Motorcycle mobile radio installation examples

Discussion in 'Mobile Radio Systems' started by KA5D, May 24, 2017.

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  1. KA5D

    KA5D Ham Member QRZ Page

    The linked article with video:

    ...describes the two motorcycle mobile installations I’m running:

    – 2013 Zero S electric motorcycle with Yaesu FTM-10R radio and Comet SBB-5 antenna;
    – 2003 Honda VFR800 with Yaesu FT-60R radio and Comet HP-32FHN antenna.

    Both installations use the Sena SR-10 bluetooth hub and a Schuberth C3 Pro helmet with the SRC communications system in the collar. The result is fantastic audio and a relatively safe, ergonomic use of ham radio on two wheels.
  2. WB8NQW

    WB8NQW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Back in the late 1970s our radio club set up a HF station at the county fair. One evening I was demonstrating ham radio and contacted a motorcycle mobile on I-95 in Georgia somewhere. In the course of our conversation he mentioned that he was running a kilowatt on the cycle. Asking him how that was possible, he informed me that he was towing a trailer with a generator on board. He had a nice signal into Bowling Green, Ohio.

  3. K0BG

    K0BG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Doing VHF on a cycle isn't difficult, as long as the current load isn't too high (≤30 watts out, ≈60 watts in). You really need a metal accessory box to hold the antenna, but front fender mounting can work too. But....

    Doing HF gets rather difficult as you have to deal with a whole lot of ground loss which really can't be reduced to any degree. And, you have to have the right bike, because most of them don't have enough alternator reserve to handle the 200 watts input peak, save for a Honda Gold Wing. Its been done a lot, but always with mixed results—the video notwithstanding.
    KB0MNM and K0UO like this.
  4. KA3TJI

    KA3TJI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very nice setup! I am in the brainstorming process of putting a mobile rig on my bike. I have a spare Kenwood TM-V71a that I would like to use. I like your Bluetooth setup, but I am a bit reluctant to spend $1,000 on the helmet. I am looking for a more economical and effective way to retrofit a Shoei full face helmet. Any recommendations? Thanks.
  5. KK6BNF

    KK6BNF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here's a temporary installation I did on my '17 Honda Africa Twin. It's temporary because it takes up all my cargo space! I'll improve that on the Mark II.


    One of my goals was to have a portable setup (don't call it a "go-box"!) that I could transfer between my van and my motorcycle. The COVID-19 shutdown left me with a lot of time on my hands and no overnight camping trips to take on the motorbike, so I thought, Why not mount the antennas to the pannier racks? When the machine shop opens up again I'll fabricate a better solution.

    This build was a real step for me. I don't have a proper indoor Ham Shack so this is my operating station. I've accumulated a lot of equipment (and a General license) but never really got it all hooked up together. I sold some of it on Swapmeet to fund this build. Until I put this together I had never installed a PL259, never assembled an Anderson PowerPole (or even seen one in real life!), never operated on HF, and had one of the world's worst soldering irons. But this is why I got into Ham Radio; I'm terrible with electronics! Now at least my electronics bench is kitted out with some nifty crimpers and proper soldering equipment, connectors, etc. I'm building an indoor shack on my friend's property up north and now feel more competent to do that.

    Equipment List:
    Givi B37 top case
    Yaesu 857D
    TuneMatic TM-1 antenna tuner
    Bioenno 12V-15Ah LiFePO4 (in ABS bucket)
    SO239 bulkhead fittings (a.k.a. SO238)
    Circular 4-Pin Connector (CPC-4), panel mount
    PowerPole panel mount weatherized port
    Diamond K400S antenna mount
    Comet CR8900 4-band antenna
    Breedlove Flat-top Ball w/SO239 antenna mount
    Little Tarheel HP screwdriver antenna
    Quicksilver Radio 4-way PowerPole distribution block

    The motorcycle has an Eastern Beaver PC-8 power distribution box, and I ran a 5-foot line from the unswitched terminal (direct to battery) terminating in 30A Powerpole connectors (all under the seat.) That was before I got the LiFePO4 battery. The PC-8 is limited to 20 amps and the FT-857 can draw up to 22 amps, but as long as I don't sing opera into the mic it's okay. The power cord I made for the FT-857 has its own 25-A fuse in it for running direct from battery. (So, power either comes from the bike, through the PowerPole 2-row weatherized panel mount, or directly from the on-board LiFePO4 battery.)

    20200628_151743.jpg 20200628_152322.jpg 20200628_152304.jpg

    I bought a 5-foot control cable from Tarheel for this project. I spliced the CPC-4 into it so that I could more easily separate the box from the bike. For the ball mount I had to drill that plate in the pannier rack; only because I didn't have a scrap of aluminum handy to make a plate to fit in its place. It's a lot lighter now.

    20200628_151949.jpg 20200628_151854.jpg 20200628_151911.jpg

    How does it work?!?

    Well, truth be told I haven't used it much. Truth be told, when I built it I had never operated on HF at all. I made my first HF contact from this setup, calling in to the San Francisco Amateur Radio Club's 20-meter net from about 10 miles south of their shack.

    I can take the box to any antenna with an SO239 and plug right in, so that's cool.

    It's not made for operating while driving. That's a whole 'nother level of complexity, and there's the RF exposure of having an HF antenna 24 inches away from you. I have used it a couple more times and I detach the box from the bike and either set it on the ground or a handy picnic table is best. Here's a shot from the top of Mount Diablo, California (3800 feet.)


    And one from the first day I had it out on a shakedown run. (Actually my first setup was just an FT-8900 and the Comet antenna, that didn't last long.)

    There wasn't much going on on the 17, 20 or 40 meter bands in the middle of the day up there on Mount Diablo. I tried to contact a 40-meter noontime net but didn't hear anything. Plenty of data signals and some CW but all the phone signals were very weak, even with headphones. I didn't call ant CQs. I chatted on the WIN System to some other Hams / motorcyclists.

    It's a bit of overkill having the TuneMatic in there, I could do what a lot of operators do and just mark the screwdriver antenna body with tape and sharpie in the neighborhood of important frequencies. However, when I set this up in my van the TuneMatic will be very useful for operating HF while driving.
    The 4-band antenna for the VHF/UHF side is a bit of overkill, too, but it was the only antenna I had on hand.
    I'm worried about the CPC-4 connector. Those wee 22 gauge wires look so fragile, and I try not to move the inside bit around too much.
    I wish I could have run the cable out the back of the box and not blocked the passenger seat. The box I had was the box I had, though.
    Although I tried to keep things weatherized, I won't be going out in a downpour, or fording any streams.
    In the future I'll try to get the VHF/UHF side to be operable while riding. My bike has a DCT (automatic) transmission and so no shifter lever on the left footpeg; perfect place for a PTT footswitch.
    In the future I'll make a better 'dashboard' to hold the 857 and TM-1 control heads.
    In the future I'll get a charge controller to charge the LiFePO4 battery from the bike, but I've been advised not to just hook them up in parallel as they're batteries of different chemistry. Also, wouldn't want to drain the bike if the radio is left on, or a short develops in the box.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
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  6. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    VHF UHF is easy and interconnected with the intercom.
    I prefer to operate portable after I get somewhere in the evening, instead of attempting to operate HF motorcycle.
    I never feel comfortable operating HF motorcycle, now aeronautical HF is no problem.
    KK6BNF likes this.
  7. KK6BNF

    KK6BNF Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm not even sure operating HF from a moving motorcycle would even work very well. As I said I'm not too familiar with HF. Isn't it best at night? I try not to ride at night and when I do I'm not in the mood to ragchew. I can see camping and operating in the evenings, maybe bring a long wire and a slingshot to try another antenna.

    Also it seems if you're working a marginal, weak signal situation then riding up & down hills and making a moving target of yourself isn't optimal, either.

    My next expedition will be to park up on a peak somewhere and wait 'til after dark to see what comes over the air. Living in San Francisco there's no shortage of hills to ride up. The peaks of Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais are closed at night, and it's a long ride back from Mount Hamilton, though the astronomers over there are usually active after dark.
  8. KA3TJI

    KA3TJI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here's what the old V71a looks like on the bike. Control head is on a custom made slide mount that electrically connects when inserted. PTT under left grip. Coiled microphone/speakers cable plug into the bike via waterproof RJ45 jack. Antenna is a Larsen NMO-2/70B Black antenna mounted on homemade and sealed half wave grounding mast with "N" connector on bottom. Antenna/mast assembly is easily removed via three set screws and the LMR240 cable is safely stored on the female "N" connector after unscrewing protective cap. All connections are waterproof.

    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
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  9. KA3TJI

    KA3TJI Ham Member QRZ Page

    This thread is so old that I've since changed the antenna mounting configuration on the Valkyrie and added a custom luggage rack and trunk. Even bought a new Goldwing Tour DCT, yes both bikes have a Kenwood V71a on them.

    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
    K0UO, US7IGN and KK6BNF like this.
  10. KE0YWQ

    KE0YWQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm glad to see some new motorcycle installs cropping up. I'm currently away on work but getting a plan for my motorcycle mobile setup will be a winter project for me.

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