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Frequently asked questions
Got A Question? Which antenna works the "best" for motorcycle mobile? How can I mount my radio? Is it possible to use both radios at the same time?
Did I read your statement right 40-50 mile range simplex?
Yes that is correct, and any ham will tell you that distance depends on the right antenna, altitude, terrain and power out put of the radio, but yes, running a Comet SBB-7 antenna and 45 watts on 2 meters, in an area that you are not separated by a mountain you do 40/50 miles, no problem. The most I ever was able to talk on CB was 5 miles and that was mountain peak to mountain peak on as high power as it would put out legally.
Wow, now that is impressive. Do you have some pictures, or some specs on what you have mounted on your bike? So far for me I have a cell interface (which BTW I could help you with one thing.) is it possible to set your phone to auto answer after 2 rings so you don't have to hunt for a button?
My Motorola E815 cell phone sets up high on the right handlebar so it is easy to touch the answer button. The new cell phone works with Blue Tooth using the Motorola Car Kit. The cell phone rings right into my helmet head set speakers , so when it rings, I just touch the answer button and then talk through the boom mic and listen through the helmet head set without touching or doing anything else. When the other person hangs up, I can touch the close call button or just wait and the phone will hang up when the other person hangs up.
My phone is in a rear pocket, and I just set it to auto answer. Not good for initiating calls, but I'm working on some voice command options. I also have an FRS set (Kennedy) and the PTT hack. I'm looking to install CB and Ham, and somehow integrate the oem ptt switch to work with all 3. Oh, and I also have a SP III with power and intercom, that I use more than anything else. My wife says I couldn't find my way out of the garage anymore without it.
My GPS also talks to me through the helmet, giving directions as I ride. Although, in 2005 on the SCMA 3 Flags Classic the GPS gave us some wrong directions and got us lost off course by about 20 miles. Thankfully we got out the maps the SCMA staff gave us at the start on Friday morning in Tijuana and we got back on track after backtracking that 20 miles. I also have a tank bag over the fuel door with AAA maps in the map holder and keep snack bars and 52 ounces of water in it's side bags. I keep a plastic tube up front for drinking water while riding.
You have quite a setup there. So you're running the stock CB antenna and a Comet for the Ham?
Yes, I had the CB antenna and CB radio installed before I even took Casper out of the shop. The CB is mounted where all the CB antennas are mounted on the 1800 Gold Wings, on the left side of the trunk. Yes, I work for Comet at the HamVention in Dayton OH every year. So you can go to their NCG/Comet Web Site at <www.cometantenna.com> or <www.natcommgroup.com> and see what they have.
About 90% of us here in Southern CA are running the Kenwood TM-D700A or the new Kenwood TM-D710A. Both are dual band Base/Mobile radios. About half of the Southern CA MARC members are still using the Comet HP-32FHN antenna for local communications, because it was designed by the company that makes all the Comet antennas, specifically for use on motorcycles. While the owner of the manufacturing company was here in CA at NCG, they called me up and I took the, then, 1996 Gold Wing up to the warehouse and demonstrated why we were breaking so many antennas on motorcycle. Now that company and NCG have redesigned all there basic antennas to survive on a motorcycle. Every time NCG gets a new antenna, they give it to me, I test the SWR (Standing Wave Ratio), gain, Field test strength, Direction of signal from horizontal, Pattern, etc., to run for a summer, always about 40,000 to 50,000 miles to test them before they put an order in for them. If it lasts the summer on the back of the rack and it meets their criteria for the other specs, they then order them. Most recently many of our MARC members have switched from the Comet HP-32FHN to the Comet CA2x4SRB, B standing for black. The CA2x4SR is 4 1/4 inches taller then the HP-32, but will still go in & out of a garage without folding it over. The Comet CA2x4SR is becoming more popular because it is black and it has much more dBi gain then the HP-32FHN. Also, the CA2x4SR has been manufactured for about 20 years and it was the first dual band antennas that Comet ever came out with. No one that puts the Comet CA2x4SR on a motorcycle has ever broken one.
That's probably the setup I'll go with unless you have some other recommendations. What kind of mount do you use for the Comet?
We have the antenna brackets here at the house that clamp onto the 1/2 inch tubular trunk racks, see our MARC Web Site at <www.marc-hq.org> for pictures of all brackets we have available to our members. We also have the flat rack mounts.
I was thinking of using some kind of stock CB antenna base to mach the other two.
Well we used to try that, but it didn't work out. First of all some of our members were putting then on a stock Honda bracket like the CB or AM/FM antenna brackets, but the output from that location was too directional and you could only transmit to one side of the motorcycle. Others tried to slant the antennas to match the rearward slant of the other 2 antennas, but then the signal was going up in the air to the front of the bike and bouncing off the pavement to the rear. Of course they both worked if they were close to a repeater site or another motorcycle, but once you got out into a gray area, they lost contact while the rest of us were still communicating. We didn't learn this stuff over night, we have been testing antennas with field strength meters and other devices and experience for over 12 years.
I also put a cover on my bike most of the time, so folding over and out of the way of the cover would be important.
Not a problem, darn near all Comet antennas are fold-over antennas. At least all the ones we use on the motorcycles are fold-over antennas for the same reason. However, Comet does have some of the cheaper antennas that do not fold over, but they are also the ones that are breaking after a few thousand miles on the motorcycles. So we tested them, but found them unsuitable for use on a motorcycle.
So you say you'll be running two hams on the bike?
Yes, one is the Kenwood TM742A Tri-band, 2m/220/440, that I have had on the 5 Gold Wings since we started MARC back in 1992. Now I have mounted the Kenwood TM-D700A on the right inside front of the trunk to work in conjunction with my Garmin Street Pilot 2650 that is already on the bike, just so I can use with the APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) so that I can be tracked all summer and for our many MARC Charity and community service events that we provide motorcycle mobile communications & traffic control for. We now have at least 50 MARC members here in the Southern CA area that are running APRS on their motorcycles. I also bought a Kenwood TH-D7A hand held for use at home for APRS that can do everything that either the Kenwood TM-D700A or the TM-D710A can do. That was $850 that I spent for radios in January 2007 . It all works great , but I have some real experts on this stuff in our club, so we have plenty of help learning how to make all of this electronic equipment work.
Couldn't both APRS and voice be accomplished with the 700 / 710?
Yes, the Kenwood TM-D700A and the Kenwood TM-D710A can do both, but I also want the 220 module in the Kenwood TM-742A to be available to use on the free Condor System of repeaters here in CA. So I am leaving the 742 on board and adding the D700A for APRS. The 742 will not work with the Garmin SP 2650 for APRS use without adding an outside TNC (Terminal Node Controller).
I think that's the radio I'll end up with. Do you have separate ptt switches for each?
Yes, see MARC Web Site for our Waterproof PTT buttons and the custom made PTT button brackets that fit right where your left thumb is when riding.
I've got an FRS radio integrated into the OEM ptt, and I'd like to use the oem switch for all three if its possible.
It may be possible, I don't know. Our BA-MARC members in the San Jose/San Francisco area all integrate their systems, but only few of us do it down here because we work some of our charity events with GWRRA members who only have CB, so we have to be able to hear both CB and Ham radio at the same time and send both at the same time without using a switch to go back and forth.
I think I'll call Kennedy in the morning and see what he has to say.
Say hi to Jon at Kennedy for me. We actually visited him at his home back in KS when we were in his home town several summers ago, and MARC members have done a lot of business with him.
So is this HP-32 a non ground plane antenna?
Yes, but we ground the trunk racks to the frame and that makes your motorcycle the ground plane. Antenna manufactures advertise that these antennas will work just fine without a ground plane, well that is true, but they work a heck of a lot better with a ground plane. Remember that the frame of a car or motorcycle is the other half of the antenna.
What kind of range would I expect to get in conjunction with the D-700?
Of course it depends on the power setting on your radio, how much dBi gain your antenna has, what band you are using , where you are riding and what kind of terrain you are in and how far you are from a repeater or how far you are from the other party that you are trying to contact & etc. One of the tests I do on all the antennas Comet gives me is to put it on the back of the bike on the antenna mounts that we sell, ride a known route with the radio on the 2 meter band on 45 watts, start at my house, take the same route every time, have my wife talk to me on 2 meter simplex, head up the I-405 freeway. Go up by the LA airport (55 miles) while testing all the way on both 2 meter & 440. The Comet HP-32 will just make it on 2 meters, so I can still hear her and make out what she is saying. It will not make it on 440 simplex at 55 miles. On 440 it starts to lose out at about 30 or 35 miles. Then I keep going North on the I-5 all the way out to the 75 mile mark. Of course the HP-32 at only 35 inches in height can not make it from there, even though in one area I am on higher part of the I-210 freeway by then. The (new to us as of May 2008) Comet CSB790A has been able to talk all the way and back, except where the mountains take it out.
Will the antenna come with cabling?
No, you will need to order the Comet 3D4M coax. $24.95 suggested retail, plus shipping
Should I consider getting the Comet CSB-790A also, and just interchange it with the mount when needed?
That would be my recommendation, many of the MARC Members use the Comet CSB-790A antenna on the many MARC Charity events because of it's superior performance in the gray areas where the repeaters are impossible to access with the shorter antennas. Some of us even mount the 7 foot Maldol PR-212D antennas on the back of the bike and put 3 monofilament fish lines on it to keep it from breaking off in the wind when at freeway speeds. You will also need to put our 2 ½ X 2 ½ " polished Stainless Steel plates under the rear legs on the trunk rack bracket. They cost $25 & are available from Ray Davis. (e-Mail @ Home) The SS plates under the rear legs are an absolute must if you are going to put a ham radio antenna on the rack on the trunk lid and especially if you are also going to sometimes carry anything on that trunk rack. Star washers will not do the job I can assure you.
I have the Kuryakyn rack, so I would be interested in the flat mount.
The flat rack mounts are also available from Ray Davis for $12.50 (e-Mail @ Home)
I think I like the PTT switch on Jon's site (Kennedy), if I can't get it integrated into the OEM switch, which I'm reasonably confident now that I've done more homework. I left a message for Jon, but he hasn't called me back yet.
The PTT Button Bracket and the PTT button is the very same one we have, he used to buy them from us, but found a place in Japan that can make the brackets cheaper, by ordering a huge amount, than what we were selling them to him. The PTT Buttons are the exact same ones we sell for $13, We were selling them for $10 but the last batch be got, the company charged US $13 for them. We sell them to everyone at our cost, plus shipping. Contact Ray Davis @ (e-Mail @ Home)
Do you have an Idea on how you're going to connect your SP 2650 to power AND to the D700's serial port?
Do you have your radios stored in the compartment where the CD changer goes in the bottom of the trunk of the 1800's?
The Kenwood TM-742 Tri Band is in that compartment on top of the CB, divided by a piece of plastic. It has never been a problem with any of the 30 or more installations we have done that way. The Kenwood TM-D700A that is used for APRS only is mounted on the right front wall inside the trunk.
Is there enough ventilation in there?
Yes, I drill a couple of vent holes for them.
I know I've asked a lot of questions, but I do very much appreciate your advice. Maybe one day we'll meet on the road or on the air, and I can thank you personally. So to Summarize, if you could tell me how much the total cost for the bundle of:
$12 MARC Membership must be received first.
The 2 1/2 x2 1/2 inch Polished Stainless Steel Plates are $25 , With the stainless steel plates you can still put 25 Lbs of luggage on the trunk rack without cracking the lid of the trunk box. Before we started using the SS plates on all our installations many of our MARC members & friends were cracking the lids on all the Gold Wing models, old or new.
Oh, and let me know an address to where I should send the check.
Make check out to Ray Davis for the total amount you order, plus shipping costs which will depend on what and how much you order. Once you settle on what you want, I will weigh them and send you and email giving the cost of parts plus shipping to your address. Make check out to Ray Davis, send to Ray Davis, 3 Lindberg, Irvine, CA., 92620-3367.
If you were to join MARC, you would be put on the MARC List and from then on you will get more help with your questions than you could ever imagine. I actually get very few questions from our MARC Members as they just go to the MARC List for their information. Their are many electrical engineers and many members that are excellent at doing their own installations in the MARC organization.
Ray, I will send out in tomorrow's mail, two envelopes. One envelope with the MARC check and application, and the other with the check for equipment and request for same.
Don't forget, once you are a member and you can get the time off, you could come down here to our place and I would do the installation for you. Would make a nice ride too. I think I said before, I have 3 installations waiting to get done right now. Have to get to those real soon.
Good luck with your web site, and I understand your reasoning to be mindful of your time. I first heard of MARC through WOTI, and your paragraph of your travel plans for this coming year makes me envious. One day I hope to be able to do the same.
Well the MARC Web Site is not actually mine, our MARC Treasury pays for it and our volunteer webmaster does all of the actual changes. I just do some of the ground work for it. Make the changes, upgrades & such and send them to Charles for posting. Still a lot of work. I have spent as many as 40 hours each year working on it.
Your knowledge and your time is worth considerably more than the $12 you are asking for the membership, and I am happy to pay it. As for the equipment, my intent here is not to save a dollar or two, but to get the right stuff regardless of cost. Thanks again for your time.
I like your attitude, thank you, so often people want me to do an installation and they won't spend the money or listen to the voice of experience. They start out with a hand held radio, then a month or so later they find that they can not communicate with those or like those with the mobile/base station radios and the top of the line antennas, they always want to save a few bucks to start out and in the end it costs them more money then if they would have bought the good stuff right from the start.
From: W7LVA Dick
> What's the best setup to use for motorcycle mobile operations?
Thanks for asking, Dick. Based on our experiences: (1) The most durable dual band 2M-440 antennas are a Comet HP-32FHN or a Comet CA2x4SR (2) Before they discontinued it, the Kenwood TM741A or the up-dated TM742A tri-banders on 2M-220-440 was the radio of choice, it was what about 75% of us out here in Southern CA were using. Now most are using the Kenwood TM-D700A or the newer Kenwood TM-D710A because they have the program that lets our members also run APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) in conjunction with the Garmin GPS with the NMEA program in them.
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