Bicycle Mobile, From a Beginner's Point of View
|By Bill Jones, KD7S
The ARS Sojourner
|It's all John Cumming's fault. When John, VE3JC, Ken LaRose, VE3ELA and Russ Dwarshuis, KB8U wrote about operating bicycle mobile while enroute from London, Ontario, Canada to the 2001 Dayton Hamvention I was hooked. I've operated from some strange places in my life but the seat of a bicycle wasn't one of them. That was about to change.
I began by visiting the Bicycle Mobile Hams of America web site at http://www.lafetra.com/bmha/. I went to the member's list and checked out those who had web sites. By reading the text and looking over the pictures I gained enough insight to start my own installation.
I made a list all the parts and pieces I had on hand. It included a bicycle, a 20 meter Hamstick style antenna, a couple 20 meter QRP transceivers, several gel cell batteries, a set of homebrew finger paddles, headphones, wire and a junk box overflowing with nuts, bolts and other hardware.
I faced two challenges. I had to attach the antenna to the bike and figure out a way to mount my homebrew finger paddles on the handlebars. The transceiver and battery pack were set up in a small handlebar bag so that part was already done.
I found some 3/4" aluminum tubing in my junk box along with a short length of aluminum strap. A couple hours at the workbench was all it took to create a stable mount for the antenna. One end attached to the seat tube and the opposite end bolted to the rear luggage rack. The next task was to fashion a holder for the paddles. After a couple false starts I ended up converting a mount from a cheapie bike headlight to a small platform to hold the paddles. But something happened before I was able to bring all the parts and pieces together. I bought a new bike.
My new bicycle, a Rans Rocket, was a completely different design than my old bike. Instead of a conventional diamond shaped frame , the Rocket was a recumbent . That meant I had to design a different mounting scheme for the antenna. I bought a piece of 3/4" rectangular aluminum tubing at the hardware store, cut it to length and hose-clamped it to the main tube (place link to antenna.jpg here) of the bike. The paddle mount and handlebar bag (place handlebar.jpg here) fit the new bike without modification.
I had my first bicycle mobile QSO on a sunny Saturday morning in October while sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house. I didn't get much of a signal report but at least I knew the system was working. I spent a good part of the following Friday getting used to pedaling, tuning and sending CW all at the same time. In the interest of safety I restricted my riding to back roads with little traffic and wide shoulders. I found that I could send decent CW as long as the road was fairly smooth but bumps in the pavement translated to corrupted characters. The headphones were somewhat distracting (and no doubt illegal). A small, amplified speaker would have been a better choice. Regardless, I was able to work numerous stations from my perch on the bike, both while in motion and at rest. As an unexpected bonus, I created a small pile-up with stations curious about my setup.
My plans for next spring include a week long trek from my home in central California to the Pacific coast and back. While the primary focus will be on the ride itself, having a 20 meter rig along will be a most welcome addition to my gear, especially at days end in camp. Both bicycling and ham radio are exciting hobbies. Combine them and you have an unbeatable combination.
Bill Jones, KD7S, is a gifted outdoors person, constructor, and writer. He lives in Sanger, CA.