Walkie Talkies for Mountain Biking

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  • Walkie Talkies for Mountain Biking
  • Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    Hi guys, I’m just after a bit of advice. I´m going to have a few more people on the hill this year and some days will be running two guides and drivers. I´m looking for a good way to keep in contact, especially for emergencies. Phones have worked well so far but I´d like to start using the phones for back up only and have a set of walkie talkies for the first option of communication. I´ve seen a few, both at other guide companies and during skiing, and they seem to be pretty much useless. I got some recommendations last year but that model has been discontinued. What I´m looking for is:

    1. Good range.
    2. Easy to use.
    3. Easy to clip to belt or a size where it can be kept in a pocket.
    4. Easy to recharge and a battery to last for a couple of days.
    5. No license needed to use.
    6. Able to cope with being thrown in a backpack and getting a bit damp every now and then.

    I don´t have a budget. I´ll spend what´s needed to get the right thing. We´re based in Spain and sometimes ride into France if that makes any difference.

    Looking at these two currently…
    http://www.2wayradioshop.co.uk/prodpage.asp?ProdID=93
    http://www.2wayradioshop.co.uk/prodpage.asp?ProdID=280

    Any help would be very much appreciated.

    Premier Icon kerbdog
    Subscriber

    You’ll need to check what frequencys are allowed for public or comercial use in France and Spain.
    In the Uk the 466 bandwidth can be used by the public for free but youll find the range on the radios you have linked will be limited the more obstacles you throw in their way so if you are contacting someone on the other side of a large hill for instance they may not work terribly well.
    Battery life will be limited to about 12 hours standby on those and will decrease with use and variables like temperature.
    Might be worth looking at some of the more expensive business radios and carrying a few spare batteries.
    Anything by Motorola or Kenwood is usually hard to beat.

    Try Decathlon, got a set from there for a road trip for about £35. 2km range, simple to use, push to talk style things with a ear piece and inline handsfree mic so you can use it whilst riding or without rummaging in a bag. Not sure on battery life but they easily lasted a full day in the car with banter flying around.

    Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    Cheers guys. The 466 is European wide I think. I can get away with 12hrs standby, it would just be nice to have longer. If I can get a van charger then we can recharge during uplifts and van transfers. It´s pretty rare that we´re out for 12hours during a day.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Subscriber

    Trouble with Licence free Walkie Talkies is the power output. It’s limited to .5 watt, whereas licenced ones can be up to 5 watts for handheld or 25watts for base or vehicle radios. The UK licence is about £75 for 5 years I think, and the radios are significantly better (range, penetration etc)

    Premier Icon cp
    Subscriber

    As above, your main issue is going to be with range with unlicenced comms. How much is a licence in Spain? You’ll be able to get infinitely better kit. Unlicensed stuff is basically line of site. Put a hill in the way and you’re shafted.

    elliptic
    Member

    <pedant> it’s 446MHz not 466 </pedant> and yes, its an EU standard.

    They’ll be fine for comms between the front and back of a group, or talk to the driver you can see waiting at the bottom of the hill.

    Unlicensed stuff is basically line of site. Put a hill in the way and you’re shafted.

    Yes, and that still applies to licensed VHF despite the extra power. You’d need system infrastructure (ie. a repeater) to solve that problem.

    Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    I´m sweating just thinking how complicated the Spanish bureaucrat can make getting a radio licence, and the French….

    Sounds like unlicensed will be fine. Yeah, it´s likely to be between front and back of group and the van which will be running shuttles, when we do that sort of thing.

    Any recommendations for specific models that people have tried and tested?

    JEngledow
    Member

    If you have more than 2 radios do they work together to cover a wider range or are you pretty much limited to line of sight for all (eg if you had a radio on each side of a hill and one on top would the top radio push a message from one side to the other)?

    elliptic
    Member

    No, PMR446 is strictly peer-to-peer and that would be repeater operation. But the person holding the radio on top of the hill could relay the message manually of course.

    Premier Icon kerbdog
    Subscriber

    I have a couple of Motorola XTN 466 radios that have served me well for the past few years.
    They are reasonably sturdy and have plenty of options including no roger bleep which I can’t recommend enough as the bleep when someone stops transmitting will drive you crazy after a while!
    At a push they can take aa batteries if you run out of power but they are aren’t recommended.
    There are plenty of accessories available for them too like earpieces etc.

    Premier Icon Del
    Subscriber

    take a look at pistonheads.com. they have ( or at least had ) a bunch of reviews of ‘stuff’ and walkie talkies were in there, with quite a few reviewed IIRC.

    mduncombe
    Member

    I have a 5 watt marine vhf handheld radio for use when sea kayaking. Still very much line of sight and it will struggle with kayakers in adjoining bays if the cliffs are big, yet can contact a yacht a 5 miles out to sea no problem but then the yachts have their antennas on the top of the mast to give them height. Kayaker to kayaker (sea level) range is limited to a couple of miles at best.

    Stick with a good quality (good mics and speakers) PMR446 as a hill will block just about everything. even the HAM radio guys rely on hilltop repeaters for there VHF/UHF handheld stuff. You generally get what you pay for even though they all work to the same spec.

    Premier Icon sweaman2
    Subscriber

    I don’t have one of these but the Backcountry Access Link gets some good reviews online. Key advantage is having the “mike” component close to hand.

    I have some cheap Motorola ones and they’re good but when you’re using them they have to be in a pocket otherwise it’s a real hassle constantly taking the pack on/off. I like the idea of it being close to hand and will probably get some of the BC links when the current set die.

    I agree with the above about range as well.. even VHF is not great unless you’re fairly sure you’re getting line of sight.

    BCA link
    Wildsnow review of BClink

    superfli
    Member

    I have some old Motorola TA200+288s, good for a few kms. Clear line of sight obviously better. Rugged and easy to use and can be had on ebay pretty cheap. The newer ones (like the T5422) have a slightly longer range.
    Could be worth looking for some that have a battery pack as well as rechargeable, spare batteries in your pocket for emergencies.

    mduncombe
    Member

    Note that the BCA link mentioned above is not a PMR446 radio and would be illegal to use in UK/Europe. It uses FRS/GMRS channels and could interfere with other legitimate licensed users including ones with friends in high places.

    For legal PMR446 radios I have fancied trying the Doro WT91x as they are waterproof and discrete. No idea if thy are any good.

    Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    Thanks for the help guys. I´ll buy a couple and test them out. If anyone´s interested in how I get on then let me know and i´ll post back up.

    Premier Icon sweaman2
    Subscriber

    😳

    Sorry – I’m based in Canada currently and so didn’t appreciate that “free” frequencies would be different. Good to know especially as I sometimes visit the UK and bring the radios with me…

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