Using HF SSB on a Bike Tour (fwd)


From: patrick cook (
Date: Sat Jun 03 1995 - 15:37:11 EDT

Hi Gang:

Pulled this off the bikeham listserver (which I'm sure many of you
receive). However, for those who don't, and since this involves QRP
operation, I thought this might be of some interest.

73's for now, my friends!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 95 19:01:56 PST
From: John Liebenrood <>
Subject: Using HF SSB on a Bike Tour

                    John Liebenrood
                    1650 NW 130 Ave
                    Portland, Oregon 97229
                    K7RO 1-503-626-7745

I submitted this to Alley / BMHA in Sept 94 but it never
made it in to the newsletter.....

 Written SEPT 1994

  QRP SSB: Pedal the Peaks of Colorado
    This year's Pedal the Peaks bike tour
attracted cyclists form forty different states. Of the
five hundred riders, three hundred were from outside
the state of Colorado The youngest rider was
fourteen years old; the oldest was a 62 year old
grandmother. I appeared to be the only ham. With
all the high altitude climbing involved I resisted
hauling a 2 meter handheld or mini QRP HF
transceiver on my road bike. But I did I want to
contact my ham friends back in Portland Oregon. I
took a single band 20 meter 20w pep single sideband
transceiver to operate from camp each night. On
week long bike tours I've found operating low power
single sideband to be alot more fun than pounding
out the usual CW QSO exchange. Consider trying
QRP single sideband, I think you'll be hooked if you
do give it a try. Commercial QRP single sideband
rigs are available: Ten Tec Scout (5lbs),
Tokyo Hy-Power HT-750(1.8lb), and Mizuho (1.5lb). MFJ will
soon offer a SSB version of the MFJ 9020. For homebrewers,
N8ET is now selling T2 / R2 kits if you'd like to
build a HF SSB rig. Another excellent compact SSB
rig is the Epiphyte, Derry Spittle VE7QK published a
construction article in the Sept 94 issue of the Northern
California QRP Club journal. More than twenty Epiphytes
have been built. This $50 single circuit board rig is only
5" by 4" and works like a champ. Give a listen to the
British Columbia Pulic Service Net on 3729KHz at 8pm PST, lots
of Epiphyte users check into the net.
    The Pedal the Peaks Bike Tour started on
August 6th, 94 in the town of Gunnison, near the
center of the state of Colorado. During the next 6
days the tour traveled 450 miles, making stops in
Lake City, South Fork, Durango, Ouray and then
back to Gunnision. A typical day started early. Most
riders were on the road by seven am to insure
finishing ahead of the possible late afternoon
thunder showers. As do most commercial bike tours,
they haul your camp gear, provide meals and food stops
along the route.
             Two days covered 100miles, the over three
days covered 60 to 80 miles. The toughest day, but
one of the most thrilling, was between Durango and
Orua. This day included 3 mountain passes for a
total of 7200 vertical feet of climbing. I was glad the
next day was a rest day! On one of the days off I
rode a spectacular narrow gauge train
ride between Durango and Silverton. The second day
off was in the town of Orua. I and 3 other cyclists
rented a jeep for the day. We bounced our way over
some very narrow precarious gravel roads.
    I had high hopes of contacting my fellow
hams in Portland Oregon from my camp site each
night. I took a battery powered homebrew 20 meter
HF single sideband transceiver, a simple 20m wire
dipole, two 12V 2amp/hour lead-acid batteries, and a
homewbrew QRP SWR meter. The 20m SSB
transceiver is about the size of a large
2m handheld. The design was published by KK7B in
QST April 93. The rig generates single sideband
using the phasing method, no crystal filters. The
receiver is a direct conversion type. At home in
Portland Oregon I had great luck with the transceiver.
Using a tri-bander at 50 feet does make a difference.
I was able to work New Zealand on 20meters with only
10 watts. But operating the rig from the wilds of
Coloardo with a simple dipole at 15 feet was a tough
going. The band conditions were some what marginal
as well. The signal just wasn't strong enough to make
consistent contacts each night from camp.
    I wanted a simple compact antenna to go
along with the QRP transceiver. I choose a dipole.
A end-feed long wire is the simplest to erect but
you'll need a antenna tuner to load it. I constructed a
light weight 20m inverted vee antenna using 30 feet
of RG58 coax for a feed line, and #22 gauge wire for
the elements. A plastic center insulator keeps the
weight down. I was able to use light
weight fishing line to string up the antenna each
night. Taping the fishing line to a golf ball made it
easy to toss the line over a low limb, up 15 or 20
feet. Sixteen pound fishing line is more than
adequate to support the antenna for the hour of use
each night. Using fishing line allowed me to take
down the antenna quickly each night after use, I'd
discard the used fishing line. I
had a small QRP SWR meter to check power levels
and verify SWR. The low power SWR meter is
written up in the recent ARRL handbook. Roy
W7EL designed it, its quite accurate down to 1watt
    You'll need to pick which HF band to
operate QRP SSB. My rig only operates on one
band, this was done to keep rig compact and light
weight. I tried 20m on the bike tour in Colorado. It
seemed like the best choice to work back into
Portland Oregon. Unfortunately, I found 20m too
crowded for QRP. I did manage to make several
contacts. I'd recommend using 75m or 40m for QRP
SSB. When the solar activity picks back up again
17m, 15m and 10m will be excellent as well. In the
mean time 75m in the evening or 40m in the
afternoon and early evening should work fine.
    During another bike tour in the Fall of 1993
I did operate QRP 75m SSB. This week long bike
tour covered 420 miles in Eastern Oregon. I took
along a a similar home-brew HF 20 watt SSB
transceiver for 75m. Even with a 75m dipole strung
up only 15 feet off the ground I didn't have any trouble
making a constant string of contacts, one
after another. Reports of S9 plus 10 to 20dB were
common. I spent several late evenings lying in my
down sleeping bag chatting away on 75m. I was
enjoying the radio as much as the cycling. You'd
often find my tent pitched near a flag pole or football
field goal post. Flag poles make great antenna
supports, set-up and take down would be
done in minutes.
If you'd like to reach the Pedal the Peaks Tour
directors, try 1-800-795-0898 or 1-303- 979-7600.
Pedal the Peaks Tour offers tours in Colorado and
New Mexico, they may add a tour in Montana in 95. The 7 day
tour costs $325.

I often check into the BMHA 20m (14.253MHz) net
of the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month. I
encourage you to check in. Lots of information
about operating 2meter and HF from a bike is shared
on the net.
John Liebenrood K7RO

InterNet address:

John Liebenrood | Bicycle Mobile Hams | __o of America
Portland, Oregon |_`\<, 17m/40m QRP SSB
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