Off Grid Electric Fat Bike and Portable Ham Radio

Portable ham radio adventures on an off grid electric fat bike.

Scroll down for the Fatbike setup

Today I’m fatbike portable operating QRP with the Icom ic705, Chameleon Antenna MPAS and a Powerfilm Solar 60-WATT flexible panel. Also tested for the first time was the full wrap cage from Peovi mounts. This is an amazing 705 upgrade!

This is one of my rapid deployment kit. Its purpose is fast setup, with minimal effort. It’s certainly not the lightest or most efficient of my kits, but is very easy to carry. It also has a minimal time from unpacking to on-air. The kit includes:

  • Icom IC705
  • Microsoft Surface Go 2
  • Chameleon Antenna MPAS 2.0 and spike
  • Icom AH-705
  • Powerfilmsolar 60-WATT flexible panel & Genasun charge controller
  • 5ah LiFePO4 battery

This is a very versatile data & voice modes kit. The Icom IC-705 wifi capabilities make this an entirely wireless affair. When physical connectivity between the Microsoft Surface and the Icom ic-705 is required, a single USB cable between the radio and the tablet does the trick. This is the most portable data station I’ve ever fielded. I’m also proud of how far we’ve come with portable radio technology.

Fat Bike Portable

The fat bike isn’t just a platform for portable ops. With my current fat bike portable setup, 3-Days of gear along with food & shelter can be carried for Snapper and myself during portable ham radio excursions. It is also used for multi-day camping, fishing or foraging trips. In part, this is the reason for the radio gears weight reduction program. Radio isn’t always the primary payload. There are times when other gear has higher priority,  especially when it’s wet or cold out.

The bike is set up for slow traversing of moderately difficult terrain. It floats along on Schwalbe Jumbo Jims running 20psi on hard-packed surfaces, and 8-15psi on the soft stuff. Usual full loadout range on hard surfaces is roughly 90km. 75 to 80km while pulling Snappers trailer.

The fat bike has hardpoints for carrying 4 liters of water. A tipi tent or other shelter can be stowed behind the seat on longer trips. Sleep systems for both Snapper and I are stowed in a waterproof Ortlieb drybag pannier. Tools, spares and tire inflation are stowed in the Topeak trunk bag up front. Cookset, fire-starter, stove, eating utensils, and water filtration for both Snapper and I, are stowed in a front pannier along with odds and ends. This loadout is better than bare-bones, proving safety and comfort for multi-day excursions.

Radio gear is stowed in a rear Topeak trunk bag. The trunk bag houses everything but the spike & whip antenna, which are strapped externally on the bag. If using a wire antenna, the entire comms kit fits in one trunk bag. This makes it extremely easy to grab the bag and deploy the radio, in a short amount of time. The Topeak trunk bag has a quick-release slide-on mount making rapid deployment possible, without unpacking other gear unnecessarily. Integrating the entire HF go kit into a single bag was an excellent decision.

Since this is an ebike, I use and carry a Genasun GV Boost MPPT charge controller for 48v lithium-ion batteries. As I’m not always using the electric motor, preferring to operate using the pedals like a traditional bicycle, I can save the battery for more challenging Terrain. It’s important to point out this is not a motorcycle-type ebike. It won’t go by itself, only functioning with pedal assist. Combined with one of my PF panels, The bike can also be recharged in the field. If you’re interested in how I recharge this e-bike in the field with solar power, check my guest blog post on the PowerFilm Solar blog. There is also my own post going into details about my bike.

If there are specific questions you have about the fat bike setup or loadout, just drop a comment.

Julian oh8stn
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  1. Great article. Re-reading. On your Radio Prep advertising please correct the coupon code from “Julian-20” to just “Julian20” otherwise it’s invalid.

  2. I like the way you think. I am a bikepacker myself, going off grid for days to a month. I do not use my electric because of range/recharge considerations. I take just enough solar panels and batteries to keep my radio, lights and various USB devices going. Since I go about 50kms a day+, unlimited travel with a solar/pedelec combination is not practical yet (I can’t wait!). But I suggest you ditch the fatty to save weight and gain efficiency. My gravel bike (700×36) and the little pedelec (16″x1.75″) can go anywhere at 50psi. And they are very efficient on pavement. If I hit a muddy or sandy patch I just walk!

    • Very nice
      Yes I also have a gravel bike, although it wasn’t mentioned in the post. Unfortunately the gravel bike can’t traverse the forest. Paths for sure, but, the narrow 700×36/38 tires just sink in the forrest and snow. The wide 4.8in fat tires are excellent getting through the rough stuff, where a gravel bike would get stuck.
      The pedelec was also an option. It’s been impossible this far to find one comfortable enough to stay on for 100 km. They’re very popular in the cities here, but not so useful through the forest. The rolling efficiency of the fatty is a good point. I don’t mind taking the hit if it gets me to where we’re going without walking or pushing.

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