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Thread: Bike to Bike Radio Recommendations

  1. #1
    GREGFUESS
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    Bike to Bike Radio Recommendations

    Trying to decide which radio to use for bike to bike communications. AutoCom US likes the Kenwood FreeTalk XLS (TK-3131) Two Way Radio, and StarCom recommends the Kenwood UBZ+CAB-01, which does not seem to google well.

    There is no shortage of amateur radios for cheap to expensive. Any recommendations based on personal experience would be deeply appreciated. My girlfriend and I are riding out from Houston to Arizona Labor Day and she wants to comment on the scenery from her R12R... on second thought..

    Thanks

    Greg
    08 K12S

  2. #2
    650flutterby
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    We use the Blueant Interphone. It works as bike to bike or driver to passenger.
    They are blue tooth and can also be used with your cell phone if you want.
    You can only pair two units together. It is hands free once turned on and linked together.

    We can talk clearly in town with 2 or 3 cars between us after passing through a busy intersection. They're not quite as clear at 70 or 75 because of heavy wind noise but if you block the wind they are still fairly clear. They easily adapt to different helmets.

    They can usually be found for $120 to $150 per headset on line.

  3. #3
    Continually Confused RogerA's Avatar
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    Scala Rider Q2 - works great.
    2011 R1200 GSA
    1972 R75/5
    2009 Triumph Thruxton
    MOA/IBA/AMA

  4. #4
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    The amateur radios are a no no unless you are both licensed. Kenwoods are very good, but so are Icoms, etc. Seveal companies make headsets that interface directly with specific radios so you don't need a comm system to go along with the radios. Topgear is still closing out some of their old Autocom stuff. Look there, Motocom, J&M, etc. You will find lots of options.

  5. #5
    Rocky
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    The recommended Kenwoods work GREAT!

    I have the autocom with the recommended Kenwood freetalk and they work GREAT!

    It was a bit of money at the beginning but well worth it. My wife and I both ride.
    From bike to bike and when she says she feels a little lazy and rides pillion it has performed very well.

    We ride with others as well from time to time and has been able to talk from roughly a mile away from the other riders. The ability of course depends on the fact that they have the same radio to communicate. I ride with my shield up most of the time on my RT1200RT so I use the push to talk setting while my wife prefers the vox setting on her bike for ease of use. She rides a 2004 Black and green Rockster 1150. The vox takes a bit of tinkering but no real big deal.

    I hope this helps.

  6. #6
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    Bike to Bike

    When you are talking bike to bike remember you have to match up with whoever you are going to be talking with. Make sure your radios are compatable. Next not that it matters but the TK3131 is discontinued and is a 1watt output, everyone I know uses a 2 watt output. I just went thru this trying to match up with friends that have older radios. There are grma radios and fma radios uhf and vhf. If your interested you can contact me and I will go thru it with you but its to much for me to type, (and I would need to check my notes so I don't tell you something incorrect and get flammed

  7. #7
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    You can't beat the Nolan basic kit and their bluetooth E-Box but then the problem with that is you have to have the N-103 helmet unless some one can tell you how to adapt one to another helmet. Wind noise is no problem @ 75 plus even with the visor up.
    Mo Shaffer
    Maggie valley NC,
    St. George, BM

  8. #8
    Registered User DPeakMD's Avatar
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    My wife and I are both licensed amateur radio operators. We've been using Yaesu handie-talkies for bike to bike with great success. We're using the Autocom setup to run the radios on VOX (for her) and PTT or VOX (for me). It's been a great setup so far! I highly recommend you consider something. It makes the ride much more enjoyable, and probably safer, too.

    The Autocom would interface with a number of different radios. They stock a specific adapter for the Yaesu's we use. It's a screw in 3.5mm 4 pole plug with a waterproofing grommet. But you could also make an adapter for about any radio if you have a soldering skills. Don't let lack of an adapter really limit your choice. It's not hard to make.

    In general, because of the low power available in these small handheld radios, the size of the antennas and the physical obstructions to the signal, getting a signal out is challenging. Don't expect miraculous performance. You will not come close to the radio manufacturers claims of "XXmiles"! It'll be closer to XX/10 for distance you can really effectively communicate.

    Ham radios are probably the best way to go from a performance standpoint. Drawback, you both must be licensed. But that just involves studying, taking a test and a small fee. Not that onerous! With a license, the FCC will allow you to use more power which tilts the performance in your favor over longer than sight-distance ranges for simplex (on the same frequency). You could conceivably also use repeaters which opens up the possibilities to tens to hundreds of miles. If you're looking for better performance, you can also mount a dedicated antenna which does more to improve the signal getting out and receiving. You have much fewer problems with interference from other users and there is essentially zero abusers of the ham bands because of the very strict policing that amateurs do on their own. The radios can be very rugged and in some cases waterproof. There are almost a limitless number of frequencies and bands available to you.

    Next step down in performance would come with a GMRS radio. You must again be licensed (since these are higher power than FRS), but it's just a form to fill out and send the FCC some money. Usually these are more rugged radios, too, since they're commercial oriented. You can also mount an external antenna. I believe the radio Autocom recommended at one time was a GMRS unit. Some of these units must be programmed using a computer and costly software/interface cable since they are pretty bare-bones. Just a volume knob, a channel selector and not much of a keypad. The GMRS bands can be a little more crowded and you can run into inference from other GMRS, and unfortunately, unlicensed users/abusers of radios which are marketed at the FRS crowd. You're also limited to a few channels in one limited frequency range which is a little more prone to interference from adjacent users.

    I would say FRS is the next lowest choice. Lower power. No external antenna allowed. No license to operate. But, there are a lot of choices available. It's cheap and a lot of other people you can potentially talk to. Including that obnoxious 4-year old in the mini-van going the same way you are across the entire state of AZ who is being entertained at your expense! Since there are a limited number of channels...well, you get the picture! The radios are usually cheaper. They do not need to be programmed. There may be some waterproof or more rugged ones out there, but most that I see use a push-in connector of some type and I don't see how that part could be made waterproof with it attached, which it will be if you're using it on the bike.

    Finally, I'll mention CB. I can understand why people use them. It's a horrible mode of communications for a bike from the technical perspective (I'll leave it at that). But just think, car radios went from AM (which is CB) to FM (which is all the above) a number of years ago for a reason. AM propagation is horrible. Static, squelch, interference. It's all bad. But it's nice to know what the truckers are talking about and a huge number of Goldwings and Harleys out there have them. I know Autocom will interface with them. I don't think they recommended it very highly when I read over their website a while back. I can understand why.

    I mentioned waterproofness. It may be important to you, or maybe not. It was to me. I like the radio out in the open as much as possible with the antenna sticking up and in the clear. It's just not a good idea to put an antenna inside of something where it might lie against something metallic or be blocked by the bike's frame. We ride rain or shine.

    Batteries are the next item to consider. The Autocom people made a radio interface that included power to the radio. That would be great. Otherwise, you'll have to recharge a radio at night or feed it disposable batteries. Mine are rechargeable but will charge off the bike with a 12 volt connection, too. It helps to make sure the charger includes protection from electronic noise if you want to use it while charging.

    Sorry it this grew too long. Good luck with your choice!
    Dallas
    2011 R1200GS Adventure
    Smoke Grey Metallic Matt

  9. #9
    michaelkellett
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    I'm using an $89 Midland hand-held CB from Amazon.com and it works perfectly and allows me to communicate freely with my buddies on Wings and other dressers. The JM systems are also CB based so to my thinking, CB is the most versatile, regardless of the bandwidth's limitations.

  10. #10
    Rocky Bow BMW Riders #197 bogthebasher's Avatar
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    I have been using the Platimum Plus 900 communicators available from http://www.collettcommunicators.com/ (no affilation) for three years and 40,000 kms. It is great bike to bike up to 3km distance apart and tested to speeds of 200km/hr (on the track). It comes with Bluetooth or not as well as the radios. I have travelled with up to four bikes so equipped with zero issues. Only once have I heard anyone on my channel in all the riding I've done. Also get a BMW channel as well as the 'public' one if you request it. Excellent units. Highly recommend as well as the super service from the site listed above as well as over the phone.
    Ken
    [2008 R1200RT (Biarritz Blue) - Mine]
    [2007 R1200RT (Sand Biege) - Hers]

  11. #11
    K Bikes Complex by Choice cjack's Avatar
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    My wife and I are both Amateur Radio licensed, but the simplest and best comm we have used on the bikes is the Scala Q2 headsets. Bluetooth wireless to 1500 feet (pretty much line of sight though...a little scratchy if she is up around the bend a block or so...). They do work well if she is in the gas station and I am at the pump. Simple in the helmet install. Good voice communications, also links to the GPS if desired and the phone. The battery charge lasts most of a day...say 9 am to 5 pm. You can buy 12 v chargers on the internet if you want to charge them at a lunch stop, or just buy two sets so you can change them out. They have an MP3 input, but that takes a wire. Or you can transmit wireless mono music from a Zumo. Not that great for music.
    BMWMotorcycles, fun when they're running...
    My other bike is a BMW.
    Jack Hawley MOA and RA #224, KE9UW ("Chuck")

  12. #12
    Registered User lionlady's Avatar
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    Hubby has a Starcom and I've got Autocom. We've had good luck using Motorola Talkabout radios. They work fine within sight range, and depending on terrain, etc. will work out of sight as well. We've been using them since we got "wired" for communication. A couple years.

    Only thing is that the radios need to have the antenna pointing skyward or they don't transmit very well.

    Considering you can get a pair for $30-$50 they're a bargain.

    P
    Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.
    R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition!

  13. #13
    Toadmanor
    Guest
    I have the Autocom unit and a Freetalk FRS. No problem works great. I would however like to find a CB that would work with my setup as well.

    Any CB ideas? I'd rather not put an antennae on the bike.

  14. #14
    Registered User
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    I have a midland, handheld CB mounted with my autocom. Autocom makes an adaptor that plugs into the radio, allowing a remote PTT switch and routes the radio through the autocom. Mine works well with just the rubber antenna.

  15. #15
    GREGFUESS
    Guest

    Motorola Talkabout Radios

    Quote Originally Posted by lionlady View Post
    Hubby has a Starcom and I've got Autocom. We've had good luck using Motorola Talkabout radios. They work fine within sight range, and depending on terrain, etc. will work out of sight as well. We've been using them since we got "wired" for communication. A couple years.

    Only thing is that the radios need to have the antenna pointing skyward or they don't transmit very well.

    Considering you can get a pair for $30-$50 they're a bargain.

    P
    That sounds very good, do you have to replace the batteries often? I was hoping to use the motorcycle battery to power the radio, or is the Autocom or Starcom capable of doing that? Appreciate your help.

    Greg

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