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Off Wee-ing in the woods
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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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Off Wee-ing in the woods
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Discussion Starter #3
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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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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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.

<o></o><o>
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.<o></o>
<o></o></o>

..Tom
 

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Off Wee-ing in the woods
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Discussion Starter #7
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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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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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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Off Wee-ing in the woods
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Discussion Starter #13
Pardon my ignorance on this but what is the purpose of the Starcom unit? Why can't you just talk from one radio to the other?
The Starcom has a key role in all of it. It's acting as an input mixer/amplifier/output mixer. If I was only running the radios I wouldn't have to have one but I think I still would for the amplification and noise canceling. Since I'm running more than 1 audio source I needed a way mix them into the helmet speakers. The Starcom accomplishes this very well.

Usually when riding I have my Zumo running either with directions or music or sometimes phone. Without the Starcom you could barely hear the audio output from the zumo with earplugs in, and the few time I have used the phone function while in motion the noise coming through the mic overshadowed my voice. The Starcom solves both these issues I amplifies the audio and has it's own volume adjustment. It also has noise canceling functions or the mic.

With the radios it adds a level of complexity now I need to used hear 2 different audio sources and use the mic for those 2 sources. The Starcom is set up so the radio has priority so if my wife is talking to me the music/nav feed from the zumo will be muted and I can hear her. I have a push to talk switch that's connected to the starcom and keying that will send the mic signal back to the radio for broadcast.

I's not a must have, but it sure makes life easier.
 

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Off Wee-ing in the woods
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Discussion Starter #14
I still haven't seen an answer to the Starcom's ability to overcome wind noise at higher speeds
What aspect of the wind noise are you referring to Mic or audio level?

I think the mic does a pretty good job from what I've heard coming over the radio from my wife, but it's not like he's in a quite room talking to me. I don't think anything is that good.

Compensating or output level as wind noise increase is one place I wish it preformed better. I was hoping I could set the volume low enough that I could carry on a conversation at a stop without having to pause the music and it would then increase as wind noise did. Sadly it doesn't work that well, but it could be my helmet. If I talk into the mic or sing along with a tune the volume will increase to a level where is way too loud and distorted even with earplugs in.

If you would like to know what the audio sounds like at speed send my your number and I'll call you next time I'm out riding so you can hear for yourself.
 

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Pardon my ignorance on this but what is the purpose of the Starcom unit? Why can't you just talk from one radio to the other?
you can if you want to stop, take your helmet off

to the OP

I still haven't seen an answer to the Starcom's ability to overcome wind noise at higher speeds
The radios only will probably work, good at a campground not so much on a motorcycle. Many decent walkie/ talkie, FSR-GMRS radios often come with an inline mike and earpiece. You can try it.

I have a kenwood XLS 3131 for the bike plugged into my autocom.
I'm also in the market for a set that has USB charging ability. This will be a backup for the bike and great at the park with the kids. Canadian Tire has a few nice Motorola sets that I'm waiting for to go on sale.

The purpose of the starcom (similar to autocom) is that it's a small box considered as the brain of the system (similar to a home theater receiver) where everything gets plugged into it and sends the appropriate signals, in this case, to your helmet.

You can plug a phone, MP3, GPS, 2 way radio into your starcom/autocom and get info from all sources as well as voice activation (VOX) from rider to passenger.

Ken
 

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For what it's worth, My Autocom Super AVI-Pro hass a separate ambient noise sensor that goes in the Rider's helmet. It adjusts the volume automatically.

It's kind of fun to start singing in the helmet and hear the system crank up the volume to compensate.

..Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #17
For what it's worth, My Autocom Super AVI-Pro hass a separate ambient noise sensor that goes in the Rider's helmet. It adjusts the volume automatically.

It's kind of fun to start singing in the helmet and hear the system crank up the volume to compensate.

..Tom
The starcom uses the mic for the same effect, but it just doesn't make as dramatic difference and I was expecting.
 

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For what it's worth, My Autocom Super AVI-Pro hass a separate ambient noise sensor that goes in the Rider's helmet. It adjusts the volume automatically.

It's kind of fun to start singing in the helmet and hear the system crank up the volume to compensate.

..Tom
My Active Plus doesn't have this feature.:fineprint:

Don't tell me I need to upgrade????:headbang:

J/K.. I'm happy with what my unit does.:yesnod:

Ken
 
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