REVIEW: BC Link 2-Way Radio for "Group" Communications

christopher

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What is THE MISSING LINK in mountain snowmobiling?
Communications!


Recently I acquired a pair of the new BC Link radios and would like to offer up some real world user comments on this great new product.

http://www.backcountryaccess.com/product/bc-link-2/


I had seen their ads.



And seen the radio on display at the shows




And even watched their promo videos
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Looked at the great promo photos



And even more than that, I had read several VERY GOOD comments by other snowest members who had purchased this radio, so I took the plunge and ordered a set for myself.
 
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christopher

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From the BCA Web Site.
===============

BC Link


Safer riding through real-time communication.
The Smart Mic user interface is located at your fingertips, meaning you never need to dig the radio out of your pack to change settings. Includes radio base unit connected to Smart Mic. Designed to be worn with all backpacks. Optimized for use with BCA’s new line of Stash packs. The BC Link is compatible with all FRS/GMRS radios (standard talkabout radios) and has a range of 2.5 miles line of sight with 140 hours of battery life.


BC Link Group Communication

Strong group communication is the key to any successful day riding the mountains. Find separated riders, communicate plans, and share observations in real-time with the BC Link group communication system. The Smart Mic user interface is located at your fingertips and includes:

  • Push-to-talk button
  • On/off switch
  • Volume control
  • Battery indicator
  • Channel selection
  • Earphone jack

Technical Specifications


  • weight :: 12 ounces / 340 g
  • Smart mic dimensions :: 3.3” x 1.0” x 1.8” / 8.0 x 4.0 x 4.5 cm
  • Base unit dimensions :: 2.5” x 2.0” x 6.0” / 6 x 5 x 15 cm
  • Waterproof to IP56 standards
  • Power outage 1 Watt for GMRS (more range, but shorter battery life), and .5 Watt outage for FRS (less range, longer battery life)
Smart Mic:

  • 22 FRS and GMRS channels + 121 sub-channels ensures minimal interference.
  • Radio includes option for pre-set channel selections.
  • Compatible with all standard FRS/GMRS radios.
  • Designed to be worn with all backpacks.
  • Secure cord connection and alligator clip for shoulder or sternum strap.
  • Glove-friendly controls, optimized for easy handling.
  • On/off and volume control.
  • Channel control.
  • Push-to-talk button.
  • Loudspeaker.
Base Unit

  • Rechargeable 3.7-Volt lithium ion battery provides long battery life.
  • Base unit can be clipped to belt or stashed inside backpack.

Full Copy of the Owner's Manual

Human Factors and Group Communications

Avalanches and Group Communications




Some quick FAQs...


Do they work with other recreational radios?
Yes.

What frequencies do they work off of?
FRS (1 watt) and GMRS (.5 watt) frequency.

Are there different power levels so you don’t use as much battery when your at closer ranges?
Yes the .5 watt (GMRS) channels use less battery power.

How long do the batteries last?
It depends on how much you talk on it. Roughly 5 days in standby mode.

What is the range?
5 miles, line of sight. It depends on the terrain.

Are they waterproof?
They’re water resistant.


How do you recharge batteries?
By USB or an electrical outlet.
 
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christopher

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NOTE
All photos are SNAP SHOT quality.
No studio lights or staged product photos.
So I apologize for the classic "yellow" tint from the overhead florescent lights.

Front of boxes



Back of box.
 
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christopher

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Here are the contents of each box.

Instruction sheet
Charger
Radio
Battery
Microphone/speaker
Belt Clip






 
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christopher

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So, now you know exactly what you get when you purchase one of these radios, but the question is, HOW DO THEY WORK in the mountains?

The Short Answer: Pretty Damn Well!

Prior to getting the BC Link radios I had been evaluating the Scalia G9 Rider, and while that is a nice unit for trail riders, it absolutely fails for Mountain Riders. And this is where the BC Link steps in.

The BC Link operates on the more powerful FRS (0.5 watt) and GMRS (1 watt) frequencies.

For the last 6 weeks or so I have been able to ride every weekend with BOTH of these radios running side by side, and DISTANCE and TERRAIN are what separates them. When you are in close proximity to your other rider, pretty much any radio will do. But as the distance increases, the trees get thicker or the mountain comes between you and the rest of your crew, then the test of a radio really begins!

While 1 Watt may not seem like a whole lot of power I am here to tell you, its HUGE in comparison to what the competition offers. 1 Watt can really reach out and keep you in constant clear contact with your buddies as you are shredding the pow and loose sight of each other from time to time.

ALSO.
This radio allows for the ENTIRE group to be tuned in and able to talk/listen to each other. There is no functional limit to the number of riders that can be on the same frequency as you are all sharing in the conversation.

Most people I know have never used a radio for conversation while riding, and really don't know what they are missing out on. Being able to reach out and talk to your buddy who just nailed a great jump or got stuck on the side of the mountain is great. But when you get separated from the group AND get stuck out of your mind, then this little radio is full blown life saver for calling in the Calvary (even if the Cavalry is going to BUST YOUR CHOPS hard the whole time they are coming to help you!)

I found the radio to be quite easy to use and very friendly.
The Smart Mike has a little wheel on it marked A-E, these are channels that YOU get to choose and program in from a set of available frequencies the radio supports (More freqs may be coming in the next year or two). The programing is FAST and SIMPLE and clearly explained in both the User Guide and the Owner's Manual.

Most users will likely place the radio in their backpack and attach the smart mic to a shoulder strap.







One curious thing I did notice is that you absolutely Do NOT want to clip the mic on the same side as your Avalanche Bag Deployment Handle!
I made that mistake once and quickly found out that I could not safely operate my Avalanche bag without grabbing a handful of Smart Mic at the same time.

Also, with a helmet on, you will want to position the Smart Mic HIGH up on your shoulder where the speaker is closest to your ear and where you can turn your head and get your mouth as close to the microphone as possible.

Another item I noticed is that you need to exercise "some" care when handling the Smart Mic so as NOT to accidentally change the frequency setting wheel. Once at Togwotee I couldn't figure out why no one would respond to me, only to find out that I had rotated the wheel one letter and was off freq from the rest of my group. There is a good indent on that wheel, so it isn't that its going to turn easily. I must have gone for the volume-On/Off wheel and grabbed the Freq wheel by accident.

Battery wise I found the radio to easily last a FULL WEEKEND's use and not deplete the battery. In fact I would guess it will last comfortably over a many days of riding unless you are just "Chewing the Rag" and transmitting all the time. In my case i was able to use the radio over several weekends on a single charge with no issues!
 
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christopher

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Final Comments...

Did I like this Radio?
Yes.

Would I buy more of these radios for other members of my group.?
Yes.

Is it a good value for the money.
Yes! It's not free, but like much of the technology in snowmobiling it greatly adds to your over all enjoyment and to your safety.
MSRP = $175.00 for each radio.

Did it perform as advertised.?
Yes! Absolutely.

Is this the perfect Mountain Rider Radio?
Maybe.
I think for most hard core riders, they are going to LOVE this radio!
I strongly suspect the overwhelming majority of riders that get a chance to use one will fall in love with it and wonder how they ever got along with out great comms.


But for me there is one feature that would make this radio darn near perfect in my book that it is missing, and that is an In-Helmet Voice activated Mic and speaker. One thing that I did like about the Scalia was the ability to talk without taking my hands off the handlebars. But this is NOT something all riders would want to have, and many might find that down right intrusive. There is a headphone jack on the BC-Link to run an earbud up into your helmet and I need to wire that up and give it a try just to see what kind of a difference that makes in being better able to hear the speaker over my rather loud supercharged exhaust note.

Over all I think BCA has hit a real home run with this new radio, and expect to see it all over the slopes next year!

I will be posting additional comments as time goes by.
 
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DanoXRS

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Many radios on the market today interfere with beacons, potentially rendering them useless.
Are these radios beacon friendly?

Thanks,

Dano. :face-icon-small-coo
 

christopher

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Considering it's made by the same company that builds the TRACKER beacons you would THINK they tested that..

But, I will reach out and ask them directly and report back.
 

christopher

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Here is the official reply

Hi, all radios can cause some electrical interference with beacons if they are carried close to the beacon. Our base unit fits in your pack and the cord runs from there to the mike that is clipped to your shoulder harness. The mike acts as a speaker too. Very clear and can be heard when riding.

Thanks

Deb Paynton
 

shelbwyo

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Been looking at these myself, im glad you posted something about them. I suspected that the speaker to hear other people was on the mic handle but no where on their site does it say that. So what is your evaluation after using it for a few months? Can you hear it while your sled is running or even while riding? I like how it works with other radios, did you ever communicate with someone while they were using a different brand radio? What about the range in the trees?
 

christopher

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Been looking at these myself, im glad you posted something about them. I suspected that the speaker to hear other people was on the mic handle but no where on their site does it say that. So what is your evaluation after using it for a few months? Can you hear it while your sled is running or even while riding? I like how it works with other radios, did you ever communicate with someone while they were using a different brand radio? What about the range in the trees?
In General I DO like the radios, and we have used them on pretty much every ride since we bought them.

My Nytro is on the loud side, not sure I could hear the radio if I am leaning into the throttle hard. But just out running its FINE.

It has reasonable range, but not knock your socks off.
Wish it put out more watts.

But all in all, for the money, I don't think you can beat it.
 

DanoXRS

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Here is the official reply

Hi, all radios can cause some electrical interference with beacons if they are carried close to the beacon. Our base unit fits in your pack and the cord runs from there to the mike that is clipped to your shoulder harness. The mike acts as a speaker too. Very clear and can be heard when riding.

Thanks

Deb Paynton
Thanks for the info, but...
Is the thickness of one's body enough separation to not cause interference? If the radio is in your pack, is there a chance that your beacon may NOT work properly?
I'm looking for a definitive yes or no answer so that I can make an informed decision on whether to carry one of these radios, or keep carrying the one I use in my tunnel bag.
In avalanche country, I would rather be safe than be able to talk while riding!

Thanks,

Dano. :face-icon-small-coo
 

christopher

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Thanks for the info, but...
Is the thickness of one's body enough separation to not cause interference? If the radio is in your pack, is there a chance that your beacon may NOT work properly?
I'm looking for a definitive yes or no answer so that I can make an informed decision on whether to carry one of these radios, or keep carrying the one I use in my tunnel bag.
In avalanche country, I would rather be safe than be able to talk while riding!

Thanks,

Dano. :face-icon-small-coo
Honestly don't know Dano.
My biggest concern would be getting trapped AND having the TRANSMIT BUTTON depressed and held ON.

I could see that causing a real issue.

But having the transmitter on the other side of your body is certainly a GOOD idea, I don't think there is any negative to that.
 

DanoXRS

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Honestly don't know Dano.
My biggest concern would be getting trapped AND having the TRANSMIT BUTTON depressed and held ON.

I could see that causing a real issue.

But having the transmitter on the other side of your body is certainly a GOOD idea, I don't think there is any negative to that.
You are absolutely right Christopher, there is no negative to having the transmitter on the other side of your body...AS LONG AS YOUR BEACON STILL WORKS.
Until the manufacturer assures me that this is the case, I'll leave my radio in my tunnel bag. I can stop if I need to talk.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against THESE radios. Whether it's this radio or the one I currently use, I have concerns about my beacon doing what it's suppose...helping to save my life.
I guess I hijacked the conversation and made it about beacon safety.

It would be great though, if these radios were safe to wear at all times.

Dano. :face-icon-small-coo
 
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