Tested out my radios last weekend

It has been a bit of a busy week, hence I am a bit slow in posting this. My writing efforts have also been devoted to drafting up a magazine article, only a short news report but hopefully it will end up in print – more to follow.

The article was about a training event held by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) for their Senior Observers in Scotland. I managed to blag my way in to helping out on the day. I originally offered to make the tea but got a minor promotion to signing folks in and talking photographs. As it turned out, due to numbers I actually ended out on the road with a couple of the other attendees, both Senior Observers – one was also one of the Organisers of the day. If you haven’t read my earlier posts, an Observer is an unpaid volunteer who helps people along to their IAM Advanced test, Senior Observers are a step along from a so-called Qualified Observer and they have to go through extra testing outwith their local Groups.

Going back to last week, I ended out on the road on an Instructional run, and the examiner out with us had his radios along to connect us up for comms. This was an opportunity to give my bike to bike kit a test. I got my Autocom Kit 200 fitted recently at C&J Wilson in Uphall and this was great for my run down to Wetherby for providing tunes to listen to from my MP3 player. I’ve also got a bit of a setup working with TomTom Navigator 6 on my Orange SPV M600 phone. The Autocom kit comes with a hands-free lead to the standard 2.5mm (I think that is the size) socket on the phone. There is a wee bit of an issue with the bluetooth gps – all the stuff is chucked into the tail section of my R1100RS, and if the gps doesn’t hear anything on the bluetooth for a while it shuts down to save battery. Together with my MP3 players habit of stopping now and again, it can mean for silent running at stages. On the other hand, when it all works the GPS kicks in with directions from time to time, fading out the music temporarily, then the music fades back in. The lead to the MP3 and the lead to the phone both connect directly into the Autocom unit in the tail of the bike, using pretty standard small black leads with 3.5 and 2.5 mm connectors at each end. To help my wee MP3 player I also have a boostaroo inline amplifier to help me hear the music.

There are three other connectors on the Autocom, two go to the headsets for rider and pillion and are 7 pin DIN connectors – big beefy waterproofed things, coloured black and finally there is a grey 5 pin connector which can be used for bike to bike communications. Going in to that is a wee straight and coiled lead – one end has the grey five pin connector to fit into the wire in the tailpiece, then a coiled bit then finally a right angled single connector that fits into the side of one of my Motorola T5622 radios. I tried these a few weeks ago on an Observed run but my Senior Observer couldn’t hear anything so I gave up. In the meantime I ordered up a radio holder that will attach a radio to your arm or belt. They came with various bits of velcro so I attached these to the frame at the back of my bike which the top box fits in to and locks on.

I had the cabling, mounting and stuff for the radios and had the opportunity to try them out on the run. I quick change to channel and code on them – quite easy to do on the Motorola. Switch to scan, listen for the Examiners test signal and then set the channel and code to what was detected. First time I’ve done it and it worked fine. And the rest of the run was excellent from the comms perspective – the radio holder worked, I got good reception and could hear really well through the headset fitted for my Autocom in my BMW System 5 helmet. It wasn’t as easy for the other two guys – they had to wear the standard receive kit that folks doing their DSA tests will be familiar with – a wee bag with a strap to take the helmet and earpieces in the helmet. Unfortunately for them I believe they already had other radio kit fitted, which meant rather painful pressure on their ears. The two of them were a lot more experienced on the bikes than me, so I’m sure they coped. It was a brisk progressive ride which meant safe riding all the way but up at the applicable speed limit wherever safe – the weather was really good so the roads were dry and warm and we were really getting a move on. I think the briefing given to the examiners on the day mentioned applying police standards to riding, and those guys can shift along on their big ST1300s.

Radio reception was really good on our run up through Crieff and Lochearnhead, the only time the signal broke up was further South when the examiner was round headlands where the road disappeared round a hill. Trees and things didn’t create a problem with the signal – just the hard stuff like rocks etc. It was an excellent test of my radio, I don’t know how much was down to the Icoms that the examiner was using but reception and clarity was excellent. All I need to do now is contrive some way to check with me on transmit.