About Bicycle Mobile
Thanks for expressing interest in combining bicycling with amateur radio, popularly
called "ham radio". I'm assuming that you are not a ham radio operator and that
you'd like to know how to get started in this most useful mode of communication. (If
you're already a ham radio operator, read on. I'm quite sure you'll agree with what I have
Here are some points of interest for you to consider:
- Today's ham radios are light weight. The radio that we hams use for communicating while
cycling typically weighs about a half-pound, and yet is capable of carrying a
radio-to-radio conversation with another ham who is as far away as 10-50 miles or more.
Easy to carry in a small bike bag, on your belt, or even in your shirt pocket; the
smallest such radio on the market weighs only a few ounces and measures just over an inch
on a side.
- The range of these tiny handheld radios is easily extended by transmitting through a ham
repeater -- a club-owned re-broadcast station that's usually up on a mountain top or other
high place. While on my bike, I have talked through a repeater to other hams in Pueblo,
Colorado, which is easily 120 miles from here in Boulder -- though a repeater range of 30
to 50 miles is more usual.
- There are more than 400 ham repeaters in Colorado alone, and more than that in many of
the other states. Indeed, there are thousands and thousands of repeaters in the US and the
rest of the world, standing ready to facilitate ham-to-ham communication. Hams count on
these repeaters to make all sorts of communication whether it be for emergencies, keeping
groups together, or just for checking a shopping list. Ham radios provide peace of mind
for those who venture into the wilderness: hikers, backpackers, cross-country skiers, and
especially, mountain bikers.
- We can make phone calls (local area) from our bikes, using just an ordinary 2-meter
handheld ham radio. Many ham repeaters have a phone patch for this purpose. Very handy
for calling home or 911 from remote areas, especially those areas out of reach of a
cellular phone. (Incidentally, the ham radio bands are free -- no charge for
transmitting.) Average cost of a 2-meter "HT" (hamtalk for a "handheld
transceiver") is $300 or less. Used ones, at half the price, are readily available at radio
- No Morse code required! The "Technician" FCC ham license gives you every
capability that most bicycling hams use. Your local ham club administers this quite easy
multiple-choice exam. Contact any amateur radio club (more below) for details. The cost of
the test is small, which you pay when you take the exam.
- Radio Shack carries two good books for preparing for the no-code test: RS # 62-2417,
"No-Code Plus" by Gordon West, 236 pages; and RS # 62-2414, "Now
You're Talking", an ARRL Book. They also have on hand, or can order, Gordon
West's "No-Code Ham Radio Software Package", RS # 25-1950.
- For an easy-to-read source of information see "All About Ham Radio" by Harry
Helms, Hightext Publications. In your local library look for "Colorado Cycling
Guide" by Jean and Hartley Alley, Pruett Publishing Co. Starting on page 22 you'll
find a couple of pages that I wrote about the use of ham radio on bike trips, especially,
my 2,000-mile solo ride.
- I think you should attend some ham club meetings, if just to get into the spirit of the
ham radio brotherhood. There you'll meet plenty of people who will be happy to be your
"Elmer" -- dedicated to giving you a helping hand, which is a tradition in
hamming. They'll give you tips on how to study for the exam, and how to pass it. If you
can't find a ham club, ask at your local Radio Shack store, where hams often come in to
buy parts and equipment.
- If this fails to put you in touch with an amateur radio club, call or write to the
national amateur radio organization:
Send mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amateur Radio Relay League
225 Main St (Dept BMHA) Fax: (860) 594-0259
Newington, CT 06111. 1-800-326-3942
http://www.arrl.org (or if you want the Pacific Division
of this fine organization, try http://www.pdarrl.org )
Ask them to send you the Beginner's Package, and that you'd like info about local clubs,
classes, and exams. They'll send you a print-out of ham club activity in your area (or any
other area in the US). In addition you'll receive various fliers about ham radio in
general and some of its exciting possibilities, such as talking with hams in foreign
lands, communication by satellite, "high tech" bouncing of signals off the moon,
computer-to-computer "conversations" by radio, or just yakking with a ham in the
- If you have friends who might be interested in combining ham radio with their bike
riding, the Bicycle Mobile Hams of America will be glad to help. To receive a sample
newsletter and info about using ham radio on the road or in the wilderness,
write us using one of the links to the left or at the bottom of this page..
- The Bicycle Mobile Hams of America has more than 450 members, from 46 states and six
countries. When you join you'll receive our BMHA membership and e-mail lists, which will
enable you to personally contact members in your area---men and women who will be happy to
help you get started in ham radio and in communicating from your bike. With their help,
seven of our nonham members, in the last three months, have passed the FCC test and are
now licensed and on the air.
- Whether you are a ham or not makes no difference, we'd be glad to have you as a member.
Indeed, at this writing we have 43 non-ham members, and the number is growing.
Hartley Alley, NA0A (Hartley became a Silent Key
Founder and Chairman, Bicycle Mobile Hams of America
PS. Several people have asked me to explain the term "bicycle mobile".
We hams say we're "mobile" anytime we are on the air from a conveyance, as
opposed to when we transmit from our base station, i.e., from a room at home that is
reserved for radio activity, what we call the "radio shack". Usually a mobile
ham is transmitting from a motor vehicle, but you can be bicycle-mobile, airplane-mobile,
kayak-mobile, horseback-mobile, etc. It's a common occurrence for hams to book a
cross-country trip on AMTRAK and operate train-mobile, making contact with small-town hams
who live along the route. Once while bicycle-mobile I had a good radio chat with a teen
who was skateboard-mobile!
PPS. I'd like to tell you a bit about the Bicycle Mobile Hams of America. I warn
you, I'm going to do some bragging. From our modest beginning in 1989 of just 25 members
we've grown to over 450 members, and we're scattered around in 46 states and six
We've got a few members who've ridden their bikes just 10 miles in a day and a few
members who've even ridden 300 miles in a day, but the majority of us have managed to ride
a Century---an annual tradition in cycling where thousands ride 100 miles in a day.
As to ham licenses, we've got a few Novices, a bunch of Techs, a sprinkling of
Generals, and well over half of our members hold the Advanced or Extra license.
The average age of our membership is 45, the youngest being a girl of 10, and the
oldest being a girl of 79. The women are important members but we have to admit that BMHA
is pretty much male-dominated---over 75% of our members are men.
Over 40 of our members are non-hams, and they're really a special bunch. They come to
us mainly through publicity in bicycling organizations for serious cyclists, so they're
all capable of pedaling 100 miles in a day. And several of them have ridden across the
With the help of our regular ham members these people have discovered the advantages of
ham radio, whether it's a case of an emergency, or of keeping a group of riders together,
or of just having a friendly radio chat with a local as you pedal along through the
countryside. Some of them have already passed the license tests---the rest are hitting the
books and getting ready.
I told you I was going to brag about our people.