Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bicycling and Ham Radio

Bicycling and Ham Radio

You say WHAT?

Absolutely! Bicycles and Ham Radio fit perfectly with each other and the benefits for both are most excellent and interactive. I ride two Recumbent bikes 1) a Rans Rocket and 2) Sunrider EZ-1 I also ride a 1983 Trek 850 diamond frame mountain bike especially in the Winter months here in Colorado. I have been bicycle mobile on all 3 bikes at one time or another over the last 6 years. Being both a Ham and a Bicyclist does not make me an authority in either hobby but it does make me an experienced user that can provide “by-the-seat-of-my-pants” insights and advice. Here are just a few of my thoughts on a very big topic.....

I find for long trips which are more than 15 miles the recumbent is much more relaxing and enjoyable in conjunction with ham radio, also when the road is flat and long ham radio takes away the boredom that comes from flat land with little scenery. My field of vision is better too because I am not looking down at the handlebars because of this anatomical difference - between a standard bicycle and a recumbent - operation of rigs on a recumbent are better and safer than on a standard bike because the level of the eyes are straight out rather than downward. The World view of a recumbent bike is much different than on a standard bicycle. When I ride a standard diamond frame bike my vision is largely at my handlebar level (where the speedometer is located) which is below me and on the road about 12 feet in front of me with occasional lifting of the head to look outward 30 to 100 feet ahead of me for vehicles and obstructions. On a diamond frame holding my head upright all the time is tiresome and hard on the neck causing soreness and on a very long trip even headaches. When I ride my recumbent my World view is much further out in front of me and my rigs occupy a small portion of my World view as I look out giving me positive control over both environments. Plus my neck is not strained and my vision is constantly in front of me. In my Opinion and experience a recumbent is much easier on the back since riding one is like sitting in your comfortable front room recliner. There is no pressure on the wrist and your arms are at a comfortable shoulder lever which by the way are almost exactly where the controls and microphone for your rigs are – like I said at the beginning of this article, “ Ham radio and recumbent bicycles are a perfect match for each other”.

The grand bonus of mixing the two hobbies is that public relations for ham radio is EASY because the uniqueness of a recumbent draws EVERYONE'S attention and many many want to stop you and talk to you. As the person moves closer to you they see the rig(s) and almost immediately start asking questions. I guarantee that within moments the conversation will automatically turn to Ham Radio and “what is it” - “How far can you talk” conversation. 99.8 percent of my conversations while out riding ends with an invite to visit our local ham club, or if they are visitors encourage them to contact their local ham radio club where they live. . Now isn't that good advertizing for Ham Radio? And you get to have fun and get healthier while your at it who can ask for more!

Where has technology taken us?
Back in the 1980's being a bicycle mobile would have been nearly impossible because of the weight and size of rigs, antennas and other gear, but in 2011 it is amazing the electronic technological advancements in the last 30 years. Today there are rigs like the Yeasu ft-817 that are all band – all mode and fit nearly in the palm of your hand style rigs. In addition mobile antenna technology have become better. For instance the ATAS100 or ATAS-200 which covers 80-10 Meter plus 2 meter, 70cm and 6 meter is small enough to mount on the rear of the bike; attach a orange flag and the antenna looks like and functions double duty as a safety flag. Plus you do not need a big heavy battery as the rigs have their own battery source which is internal to the rig.

Are you a social being? You are if your a Ham!
Bicycling is a social experience and ham radio is a social experience too. This is one of the reasons that bicycling and ham radio go so well together! You cannot ride a recumbent without being noticed and talked to by almost every bystander if they are given the slightest chance. People will often flag me down to talk to me when I am on an in-town bike ride on my recumbent. The flip side of the coin is I cannot talk on the ham bands without being social. They call that talking to yourself - do too much of that and they will be coming to lock you up!

Where to go now?
I hope if your a ham radio operator I have encouraged you to take a good look at going bicycle mobile regardless of your age. If you can walk you can bicycle it's that simple. I also hope that if your a bicyclist that you will take a long hard look at becoming a licensed ham radio operator. I haven’t even delved into the topic of emergency communication and bicycling but believe me ham radio provides a major force in Safety through communications. Even just carrying a very small (about the size of a deck of cards) VHF/UHF handy talkie for working repeater systems will make bicycling safer, make you feel more confident and allow you to enjoy the ride to it's fullest capacity. You'll also be surprised how many opportunities you have to help others and provide emergency communication for people you encounter during your bike rides. Ham radio and bicycling is a positive force and benefit for everyone ham radio operators, bicyclist and people of the community alike!

Below are two links to a ham who is also a bicyclist and reports on his 11 year bicycle trip. I think you'll find it very interesting:

Fr. Johnny Shepherd KD5LWU


  1. Great article Father Johnny, you've hit the nail right on the head as far as the joys of riding a recumbent.

    I also ride both road and mountain DF bikes, but rode all last summer on my recumbent trike with a bike club of predominantly upright bike riders. When I struggled to keep up with them, I could, but the times I enjoyed the most were when I just dropped back and took things at my own pace.

    The rhythm of riding a recumbent is different. It lets you enjoy the surroundings more. There were times I just enjoyed looking up at the sky as I rode, something that would be quite awkward on a conventional bike.

    I don't miss the numb palms, the sore arms and shoulders, the crick in the neck and definitely not the sore butt!

    I just got a new HT, so I'll be looking forward to trying it out bike mobile this spring.


    Al AE2T

  2. Great thanks AL. I also have a DF Trek 850 I have not become proficient enough to ride in the ice and snow. Also my legs tend to tire more on the Bent, at least for now. Ground is deep in snow so no riding for a few days. I run my HT when ever I ride it it real hany enjoy yours Al Thanks for the feedback/comment 73 FJ