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Hartley Alley NA0A
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Ham Radio support of Bicycle events

Skip La Fetra, AA6WK  url:


[ AA6WK home page | Bicycle Mobile Hams of America ]
[ 1999 Sequoia Century Contact People | 1999 Sequoia Century | Western Wheelers Bicycle Club ]


To outline the duties and pleasure of working Ham-radio support of bicycle events.   I am a longtime (30-year) bicyclist and a relatively new (10-year) ham.

Much has been written about ham radio support of bicycle events (usually in a ham-radio publication -- very rarely in a bicycling publication).  Although I should put many of these links here, I haven't done so yet (room for improvement!).

Specific Intent

This page was written specifically to describe the duties and pleasure of working Ham-radio support of the (25th?) annual Sequoia Century bicycle tour, held in the foothills above Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Sequoia Century is sponsored by the Western Wheelers Bicycle Club.

Duties and Objectives

Ham radio is a public service, intended in events such as this to promote general safety and welfare.  This is a pretty broad charter -- the possibility of (remote) road accidents, rider fatigue, advisories about food & water situations, etc. -- all provide a wealth of information which is directly related to "public safety and welfare".

A bicycle event is also excellent practice for ARES, RACES, and other situation-readiness groups.  Bicycle events can be fast-paced and involve a lot of radio traffic (sometimes priority/emergency information such as an injured rider or at times a helicopter airlift).  At the same time, bicycle events are typically very well-planned and provide a lot of support for both the novice and experienced ham.   In short, they are fun events which hold a lot of training potential and provide a truely-valuable service as well.


Equipment needs can vary from simple HTs to high-powered mobile rigs.  In one extreme case, we set up a 6-element beam pointed up a remote canyon road and had solid HT copy where even the "big gun" mobile rigs had never gotten a signal out.   The one thing to remember is batteries -- lots of them.  You don't want to be halfway into a 10-hour event and find that you are out of "talk time".

Net Control should have a strong, clear signal into the repeater or simplex coverage area.  If you have only one really good radio, give it to Net Control.

For the Sequoia, most SAG vehicles use a mobile rig (25 to 35 watts) and a mag-mount antenna.  Often an HT will also work well, provided that you use a better antenna than the stock rubber duck.  The "Hot Rod" halfwave from AEA is very successful (but it is hard to use from inside a moving car).

For a rest- or water-stop, you can use either an HT with a good antenna or the mobile rig in your parked car.  For a "shadow" position there is no choice -- you must use an HT (but for a "shadow", it is especially necessary to have an earphone both because of ambient noise and the need not to distract your shadow).

My personal equipment is simple -- I use a dual-band HT (5 watts) and an external dual-band amplifier (35 watts), with a "Y" cigarette adapter to power the radio and amplifier at the same time.  I use a speaker-mike with attached earphone (but seldom use the earphone).  I then carry two spare HT battey packs as well as a second HT -- I now have backups for almost anything that can fail.

The Sequoia Century

The Sequoia Century is an annual event held by the Western Wheelers Bicycle Club.   It has been held annually in the San Francisco Bay Area since the early 1970s.   In fact, it is due to working with hams supporting the Sequoia that I (AA6WK) decided to get my ham license.

The Sequoia typically has several routes available (typically 25 miles, 50 miles, 100 km=66 miles, 100 miles, and 200 km=126 miles).  Because the longer routes traverse the Santa Cruz mountains (often several times), these longer routes have a reputation for being "strenuous" rides.  These same mountain routes make communications a challenge -- radio coverage is generally good, but there are locations which are true "radio holes", and cell-telephone coverage is spotty at best in the mountain areas.  This is where hams really shine!

Typical Needs

Each organized ride is different, and requires a different level and number of hams for support.  For the Sequoia Century, a typical ham support team includes:

Position Quantity Hours
Net Control 2 hams (may be 3-4 done in half-day shifts)
Radio equipment is provided
Full event (e.g., 7:30am through 7:30pm)
SAG communications
(ride with support vehicles to direct them to stranded riders, areas not covered, or exchange riders being transported back to the start)
6-8 hams full-day, plus
6-8 hams half-day
HT with external antenna usually okay
25- or 30-watt mobile rig is useful
bring lots of batteries or car adapto
Full-day is 8-12 hours
Half-day is morning or afternoon
(typically more morning shifts are needed than afternoon)
Rest and/or Water Stops 4-6 hams
HT with external antenna usually okay
25- or 30-watt mobile rig is useful
bring lots of batteries or car adapto
Half-day is typical.  Hours vary widely depending on the exact situation.
Event leader "Shadows"
(a "shadow" is a communications person assigned to an event leader to manage inbound and outbound communications with that person.)
0-4 hams
(the Sequoia typically does not use "shadows")
HT with external antenna usually okay
earphone often a necessity
bring lots of batteries
Full event

Let's Go Recruiting

Thanks for reading this far.  Now comes the sales pitch.

For this year's Sequoia (1999), we will need about two dozen hams to help on the event day (Sunday, June 6th, 1999).  We will need about a dozen hams to work all-day, and about a dozen for a half-day shift.

If you are a ham who also bicycles, your participation allows you to ride the Worker's Ride -- a special repeat of the Century which is put on at no cost so that the workers can enjoy the bicycling aspects of the event as well.  (At this writing, theWorker's Ride has not been scheduled -- it is typically held in the two-week period before or after the main event.  This page will be updated when the Worker's Ride date is set.)

Volunteer!  Contact us!

Primary Contact Alternate contact 2nd Alternate Contact
Communications Chair
Phil Spiegel, W6PSO
BMHA Webmaster / Sequoia Communications   
Skip La Fetra, AA6WK
(408) 737-8118
Sequoia Chair
Dick Blaine

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