"The Bicycle Mobile"
Another prominent driving force in human nature, is the push to create new and crazy things, which most other people would never even dream of doing, simply for the notoriety that comes with being the first one to do it. Some would call this innovation, while others would simply call it folly. But whichever the case, throughout history there have been many ideas which have made it from the drawing board to the retail store, thanks mostly to the determination of people who applied unconventional thinking to an unlikely project. This might be the story of one of those moments of unconventional innovation. Or perhaps it's simply the story of valuable time spent on a frivolous pursuit by a radio geek who was hopelessly addicted. You decide.
The idea was born in the spring of 1975. At that time, I was a scant 15 years of age. Old enough to almost taste the joy and liberating freedom that comes with the privilege of driving a car, but not quite old enough yet to make it a reality. From a CBer's perspective, one of the fun aspects of having a car, was operating a CB mobile. In the 1970's, before the age of cell-phones, operating a 2-way radio from the car enabled you to keep in contact with other people while you were out and about, and it made for easy coordination of activities with other similarly equipped friends. There was also the security aspect of having a radio along in case you needed to summon help. In short, the radio was like a companion, a ticket to the outside world. Operating mobile also enabled you to escape from those shortfalls in terrain that you had to deal with from your base station, if you were unfortunate enough to be altitude challenged. One need only to drive to the top of a nearby hill to experience those long distance contacts that may not be achievable from a poorly located base station. These points were all readily apparent and well understood, and I wanted to be a part of that action. But being an impatient teenager, a year's worth of time seemed like an eternity (Unlike now, when the years seem to go by in the blink of an eye). There was nothing I could do to circumvent the law, or Father Time, so I had to be more creative. Initially, I tried taking my walkie-talkies along with me on my bike. I could ride up to the top of some local hills and hear all sorts of long shots. But the power of my walkie-talkies were not that great, and the self contained antennas were not all that efficient. So even with the help of the hills that I huffed and puffed my bike to the top of, the signal from my base was still way better. The other problem that I found was the issue of having to carry a walkie-talkie with me while riding a bike. It was awkward riding with one hand, not to mention the safety issues, or the possibility of dropping the radio and breaking it. There just had to be a better way. But without much in the way of disposable income, it didn't look like I would be solving this dilemma any time soon.
The solution to my problem would come as the byproduct of 3 different, and totally unrelated circumstances. The first circumstance played out in the early summer of '75 when I was hanging out with Blue Bandit at his summer house. During one weekend, his brother-in-law Richard came down from New York for a visit. Richard had been a CB'er some years prior, but now wanted to unload his old gear. So, knowing that Blue Bandit was a current active CB'er, Richard felt that he might be able to better sell the stuff for him. The box of stuff that he brought with him contained a complete Demco Satellite setup (Which I would find out years later became a real collectable), including the receiver, transmitter, speech compressor, G-Stand D-104, and wattmeter. Also in the box, was a Johnson 110 5 channel mobile rig. Well, the Demco radios needed a bit of TLC in order to sell them, and as payment for services rendered, Blue Bandit gave me the Demco Wattmeter (Which I still have) and the Johnson mobile radio. The Johnson also needed some work. The audio output transistors were shot, and there were a few burned resistors as well. I managed to scrounge up the needed replacements though, and the radio was back in business in short order. It would do about 3.5 watts out, and it sounded pretty good with its wired-in stock mike. I added the crystals for the normal channels that we used, and I was in business. So now I had a mobile radio......
Also during this same time frame, one of my neighbors, a CB'er himself who went by the handle of "Spaghetti Man" (Who would also turn me into the F.C.C. for TVI 8 years later), had a brother-in-law who was a trucker. During the course of his travels, he was always smacking and flexing the center-loaded Hustler mirror mount antennas that were on his big rig, and they would ultimately end up going intermittent on him. Somehow, I ended up with one of the bad ones. After peeling off the vinyl coating, I found that there was a fractured solder connection to the center load coil. A quick hit with the "two fister" soldering iron, and the problem was solved. I then wrapped the coil back up with electrical tape. So now I had a mobile antenna.....
The final element to the puzzle fell into place when they were doing road construction in our neighborhood. The storm sewer system was being upgraded after a few years of floods, and they had the street dug up in spots. Along with the trucks and the other implements of construction, were the obligatory blinker lights and road barriers. Each of those blinkers contained a 6 volt battery, and some of my neighborhood friends wanted to take a few of them. The lights were held on by a security bolt which was a typical hex key style but with a security pin in the middle. So I constructed a suitable "security wrench" by taking a proper sized Allen wrench and drilling a hole in the middle of it to fit the pin. I then lent it to my friends with the understanding that they save me a couple of the batteries. Two 6-Volt batteries fell into my possession shortly afterward and, when wired in series, voila! I now had a 12V power source........ Looks like I finally had all the parts I needed to make the "Bikemobile" a reality.
My bike was a 1968 vintage "Stingray" style Sears 10-speed with a "banana" seat and "ram horn" handlebars. The banana seat was held up in the back by a "sissy bar", which made for a perfect place to mount the mirror mount CB antenna. The radio's mounting bracket was attached to the base of the handlebars by a pair of hose-clamps. The batteries were tucked between my legs, right above the pedals and front sprocket. A 4' coax jumper connected the radio to the antenna. A check of the SWR initially showed better than 2:1 and, with a little further tuning, I got the match down to less than 1.5:1. And so the bicycle mobile was born. I could now ride without having to deal with the hassles of carrying a radio in my hand. I could simply hang the mike on the clip when I wasn't talking. The radio's 3 watt output with a "real" antenna meant that I now had a "real" mobile signal (more or less) which could rival the base when I went "hill topping". All in all, it worked pretty well. I kept the batteries charged (Even though they tell you to not charge dry cell batteries), and they would last for an afternoon of mobiling 2 wheel style.
Reaction to this setup varied. Among my radio friends, it was seen as a neat accomplishment. Many people on the air were amazed when I told them what I was running. This was something that some of my non-driving friends wished that they also had. Reaction among my non-CB peers though, brought about many guffaws and jeers. It really did make me look like a bigger radio geek than I was already considered. I also realized that having the radio along presented more problems than it solved. It was fine when my sole purpose was radio related. But I was afraid to park the bike anywhere with the radio attached for fear of theft, damage, or vandalism. It also got in the way when we went off-roading on the numerous trails in the heavily wooded areas. Practicality soon overcame the "cool factor" of having the radio along. So, like with so many of my other projects, the novelty eventually wore off and, by the end of the summer, I had pretty much stopped putting the radio on the bike. But the effort was not for naught though as I must have made a lasting impression on some people and, a short time later, I was offered a trade. The Johnson radio, batteries, and antenna, for a Contex 6706, 60 watt amplifier. My priorities had shifted, the offer was very appealing, and the timing couldn't have ben better, so I jumped on it. So as fast as it was born, the bike-mobile had faded into obscurity again. The guy who got my setup never used it on a bike, opting instead to install the radio into his parent's car.
For the next 16 or so years, I never ran across anyone else in my area, who tried to do something like the bike mobile. However, in the middle 90's, I ran across a kid who had mounted a 40 channel mobile on his bike, along with a motorcycle battery, and a 102" whip. This particular kid was also a real dork on the air, and his use of the radio on his bike only enhanced that image. This really put things into perspective for me. I just hope I didn't look that bad, and I tried to convince myself that the secret's in the presentation. I'd like to think that I was being more innovative than silly........