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BaoFeng UV-5R from PCI Race Radios

Inexpensive and effective 

by Martin Hackworth

Photos: BaoFeng Tech

Photo: BaoFeng Tech

We've reviewed push to talk (PTT) race radios before at MoJazz and have concluded that they worked quite well for the money. The state of the art has advanced considerably since I first attempted to use a then relatively new PTT motorcycle radio kit to communicate with other riders on the first Tour of Idaho 14 years ago. Half of the kits didn't work after just the first day. None of the kits worked the day after that. But that was then and this is now. Modern radio kits are as robust and useful as they are plentiful.

PCI Race Radios, known for being the progeny of Bob "Weatherman" Steinberger, has had a 45-year association with off-road racing at the highest levels. PCI has radio kits for just about any off-road purpose including trail riding in groups. PCI business manager Rhiannon Kamo hooked me up with several UV-5R kits at a recent KLIM Cow Tag. After having used them for some time for trail riding in groups I can report that they work extremely well for the money spent. Perfect? No. Great bang for the buck? Absolutely. Let's get into it.

At $59.95 for the entire kit that you'll need these radios are a bargain. The range and feature set are exactly what you'd expect and they are 
easy to use and intuitive if you are at all familiar with radios in this class. An optional battery-life extender is available and recommended. Generally speaking if you are within line of sight distances communication is crisp and clear at impressive ranges (up to five miles out on the Mojave Road). Beyond that breakup begins to occur. In more challenging terrain, woods and mountains, I've had good luck with UV-5Rs up to about a mile - plenty of range for keeping your group together on trail rides. 

Common frequencies are pre-programmed into the UV-5R but you can do quite a bit of programming on your own. Even though this particular radio is not waterproof it has worked just fine for me in rain and snow. Just don't drop it in a river. Customer service at PCI, should you need it, is outstanding.

There are only two drawbacks to the UV-5R and both are unavoidable. The first is that if you turn up the squelch filter enough to quiet crosstalk in RF dense areas you sacrifice range and if  you don't filter out crosstalk you'll occasionally get very loud bursts of static and crosstalk noise in your helmet. The second is that for many radios in this class you are supposed to have a license outside of a few very specific applications. A perfunctory Web search will fill you in on the details.

Photo: BaoFeng Tech
PCI UV-5R BaoFeng Radio Kit

MSRP: $59.95 per radio kit

The Good: Great bang for the buck
The Rad: Mostly idiot proof, depending on your level of idiocy
The Gnarly: Static noise bursts will have you seeing stars in RF dense areas

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