Trading one obsession for another


That bike WAS my 2005 Triumph America. For several years, it was an obsession, and a point of pride. Most bikers around South Carolina don’t ride British bikes. I love them.

Once I started getting involved in ham radio, I realized I wasn’t riding the Triumph as often. My free time was spent on the radio, attending meetings, or volunteering for public service. Earlier this year, I realized it had been months since I’d even thought of taking the bike out of the garage.  On a warm day in April, I went on a long ride out to Fairfield County and back. I had a good ride, but I realized it wasn’t something I was obsessed about anymore. The bike was fun, but that’s all it was. I didn’t have much passion for it, so I started investigating ways to sell it.

Around this same time, I’d developed a craving for a new HF radio, one with a modern architecture that was designed to work with the modes I prefer, namely digital modes. The used FT-847 has served me well, but it’s older and fragile. The fans have started wheezing a bit and I think the frequency is off. I had big plans to get crystal filters for it, but wondered if it was worth spending the money on.

My plan was to retire the 847 as an HF rig, keep it hooked up for its excellent VHF and UHF capabilities, and invest in a modern, high-performing, no compromises HF-only radio. I did research, talked with hams, read discussion boards and ultimately decided to go with the Elecraft K3 kit. I have my pal Todd, KN4QD, to thank for being the devil on my shoulder urging me to get a K3. He did not steer me wrong.

So I sold the bike and the very same day, placed an order for the K3 and the P3 kits. Last Tuesday a 23-pound parcel arrived while I was home on a week-long “staycation.” The timing was perfect. I spent the next 2-1/2 days in ham radio nirvana, putting the K3 together, board-by-board. It fired up without any issues and I’ve since spent a fair amount of time optimizing the settings and configuring it for my personal habits.

First order of business was getting my Signalink re-jumpered for the K3. Combined with the special K3 cable, a gift from Todd, I was able to get digital modes working right away. I hooked up the Bencher paddles next and played with the internal keyer. On the 847, I found the internal keyer unusable for squeeze-keying thanks to its lack of Iambic B mode. I never really warmed up to the keyer options on the WinKeyer USB either. I was pleasantly surprised to find Iambic B mode on the K3 suits me perfectly — so much so that I felt comfortable enough to work some DX using the paddles only.

It goes without saying the filtering options on this rig are amazing. I have the 500hz and 200hz roofing filters. I was doing some ragchew PSK this weekend when a very strong adjacent station blanked the frequency over the gentleman I was conversing with. I clicked the 500hz filter in-line, narrowed it a bit and the loudmouth was gone.

I don’t normally get told my PSK signal “looks good on the waterfall” but two guys have mentioned that, unsolicited.

I can’t wait to work some voice, because the SSB receiver — after some tweaking with RF gain, EQ settings and other deep menu options — sounds freaking amazing. I can tune into the weakest signals and still experience a punchy clarity that was missing on my 847. My wife, who doesn’t care an iota about radio, happened to walk in the other day and commented on how “good” the radio sounded as I was listening to some DX stations.

Sure, sure… the radio SHOULD deliver high performance in all areas, given the price point. Did I need a K3? Probably not — after all, I was able to achieve Worked All States on my old Yaesu — but this will be the last rig I buy or need.  And I did give up my “freedom of the open road” to get here, hehe.

So, if anyone needs a motorcycle helmet (size medium), a pair of motorcycle boots, two jackets and a backpack for cycling, lets talk…

2 thoughts on “Trading one obsession for another

    • Howdy Clif, I see you found me. I really don’t miss the bike that much. I figure I won’t kill myself with a ham radio. A bike on the other hand… can be dangerous.

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