The Board of Appalachian Region PCA has determined that it will recommend (not require) that all Tour participants have an FRS radio in their car.

The idea is that everyone on the tour will be able to hear the communications between the Lead and the Sweep cars and have a better understanding of what is happening within the group on the tour.  This will also allow the Lead driver to notify everyone on the tour (that has a radio) of situations such as needing to pass a slow moving bicyclist, avoid potholes or a large truck passing in the opposite direction on a narrow road.  It will also be helpful in keeping the drive organized in the case of an emergency.

What Are FRS Radios

FRS (Family Radio Service) radios are small hand held radios that operate in the UHF frequency band (as opposed to Citizens Band [CB] radios that operate in the HF frequency band).  FRS radios are less likely to experience interference from cordless telephones, baby monitors or toys.  FRS radios operate on 22 channels that are shared with General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).  Licenses are not required to operate FRS radios (they are with GMRS), and power is limited to 2 watts.  Privacy Codes are a feature of FRS radios that is desirable and is in fact used during our drives.  Privacy Codes are sub-audible tone squelch codes that filter out unwanted chatter.  Appalachian Region PCA normally uses FRS channel 5 along with CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) Privacy Code 9 on our drives.  For more information on FRS Radios, you can check out the Wikipedia link at: We also have posted some suggested models here on our Admin page.

A Word About Range

When you look at ads for FRS radios, you see indications of the range that the radios will operate.  Those range claims are based on ideal conditions with line of sight, and our drives operate in far from ideal conditions for these radios.  Consequently, the real range of the radios on our drives are between .3 and 1 mile.  As long as the drive group stays together, this is sufficient for our needs.

Shopping for an FRS Radio

FRS Radios are available from typical retail outlets that sell electronics such as Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Staples, Target, etc.  When shopping for these radios the most important feature that is needed is the Privacy Code capability.  Some lower cost units do not support Privacy Codes.  There are a myriad of other features that are offered that are nice but not necessary including Weather Alerts, channel scanning, and assortments of beeps and tones.  The second most important feature of these radios is the kind of battery power offered.  Some units include rechargeable batteries with chargers and others require the use of alkaline batteries.  For rechargeable batteries, the rules of consumer items apply where Nickel Cadmium (NiCAD) batteries do not last very long, Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) is better and Lithium Ion (LiON) is best.  Through experience we have found that over time the rechargeable batteries degrade to the point that they will not provide power for the entire tour, so it may be better to just opt for using the alkaline replaceable batteries and bringing extra batteries on the drive.


The two most common brands of FRS Radios are Motorola and Midland.  I recently purchased a pair of Midland Xtra Talk 600 radios from Staples on sale for around $60 for a pair.  I have used them on several drives and am very satisfied with their performance.  Other members have used Motorola Talkabout T460 radios that costs around $70 for a pair, and they seem to work just as well.  Our friends at Air Brigade have FRS radios listed in their shopping site at this link:

John Goetzman, APR Tour/Driving Chair