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What Difference Do Motorbikes Make In Bike Races? | GCN Does Science

What Difference Do Motorbikes Make In Bike Races? | GCN Does Science


– Motor vehicles within
professional bike races are a hot topic right now. But aside from the safety issue, there are a number of
pros who are concerned with the influence they are
having on the outcome of races. In fact, a few high-profile riders have publicly vented their frustration this year on social media. Amongst them, Andre Greipel, Dan Martin, Sep Vanmarcke, and Tosh Van der Sande. The question is though, how much difference do motos really make? We thought it was time for an experiment. – [Matt] Yeah, we’re
gonna do multiple runs along a fairly flat section of quiet road that’s just over two kilometres in length. We’re going to do each run
at exactly the same speed, around 43 kilometres an hour, and measure the average power each time. – [Dan] For the first two runs, I’m going to ride without
anything in front of me, i.e., into clean air. For the second two, I will
ride around five metres behind our camera motorbike. And for the final two runs, I’ll ride at around 10
metres behind the moto. – [Matt] I will then do the same, but in the reverse order of Dan, after which we shall analyse the results and see what, if anything,
the difference was. (driving pop music) – Right, I ended up with
about 43 Ks per hour average, just under three minutes, 2:55 for that, and an average power of 319 watts. So, let’s do that again
and then get pacey. (driving pop music) That is so much easier. I enjoyed that. (driving pop music) The results are in, and you will see the
numbers trickling down in a graphic on the screen at the moment. But in terms of the
percentage differences, for me, when I was five
metres behind the bike, I had an average saving of just under 20%. And when I was 10 metres behind the bike, I still had a significant saving of 11.5%. I’ve done the calculations
for you as well, just so I make sure they’re right. The percentage difference at
five metres behind the bike for you is slightly less than me, 17.3%. But at 10 metres, you also had a significant
saving of 10.6%, which is more, much more than
I was expecting, actually. I thought it would make a difference, but maybe not 10% at 10 metres. It does feel like a long
way behind it, doesn’t it? – I know, when I sat behind at 10 metres, it was like, “That is a long way away,” and you actually wouldn’t
even think in a race situation that you’re actually particularly close, but you’re clearly cutting through the air far more efficiently,
even at that distance. – Yeah, and I think there’s
a couple of things also to bear in mind. Firstly, that we were doing it
at our speed, 43 Ks an hour. Nevertheless, at the
crunch point of big races, those pros on a similar road would be doing upwards of
55 kilometres per hour. And the other thing is that we
did it behind one motorbike. Now, if you look at the overhead shots from the biggest races in the world, when key riders are making their attacks, there’ll be multiple motorbikes and sometimes even cars
not too far in front, and that must make a huge difference. The speed and the number of motos in terms of difference
to what we’ve done today, you’d imagine that the raw power and even the percentages is much greater. – Oh, without a shadow of a doubt. Essentially like an armada or a flotilla of vehicles basically you’re faced with rather
than one, but there you go. – [Dan] So, we’ve concluded
it makes a big difference. Do we have a solution to the problem? – Well, as ever, we don’t have a solution, but we have presented some
pretty interesting data to ponder upon, and it
does make you think, where does the responsibility lie? Is it with the motorcyclists themselves? Is it with bike riders? Is it with the race organisers? Do you know what, I think
it’s a collective decision that we all need to play
a part in, personally. – Yeah, I’ve been thinking
exactly the same thing whilst you were doing
your last couple of runs. We need to have the motorbikes there. There is the safety part of it, but that’s a completely separate thing and not what we were
trying to achieve today. But we do need a motorbike still
to provide us with pictures for our television coverage. We also need our riders there to provide us with still pictures as well. So, we do need vehicles. I do wonder if we need less of them and that they need some more instruction as to how far in front they have to be. However, they can’t have their
eyes on their wing mirrors at all times, so I think, like you, that there has to be some
responsibility from the riders to say, “Look, if there is a motorbike “that’s near enough to
gain an advantage from, “we go on the other side of the road.” And that wouldn’t always be possible when there’s corners and
there’s only one racing line, but on a big straight road, when you’re trying to catch the breakaway, ride into the wind; don’t
ride behind the motorbike. – And I think it’s fair to say, I mean, both of us have
raced at a reasonable level, there’s been many occasions I can remember when I’ve seen the motorbike go, I’ve come in the position
where I wanna attack, and I would generally
follow the motorcycle, and quite often I’ll follow
it across the road and weave so I can stay in that slipstream. So, I’ve done it before, I
know you’ve done it before, it’s just about, I think, potentially changing our kind of mindsets. But again, who’s gonna be the referee in those sorta situations? Is it gonna be the commissaire or is it gonna be one of
those unwritten rules? Fascinating.
– It will be very difficult because it is second nature to some, ’cause you’re almost
computerised to take advantage of sheltering from the
wind whenever you can. Anyway, I think all we can say is that there is a lot
of food for thought, because it does seem like motos potentially are affecting
the outcome of races. – And do you know what? We’d actually love to hear
what you think of the subject, what are your ideas as well, so stick ’em in the
comment section down below. And if you haven’t
already subscribed to GCN, the Global Cycling
Network, your one-stop shop for all things cycling, click
on the globe; it’s free. – Now, a couple of videos that you might be
interested in watching now. There are, of course, cases where slipstreaming is legitimate, and that is behind other riders, and we show you how to ride
on the wheel just down here. – Or, if you click just down here, me and Dan found out in
very sunny and hot Andorra what difference weight
makes when riding uphill. It’s quite a lot, isn’t it? – It was. It was also significant. – Significant results, yet again.

100 comments on “What Difference Do Motorbikes Make In Bike Races? | GCN Does Science

  1. Yes its huge advantage to ride after motobike no doubt. but buging me much more as cycling its clean sport and and how much you have support shitloads of cars and bikes and all of them use petrol and diesel witch all cyclists has to breath. Why not electric one and why so many support cars? why? look other type of sports, if they have that much support on the go. shut be aloud repairs whit tools what you got with you and service station so and so often and not the fucking shitloads of cars with spare wheels and bikes. if you fucking have flat then repair or something else just try to last till service or DNF. i other sports its normal to not finish for technical problems nothing new. im not biast against cycling and i love cycling but that things going on my head for ages.

  2. Not ideal, but maybe the solution is actually too complex to be worth doing. Motos are not new, so I expect all the peleton's chasing calculations take this into account. I guess it's mostly unfair to small chasing groups, without a cycling rock star in their midst, as they might not get a camera bike.

  3. Can you guys please normalize your audio? The voiceover sounds like you're in a toilet bowl and then the music blew my head off!

  4. What about drones replacing at least part of the motor bikes? No drafting there, I guess. Battery lifetime problems could be circumvetned with replacement drones along the way…

  5. Every time I've had a moto in front of me during a race I've just wanted it to bugger off. The fumes they put out are awful breath.

  6. almost microscopic camera lens attached to each top rider as they would in motoGP races, but cycling events need an uprage version of it.

  7. I wonder if the moto drivers practice the mountain descents before hand? Its amazing they can keep up with cyclists  on a big touring bike with a passenger on the back.

  8. They'll be using drones soon enough, which will probably solve the slip stream bit but will come with a host of new problems.

  9. What about a similar experiment with bikes/cars following close behind a cyclist. There is a school of thought that especially cars can effectively push the cyclists along because the air in between is compressed. This would be especially effective during individual time trials.

  10. I view motorcycles as similar to a referee at a soccer match. If the ball bounces off of the ref play continues. They are part of the race and as long as they are not causing accidents, they are part of the race and riders must adjust to their presence

  11. I personnaly dont see much of a problem, simply because its an advantage that anybody can use. There is no exclusivity to which rider can ride behind the motos.

  12. Really cool video! Can you do some GCN does science to tell me how much added drag we get from cars going the other direction? I know that wind off a big truck headed the other way always feels like it is slowing me down.

  13. There is so much money at stake that I think it is impossible to govern human nature. Some, at least a few will do everything they can to gain any advantage. And trying to fairly judge who "went over the line" is equally impossible. Sagan's DQ is a prime case in point.

  14. fair point you make but who realistically is not going to get every advantage they can get from drafting a Moto. +1 on the drone idea, would make sense if they replaced the huge helicopters with drones as well

  15. There is no solution unless you don't want the view from the bikes or the aid from the bikes. It's imperfect

  16. less motorcycles, more aerial footage. TDF should use drones.
    they give great footage, and can be easily controlled (and even synchronized). plus the combination of smaller size and not needing to be on the road with the riders, would likely be safer.

  17. Hey GCN, oh so close, you just missed the mark in solving this motorbike issue. The question isn't do riders benefit from racing behind motorbikes; of course they do. The actual question is can the (TV) viewer tell the difference between what type of lens length the camera operators/photographers are using? Can camera operators film from farther away from the riders without the audience noticing? Thus, please do another GCN video with the camera crew as presenter using different types of lenses for filming. Perhaps even, make it a week long contest to see if your viewers can guess at which length you guys (the presenters) are being filmed at. Make sense?

  18. For big vehicles I can feel their wind shadow from 50 meters back. Off course the riders are drafting off the motorbikes. It's embarrassing. I'm amazed no one hasn't brought this up before. The only solution is to use drones. There is technology available in some of these that will automatically follow or lead something by a certain distance. GPS can be used to follow the course. Their batteries won't last a whole stage, but rotating in a fresh drone during a helicopter shot should be easy.

  19. here's a good question "what is the saving in watts between being in the peloton against being in a breakaway of three". the only reason I say three is because that (to the best of my reckoning) is the fastest breakaway.

  20. I agree with most that you said  BUT  I do not think it is the cyclist fault if the motos and cars are in the way.. But still keep the rule about riders drafting cars when coming back in the caravan ..  I think you may have missed one part of the test how much does the cars and motos in the back push the riders in front of them..

  21. They might increase the speed of peletons, chase groups and individuals bridging, but do they affect the outcome if all riders have the opportunity to use the camera or official motorbikes for drafting? Seems easier to just go open slather than to try and regulate or impose the always frustrating "unwritten rule" edict.

  22. As long as there is a bike in front of the break and a bike in front of the peleton then theres no problem. Set the gap for by projecting a simple light/laser grid from the back of the moto onto the road.

  23. I did a blind analysis of an experiment about one cyclist in a TT position drafting another cyclist at 12 metres (used laser pointer to maintain distance). 12m since that's a common triathlon drafting distance rule. In UCI ITTs it's actually 25m.

    http://alex-cycle.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/pour-me-draft.html

    In short, this rider attained a significant reduction in power demand at 40km/h when drafting compared with when not drafting.
    ~ 30W in still-ish air
    ~ 20W with cross winds

    So the results from drafting motos does not surprise me at all. They make a substantial difference to the speed attainable/sustainable or to the energy demand at a given speed.

  24. Aside from this, even motorbikes going behind TT bikes make difference; according to this study:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167610516302306#bib44
    You should try this too!

  25. I saw in the tour on Sunday that Quintana was sitting behind his team car for 10 or 15 minutes which really got me mad and they should find a way to dispose of all motos in these races.

  26. Attack. Only reason to sit up and wait is if contender (not just leader) is knocked off bike or run over by service car. Poop issues, mechanicals, cramps or bad legs are within rider/team control. This isn't a group ride. It's a professional race.

  27. What about breathing all that pollution from the exhausts? We need electric bikes asap, or better yet, drones that wont bump into anyone.

  28. There is also the psychological advantage of having something to chase.
    I think as a rider, you take whatever shelter you can get– commissaires should police motos, especially when they are giving advantage to a breakaway, or chase.

  29. If all the riders are drafting other riders, it seems reasonable that the one lead rider can draft a motorbike. That's how they do it in Keirin races.

  30. Very interesting comments all around, many sarcastic and/or funny, which led me to think. While I was doing so, I considered that there is not an easy answer for this issue, and that it will take some longer periods of thought, and trial, to come up with something.
    Drones: Who will control them? A person in a car? from the helo? From a moto (then there'd still be motos). What happens when they go under tree cover or around a corner and loose sight? Drone battery runs out and it crashes into the whole peleton! But, there is tech out there that will keep a drone a set distance and position from a person that has the smart phone app that is controlling it. 'Twould be cool to be able to use the GPS trackers on bikes to program a drone to 'follow' a certain rider.

    Cameras: I like the idea of longer zoom lenses. Why can't still photo's be clipped from video streams for action shots? I wonder what portion of photos taken from a moving moto of a moving cyclist actually get used, so is it really worth it given the issues with so many moto's and pollution?

    Electric Vehicles: I'm all on board for electric vehicles that are in the peleton, although not the subject of this discussion. There should be no issue with speed. Some of the longer stages might be a charging issue, but with no stage over 225 km and speeds averaging only 50kph, there'd possibly be no real issue. Think of the sponsor money to the company that provides portable charging ports hooked to battery trucks at the end of each stage!! (We power THE tour! Charge Le Tour to us! Le Tour gets its power from . . .. . !)

  31. Is this a big problem? I guess if certain riders are getting an advantage from always having a motorbike by them cos they're the local favorite then yes.

  32. I just realized that if you are trying to chase down a group of 4 or 5, your effort will begin to ease up when you are 30 feet away. I've always thought that you had to be within 3 meters to have any effect.

  33. I chase buses all the time on my road bike… They still charge me pensioners discount and stop every 500 meters but I get to the city first

  34. Other than the safety concerns and possible inhalation of exhaust fumes I don’t think the motorcycles and other vehicles are that much of an advantage or disadvantage to any of the riders, although the rider in front may be riding in the vehicle’s slipstream the riders behind are also following in his/her slipstream and it may very well be that the advantage is felt by all riders not just the leader, that is after all an advantage of riding in a peloton.
    It would be interesting to see a test on the effect a motorcycle has on the riders a couple of spaces behind the leader.

  35. The professional rides remain some of the toughest rides in the world. To get to the front of the pack takes pure raw power.

  36. How about using drones to take pictures?
    I have seen drones fly over national borders on missions… surely we could use a few to cover races….
    Just a thought…

  37. LOL ! At the first look of the video when starting to ride on the road ( without motorbike ) I was like .. Hey, you're on the wrong side of the road .. Then my brain switched back on and was like .. Oh riiiight.. UK .. ! 🙂

  38. Use some chase cars, and have them deploying aerial drones for the shots. Carry a lot of drones, let them land on the side of the road where staff can pick them up. Have the cars go further ahead, maybe 100-150 meters ahead and to the side of the road. Maybe that would do…

  39. Very interesting take on things as only GCN can manage to do and quite well I might add.
    I wouldn't have thought it to be quite so much but that's utterly astonishing.
    Now I understand why the pros are complaining so much

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