Casey Gibson, in the rain at the Amgen Tour of California, along with moto pilot Alex Dudley, who has driven him for over 10 years. Photo: Jonathan Devich.
  • ChinookPass

    With all due respect for Mr. Gibson, all we’ve heard from the motos, the managers, and the UCI have been rationalizations. No real outlook for changes in the near future. At least Mr. Gibson feels the need for motos to do “better”, but it’s hard for fans to deny what our eyes see. Too many close calls and now, an irreversible tragedy.

  • Joshua Mills

    I come from a track and field background, and have just in the last year or so began to really get into cycling and watching cycling races, and I believe that cycling suffers some of the same problems that track and field does, and endurance sports in general, really. That is a lack of fan interest, especially here in the U.S. Now I don’t know what other countries are like in terms of fan interest, but it seems that due to the lack of fans, or mainstream coverage (outside of the Tour de France and the Olympics for track and field, in which everyone and their mother pretends to know who is going to win, aka the bandwagoner) that the race organizers and media at the smaller races, or really every race, are trying to “get the shot” and are pushing REALLY hard to get more coverage of the races. This is obviously causing more of a rider safety problem, as everyone else on the roads are trying their darnedest to get the best and most coverage that they can. I think a way forward, at least in terms of race coverage, is to multiply the number of “on-board cameras” that are used to cover the races. I know that Velon was experimenting with this last year, especially with the “archived-type” footage that they would post after the stages at the Tour de France. As the technology grows, and the cameras/live-feed transmitters get smaller, this will become easier. And to accommodate the extra weight, maybe the UCI could change the weight limit to include the weight of the cameras. I truly think that on-board cameras could make the casual cycling fan more interested in the races, as they are introduced to the intricacies of the pro peloton, and it would also serve as a way to potentially cut down on the number of TV motos that are on the roads and in/around the peloton. I know there will be challenges to my idea, and I understand that it will be a few more years before this type of tech would be possible in a greater scale, to cover a race such as the Tour, but I think it is a potential way forward.

    • VELOcamp

      In regard to fan interest – head to Northern Europe over the past / next few weeks, and it may change your viewpoint…

  • I think there is a technology solution that is being missed. Since the UCI has approved radios for so many (all?) races now, there is a form of cyclist communication that is not being used. If we know where the motos are at any given moment, and where the peloton is on the road, then radio communications to motos and cyclists could be coordinated. All it would take is a race marshall who tracks motos and cyclists, notifies a moto when a move is needed, and alerts cyclists that a moto will be moving through (on left or right side). In order to avoid cyclists taking advantage of moto moves, a penalty could be initiated to disallow movements during the few seconds a moto is clearing.

    Positioning gear and software could help track motos, though that may be another level, or different technology. Transponder data on bicycles would be another way to coordinate moves, if modifying a transponder to do that near real-time is possible. This is where future technology could improve this idea. However, I think existing resources of radios is already good enough to control moto movements (and team cars).

    • I like it. A bit like how control towers at airports function, only the control tower is a moving commissaire unit (Car or moto).

    • MavicMoto

      That guy already exists, but you have to know what you’re looking at; Ed Bailey at the big US races or the guy in the red moto jacket at the ASO races. They are called the Regulator and they direct traffic when the head commissaire isn’t nearby, (he has top priority). They are on the radio to the whole fleet of moto drivers.

      • Does he also communicate through the teams race radios to coordinate with the cyclists?

  • skian

    From a professional pilots point of view:

    After a quarter million k in my legs on a bicycle in the US and in Europe I moved to Boulder Colorado and I hung up my bicycle. I was never more than an amateur racer, but spent a career in the cycling industry riding with professionals and racing on the weekends. I also spent much of my life racing motorcycles on the road and in America’s deserts.

    I’m now a professional photo journalist in the motorcycle industry and spend much of my time chasing motorcycles across the deserts of the US and Mexico. Mexico is were most of the big US rally races are and where chasing at 75 mph in the dirt is a common theme. The pace is fast, and there is no room for error.

    I agree with you that experience is lacking in the bunch, not just in motorcycle handling skills but also knowledge of how the peloton breathes. The bunch is like a living organism, it moves it shakes and it quivers and if you have not raced a bicycle in tight spaces and understand what is going on in the bunch it is a dangerous place to be especially with 500 lbs between your legs and 250 on your back, it’s really no place for an ametuer, where you have million dollar bodies is only the place of a professional.

    Being a professional pilot is a profession but without proper compensation in the states it’s an ametuer program. What professional gives their skills away for free, an ametuer. In the last decade I’ve worked as a pilot for regional races for some of my friends who had contracts to fill if they could support my day rate, as a professional photographer and a pilot I try to bring composition to the mix for my photo passenger on the back who is usually 250 lbs of solid male. In order to handle a 500 lb moto and a 250 lb journalist it’s no easy or quick task, risk management is the key. There is no such thing as safe racing, risk is always involved, but with good skills and risk management you can avert being in the wrong place at the wrong time most of the time.

    A professional pilot is or should be an elite level motorcycle rider, elite level athlete a bonus with a knowledge of how the peloton works and how a bicycle race evolves. I agree moto photos in the bunch should all have radios to communicate and all should go through a stringent risk management course on the bike to be allowed to pilot in any professional level race. I personally won’t provide service for ametuer events because the ametuers knowledge of how to work around a moto is not there and neither is the skillset most of the time.

    I also feel the photographers should attend a course on how to be a passenger and have a certification also. Too many times have I been given a passenger who’s never been on a moto, a pro bike race is not where to cut your teeth.

    Chasing bicycles to me is like being in slow motion compared to chasing motorcycles for POV footage, but things can change incredibly fast. I love watching a pro feature unfold on a moto, from seeing the spittle flying out of young sacrificial lambs, to the deciding moments in the bunch at the end. Distance and respect must be given to the riders, but riders must also give respect back.

    More times than I can count I’ve had riders accelerate to catch the air behind my wheel and nothing is worse than realizing your gonna get caught. It could be a sharp turn ahead, you could get pinched in between two groups. There really there is no school to mention or a place to gain this knowledge, and in the end, no respect given to those with knowledge if others will do it for free. For me, the promoters have no interest in paying for something they can get for free. For this reason I rarely work bike races anymore, and for this reason I believe in attaining a liscence.

    What do they get for free, people with little skillset and understanding. Don’t get me wrong, there are many skilled pilots in the bunch, but it only takes one to cause chaos. I am for a certification and not just a class, but a test of skills and a test or proof of knowledge of racing in tight quarters. You need a pro card to race in the bunch, you should have a certification and a license to through a thousand pound rhino around million dollar bodies to.

    We have an opportunity in America and abroad to set an exemplary standard in bicycle racing, and we owe it to this great group of young American and international athletes to only put the best next to them. Riding a motorcycle or driving a car in the bunch will never be safe, but we can employ good risk management skills to implement the best risk adverse race for those involved and still bring exciting images of excellence. This is why I’m a proponent of liscencing pilots.

    Ian Reid
    Boulder-moto.com

  • Matt Ellis

    Excellent input here. Agreed that all drivers of any vehicle, whether a moto or a car must have certification, and not just a paper that says certified after sitting through a two hour seminar. But, certification needs to involve actual skills training with simulations that involve common race scenarios and actual competency testing. As for the use of radios on the riders, in my mind they should only be permitted to alert the riders of road conditions that may impact rider safety, such as important road furniture or roundabouts coming up, descents, weather changes, etc. Limiting radio use to only road information woulod eliminate the other chatter about race strategy and so-on that tends to clog up the airways, thereby ensuring that all the riders get all the needed information about what’s coming up on the road.
    Obviously, different groups naturally form within the race- lead group, chase groups, main peloton, groupetto, so there could be one radio car per group (provided there is enough distance between the groups). Also, this would make bike racing seem less like a pre-determined chess match and more exciting for the fans to watch. That’s a good side benefit, but a different topic that is secondary and no topic has more importance than rider safety.
    One thing I’ve thought of for a while is, with continuing advances inn technology, why couldn’t the various parties involved (UCI, organizers, photographers, sponsors, etc.) investigate the use of drones? Obviously there needs to be some motos and cars in the caravan, but there needs to be reduction in the overall numbers of these vehicles in the race, the way I see it. Whether it’s the photographers (the “photo motos”), commissaries, race marshals, couldn’t at least SOME motos be taken off the road and replaced with a drone?
    I don’t pretend to be an expert, so maybe it might work, maybe not. But, right now, I don’t think that any solution is too crazy to at least be investigated to improve rider safety. The cameras on drones are getting better and the drones themselves are getting better. Over race courses of 200+km, maybe one or two drone(s) can be controlled by someone or a couple people in the passenger seat of a car at the back or the front of the caravan.
    Altitude of the drones may have to be limited to avoid conflict with aircraft and no one would obviously want the riders having to contend with drones buzzing around their heads and no one watching the race on tv would want to see a rider have to swat a drone out of the air as he/she is riding in the pack. But, setting a minimum and maximum altitude for the drones would be easy enough and would address those possible problems.
    Even if a few drones replaced only say 10 motos from the caravan, that’s 10 less motos that can potentially be involved in a collision with a rider and another tragedy like last weekend’s incident could be prevented.
    The use of drones along with some of the other measures mentioned on here and in the podcast that was previously posted on this site, I believe can greatly improve rider safety.
    Cycling is obviously, an inherently dangerous sport, which is part of what draws us to it. And a race, with a large group of riders in close quarters on roads that often have lots of furniture, riding along at high speeds often beside cars and motocycles with photographers on the back, will always be more dangerous than a casual group rider or local club race. But, as other posters have indicated, risks can be properly managed and, where possible, minimized. I believe these measures above can significantly reduce the safety risks posed to riders. At the very least the should be investigated.

    • VELOcamp

      I for one hope that the drone pilots will have certification, and not just a paper that says certified after sitting through a two hour seminar. Otherwise, who knows what could happen…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9T6-KPFRq8

      • Matt Ellis

        Well played. But, it needs to be demonstrated the drone pilots know what they’re doing so a rider isn’t decapitated by a drone that is flying too low or suddenly falls out of the sky and that competence is demonstrated through certification. Similar to the certification for the drivers of motos and cars, the certification for drone pilots would have to be more than a paper and sitting through a seminar.

  • Berne Shaw

    No motors. No photographers inside or near the peloton. Gimbals and telephoto lenses. No team cars. Only enhanced neutral support cars. No sticky bottles nor drafting cars. Special safety radio for all riders with emergency channel to teams. Radio warns of danger and crashes. All racers have miniature cameras and video. Problem solved.

    • Larry @CycleItalia

      Problem solved, but what would the TV broadcasts look like? Problem would REALLY be solved if nobody bothers to watch and the sport goes away.

    • roddders

      No motors. No camera bikes. No cobbles. No fast descents. No barriers. No tight corners. No wet roads. No damp roads. No really hot roads.

      Problem solved.

  • Ronan Fox

    Many of the videos we’ve seen recently have featured pretty unpredictable manoeuvres by riders, unaware of the moto’s approach, leaving the moto driver little room for manoeuvre. ASO’s Paris Dakar uses a system called Sentinal to warn participants of another approaching vehicle either from behind or ahead. This is necessary due to the extreme dust and speed. Perhaps something similar could be dreamt up to give riders a warning of approaching moto’s, perhaps on their SPD/Garmin screen, Combined with enforcement/training for motos this might be very effective.

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