The best shortwave radio for cross-continent cycling?

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SWLing Post reader, Pat, is an avid cyclist and is seeking a radio for his next cross-continent adventure. There are a limited number of products on the market that meet Pat’s requirements, so I thought posting his inquiry might bring a few options out of the woodwork. Check out Pat’s requirements and please comment if you have a suggestion!

Pat writes:

I’m a professional ski coach from Colorado. When I’m not on skis, I like to get on my bicycle and go explore the world. I’ve ridden across the USA a few times, covering all 48 states in the Continental US. A couple of years ago I got my 49th state when I rode from Alaska back home to Colorado.

Next year I plan to ride to Argentina, a journey of 12,000 miles over six months.

One of the things that keeps me sane is to have a radio strapped to the handlebars of my bike. I used to have a cheap AM/FM transistor, but have slowly improved the choice of radios on each trip.

During my Alaska ride I used a Degen DE1123, which was a great item. Not a great radio, but having an mp3 player built in made a world of difference. There were some mighty long distances without radio signal, so having the mp3 was great. But like I said, the 1123 wasn’t the most user-friendly item. Plus, it ate up AA batteries, which were pricey in the Yukon. So I upgraded to the Degen DE1125. Certainly an improvement, but still some things that could be improved. [See photo above.]

For my Argentina trip I want to have something really good; something that works well and will hopefully last six months. Also, I really like the idea of having a radio with a mini SD slot. I’ll have to download a lot of music and podcasts to keep me happy.

Someone suggested the Melson S8. I purchased one and it is a great unit, but way too big to fit on the handlebars.

You obviously have experience with many different portables and I was wondering if you could give me your suggestions. Maybe something from Degen, ShouYu, Tecsun?

Things that are important:

  • Ease of use (I’ll be using the controls while pedaling)
  • Weight (smaller and lighter is better)
  • Durability
  • Mini SD capability
  • Radio reception
  • AM, FM and SW capability
  • Li-ion batteries

Not overly important:

  • Ability to scroll through songs/find songs
  • Sound quality (I’ll have wind in my ears anyway)

Things that are not important:

  • Recording ability (I don’t foresee recording anything along the way)
  • Looks
  • Cost (I don’t want to spend $150 on a CC Crane, as the radio may get broken or stolen, but I’m willing to spend some money on a quality product if available).

[…]I’d love to select the best option for this silly ride I’m taking next summer and will happily take any advice.

A cycling trip to Argentina? Nothing silly about that, Pat! What an adventure!

Shortwave radios with MicroSD slots are somewhat limited in numbers, but more and more models have appeared on the market in the past few years.

Readers: can you help Pat with some suggestions/options?  Please comment!

Degen refreshes shortwave product line

Degen-DE221-001

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Paul, who commented with a link to the new Degen DE221 “ultralight” radio: http://ebay.to/1fKWZ2m

Paul’s link lead to the discovery of several new Degen models, in fact. Many of the new models have the same form factor–and a slightly different model number–from their predecessors.

Degen DE221 (updated from Degen 321)

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Degen DE22

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Degen DE23

Degen-DE23

Degen DE26

Degen-DE26

Degen DE27

Degen-DE27

Degen DE36 (updated from Degen DE32)

Degen-DE36

There may be even more 2015 Degen models than those I listed here and, in fact, they could’ve been on the market for a while.

I’ve already purchased the Degen DE221 for review since its predecessor, the DE321, was an acceptable radio for the $20 price tag. The DE321’s analog dial made for very vague tuning, however, so I’m curious if the DE221’s new digital display will be a worthy improvement. At this point, I don’t plan to review any of the other models above.

A source of Sangean shortwave radios in New Zealand

ATS-909X

In response to a post last year where we asked about sources of shortwave radios in New Zealand, SWLing Post reader, James Patterson, writes:

I have now found a very good importer of very good quality shortwave portable radios here in New Zealand.

[T]here is an importer of the Sangean ATS 909X portable radios. He has a shop and warehouse. He imports all Sangean radio products, is excellent to deal with and will ship them anywhere in New Zealand.

I have just recently bought the ATS 909X. I must say that I did buy one off him and found the frequency band coverage on that one [unit] was very limited. [This unit] got mixed in with a batch sent to him, but was meant for a different country with government restrictions on band coverage. The one I have now is “full band” and an excellent portable receiver in every way. I’m very pleased to be able to share this with anyone either living here in New Zealand or wanting to come here for a holiday and in need of good quality shortwave radio with very good SSB.

The importer’s internet site is : www.mayogroup.co.nz

The website will give the full details and contacts of the importer, who is a well-known and trusted person to deal with. He does not advertise on sites like TradeMe. However, he does deal through electronics stores such as 100% Appliances here in NZ.

Many thanks, James, for the report on the Mayo Group as an importer of the Sangean ATS-909X. Very encouraging to hear as there are so few local sources of shortwave radio products in New Zealand.

Of course, those living in New Zealand can always purchase shortwave radios through sellers on eBay, but delivery time may be as long as two weeks or more, depending on the parcel service chosen.

Chris suggests installing a shortwave receiver in your car

Pioneer-DEH-X2650UI

On the topic of shortwave radios in automobiles, SWLing Post reader, Chris, writes:

“Seven years ago, I purchased a Sony Car Stereo with a Shortwave receiver from the Shortwave Store in Canada. It works remarkably well especially on those summer trips to Northern Wisconsin and Michigan when I can get away from the city noise. Last summer while driving from Chicago to Copper Harbor Michigan (a 10 hour drive) I listened to Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, Radio Havana Cuba, Radio Exterior Espana and the BBC (Ascension). It certainly made a long drive more enjoyable.

Below is a video I took last night of a relatively weak signal of Radio Exterior Espana (due to local electrical noise and weather) then followed by a nice strong signal of Radio Romania. The signals were recorded next to Lake Michigan in Chicago.

If you can’t afford a BMW with a Shortwave receiver or you don’t have an appetite for a Smart Car you can always install a receiver easily found for sale on Ebay.”

Click here to view the Pioneer DEH-X2650UI Shortwave Car Auto Radio on eBay.

Of course, the receiver is only as good as its antenna. Chris admits that, “the [radio] installation was a hassle and I had to install an aerial whip antenna (which required drilling).” Obviously, your investment in the whip antenna is paying off, Chris. I’m impressed.

Resources:

I have created an eBay search string to search for shortwave car radios: Click here to search eBay for a mobile shortwave radio.

You can also search for the Pioneer DEH-X2650UI Chris suggested by clicking here.

Smart cars also feature shortwave

SMart-Car

Regarding shortwave in automobiles, Andrea Borgnino points out that the Smart car (manufactured by Mercedes Benz) also has a shortwave radio option.

Check out the following video Andrea shares:

Buying a BMW in South Africa? Shortwave radio is an option!

bwm-swSWLing Post reader, Bob, has a relative who works for BMW in the United States. Recently, Bob learned that some models of BMWs shipped to South Africa have a shortwave radio option.  He followed up with this photo of the radio display [see above].

Wow, what a fab idea! Not only would I love to have a factory-installed shortwave radio in my car, but I must admit that I love the simple design of this digital radio dial: elegant, clean, and just a tad retro and sci-fi, all at once.

Now if I could simply afford the BMW…Sigh!

Vlado’s thrift store find: A Sony ICF-2010

The Sony ICF-2010

Vlado’s Sony ICF-2010 (Click to enlarge)

While visiting my friend, Vlado, this weekend, he showed me his thrift store find: a Sony ICF-2010 in very good condition`. The ‘2010 is a well-known portable amongst serious DXers, and is highly sought-after. Since this radio has not been in production for many years, used models routinely sell for a price in excess of $200 US. Parts radios sell for $50 US or more.

We suspect that the previous owner thought it stopped working. You see, when Vlado plugged in the AC power adapter, nothing happened.

But take note: there is a quirk, at least with some ICF-2010s–they will not power up, even with the AC adapter plugged in, if you don’t have AA batteries installed. Indeed, two AA cells are required for either DC or 120 VAC operation. Once Vlad put AAs in, the radio came to life.

How much did  he pay for his Sony ICF-2010? Five dollars.

Paint me envious!