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Tour de Victoria Oct 2 2021

Andrea VA7ALG dressed to ride and make radio

Lantern Rouge communications motorcycle following a bicycle event

My day as a Lantern Rouge Rider

It's not often one gets to combine all of ones favorite hobbies, but when the Victoria radio club WARA was looking for motorcycle riding volunteers to help with the Tour de Victoria bicycle event, I was delighted to be able to comingle all my diversions.

I admit I was also very tempted by the opportunity to ride my motorcycle on the Galloping Goose bicycle trail, which is normally forbidden to motorcycles. I discovered the radio challenges were a fabulous learning opportunity. It seems to be a feature of my radio hobby that I dive enthusiastically into things without really knowing what's involved, and this was no exception.

The radio brief was to provide communications support to the bicycle riders participating in the event, as well as position information via APRS. Bicycle riders might need a medic, a mechanic or a lift back, and so the role of the Lantern Rouge involves relaying requests for assistance or transportation. Event organizers and support crew were able to access real time information about my position at the tail end of one route of the ride event.

Getting my motorcycle (a 1992 EN 500 Vulcan) set up for radio was an interesting process, with the help of Dave VE7EPX who constructed a beautiful lightweight platform for the tail rack on my motorcycle to hold a mag mount antenna. The rack mounting was very solid, the antenna stayed firmly in place, and even though it was back in the 'dirty' swirling air behind my body the antenna didn't flutter or twitch in the wind even at highway speeds. Since the day of the Tour de Victoria was spent in first gear, at bicycle speeds, it really wasn't an issue.

Vulcan tail rack with antenna bracket
Tail rack mounted antenna bracket and passenger backrest mounted radio bag

close up of antenna mounting on Kawasaki Vulcan 500
Close up showing antenna on it's mounting bracket

The mag mount antenna was a great improvement in the reception of my APRS data/signal. When we tested the route with a rubber duck on my FT3DR my position was 'heard' fairly well, but it was much better on the day of the event with the mag mount antenna. Here's the APRS data from the day of the event; you can see how frequently my beacon was heard. Testing with the FT3DR's APRS settings was a great learning opportunity - figuring out what each of those settings really 'means' in real life requires some experimentation, and this event was a great opportunity for me to explore my fancy new radio. I've had the Yaesu for nearly a year now, and I'm still figuring out what it can do, it's truly a fabulous gadget.

Tour de Victoria 2021 APRS tracking data generated by VA7ALG

Those of you who don't ride a motorcycle might be surprised to hear it's actually very challenging to go slowly. My pace for the day was between 10km/h and 20km/h, first gear speeds, and on hills much slower. Acting like a bicycle doesn't suit a motorcycle. I'm an experienced motorcyclist, I've been riding a lot longer than I've been a ham, so I felt up to the motorcycle riding aspects. How well I could work a radio while riding a vehicle that requires both hands and both feet to operate was something I was less confident about. Getting the APRS equipment mounted on the back of my bike was only part of the challenge, I also had to sort out voice communications.

LR1 and LR2 the Lantern Rouge team for the Tour de Victoria 2021 I decided to carry two radios, so instead of trying to make my Yaesu do both jobs, I also used my Baofeng. I carried it in a satchel over my shoulder, instead of mounted on my bike, which proved to be useful because I could get on and off my bike quickly to talk with bicyclists off the road and relay messages for them. I used a remote speaker microphone clipped to the front of my riding gear, and for the most part I was able to hear the radio fairly well, although getting the microphone close enough to be heard, while wearing a helmet, proved difficult. There were a few occasions I had trouble making myself heard, and apparently a few times I missed hearing my call sign too. Variable ambient noise was part of the problem, hearing though my helmet didn't help either. The satchel carrying my 2nd HT moving about on my shoulder meant that my radio occasionally ended up with the antenna in my armpit, which probably wasn't ideal for getting a signal out. Finding a better way to attach the radio might be one solution. A second antenna sounds a bit OTT, so I'm tempted! I think my APRS communication was much more effective than my voice communication, and so at least I know what to work on for next year.

The Lantern Rouge team was uniquely vintage; Dave on his '95 Honda ST 1100 and me on my '92 Kawasaki failed, as far as I could tell, to make any impression on the bicyclists, although I think the motorcycle mounted police riding behind us for the last few kilometers of the event (opening up the roads) noticed our bikes weren't as modern as theirs. I was tempted to point out my motorcycle was older than some of them, but decided it might be better not to offend... I'm not looking for ways to get arrested!

VA7ALG riding her Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan in the Tour de Victoria 2021

Vulcan dressed as an official vehicle for the Tour de Victoria


If you are interested in the motorcycle part of the story, check out my motorcycling website here:

Tour de Victoria -

Tour de France -

Lanterne Rouge in Wikipedia -

WARA (west coast amateur radio association) -

SSIARS (Salt Spring Island Amateur Radio Society) -

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Thanks for visiting... hope to meet you on the air! 73
~ Andrea VA7ALG


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