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CB or Helmet to Helmet Intercom?
Safety perspective

By: James R. Davis

Cash and I did a short ride a couple of days ago and while out on the road I had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of truckers using my CB.

I told them that I could only get a range of about a mile using the CB on my motorcycle and asked what kind of range they get with their rigs. Typically, the responses said, 'a couple of miles'. But then a BIG BOOMING response came in from a trucker who obviously had an illegally amplified CB rig and he said that he easily gets five miles.

That's when I realized that there are riders (motorcyclists) out there who seem to think that the only difference between CB's and helmet to helmet chat devices is cost. ??? (I mean, by definition you are not restricted to chatting with only one person when you have a CB.)

But that is certainly not the biggest difference between those choices. Your potential audience using a CB is vastly larger than one, and the majority of those you can talk to are in one way or another professional drivers when you use a CB.

You cannot imagine how good it feels when you are 1,000 miles away from home on a road you've never been on before trying to find a particular exit and you simply change your CB to channel 19, key it and say: "Any drivers out there who can give me some local information"? (They ALL call themselves 'driver' - a term of respect between them.) If you are within range, you are almost certain to get a friendly "What do you need to know? Come back." And shortly after that you will no longer be lost.

Remember what I said in the beginning? There are drivers out there who can handle ranges of five miles! That's five times what most motorcyclists can handle. Indeed, the area covered by a CB that can transmit 5 miles is close to 78.5 square miles while one that can transmit only 1 miles is only 3.1 square miles, so you could say that the more powerful rig is 25 times more powerful. However you are on a road that is pretty straight and receivers will almost certainly be on that road - either ahead of you or behind, so it is, from a PRACTICAL point of view, 'only' five times more powerful.

Since getting local information is not all you can do with your CB, you might want to consider the value of these things that you will hear by just listening on your CB:
  • 'Smokey westbound at mile post 260'

  • 'Debris in the fast lane westbound at mile post 260'

  • 'Drivers, you might want to take the loop around I-10 as there is a major jam eastbound near the Galleria'

  • 'Driver of that red Mack eastbound near mile post 185, you got your ears on? You are shedding rubber on your left side.'

Sure, you will hear a lot of colorful - really nasty - stuff as well. They are not all 'good guys', but they ARE all professional drivers and you can learn a lot from just listening.

Well, you can unless you saved a few bucks and opted for a helmet to helmet intercom rig.

FRS (Family Radio Service) rigs were introduced in 1998, I believe, and have both technical as well as range advantages over CB. They will become, in my opinion, the preferred rig for motorcyclists in time but for now what you need is to be able to reach the widest possible audience and that means the CB remains the best traveling solution until the FRS gains popularity.

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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