Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Omerta in the bike biz?

 OMERTA - In the bike biz?

Most people are familiar with the term omerta when it comes to doping in cycling, but what about equipment failure?

In yesterday's Tour de France stage there was a crash resulting in a scary-looking breakage of a bike frame*. If this video link still works you can see it HERE but the major cycling websites pretty much ignored this.

So much so that I was unable to find a still image of a broken bicycle in a racing situation to include in this post. Most of the images viewable online are of bikes destroyed by collisions with automobiles, something nobody can blame on the bicycle.

Our theory is the cycling "enthusiast press" is so loathe to offend a potential advertiser they self-censor when it comes to equipment failures. They show bike changes all the time but don't seem interested in the reason bikes are so frequently swapped out these days, like changing a bandage.

Chains drop, tires go flat, electronic shifting batteries go dead, handlebars, seatposts or frames break and if there's a TV camera nearby the director nearly always cuts away quickly from any image that would suggest equipment failure. As a result video rarely seems to make it to places like Youtube. You might see the rider being pushed back into the race on a spare bike, but rarely do you see what happened to the one he/she was riding before the change.

Of course unlike F1 or MOTOGP, (where the TV coverage seems far less likely to shy away from these types of images) the bike biz is trying to convince you to buy bikes exactly like those ridden by your favorite pro racer rather than an F1 car or MOTOGP machine so our guess is the last thing they want you to see is how fragile some of this equipment truly is? Especially when you're gonna be riding it around on your local roads.

While we'd not go so far as to suggest the sport return to 1913 when Eugene Christophe had to carry his broken bike down the mountain to the nearest village and weld his fork back together, only to be penalized for allowing someone else to operate the bellows, perhaps a limit to bike changes or some more honest press coverage would be an incentive to make modern bikes a bit more resistant to crash damage/failure.

If we're going to read about how the "Groundpounder 5000" helped Joe Crankarm to victory, shouldn't we also hear details about when it fails, costing him a victory or worse, risking injury or death?

Finally, we're firmly against any attempts to further reduce the minimum weight of bikes used in competition below the current 6.8 kg, not only for safety reasons but also as a small measure of cost-control in a sport where expensive technology already plays a too-important role.

*Update: Two days later a big star's chain somehow comes off as he begins his final sprint. What do we get for explanation: "That's f__king cycling!" the rider said. So far one of the few video clips capturing a rider's frustration with equipment failure is THIS. 

Since then we've watched a few big stars remove their right foot from the pedals and kick at the front derailleur with their heels before putting up their hands to request another bike from the team car while the TV director seems to cut away ASAP. Later, one of these stars took yet another bike from the car - this time it looked like the bike he started the race on, now repaired. What is going on?

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