Bike to Bike radio set up. - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 18 Old 12-16-2009, 04:32 PM Thread Starter
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Bike to Bike radio set up.

I just wrote a detailed post on ADV answering a question about bike-2-bike setups. I figured I post it here as well for future referrance

As we started doing more extended trips my wife required that we have some sort of way to talk to each other while riding. Since we each have our own bikes radios seemed like a better idea that soup cans and string.

After asking the same questions that started this thread I came up with this solution, but it wasn't exactly cheap. The constant piece of advice it got from fellow riders and anyone I knew that was into HAM was to invest in quality equipment from the start cause you will end up with it anyway.

With that in mind I found a pair of used Kenwood TK3101 radios on ebay for $125. The are programmable and have a 2watt transmitter. I figured a generation old technology should still work for what we want to do, and I didn't want to spend $300 for each radio. The seller programmed the handsets to FRS/GMRS bands.

I was able to find battery eliminators for these radios that were affordable ($20 a radio) and it's a much better solution than having to worry about battery life and charging.

The radios live in our tank bags and I installed bulk head connectors so we can unplug the bag and take it with us if needed.









After a couple test rides we discovered the real world range of our tank bag set up sucked we had about 150ft range. So I wondered down to a HAM radio shop I knew about in North Seattle. After talking with the very knowledgeable, but cranky older gentelman that ran the shop he came up with a antenna solution that has worked very well. He sold me 2 Workman KS-1 antennas and 2 BNC-SMA adapters. I wanted something that would increase our range, but still be small enough to not be a hassle to live with.


(I can't post a pic of the wife's bike torn apart waiting for a shock rebuild)

I found a place on each bike to mount the antenna then made a little mount out of some 2" angle iron I had laying around. So far the magnetic bases have held very well in all sorts of terrain. That was the best $50 I'd spend on this project. Our range improved to about 2 real world miles. When we're out on forest service roads either one of us had to suck dust, but we can still communicate when needed.

All totaled adding the com system cost about a grand. Here's a quick break down:
For 1 bike
Radio $65
Antennas $20
Bulk head connectors $10
Battery eliminators $20
Starcom Advance $260 with ADV discount at bikeeffects.com
Misc starcom cables $125
Misc generic cables $15

I did find a few ways to cut some costs cause I'm a cheap bastard, but no I don't ride a KLR. Since we still wanted some usable tank bag space we mounted the starcom units under the seat on both bikes. This required extension cables for the radio, headset and PTT switch. The starcom unit uses PS/2 connectors for the headsets and radio cables and S-video connector for the PTT switch. I was able to source these extension cables from www.pchcables.com for a few dollars a piece instead of the $18 a cable from starcom. I was able to get all the extension cables I need from PCH for under $30 This saved me about a hundred bucks between the 2 bikes.

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post #2 of 18 Old 12-16-2009, 04:36 PM
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let us know if your happy with that Starcom unit



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post #3 of 18 Old 12-16-2009, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randyo View Post
let us know if your happy with that Starcom unit
yes very happy. I've been running mine since April and my wife has has her's set up since July. There were a few bugs to work out at first, but I think anything complex you add to your bike has a learning curve. So far we've used the radio setup on several multiday trips and it does make life easier.

An added benefit to being able to talk to each other is how much easier it is for us to move through traffic on 2 lane roads. I tend to ride more aggressively when it comes to passing than she does. Now that we have a decent range I'll make a pass in a place she wouldn't and ride a couple hundred yards ahead and let her know when it's clear to proceed and it seems to work well for us.

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post #4 of 18 Old 12-17-2009, 05:22 AM
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how is it at higher speeds ?

is wind noise an issue



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post #5 of 18 Old 12-17-2009, 07:08 AM
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just wanted to chime in....i too have the starcom and love it! i'm running the "blackbox" radio with it, as is my buddy and his wife on their bikes and
honestly the range is outstanding!......my lil bro is in need of a "cheap" frs
system that can comm with my setup...any recommendations?
oh as for wind noise with the starcom...the better the helmet the better the sound.....and the radio makes a huge difference too,at first i was running a cheap
"midland".lots of static and other junk noise in my helmet with that we tried mottorolla that just didnt work at all, finally aerostitch set us up with
the blackbox,which is very pricey but VERY worth it......crystal clear sound.

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post #6 of 18 Old 12-17-2009, 09:27 AM
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I'm a little surprised at the poor range you initially had. I guess the tank bag and orientation really messed it up. . I also wonder about the location of your antenna now. Wouldn’t it be a bit better to have it a bit out from the back of the bike? A friend ("Pilgrim") attaches his antenna beside the top box with a quick disconnect. He also uses a Starcom and seems to have the odd problems with connections of the cables, but when it works it seems to work really well.

I run an Autocom setup. My FRS/GRMS radio is mounted on a Ram mount that is attached to the right side mirror base. The FRS/GMRS unit is (for now) a cheap Motorola unit and that is mounted vertically on a belt-clip ram mount. It actually works extremely well, and the Autocom compensates for wind noise so I can hear it at any speed. Pilgrim and I can hear each other for a mile or so quite easily in normal terrain, and in wide open spaces sometimes several miles away. Normally that is much further than we would need to communicate by radio.


The benefits of having communication are huge when riding with anyone else. Especially on a log ride! I would also like to see riders firm up on a particular channel so that we can hail other radio equipped bikes. My friends (the RoadToads) have been using channel 7, sub-14 for communicating on the bikes. Perhaps we can drop the privacy code, but 7 is a channel that can be reached by any FRS/GMRS radio, and not being the first makes it a little less congested around amusement parks, etc.

..Tom

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post #7 of 18 Old 12-17-2009, 09:00 PM Thread Starter
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Tom I was quite surprised and the initial range as well. I was expecting to get at least 1/4 mile. I have a feeling the horizontal orientation of the antenna combined with the metal tank and magnetic tank bag were part of the issue. I also discovered that my bike emits some RFI from the ignition that would cause the radio to constantly be rx-ing static. I assume it may be one of my radios, but I figured out that the privacy subcodes got rid of it for now. Keeping the entire system hidden was important as well. That's why I opted for the tank bag instead of a ram mount.

The only trouble I've had with the starcom was a bad mic on one of the headsets and I had an issue where the vox would trigger at 3500 rpm and cut out the feed from my zumo. It ends up I had run the radio interface cable parallel to one of the coils. I moved the cable to the inside of the frame by the airbox and all has been fine since.

I'm sure if I mounted the antenna differently I could get better range, but 2 miles if just fine by me. Finding a location that was out of the way and didn't add any height to the bike was priority for me. I didn't need anything else to futz with while packing/unpacking the bike.

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post #8 of 18 Old 12-22-2009, 05:43 PM
 
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Check out RKA

I have this setup with Motorola GMRS radios.

Check out the solutions these guys have:

http://www.rka-luggage.com/A02%20Tan...d%20Sheet.html

Cheers,
John
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post #9 of 18 Old 12-31-2009, 03:35 PM
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One cuts the power output in half when you lay the radio down horizontaly.

Make sure you are using the gmrs channels on your radio 8-15, the frs side of the 3101 is limited to .5 watts while the gmrs frequencies have 2 watts of power.

If you want to use a external antenna try the Larsen OM 450 , it is a ground plane generating antenna and I have talked under good conditions 7 miles. Kieth 918-446-2245 for more info
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post #10 of 18 Old 02-26-2010, 10:19 PM
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The most likely problem is your antenna. I'm not sure how it is wired, but it needs to be counterpoised to something metal. Also, your bike is going to block a lot of power out the front. Might want to experiment by attaching the antenna directly to the radio.

Also, it is possible the radio was not tuned to the frequency. It would be like listening to an analog radio that wasn't tuned precisely to the station. May sound okay with a strong signal, but can definitely notice the problem on a weak signal, which usually required you to retune the radio dial.

Jake
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