. Rider 2 thinks rider 1 is in front and is hammering trying to catch up. This happened to a friend of mine just over the Mexican border on a planned 2 month trip to CA. They never saw each other again for the duration of the trip. Yep, i know, bad planning.

    Scenario 2.
    We get to town and need a cheap hotel. We split up, compare info over the radio and decide on where to stay, instead of following each other like a pair of ducks.

    Scenario 3.
    Rider 1 and 2 want to do different stuff on a given day. no prob, I'll be in yadda yadda town by 6pm. Holler when your in town, I'll have camp setup.

    Basically the same function as cell phones but using cell phones in countries outside the USA is expensive and cell coverage is not all that great, unless your in Europe.

    We don't chat while riding but the 45 watter's are easily heard in the tankbag at freeway speeds, so you know someone is calling you. The 5 watt radios have a little red light that blinks when you are receiving so all you do is pull over and chat. Solitude and good music are much too precious to loose to chatting in your helmet.
    #11
  12. quota

    quota Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    873
    Location:
    Utah

    Just curious as to what your antenna choice is for the big radios and how you have them mounted. I've found that with 5 watts and a real antenna (not the small "dummy load" that comes with the radio) 5 miles is not unreasonable at all. Like you said though terrain makes a huge difference. I've also been places where 70 watts on UHF FM wouldn't go 2 miles (mountains in between the two stations).

    I've just carried a handheld radio on the bike because I've not taken the time to come up with a proper antenna installation.
    #12
  13. VTbeemer

    VTbeemer Traveler

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2009
    Oddometer:
    362
    Location:
    People's Republic of Vermont
    Me and my wife and friends have used Chatterbox models on the FRS band.
    Simple to operate and has an integrated antenna with decent range. Also we can put aux input for some other stuff into the unit (ipod etc.). This works well for those of us with multiple bikes. I just drop the unit in the tankbag and go. YMMV
    #13
  14. wheatwhacker

    wheatwhacker It's raining here

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,996
    Location:
    Cork, Ireland
    I used 3 foot high mag mounts but they just got shook to pieces. Now have little 3" mag mounts which can be placed anywhere on the bike. Range is as good. The radio fits into the tank bag and does not take up any more space than a regular hand held
    The 5 watt and the 45 watt range on open terrain, there is no comparison. We used these on agricultural equipment and often got 30 miles on the plains of Kansas, 20 was sketchy but you could talk, and 10 miles was where you could have a conversation without any interference
    We used to talk between Conway Springs KS and Belle Plaine KS without any difficulty when we used to cut wheat. Combines would be south of Belle Plaine and the trucks sitting in the elevator in Conway Springs.

    I feel if your going to invest in radios, just do it and be done with it.
    The fact the handhelds are on the same freq gives a lot of flexibility with the system
    #14
  15. TeamReader

    TeamReader Lee

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    76
    Location:
    OC, SoCal
    RF radiation can cause problems at higher powers. Operating a 40w radio while riding a scooter could cook your guts. Here is some detailed info on the subject;

    http://www.arrl.org/news/rfsafety/hbkrf.html

    With that said I use a Yaesu FTM-10R and a Diamond NR-770HB, 2m/70cm Radialless Mobile Gain Whip Antenna. I also often carry a Yaesu XR8 handy-talkie. You will need a Ham/Amateur radio license for these radios. You would be operating on the 144 and/or 440 amateur bands. These bands provide repeaters that cover just about everywhere you could get to on a motorcycle in the US.

    Both of these radios have bluetooth and can be connected via bluetooth to my J&M Integratr system. Using VOX you can both monitor and talk using these radios. Both are weather proof to MilSpec standards. They also provide AM radio receivers incase you want to listen to some talk radio.

    I mount the FTM-10R head on a Ram mount, put the body of the radio in my tank bag, the antenna is mounted on a bracket hung on the pannier frame.

    I would like to build a push to talk switch to eliminate the need to use the VOX method, I also connect a Garmin 660, iPhone and either a FRS/GMRS radio or a CB through the J&M Integratr.

    The Garmin is hardwired to the J&M, the iPhone bluetooth links to the Garmin for phone use and is hardwired to the J&M for music output. The FRS or CB are hardwired to the radio port of the J&M. I would like to develop a cable to hardwire the FTM-10 through the radio port on the J&M. That would allow better control of communications.

    Here are links to info on these radios

    http://yaesu.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=DisplayProducts&ProdCatID=106&encProdID=AF7E08DC3F2467B1B4B2CB4DA49BCF88&DivisionID=65&isArchived=0

    http://www.yaesu.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=DisplayProducts&ProdCatID=111&encProdID=64C913CDBC183621AAA39980149EA8C6&DivisionID=65&isArchived=0
    #15
  16. Yankee Dog

    Yankee Dog Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,045
    Location:
    Decatur, AL
    Personally I like CB. Of all the non-ham riadios, CB has the best range. There are plenty of antennas available and shops that will tune your attenna to your radio for cheap. Tuning your antenna is very important by the way. It can double your range and keep you from frying your radio.

    I used a handheld CB with a Firestyk 4' antenna on a home built mount. The key is getting a good ground to the motorcyle frame. Dont count on getting one through the mount. I used a seperate lenght of copper wire.

    Unless you hang out on channel 19 there is very little traffic on the CB channels. And even 19 is pretty dead unless you are on the freeway.

    Yankee Dog
    #16
  17. SnowMule

    SnowMule [angry moth noises]

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    19,115
    Location:
    I LIVE IN A GIANT BUCKET
    Nice... i've been contemplating either the FTM10 for the bike/sled or the 857D. And +1 for RF safety. VHF + high power = bad things happening to your body. Not to mention the electrical load on the bike.


    FT60's by far the best bang-for-buck as far as i'm concerned. The UI could use a lot of work, but that's VS for you. The hardware's solid, highly water resistant and durable.

    Amateur lets you do far more than any other license. Easy enough to obtain.
    #17
  18. Double Phister

    Double Phister R4ND0m_Ax3

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Oddometer:
    104
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    FRS is free.
    GMRS requires a license.

    Some of the GMRS frequencies overlap FRS. As long as you are following the FRS rules (1/2W, no removable antenna, etc) you dont need a license to use these. If you start using the GMRS rules (>1/2W, removable antenna) then you will need a licesne and also need to follow the GMRS rules (ex. using call sign)

    Radios that do both FRS (not just the overlapping frequencies) and GMRS generally need a license to use the dedicated GMRS frequencies and are cripled by the FRS rules that don't allow a removable antenna. They also usually only transmit 1/2 watt on the FRS/GMRS overlaping freq's.

    Stick with FRS or a combo FRS/GMRS and don't use the GMRS only freq's or go with a GMRS only setup and get a license. Then get a better antenna.



    BTW, modding a HAM radio to use GMRS freq's isn't allowed even if you have GMRS and HAM licenses. When you get any license you agree to all of the rules. Some of wich include the devices allowed. :deal

    Not preaching. Just want people to be informed. Now go do what you want.
    #18
  19. HaChayalBoded

    HaChayalBoded Brooklyn Bored

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,954
    Location:
    BRC \ NYC
    Can we get some pics of your setup? I was looking into the FTM-10R as well. I tseems they actually have two models. a 50w and a 10w model, and only one of them actually has a mountable front face.

    Also, you're carrying a separate FRS\GMRS radio with you? Doesn't the FTM-10R offer you that? Or am I just totally confused?
    #19
  20. FidelisInv.

    FidelisInv. Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Michigan
    Why bother getting a license? What type of enforcement is there? I've never seen the FCC out and about?
    #20