ryankdx12

Member
Jul 12, 2007
47
0
I am considering purchasing 2 way radios for communicating as many of the areas I ride lack cell service.

Do any of you use such devices while riding? Can you tell me what sort of limiting factors there are on their use: range, terrain, battery life.

Is there a particular product you would recommend?

Thanks.

Ryan.
 

High Lord Gomer

Poked with Sticks
Sep 26, 1999
11,790
34
Right place, just not a subject many people will have experience with. Since MX and trail riding takes all of your concentration, the distraction of trying to talk to someone while doing it would be difficult at best and dangerous at worst.

I tried the Chatterbox units from HJC for use on the street bike a couple years ago and was not impressed. I think they would do even worse in an offroad situation.
 

ryankdx12

Member
Jul 12, 2007
47
0
Thanks for your reply. Actually someone thoughtfully relocated this misplaced thread shortly after I posted it.

I'm not intending to use the radio for talking "en route" so much as for a safety feature in the event of trouble. I'm probably being overly optimistic to consider this a possible back up plan. I suspect distance will be an issue, although I can't find any information on range for the unit I looked at.

It seems like a lot of money to throw at it if it isn't going to accomplish the task. Thank you.
 

XRpredator

AssClown SuperPowers
Damn Yankees
Aug 2, 2000
13,510
19
ryankdx12 said:
Let me broaden the question: What about GPS trackers? What are the limiting factors of those?
Far as I know about those, you only know where the other guy is as long as he has his turned on.

I hope Kiwi chimes in, I think he's spent some time with these.
 

mideastrider

~SPONSOR~
Jul 8, 2006
827
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I use Midland GXT600VP4 with an advertised range of 18 mile. I assume thats over water thought, but they will reach over a mile deep in the mountains. I use mine out the races (harescrambles) and there lots of other people with 2-ways that interferes with them somewhat. They have privacy codes that you can use that enables you to only hear your own radio's but if someone else keys down it can still step on your signal.
They are pretty good for the money depending on how you want to use them. From what I can tell the next step up would be commercial 2-ways at about 400 bucks each I'm not ready to go that route yet.
 

TwinSpar

AssClown WannaBe
N. Texas SP
Aug 18, 1999
6,880
109
As a general rule of thumb, 2-ways will get you about a mile for every watt of power that they transmit at. That's a general estimate that is probably more real world than what you will see some advertising proclaiming. Many of the distances that they advertise are in optimal conditions (i.e. flat ground/lake or mountain down into a valley).

I've used 2-ways between vehicles (2 watt units) that were usually good to about 2 miles. You have to keep in mind that there was no external antenna so the radio was transmitting from within a vehicle interior. Different vehicles will have different levels of antenna performance than others. I had a BMW and a Toyota truck, and was moving from KS to MD. I had to get an external antenna for the BMW to even use the radio outside of a 1/2 mile separation. I think it must have been shielded in lead. LOL
 

friar tuck

Member
Feb 9, 2006
190
0
I looked at the ones in rockymountainatv.com 's catalog for awhile. They have a noise cancellation feature, and are hands free. We were talking about trying them out when we go out in big groups in the event someone gets separated. They had some decent reviews on different websites, but I didn't try them out myself. Something more important always comes up when I think about buying them. :)
 

dirt bike dave

Sponsoring Member
May 3, 2000
5,349
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A decade or so agao, my buddies and I had some cheap ones from Radio Shack. We wanted to be able to communicate on the trail, and so the lead guy could say what way he went at a fork in the trail, instead of waiting for the next rider. I think we used them twice before shelving them.

Range was supposed to be 1 mile, but actual in the woods/mountains was maybe 1/2 that. We tried push button activation and external mics, as well as voice activated (ear piece inside your ear). The voice activated ear units were annoying to ride with, and often would not transmit when they were supposed to. The button activation was more reliable, but it was awkward to use while moving.
 

kmccune

2-Strokes forever
LIFETIME SPONSOR
Jul 3, 1999
2,726
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Amy and I use them with a headset when we ride together. This allows me a little more freedom to ride my own pace, with out stopping at every corner. It is a little strange to have a voice in your ear when you are concentrating on not hitting a tree or falling off the side of a hill though :laugh: But it is a good safety item for us. I think ours are 2 watt midland units and they work well. The head set (actually a ear piece with a mic boom) make it a little bit of a pain to put your helmet on, but it works out OK.
 

rmc_olderthandirt

~SPONSOR~
Apr 18, 2006
1,533
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I often carry one of the GMRS (higher powered version of the FRS radios) when I ride. Not to communicate while I am riding but to communicate back to camp if needed.

There have been a couple of times it came in handy.

Once my son (20 years old), a friend (30 something) and my nephew (age 9) were out riding and my nephew got separated. My nephew knew the way back to camp so he just returned. The other two were frantically looking for him. Unfortunately, we were in a riding area that has 58,000 acres of open riding (you can go anywhere/direction you want) and the possibilities were endless. When they back tracked and didn't find him they radioed camp and we informed them that he was already back.

Another time my bike broke down and my son had to go back to camp to get the trailer. I was several miles from camp and not in an easily recognized spot, which made returning to the same spot a bit difficult. I could see his dust from quite a ways, however. Having the radio allowed me to say "nope, you need to go left now!"

With a VHF/UHF radio the transmission is basically line of sight. If you can see the other station you can talk to them, even with very low power. If you can't see them then you are relying on a signal bounce, off a canyon wall, mountain, building, etc. If there is a mountain between you and the other station you are just plain out of luck.

I have been thinking about using a VOX system when I ride with my wife. I get tired of looking back all the time and stopping frequently to see how she is doing.

I wouldn't use it when I ride with my son. It would be too embarassing to have everyone at camp hear my screams of terror as I try to follow him.


Rod
 

kmccune

2-Strokes forever
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Jul 3, 1999
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rmc_olderthandirt said:
I have been thinking about using a VOX system when I ride with my wife. I get tired of looking back all the time and stopping frequently to see how she is doing.


Rod

Works well... just don't let her hear you make even a single remotely negative peep over her headset, or you will be in deep trouble mister. Trust me on this one :whoa:
 

olderndirtmom

Member
Apr 28, 2007
424
1
rmc_olderthandirt said:
I often carry one of the GMRS (higher powered version of the FRS radios) when I ride. Not to communicate while I am riding but to communicate back to camp if needed.
Rod

Rod, do you know the range/other limitations on these?

ryankdx12 said:
Let me broaden the question: What about GPS trackers? What are the limiting factors of those?

Are these a sort of "Locater" beacon? You know "Mom fell off the cliff here"..."X marks the spot?"

Can anyone tell me more about these? Kids are going back to school... It's time for me to go riding! :cool:
 

rod g

Member
Sep 5, 2007
8
0
We at motorsports medical at races up to the baja 1000 use vhf ICOM radios. brand is not as big of deal as vhf it will cover a longer range than uhf of the same power. most race promoters use 151.625 mhz as there emergency freq. most good hand helds are around 5 watts mobiles MOST around 45 but use a lot of battery. if you have a mobile as a base and a handheld on you bike you will get good range hills are the big issue mobile to mobile is the best, with no repeater. the f.r.s. cheap radios are about no good for what you want (so it sounds) chatterbox type and frs are less than 1/2 watt.
 

D Lafleur

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Dec 11, 2001
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rod g said:
most race promoters use 151.625 mhz as there emergency freq. most good hand helds are around 5 watts mobiles MOST around 45 but use a lot of battery. if you have a mobile as a base and a handheld on you bike you will get good range hills are the big issue mobile to mobile is the best, with no repeater.


Systems designed to operate with a repeater are rarely more effective mobile to mobile, unless the two mobiles are within 1/8 mile of each other, or the mobiles are outside the repeater's coverage area. VHF radios require licensing for the area of operation. The frequency that you are suggesting is currently licensed to 3852 users in the Continental USA.

All of the FRS specs are inflated.

Remember this one key, altitude = range. More range will usually help, unless you are in a radio congested area, i.e. outskirts of a large metro area.
 

rmc_olderthandirt

~SPONSOR~
Apr 18, 2006
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I have the GMRS radios (higher power version of the FRS radios). I will often carry one with my when I ride.

Under good conditions you can communicate a fair distance. Unfortunately, I rarely ride in areas that provide good communications.

The basic limitation is line of sight. If you can see the other station you can talk to them (even if they are such a tiny spec that you can't make them out). Over water, for example, you can reach 10, 15 even 20 miles if you are up on a fly bridge or similar structure.

When you get in the hills or mountains the situation is much worse. You generally do not have line of sight for much distance. You may get a favorable bounce of a tall mountain, cliff or other object that can extend your range but if you are deep in a canyon, or the other station is, or worse you both are but in different canyons, the radios may be useless. They may still have utility if you can ride/hike up to the top of a hill where you can see line of sight back to camp. Might save you a long walk.

Rod
 

MrLuckey

Fire Marshall Ed
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Feb 9, 2000
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Kiwi and I both have garmin rino units. Mine is the 120 and I believe his are the 130's. They are gps units with built in comms (FRS & GMRS). As long as you are in range every time your buddy keys his mike, it will mark his position on your gps.

Very nice units, tough and good range! You can find some pretty good deals on 2 units.
 

rmc_olderthandirt

~SPONSOR~
Apr 18, 2006
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olderndirtmom said:
Rod, do you know the range/other limitations on these?


There is a bit of a science on how radio waves propogate.

The quick answer is that it is line of sight. The energy in the radio wave does not penetrate hard surfaces very well. A mountain will absorb everything. A concrete wall will stop a very high percentage. Wood frame buildings will attenuate signals some. Metal can distort the signal.

The longer answer is that it depends on the frequency of the radio wave. Long wave lenghts (low frequency) will penetrate deeper than short wave lengths (high frequency). This is why the navy uses VLF (Very LOW frequency) to communicate to their submarines under water. Of course, the frequency is so slow it takes a long time to send a message, which generally is to surface so they can receive an important update.

Longer wavelengths are also easier to "bend". Low frequencies, like the AM broadcast band, will bend due to "refraction" and follow the curvature of the earth, allowing signals to be heard hundreds of miles away.

Radio signals will also bounce, but they need an object many times larger than the wavelength to bounce off of. AM broadcast signals don't bounce well because there isn't much that is that large to bounce off of. CB radio signals, which are up in the 27 MHz range, are known for their ability to bounce off of layers of the atmosphere and come down thousands of miles away.

As the frequency goes up the chances of a bounce off of land based objects increases while the chances of an atmosphere bounce decreases. The FRS radios are up in the high VHF band, which will bounce off of buildings and cliffs but not the atmosphere.

With any radio, if you can draw a line between the two radios that are trying to communicate and not have it pass through any object (like the ground, remember the curvature of the earth) you should be able to communicate. As the distance increases power does become a factor but not as much as you might think. Power can be a major factor when you relying on a bounce, however.

I highly recommend the FRS/GMRS radios. One of the times I wasn't carrying the radio and I broke down I really wish I had it. I was riding with a buddy, and he went back to camp to get the trailer (my bike just siezed the engine). He was trying to make his way back to me but I am in the middle of a riding area that is 58,000 acres in size and is criss-crossed with many, many trails. I could see him coming by the dust cloud, but he was on the wrong trail and passed by me about a 1/2 mile away. I watched him criss-cross the area a number of times before he found me again. If I'd had the radio I could have simply said "you need to head left a little!" and he would have found me a lot sooner.

One time the radios did come in handy was when my son (age 18), a friend (age 35) , and my nephew (9 years old) were out riding. Suddenly the nephew shows up back at camp, saying he fell, then when he got going again he lost the other two. Half hour later we get the radio call from my son frantically requesting help to find the nephew. Note: they had noticed him missing fairly quickly. They waited a bit, then doubled back and didn't find him where they saw him last. They had spend the time searching and then decided to call in reinforcements, although they had to ride to the top of a hill to get a clear shot back to camp.



Rod
 

olderndirtmom

Member
Apr 28, 2007
424
1
Rod (et al)

Thanks very much!! I'll have to print this out and look up some of these brands.

I'm trying to figure out a way to get me out riding (alone) and keep my family happy as to my whereabouts, or at a minimum my ability to be found. Though they don't seem to ask a lot of questions oddly... :think: Maybe I'm looking for a solution to a non-problem?

Cell phone coverage is non-existent where I ride. It is bluffy here- 600-800' elevation changes and zero line of sight between anywhere I might be, and anywhere someone with the other end of a radio or phone might be. Best case I was hoping for something like an AM frequency that could travel the 80-90 miles or so to "home". Or maybe I could just get one of those pet "chips" to ID the body when they find me. lol.

Fortunately I don't ride anywhere near so wild as you (YET!) But it would be relatively easy to ride off a bluff in places. Or your basic mechanical failures. Oh well. I don't need no steenking plan! :debil:
 

tnrider

Sponsoring Member
Jun 8, 2003
576
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I use the FRS units to talk bike-to-bike when riding. velcro the unit to the helmet and then wire into helmet with VOX. (tape over wires to prevent branches from pulling off) you have to position the mike so that wind, engine noise, other does not activate. (PTT is ok if you don't plan to use much while on the move) as for distraction - the distraction is heading up the hill without knowing if one of the kids is having problems (they have said same about me when i ride from the back). distance is not that important for my use as we are usually within 100-yards of each other and if i get no response, i turn around and go looking for them... i would not count on these for a back to camp radio in the TN mountains. we use cell for this. for safety - you need SARSAT www.sarsat.noaa.gov entry cost is slightly expensive at $550+ with GPS (you want GPS option) no ongoing service $$ contract, your taxes handle that - this is a "get me now" device!
 

Solid State

Member
Mar 9, 2001
493
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rmc_olderthandirt said:
With any radio, if you can draw a line between the two radios that are trying to communicate and not have it pass through any object (like the ground, remember the curvature of the earth) you should be able to communicate.

Not totally true - but pretty close. The RF fresnel zone is a ellipsoidal lobe (sort of football shaped) of energy radiating from the transmitter that is not a drawn line by any means. Anything in that lobe (trees, hills for instance) may negatively effect link margin through various effects. Just because you can draw a line between two points does not mean you can close the link and gain communications even if you otherwise have enough power to do so.

Good luck.
 

rmc_olderthandirt

~SPONSOR~
Apr 18, 2006
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olderndirtmom:

If you are going to go out riding alone (which I don't recommend!) then I would highly recommend carrying a radio. You may not be able to reach camp but when they eventually start looking for you it will greatly improve your chances of being found!

Rod
 

olderndirtmom

Member
Apr 28, 2007
424
1
Thanks very much for your concern Rod. I do understand the risks ... It heavily adds to the mommy guilt in my current choice of hobbies. I'm prudent. However, I'm not sure the way I drive could be called risky, ha ha. I'm not even sure you'd even call it riding! An algae-covered three-toed sloth sets land speed records compared to me and the TTR.

Yes, Yes. I'll figure something out radio-wise. If only to get me out the door a whole lot more.

thanks again.
 
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