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I find it super strange that there is no popular offline walkie talkie app for mobile devices. It could be really handy when you are biking with someone for a long distance! You could talk with your friends all the way without any problem. And the best part is that it is free because you will use local network Wifi, or bluetooth.

I have been searching for quite some time and the only app I found was Intercom. It does exactly what I need, provides an easy way to communicate without an internet. But the problem is that it is super glitchy! It can just stop receiving and transferring voice. If you use headset which could be really cool when it is loud on the road, like it usually is, it just does not use headsets. And so on. Very bad...

So the question remains! How to communicate with friends when you are on a ride?

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    If you are biking for a long distance (multi-day touring), battery life would become the limiting factor. A modern mobile phone with active WiFi is unlikely to live longer than about 24 hours, after which it no longer can be used for calls, even emergency ones. In professional road racing, they are likely to use compact radios with headsets to communicate between riders and support vehicles. Such device should be lightweight enough and work for at least several hours on one recharge. – Grigory Rechistov Oct 18 '19 at 19:45
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    Bluetooth headset, flat rate phone plan. – Argenti Apparatus Oct 18 '19 at 23:56
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    The range of Bluetooth and WiFi can be quite limiting - just when you need it to work well (back marker gets a puncture) you get too far apart for it to work. – Chris H Oct 19 '19 at 8:19
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    leave the phone in your pocket, learn to project your voice better. Airhorn works well as an attention-getter. – Criggie Oct 20 '19 at 2:59
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    walkie talkie app for mobile devices Oh heck no. The last thing a group needs is another incentive for some bonehead to start fiddling with his doggone phone in the middle of the pack. – Andrew Henle Oct 20 '19 at 13:20
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Have you tried talking with the people you ride with? If traffic is too noisy to understand each other, look for different routes. What is more, such busy traffic is not the time and place for chit-chat.

On a moderately quiet road I find it easy, and pleasant, to chat while riding side by side.

When riding in a file yelling and gestures work well. If you go on a group ride it might be a good idea to agree on some useful phrases. Select them in such a way that similar phrases sound distinctive.

There are a few hand signs you may want to learn. Typically one uses the hand towards the centre of the road to indicate. Most symbols are displayed low, just beside one's buttocks.

Stop: Flat hand up with bent elbow (not in USA, might indicate turn) Hand down, palm facing rear.

Pot hole, obstacle: Finger points, down, at line that leads into the hole.

Slow: Flat hand with palm facing down, wrist extended, elbow angled, hand and lower arm parallel to ground, move hand slowly up and down.

Here's a video explaining some symbols:

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    That's all good (so +1) but a group can get big enough that it takes a few steps to relay a message from the front to of the group to the back, and even more the other way. We unexpectedly had 16 on the club run the other night, in the dark, and we couldn't really pass messages forwards before they were out of date. Or you might decide that the group is too big to keep together and open a gap or two. Of course that could easily get out of Bluetooth or WiFi range, and Bluetooth is tricky at the best of times. – Chris H Oct 19 '19 at 7:53
  • Part of a problem is that where I am from it is not considered acceptable to ride side by side on the road on a bike. I also do not consider yelling because it can be disturbing for other people who live there. – Simon Moshenko Oct 19 '19 at 10:09
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I'm not recommending the way we did this a few days ago, but I reckon it could provide the basis for something more sensible, not for chat but for some of the important stuff.

The club has a WhatsApp group and I have my phone on my bars. Notifications pop up when there are messages. When stopped at traffic lights I could read incoming messages (from someone who arrived late) and start to reply, but the lights changed, and texting while riding isn't easy or advisable.

How this could work better is to have a priority group that's the only one with notifications enabled, and stop to send messages. Often when you really need to send a message you've stopped anyway, like a mechanical, or someone is lost. Keep them short and to the point and you don't have to stop to read - it's no more distracting than checking your navigation. That's worked for me when the group split on a windy hill, the good climbers didn't realise, and the planned road was marked closed - did they take it or not? (No, they went a slightly longer way round, realised they were missing someone, and stopped to find a message suggesting where to regroup).

Where this doesn't work so well is if you don't need to stop: perhaps you get a vehicle stuck behind the group, and you'd like to let it past, either for reasons of courtesy or self preservation, so need to tell the leader.

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  • Yeah, I do not think it is a perfect solution either. May be a loud horn would be a better solution for your use case. It is easy to use even while riding and everyone hear it instantly. – Simon Moshenko Oct 19 '19 at 10:18
  • @SimonMoshenko but a horn can only carry a few simple signals, and the loud ones are easily confused with car horns, which are common enough to ignore – Chris H Oct 19 '19 at 10:26
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when it is loud on the road, like it usually is

Then cycle on less busy roads. It's more pleasant all round: it's quieter, there are fewer cars to worry about, you're not holding up traffic, traffic isn't stopping you go where you want to go.

How to communicate with friends when you are on a ride?

Ride on roads that are quiet enough that you can ride side-by-side and just talk. If there are more than two of you, just talk to the person who happens to be at your side at the moment: even if you were just walking down the street as a group of, say, five people, you probably wouldn't be talking to the whole group, most of the time.

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  • It is quite rare, at least from where I am at, to have a road where riding side by side would be comfortable. We have a lot of cars, and even the least popular roads have cars passing quite often. – Simon Moshenko Oct 19 '19 at 10:15

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