Radio Ops

Ham Radio on GOBA


GOBA is the largest bicycle ride in the world with emergency, health, and welfare communications provided exclusively by amateur radio. It’s also the largest emergency preparedness event for Ohio amateur radio operators – each day we assist with the evacuation of 1000 people — nearly all of them on bikes. 

GOBAhams club call – KG8OBA
listen for this call as net control stations may identify by this or perhaps a local club call.
Net Control Stations — Amateur Radio operators from GOBA’s host counties in charge of the directed radio net to coordinate emergency, health, and welfare radio traffic for GOBA’s 1500 bicyclists.  The NCS will usually identify as “Net Control” or “Net” in addition to the operator call sign.  On a given day, there may be two or more NCS stations.

Todd Johnson, KD8UND – GOBA Communications Director

Todd is responsible for planning communications on GOBA. During GOBA he will be operating vehicle mobile. He will serve as the GOBA “trail boss” and coordinate things on the tour when the tour director may be unavailable. He will work with K9RIA, the GOBA Emergency Coordinator to facilitate medical needs. Todd is also Ross County Emergency Coordinator (EC) for the Ohio Section of the ARRL.


Vehicle Drivers Sag vehicle drivers transport bicyclists
who are too tired to continue or who have been directed by GOBA medical personnel
to sag into camp.  Most sag vehicle drivers are amateur radio operators.   Those who are not may approach other hams with traffic for Matt Wolf, KD8GFX, the Sag Coordinator.  These may also have a scanner to monitor the net for instructions regarding riders needing sag service.

Bicycle Mobile Hams

There will be 10-20 bicycle mobile amateur radio operators participating on GOBA.  Most of the time all they will have is an ht with a rubber duck.  Some will have a 1/2 wave antenna attached somehow to their bikes.  Be sure to listen for bike mobile hams who may be unable to make the repeater to report a medical or other emergency — in this circumstance they will be transmitting on the repeater output and asking other hams to relay their traffic to net control.

Town Coordinators.  Each of GOBA’s host towns has designated a “Town Coordinator” responsible for handling any major problems in the host town.

Amateur Radio Operations on GOBA (Also see the Procedures Page

GOBA operates a controlled emergency, health,and welfare net each day while bicyclists are on the road.  Volunteeram ateur radio operators work in ambulances, in sag vehicles, at designated locations along the route, and on bicycles.  In addition, most members of the permanent GOBA staff are licensed amateur radio operators.

Operating procedures are determined by the net control operator, who is in charge of the directed net each day.   Stations with traffic should identify their station, ask for “net control” and relay their traffic to the net control operator when acknowledged. 

We use tactical call signs for net control and for our squads.  When clearing a tactical call station don’t forget to also clear with your legal FCC call sign as well as required by FCC rules.  Also remember that under FCC rules there is to be no profanity or transmission of music over the air. If you have a radio on in your vehicle, make sure you turn the volume down before transmitting.

Medical Emergencies

While we hope not to have any medical emergencies during GOBA, the things that happen during a week in any small town of 1000 tend to happen on GOBA as much as anywhere else.  The most common medical situations we encounter are sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sore knees.  These, of course, can be prevented.  When bicyclists fall, they tend to suffer from skin abrasion (road rash), broken collarbones, and dislocated shoulders.   More serious and even life-threatening injuries are, of course, possible.

A GOBA amateur radio volunteer who sees or hears word of a medical emergency situation should contact net control immediately.  Calling net control with the word “MEDICAL” is usually sufficient to get the attention of both the net control station and to alert other stations to hold any non-priority traffic until our medical emergency personnel can provide an appropriate response.  More information about how to handle a medical emergency is available on the Medical Emergency Page.

Bikes Needing Repair
Hams stationed along the route are sometimes approached to radio for assistance from one of the bicycle repair crews who work on the GOBA route each day.  Most of the time it does no good to call net control about a needed repair. The bike repair trucks do not have communications. However, they do patrol the route, looking for broken down riders.  The most common problem is a flat tire.  GOBA bicyclists are encouraged to learn how to fix their own flats, and to carry the equipment they need to perform this repair with them at all
times.  The best solution for a flat tire is to seek the assistance of another GOBA bicyclist with the necessary materials and know-how.  GOBA bicyclists are usually willing to help other riders with this task.   Riders who insist on waiting for a repair truck are likely to have to wait for quite a while — the repair vehicles usually get bogged down at the
food stops, where they are mobbed by people seeking help with
minor adjustments.

Tired riders or those with irreparable mechanical problems GOBA provides sag service to bicyclists who have become too tired to continue, or who are too ill or injured to ride, but not in need of medical transport.  GOBA also provides ride sto riders whose bicycles cannot be repaired on the road by one of the repair vehicles (this is quite rare, usually involving a broken frame or unavailable part).  To assist a rider who seems to need to be sagged into town, contact net control.  Many sag vehicle drivers are amateur radio operators. Sag vehicles patrol the route and respond to calls on the net for sag assistance.  Requests for sag service should be coordinated through the sag coordinator,Matt Wolf, KD8GFX  More information about GOBA’s sag service is available on the GOBA Sag Page.

Rider density reports – GOBA Officials responsible for the deployment of emergency, repair, and sag services on GOBA are likely to ask net control to obtain a rider density report from amateur radio operators who are either bicycle mobile or who are stationed along the route.   The best way to provide a rider density report is to advise net control of the number of riders passing a particular point each minute, or if rider density is light, each 5 minutes or 10 minutes. 

Dangerous road conditions or other problems along the route  – Amateur radio operators working on GOBA are likely to observe a variety of potentially dangerous conditions on the route including gravel at the bottom of a hill, thunderstorms and tornados (yes, we’ve had them), reckless bicyclists, vicious dogs, and vicious automobile drivers.  These and other conditions should be reported to net control who will relay the information to the appropriate GOBA official to respond, if possible, to the situation.

Original content by Jeff Ferriell, K8ZDA.
Revised by Jeff Slattery, N8SUZ.