A variety of overlapping communication technologies are available for motorcyclists. Cell Phones, Citizens Band radios and FRS radios - each offer a different kind of performance and functionality.
A Cell Phone is great to have along for emergency 911 calls and for making sure your hotel still has your room reservation. All cell phones and all cellular networks will accept 911 calls, even if the phones are not activated. Cellular telephones need to be located within a cellular service network to work. They are not normally used for bike-to-bike or rider-to passenger communication, and away from home the connection time can be expensive.
Family Radio Service (FRS) radios work best for bike-to-bike communication. The radios need to be the full 500 mw power models, and be capable of operation on all 14 available channels. A two mile range is often advertised, but bike-to-bike you will get about a mile depending on curves and hills. The disadvantages of FRS radios are that you cannot expect to contact anyone not in your party, and you won’t receive any kind of roadway condition, traffic report, Smokey report, or emergency assistance communication. Because FRS radios are on the FM frequency, they provide the clearest signal. Few user conflicts and clean sound make this technology the best available for rider-to-rider and rider-to-passenger communication.
Today’s CB Radio has come full circle. Years ago all 23 of the original channels were packed with aimless chatter. The band was so busy that the FCC opened more channels, which made a total of 40 available. At some point, the FCC gave up trying to regulate the CB, and stopped issuing call signs and requiring station licenses. The truckers who started the whole thing turned the radios off and listened to the stereo. Now, the FCC could probably turn the CB into a three channel radio service. There are few non-truck users. Thirty-nine channels have only hiss. Despite this, CB has some great advantages for the stealth driver. CB’s normally will cover 4 miles or so on a roadway. CB is now again the truckers’ professional radio. While you will still have to put up with some local color, the content is a long way from the garbage of the past. The trucker’s network is a wonderful source of traffic conditions, alternate routes, and yes, Smokey reports. The CB is the best means of knowing what is ahead of you,...and you can usually get emergency help easily. Most people monitoring CB will also have a cell phone and be able to call 911 in an emergency. It is worth hooking up a CB for any long trip. If you can put up with AM frequency’s static and noise, a CB will be a reliable travel companion on any long stretch of interstate highway.
Adapted from an article by Casey Raskob
National Motorists Association News ; Volume 11, Issue 3; May/June 2000; page 3