Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bike Ninja

A ratcheting whirr
A cyclist's faint silhouette
It's a bike ninja!


See him up there? Yeah, neither do I. There are two other stragglers who refuse to put their bikes away. One's a well-lit, pannier-toting guy who goes eastbound then south. Then there's this guy who travels west. Black bike, dark clothes, mammoth backpack and either a hipster cyst (knog frog) or a similarly dim, useless single white LED thing on his handlebars.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cabin Fever

I didn't touch my bike at all this week. That feels strange. Some interesting sights caught my eye, though.











2011-10-20_17-42-47_199.jpg

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October.

The past few days have finally started feeling like fall, for real. Cooler temperatures, rapidly shortening days, and now begins the hanging-up of bicycles. The various group rides are thinning out or calling it a year. I've been seeing fewer and fewer of the regular cyclists I occasionally spot on my usual routes.

Consider picking up some decent lights and perhaps a brightly-colored, reflective-trimmed vest or windbreaker. This is one of the best seasons for riding! So many people miss out on it.

Random Tunage:
Hyper - Cascade
Aphex Twin - Pulsewidth

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Tube.

This post is mostly about car stuff. Feel free to ignore it.

When bicyclists think of having to replace a tube, they most likely think of the inner tube of a tire. Old school electronics junkies might think of an electron tube.

A while ago, my car's temperature gauge pegged the "hot" mark. I popped the hood and the cool, night air was instantly filled with fog. I grabbed a flashlight to determine the source of the coolant leak, only to find that every square inch under the hood was soaked in the sticky, steaming liquid.

The next afternoon, I surveyed the damage by daylight. I couldn't see anything obvious until I filled the coolant system back up a bit and started the car. Then, the source of the leak became obvious: An oddball part made of cheap fiberglass had cracked on a seam. I couldn't find this part in any of my service manuals, and two local parts stores had no clue, either.

I finally called the dealership. The conversation went like this:

Me: "I have a 2000 [Ford Focus] ZX3 with a nasty coolant leak. I found the leak, but I can't find the part in the service manual."

Ford: "Is it the tube that sits on top of the radiator?"

Me: "It is."

Ford: "We have them in stock. Let me look up the price. [Long pause] $32.70"

Me: "Well, that's not too bad, I suppose. Do you mind if I ask what that part is called?"

Ford: "It's 'The Tube.'"

Me: "The Tube?"

Ford: "Yep. We always keep a few around."

The Tube. Seriously. It's kind of a pointless part for what it needs to do. A small "Y" splitter would have made much more sense. It's held in with a pair of plastic rivets and three hose clamps. A trained monkey could swap it out in 10 minutes or less. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it's almost like this thing was designed to break somewhere after 100,000 miles and prompt a $250 trip to the shop.

I have been blowing it off for the past few weeks, since there's not that much rush to fix it. This morning, I finally got around to paying the stealership a visit. For giggles, I simply asked for "The Tube for a 2000 ZX3" to see if they'd actually know what I was asking for. "That sits on top of the radiator?" the parts guy queried. "The same."

TheTube

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bike Salmon and Headwind

The breeze picked up even more this afternoon, gusting close to 30, northwest. Perfect headwind for the early ride home. Noteworthy moment of the ride: Two helmetless 20-somethings on cartoonishly tiny BMX bikes with saddles all the way down, salmoning very slowly against traffic on Santa Fe Trail Drive. I wanted to get a picture, but even with the headwind, I was going too fast (as in, 9 miles per hour, if that) to get my phone out of my pocket in time. Plus, derping with my phone while trying to hold a straight line is probably just as dumb as riding against traffic without a helmet. c'Dude rocked a 200k permanent today. I can only imagine how the north-bound half of that trip went. I had half an hour of wind torture. He probably had more than 5 hours of it. Egad.

Random Tunage:
Margot Meets The Music Maker - Torch (Extrawelt Remix Redux)
Way Out West - Sequoia

Morning Stillness

4:30 AM. Check weather. Catch up on some stuff in Google Reader.
5:00 AM. Blearily and with reluctance attach my pannier to the rack, throw on the reflect-o-vest. Shove off.

The stillness at this hour always surprises me. My usual commutes are close to rush hour, but even Dark Side Rides, which usually run to midnight or later, are riddled with the hustle and bustle of people making their way around town. At 5, though, the stillness of everything is freakish. Lights are on in some homes, but no one is outside. I was passed by two cars in the half hour I was on the road. Riding along Interstate 35, I'd only see a car or two per minute. I approached the steady pulsating of a FRED on the tail end of a train comprised of empty flatbed cars. Making my way to the idling locomotive up front, I could hear the gentle hiss of air leaking from a few of the brake line couplings. Turning west, I hear critters scurring away from my LED light in the roadside brush.

Any other time of the day, there's just too much going on to appreciate the truly subtle things.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Crosswind

On this particular stretch of road, I had a nearly perfect crosswind. About a mile before this, it was the dreaded cross-headwind, which offers the worst of both worlds. I was going to stop a bit closer to the old train depot to capture the full flag of wind, but the big cumulonimbus cloud in the background made me change my mind.

Crosswind

Random Tunage:
Touane - Bassic
General Fuzz - Smiling Perspective

Flashback



Seems familiar for some reason.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Towel.

"A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough." -- Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

I always pack a towel, if only for its most prosaic use. This morning, it did not let me down.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

That was a blast :D

dsr

Good showing for October: C'dude, Schnake, Wildcat Al, Randy, myself and two new faces to the DSR: Richard (who was on the last bike camping trip) and Steven.

Highlights: Cheers from people hanging out at Black Hoof Park. A 15 second horn honk on 83rd just east of DeSoto. The same Sheriff's patrol car checking us out about 5 times on the route. A bunch of us almost running over a tree. Coyotes howling in the distance. The Louisburg School District school bus full of party-goers pulling up to Meiners in DeSoto (bringing more cheers). A bunch of us almost running over a possum. A serious pucker moment while bombing downhill on washboard gravel with my skinny tires trying (but failing) to find solid ground at 25 MPH. That awesome descent from Clare to 119th with the sudden stop at the bottom.

I've also been staying on top of my war-biking, and this extended trip through parts previously unknown paid off handsomely, netting almost 900 points and finally pushing me past 50,000 on WiGLE. I haven't talked about war-biking much lately, but now I usually rely on my Android phone and WiGLE's intuitive network-finding application, which means I'm war-biking any time I ride.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tiny victory

At work, a lot of people have taken to walking. A while ago, the HR department started a monthly drawing. Entry is simple. Each participant gets one point for every half-mile they walk. Fill up a card with 20 points (10 miles walked) and you get your name into the drawing. Fill up multiple cards, get multiple entries.

Monday, I asked HR if I could count my bicycling. I somewhat arbitrarily suggested a 4:1 ratio to keep it neat, and they went for it. So now, I'm racking up one card for every 40 miles ridden. I'll fill up my second card for the week tomorrow.

Not that I really need any more incentive to ride, or anything. If word spreads, maybe some others will finally start riding to work. I've been working here for almost 18 months now, and I've never once seen another bike locked up to the bike rack they built when I started.

Oh, and a moth.
Moth

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Dark Side Ride - Oct 8th, 9:00 PM

IMG_7324

First: Go read this. Go now! I'll wait.

What are you still doing here? READ IT!

Done? Good.

Next: Bring your bike, your reflective gear, your das blinkenlights and your helmet to the Wendy's parking lot at Woodland and K-10 Highway. We roll at 9:00 PM sharp, so get there early enough to prepare. If any of you eastern/central Johnson County folks want to ride to the start with me, I'm departing from 87th and Monrovia (Lenexa PD / City Hall) at 8:15 PM.

We'll be celebrating the fall of one of the most infamous bicycle bans in the country by riding through the very stretch of road that's been off limits to us human-powered two-wheelers for the better part of a decade. The route itself is about 30 miles with a mile and a half of relatively tame gravel. With a rest stop somewhere along the way, expect to get back to Wendy's at around midnight, but it might be earlier, depending on the general pace of the group. Bring enough lights and batteries for 3 hours of riding.

This is a no-drop social ride with re-groups as frequently as they're needed to keep us all together. Some of us at the front and back of the pack will be in communication via two-way radio to facilitate this.

See you there!

Monday, October 03, 2011

The 20 mile route.

Swinging by Olathe Lake before work makes for a nice morning ride that's just a little more than 20 miles. Couldn't have asked for a nicer fall morning!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cool and humid

I love these mornings with mid-50 degree temperatures. Pleasantly cool, but requiring nothing added to the routine. I could do without the humidity, though.

Exhibit A:
Foggy.


Exhibit B:
Dewy, too!

And some bonus shots from the weekend. Why not?
Tints

Little dude was getting ready to attack my camera.

And somehow, I forgot to share Thursday's awesome sunrise. Click for big. I really should stay on top of things here.
G'mornin.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Temperature Roller Coaster

Just a few days ago, it was 103*F on my ride home.

When I left home this morning, it was 49*F, which calls for a headband, thin gloves and long sleeves.

Hi, Autumn. We've missed you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't let the nice morning fool you. It will get HOT.

Some fortune-tellers are expecting triple digits by the time I get out of the office.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I am a car guy.

I always watch for road hazards. Usually, they are potholes, glass, tree limbs (especially after last night's storm) but this evening, it was a 1997 Ford Escort Wagon. I pulled up alongside the car, and the guy in the driver's seat looked at me wondering what in the world a helmet-wearing, bike-riding fat guy was going to be able to do to help.

As it turns out, I'm pretty good at working on cars, and I actually owned a nearly identical car for more than a decade. In broken English, the driver explained that  he was just driving along when his car stopped running.  Fuel gauge: half full. Lights are on. Starter cranks the engine. My first thought was timing belt. I had him try starting the car while I watched the valve rockers through the open oil cap. They were moving. That kind of narrows it down to ignition (spark plugs) or fuel delivery.  Given that Santa Fe Trail Drive is littered with gnarly railroad crossings, I decided to check the inertia switch in the trunk. This switch is designed to stop the fuel pump in a crash to prevent fuel fires. I opened the little access panel, pressed the turkey-thermometer-esque button back in, and the car fired right up.

I love my bikes, but I am still very much a car guy.

The Long Light

I wasn't  hugging the curb; the driver in front of me was trying to get in the turn lane. Bonus: I got through on the first green cycle this morning, a bit of a rarity.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Quote of the day

"If ever there was a guy to follow out of town when the zombies come, it's this guy." - commuterDude, about me.

I wonder if Keith knows about my stockpile of 12ga ammunition. Judging from this quote, I'm guessing he does. He certainly wasn't commenting on my ability to outrun a crowd of stumbling, brain-eating undead on my bicycle.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Bicycle Camping at Middle Creek Fishing Lake

7 brave participants this time: Keith, Randy, Richard, Gene, Stephanie (Gene's daughter) and myself. 
Unfortunately, I didn't get nearly as many photos this year as I'd have liked. I was too busy trying to keep up with the pack. My decreased amount of riding this year really killed my speed. I made it. I had a good time, but I was Lanterne Rouge for most of the trip. That's okay, though, because Richard was on a Rockhopper, so I had company most of the time.

I got my panniers put together the night before. With a non-trivial chance of rain in the forecast for both Saturday and Sunday mornings, I eschewed the high-powered bicycle mobile ham radio setup with the Yaesu FT-90. I did still want to haul the 12V gel cell and solar panel, though. I had APRSDroid running on my phone, beaconing my location for the ride out. I had it rigged to the battery and solar panel. I used my VX-7R this trip, since it's waterproof. I figured the extra weight would be fine, as the rest of my gear was lighter than I've loaded on some previous bicycle camping trips by just as much. As for the tent: I found a really cheap mosquito net at a local sporting goods store, so I ditched it. Also along for the ride: My backpack fishing stuff, a tiny canvas stool, bedroll, ponchos, rope, my penny stove mess kit and water filter. Food: Freeze dried lasagna (I will do that again!), ramen and instant oatmeal. And coffee. Can't forget coffee. Gatorade powder, beef jerky and mixed nuts rounded out the fuel for the road.

I went to bed insanely late, but still got a good night's sleep. I woke up later than I'd wanted to, and ravenously snagged a granola bar on my way out the door. I was going to meet Richard in Olathe anyway, so we met at Perkin's for a quick brunch, then pointed our bikes south toward 179th St to get to the arboretum.

There, we met up with Keith, Josh and Randy.
Arboretum

Arboretum

As always, the variety never fails to disappoint. Richard is on a hardtail mountain bike with a minimalist setup in a backpack. Randy is on his LHT with front and rear panniers, Josh is riding a flipping-insane folding bike with a rear basket and front panniers (with a 3-speed internally geared fixed -- as in "not able to coast" -- hub). Keith is on his Kogswell and his loading strategy is similar to mine: Stuffed rear panniers with the bedroll strapped down to the rack.

I noticed I had missed a call from Gene, who was battling flat tires and running late. He told us to go forth.So go forth we did.

arboretum

There's not much I can say about the trip between the Arboretum and Louisburg, KS. The rest of the riders moved onward at my request, while Richard and I kept our slow pace. Keith and I kept in contact with the radios, operating on 446.000 MHz. UHF is usually pretty good out in the open.

Richard hasn't lived in the area for very long, and he'd only seen most of the little townships we went through on maps: places like Stilwell, Aubrey, Bucyrus, Wea -- and later on, Rutlader. Most of these are remnants of railroad towns or military road towns between Forts Scott and Leavenworth. These days, the townships either look like the fringe of suburbia or nothing but farm land. Approaching Wea, I was already starting to get a headache as well as cramps in my calves and quads -- likely a combination of heat illness and just being undertrained for this kind of trip. I gulped down 32 ounces of gatorade, which helped with the cramps a bit. 

Getting to the convenience store in Louisburg took what seemed like an eternity, but upon our arrival, there everyone was. We decided to move around the corner to Sonic, grab a quick bite, and refill out water bottles. I snagged some electrolyte tablets from c'Dude, which helped quite a bit. I called Gene to ask where he and Stephanie were, figuring as slow as Richard and I had been traveling, they were certain to be hot on our trail. Gene had another round of flat tires just south of Wea township, and was pretty sure the cause was crappy rim tape. I called Dad for a SAG while Josh ran across the street for electrical tape. Gene and Stephanie arrived, bikes on the back of Dad's PT Cruiser, soon thereafter. In a feat of heroic blister-inducing madness, Keith gorilla'd the flat tire off, then I went to work taping up the rim ghetto-style with electrical tape. Hey, it works pretty well if you use a few layers!

The whole group of seven was finally on the road in the same place at the same time. That didn't last long, as Richard and I fell off the back of the peloton again a few miles south of Louisburg, and eventually out of radio range with Keith again. Eventually, we trudged past Rutlader Outpost.
Rutlader Outpost

Then we found the awesome camp site that the group had picked out: Shady, far away from obvious idiots, and not too far of a ride on gravel.
Campsite

Commence unpacking!
Unpacking

I set my shelter up using the bug net. I'd initially thought of sleeping with my head toward the bike, but thought better of that plan later. I used my little tripod with only one set of legs extended to hold the head end of the net up. With a yellow poncho on the ground, my bedroll, and the bug net, I stayed really comfortable all night. This photo was actually taken Sunday morning.
shelter

Food came out, war stories were told, and a good time was had by all. More than half of us brought fishing poles, so it was off to the lake for some relaxation by the water's edge.
Fishing setup

Randy and Gene reeled in a few small panfish, catch and release style. I got some solid nibbles, but couldn't bring any fish to shore. That's fine, though, because I had a blast.  While fishing, we all watched as distinct thunderheads started building high in the atmosphere, trying their best to form a line of storms.

As the sun set, the thunder started rolling, the breeze picked up, and the once-isolated clouds coalesced. I packed up my fishing gear and wandered back to camp. It wasn't clear whether or not we should be prepared for rain. Looking at the sky, there was rain coming from the storm, but it was hard to judge where it was going or how it was building. I opted to put my Poncho Tarp plan into action. Wind was coming from the north, a bit of an oddity this time of year. I battened down the north face of my shelter with tent stakes, then ran rope through the southern grommets, and connected the poncho to my tripod along with the bug net. I tied the hoods of the ponchos shut, then anchored the west end of the poncho shelter to my bicycle wheels with the same bungee cords I held the bug net up with. It was ugly, like something you'd see in Survivorman, but it looked like it should work. By the time I was done setting up, it was completely dark, and the ominous storm was still building, without a drop of rain on our campsite.

poncho cover

Poncho cover

We sat at the picnic table in awe, watching the light show. With the first sprinkles, we all decided to pack in for the night. The rain was light and came in waves, and I stayed dry. With a torrential downpour, my feet probably would have gotten soggy, and I don't think I'd trust this shelter in strong winds, but it did work. I had two "windows" with the poncho tent, one toward the lake, looking through the tripod, and the other toward the campsite, looking through the bike. There wasn't much to see, though. I left my VX-7R plugged into the battery overnight to charge, and had it scanning the weather band in "Weather Alert Radio" mode.

The view inside my poncho-covered bike & bug net shelter while it rained

I drifted in and out of sleep for a while, and when I started seeing stars overhead through the tripod window, I got out and rolled the poncho tarp off the bug net. The breeze felt awesome, and I actually got chilly enough to tuck into my flannel bedroll, then I was sound asleep. Apparently, I missed out on the pair of lumberjacks that decided to chop down a tree near our campsite at Ass:30 in the morning, all the way down to yelling "TIMBERRRRR!" before dashing out of the woods, dragging with them an entire tree. So much for not camping near the idiots, eh? I slept right through it, but it was the talk of the campground over breakfast.

I was rudely awakened at 6:30 AM, not by rowdy idiots, nor even the sun, for my head was under my bedroll. No, it was the cicadas that woke me up with their hideous hemipteran hubbub. I'd exhausted my supply of drinking water overnight, so it was time to fill a few bottles with lake water and filter that stuff. My headache, acquired some 15 hours prior, was still lingering.

We partook in our morning nosh, packed the things away...
Loaded up and ready to roll

...then headed back north. Riding didn't help my headache any, but we were just 7 miles away from a convenience store. More of the same with me being slow.
Rutlader Outpost - Homeward

Richard and I caught up with the rest of the crew at BP in Louisburg. I bought some excedrin and some insane caffeinated crap to rinse it down with. I dumped a bunch of ice into all my water bottles, and went back outside. Randy, Keith, Josh, Gene and Stephanie were talking about a gravel tour to get back home. Richard and I decided to stick mostly to pavement. We parted ways with a farewell all around.

While Richard was pumping his tires up to their maximum PSI, I snapped this picture of his Garmin Montana handlebar mount, which I believe he made out of a car mount. Richard works at Garmin, and the Montana has a lot of stuff from his team inside.
Richard's homebrew handlebar mount for the Garmin Montana

Richard and I pressed onward toward Stilwell, stopping for shade a few times along the way. The headache went away quickly, and that raised my speed and morale quite a bit. Another water bottle top-off at Stilwell Station, then we made our way west to Pflumm. Pflumm is gravel, but north of 199th, there's only a mile of the stuff. Right after we hit pavement, we ran into the rest of the group one more time:
2011-07-31_11-27-35_926.jpg

Unfortunately, the circumstances weren't that great. Gene had flatted twice more. Keith, close to home, darted north to pick up the SAG Van for Gene. We all parted once again. The rest of the riders were up the road long before Richard and I even got on our bikes. We made our way north again, saw Keith coming back with the van before we even got to 159th. Richard splitted off at 159th, then Keith and Gene passed me in the van at 151st.  From here, it was going to be a solo ride, and I was hurting all over.

I ducked into QT at College and Pflumm for a bathroom break and a V8 juice, and saw another bikey friend of mine, Bill Burns as I was rolling out. Keith texted me that he'd arrived back at home safe and sound, and with 4 miles or so left to cover, I pretty much had this trip in the bag.

I made it home at a little before 3:00 PM, so this was not a 'by the book' S24O. And despite all the suffering I was doing in the saddle, I needed this, and if I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn't change a thing. Now I just need to get back into shape, because there WILL be another bike camping trip this year. Stay tuned for the fall edition.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Speaking of Creepy Crawlies

This youngster was eating breakfast a few mornings ago, and didn't seem to mind being photographed up close.

Breakfast

Wolfette was on the prowl for food, and practically posed for my camera when I brought it out:

Wolfette

And while I was setting up the bike shelter, this raccoon just climbed up on my railing, looking at me as if to say "What? I'm hungry, and those birds made a huge bird seed mess on your patio. I plan on cleaning it up if you'll get out of my way!" - I only had my phone on me at the time.

Brave little sucker climbed right up there in front of me.

Bicycle Lean-To Shelter

I usually camp early or late in the season. This bike camping trip is going to be among the hottest camping trips I've gone on, period. We're also going to be on bicycles.  My parents live very close to the route, and I've arranged for dad to be on standby to provide SAG, water, an air-conditioned vehicle, or anything else we may need in the case of some emergency. All of the folks who are apparently still in for this weekend can do this. They've ridden in heat like this before. That said, they aren't riding fully loaded bikes, and they usually have an air-conditioned home to look forward to at the end of the trip. Here, we're just going to have more heat, sun, and EVEN MOAR HEAT.

My usual backpacking tent is a junior dome tent my grandmother got me more than half my life ago. I just never grew to 6 feet in height, so I can fit in it with most of my gear very comfortably. It's got a ventilated top and a ventilated door, but they don't do very good at keeping the air moving. When it's above 80 degrees overnight (like it will likely be for a good part of the night Saturday into Sunday), the thing feels like a sauna. I contemplated using a hammock and mosquito net for this trip, but trees are kind of sparse near the campsite, bug screens are expensive and I would have to buy one. I'm looking for something lightweight that will give me some shade during the day, cover from rainfall if it rains at night, and mostly something that has lots of airflow for sleeping under.

I'm going to improvise.

I have a few rain ponchos that came equipped with brass grommets at the corners. They were $5 or so: cheaper than good silicone-impregnated nylon ponchos and better than those "trash bag" ponchos you find for $2 each at the sporting goods stores.

With 2 ropes, 2 bungees, 4 tent stakes (simulated by heavy objects on my patio), a bicycle and a poncho, I made a lean-to shelter that should give me shade in the day, rain cover (just in case) and a pack weight of way under 1 pound. Well, except for the bicycle part. The edges can be brought down to ground-level to form a back wall/roof and two enclosed sides, with a little finagling. I have two identical ponchos like this, which can also be used together. That obviously takes up more pack space.
Mockup: Bicycle / Poncho Lean-To Shelter

Mockup: Bicycle / Poncho Lean-To Shelter

I'm still debating whether or not I'll use this setup with my bedroll on bare ground or just go with the tried and true dome tent I've always used. Part of me likes having a shelter that keeps the creepy crawlies away, but it's likely going to be roasty no matter how we camp.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bike Camping Update

The extended forecast is here. Last week, the 10-day forecast called for mid-90 highs and bright sun on Saturday the 30th. Over the weekend, they were predicting highs in the mid-80s with a significant chance of thunderstorms.

I have my eye on the forecast, but I am still considering it a rain or shine event. My tent is waterproof and I've commuted in the rain before. In the summer, I actually like riding in the rain. Obviously, it'll be a safety first kind of deal, and we may delay the departure for a few hours if we feel the impending storm will be too dangerous.

We're still on, though.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Downtown Today

I like my job, but sometimes I still miss this place. I even miss the bus route. I do not miss paying Interstate Taxes.
































Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mobile Ham Radio

Last night, I decided to try proving out my mobile ham radio setup for the Lenexa Midnight Bike Ride. Since I was going to be coming by bike, the coordinators wanted me to provide support for the hiking part of the event on the Black Hoof Park trail. Duties included reporting when hikers first arrived at the turn-around point of the hiking trail, taking approximate count of them, and sweeping the trail both ways when the event was over. I didn't know how much talk time I was going to need, so I rigged up a 12AH gel cell and a 12V lighter outlet splitter in one pannier, and ran my Yaesu FT-90 as my primary radio, running the microphone cable under my top tube. The handheld mic snapped into a belt-clip rigged to my stem. I couldn't have asked for a nicer setup. It worked flawlessly, and although "too heavy" is subjective, at about 9 pounds total for the whole rig, I don't feel it's too bad.

Most of the radio operators were using some form of APRS to automatically map their locations for strategic purposes. I was running APRSDroid on my phone to fulfill this function and locate the other operators. I also used the gel-cell to keep my phone charged up for the event, as the application chews through phone batteries.

I couldn't get any really good photos last night. I have a bunch of video that I also suspect is similarly crappy. We'll just have to see. This morning, I rolled my bike onto our patio to show you how I've got it all rigged up. This setup might make an appearance at the Middle Creek bicycle camping trip, along with a solar panel to help keep the gel-cell topped off. I'm not a weight weenie, so it's mostly a question of how much room I have in my panniers and if rain is in the forecast, not how much extra weight this thing adds.

When I arrived home some 5 hours after firing the mobile rig up and after plenty of talking on the radio, the battery was at about 85% capacity. the radio itself can transmit at 50 Watts, but I was running it at the minimum power setting of 5 Watts. This setup could probably last a whole weekend without recharging, depending on conditions.

Photos follow. Enjoy.

s


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