by William Eric McFadden, WD8RIF

I am an avid bicyclist and enjoy combining amateur radio with my cycling. I have built a VHF/UHF FM bicycle-mobile station and I carry my QRP HF station to field events on my bicycle.

I built my bicycle-mobile station in the winter of 2004 in order to be able to ride bicycle-mobile helping the Athens County Amateur Radio Association (ACARA) provide communications support to the 2004 running of the Athens (Ohio) Marathon (link). The Athens Marathon is the big public service event the ACARA supports annually. For this event, the 2m HT and antenna system were completely successful; I could successfully hit the repeater over the entire 26+ mile course except for one small space near the far-end of the course.

Beginning with the 2005 running of the Athens Marathon, I also carried an APRS station on the bicycle.

In addition to the Athens Marathon, I've used my bicycle-mobile station in support of the Athens MS-Walk, Run Like Hell 5K Run for Cystic Fibrosis, and Pelotonia.

Note: This page reflects the current bicycle-mobile station built around a Yaesu FT-60R VHF/UHF handheld. The page describing the older station, which was built first around an ICOM IC-02AT 2m handheld and later around an ICOM IC-2AT 2m handheld, is archived and is available here.

Quick Jump:  

WD8RIF Bicycle-Mobile Station -- click to enlarge
(click images to enlarge)

The Bicycle
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The bicycle is a late-nineties GT Arette steel-frame 21-speed hybrid. To this bicycle I have added full fenders, a rear rack and bag, a Sigma Sport BC-400 computer, a Terry saddle, a Princeton EOS (1-watt Luxeon LED) headlight, a Planet Bike Superflash ½-watt LED taillight, two water bottle cages, handlebar extensions, Shimano SPD clipless pedals, kickstand, and a tire pump. The front wheel and fork have been replaced, the originals having been trashed in an accident. The rear wheel was replaced after I started breaking spokes.

The Radio
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The radio is a Yaesu FT-60R 2m/70cm handheld. The HT rides in a a Western Case Company (link) #26 nylon HT case which slips onto a steel bracket bolted to the bicycle's rear-rack (photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4). The nylon case securely carries the HT and provides vibration-reduction and some protection to the HT in case of accident. I have found that this location for the radio works well; I can adjust the volume and squelch from the seat while under way. If I need to change frequency, I'll need to stop, dismount, and remove the HT from the nylon case in order to unlock the keypad and tuning knob.

The radio location was carefully chosen to not interfere with mounting of the KX3 Travel Kit, the APRS Tracker in a Pelican Case, or the rear pannier. I would like to eventually replace the steel bracket with a lighter aluminum one.

the radio mount -- click to enlarge the radio mount -- click to enlarge
the radio mount -- click to enlarge the radio mount -- click to enlarge

I tried handlebar-mounting of the FT-60R but quickly found it to be unsatisfying—there was just too much mass, both physically and aesthetically, on the handlebars with the HT mounted there, and I didn't like the vibration the HT was subjected to.

The Antenna
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The permanent antenna mount is an SMA-equipped MFJ-341SS SO-239 antenna-mount on a steel bracket bolted to the bicycle's rear-rack (photo). The antenna-mount location was carefully chosen so that the mount won't interfere with the mounting of panniers to the rear-rack.

The antenna is a a black Jetstream JTM-3B (link) 2m/70cm SO239-mount mobile antenna. (Photos coming soon.) This antenna is a ground-independent 1/2λ on 2m and a ground-independent double 5/8λ on 70cm.

For short radio-equipped rides, or when I don't want to mount the larger antenna, I mount my Diamond SRH77CA dual-band HT whip on the antenna-mount using a PL259-to-SMA adapter (photo). Even when I do use the larger antenna, I carry an HT antenna on the bicycle so I can use the HT as a handheld, not mounted on the bicycle, if the need arises.

the antenna mount -- click to enlarge
the 1/2λ 2m antenna -- click to enlarge the HT dual-band antenna -- click to enlarge

On occasion, particularly when I intend only to listen to the radio while riding and don't want to fuss with the speaker-mic, I ride with the Diamond SRH77CA dual-band HT whip installed directly on the HT instead of mounting an antenna on the bicycle. On these occasions, I install a weather-proof cap on the SO-239 antenna-mount (photo) to keep grit and moisture out of the connector.

The Microphone
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I have not yet found a headset that works with the FT-60R and also fits comfortably under my bicycle helmet. Until I find a suitable headset, I will use a speaker-mic. I always keep the speaker-mic attached to a lanyard I wear around my neck so that a dropped speaker-mic cannot find its way into the spokes.

Because the cord on the Yaesu MH-34 speaker-mic is too short for use with the radio mounted behind me on the bicycle, I use a Radio Shack speaker-mic and a Yaesu CT-44 two-pin adapter cable; the combined length of these two items is just adequate for comfortable use on the bicycle. I have received reports of very good audio with this microphone, and it appears to hand wind noise very well.

The FT-60R's speaker-mic socket is on the side of the HT and only a slight tug is required to pull the speaker-mic jack partially out of the socket—and lock the HT in transmit mode. To prevent this happening, I use a bulldog-clip to attach the CT-44 two-pin adapter cable to the nylon HT case as a strain-relief (photos: 1 | 2). In my testing so far, this has worked perfectly.

the speaker-mic connection -- click to enlarge the speaker-mic connection -- click to enlarge

UPDATE: The CT-44 and the Radio Shack speaker-mic fail to function properly with my second/replacement FT-60R. Receive audio through the speaker-mic is very weak and distorted and twisting the CT-44 connection at the radio causes the FT-60R to change frequency. Twisting the CT-44 connection without the Radio Shack speaker-mic connected doesn't seem to affect the frequency setting so the problem might be the Radio Shack speaker-mic.

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS)
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For support of the Athens Marathon, the MS-Walk, and other events, I carry an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) station on the bicycle in addition to the voice-net radio. Unfortunately, the new permanent antenna mount prevents the use of the mount for two antennas I had previously used. I am currently testing options for an easy-to-install, easy-to-remove second antenna mounting bracket featuring an SMA-equipped MFJ-341SS SO-239 antenna-mount upon which I will install a Larsen 2m 1/2λ mobile antenna. I will install and use this second antenna only when I'm using the APRS tracker.

Once the APRS antenna is sorted out, I'll be able to easily mount either of my APRS trackers to the bicycle. The ACARA's Byonics Micro-Trak AIO tracker will travel safely bungied to the top of the rear-rack trunk-box using the trunk-box's clever elastic straps. My larger Earthmate/GST-1/TinyTrak3/IC-2AT APRS Tracker in a Pelican Case will safely travel on the same easy-to-mount, easy-to-remove rear-rack fixture I use to transport the KX3 Travel Kit on the bicycle.

Visit the Bicycle-Mobile Archive Page to see the previous APRS installations.

APRS References / Links of interest:

HF QRP
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I don't operate HF while riding the bicycle but I do use my bicycle to transport myself and my HF equipment to HF field operations.

The KX3 Travel Kit is carried on the bicycle using an easy-to-mount, easy-to-remove fixture on the bicycle's rear rack (photos: 1 | 2).

I carried the KX3 Travel Kit on the bicycle for the 2014 Flight of the Bumblebees and the 2014 QRP Afield contests and the station traveled quite well.

Visit the Bicycle-Mobile Archive Page to see how the QRP Station in a Bag, the K2 Travel Kit, and the KX1 Mini Travel Kit were transported via bicycle.