On-bike cameras in the pro peloton? Brian Cookson hints at innovations in cycling

Fabian Cancellara downhill footage? Yes please!

by John Stevenson   April 9, 2014  

Brian Cookson (copright Britishcycling.org.uk)

Could we soon be seeing on-bike footage from big road races like the Tour de France? That’s the possibility UCI president Brian Cookson mentioned in a speech to a sports conference this morning.

On-bike cameras would open up possibilities such as “being able to share the view of Chris Froome as he rose up Mount Ventoux or came up the Champs-Elysees” in last year’s Tour de France, said Cookson.

Delivering the keynote speech to the opening day of the SportAccord convention of international sporting bodies, Cookson reiterated his determination to win the fight against doping in cycling, and hinted at a more flexible regime over technological innovations. He also repeated his suggestion that cyclo-cross should become part of the Winter Olympics, and suggested it should be joined by other sports that traditionally take place in winter.

He said: “We need to embrace innovation and sell our sport – in all its disciplines.”

Cookson said that cycling’s great strength was its huge worldwide grassroots base. He said: “In 2012, bicycles outsold cars in 26 of the European Union’s 28 member states. In China alone well over 400 million people own a bicycle. All this puts the UCI in a very special and unique position, and I want to see us realise the full potential of this wonderful base to our sport.”

“One of the biggest challenges – not just for cycling, but for many sports – is the need to evolve while staying true to the essence of your sport. How do you progress and embrace innovation in order to make the spectator and viewer feel even more engaged? We will look at technology such as cameras on bikes and in team cars to see how they can be used to enhance the viewer experience. Imagine being able to share the view of Chris Froome as he rose up Mount Ventoux or came up the Champs-Elysees to win last summer’s Tour de France. And why stop at cameras - what about having microphones on bikes or sharing rider data on screen.”

Cookson also spoke strongly about the UCI’s determination to solve the doping problem that has plagued cycling for the last several decades.

He said: “We have to have a sport where a parent can bring their child, and know that their son or daughter can go all the way to the top if they have the ability and dedication. Without having to lie, without having to cheat, without having to do things that will risk their health, without having to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder. If we cannot do that as a governing body, then we have failed our members and our sport. But we are not going to fail. We are going to succeed.”

Turning to the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 discussion of the future of the Olympics, Cookson said it was important to have an “open and positive” debate.

He said: “If we, as leaders of our sports, cannot think out of the box and have this kind of discussion in good faith then we certainly run the risk of seeing our sports stagnate.”

That may well be a riposte to the president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), Marius Vizer who recently mocked Cookson’s suggestion that indoor sports such as judo and track cycling could be moved to the Winter Olympics to reduce the pressure on the Summer Games.

Cookson said: “In my own sport’s case, I have publicly advocated that a discipline like cyclo-cross would be an ideal addition to the Winter Games. It takes place during northern hemisphere winter, it offers equal medal opportunities for men and women, infrastructure costs to install a circuit are minimal and the first across the line principle is clear. And above all, it is a sport that reaches out to an incredibly wide cross-section of the population.

“These discussions fit with Agenda 2020 and I do believe it is right to discuss how we can be creative in looking at both the Summer and Winter sports programmes. For me this should include whether there is merit in considering sports that traditionally take place in the winter months being a part of the Winter Games. And if this leads to more disciplines and new sports in the Games, more people watching and engaged, then that could be a very good solution to several different challenges.”

The full text of Cookson's speech is available on the UCI website.

20 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Team Sky got where they are today by focussing on tiny gains, wouldn't a camera be a tiny loss? If every competitor in a race had a camera there would be no disadvantage but even if only the water bearer had the camera that competitor could be 0.0001% less effective. I love the idea but it would be a bigger sell to the teams.

posted by Gashead [30 posts]
9th April 2014 - 12:58

18 Likes

Fantastic idea. If F1 can integrate cameras despite the aero compromises then the 200 grams(?) or so can surely easily be accommodated on a roadbike, especially if the minimum bike weight limit is also being looked at and if TV revenue is a factor.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:04

18 Likes

I seem to remember from F1 that they all had to accommodate the camera, and if the broadcaster didn't want a camera in that space then a weight would be put in the slot. It would probably be fairly easy to do something similar on bikes.

The camera itself wouldn't weigh a lot, but if you wanted it to be part of the live footage, batteries and radio transmitters would start to mount up very quickly.

posted by bollandinho [52 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:11

21 Likes

On bike microphones and camera's would be awesome.

I'd also like to see speed data and hill gradient used more often as well.

posted by Scoob_84 [203 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:19

26 Likes

Unfortunate example of Chris Froome at the top of the article. I'd rather see the road and riders, rather than his stem Smile

Could be a good idea though, weight issues are negligible since most bikes can easily be under the UCI weight limit, so a camera and related kit could probably be easily accommodated. I bet there would have to be discussions about location, making sure the power meter display isn't visible etc.

Would there be issues with picture quality? F1 cars are (for the most part) flat on the track, in bike racing, there can be quite a lot of lateral movement when out of the saddle. Is camera technology sufficiently advanced to mitigate this?

Would be amazing to have a bar mounted camera showing the view/speed of an alpine descent!

posted by apidya [4 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:28

17 Likes

If the UCI get behind cameras, will the make British Cycling reverse their recent rule change, banning cameras from helmets, bikes and body harnesses. Even in test runs on MTB courses and of course in road racing?

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8873 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:32

26 Likes

I've seen a film with some on-bike footage from the Tour (Chasing Legends maybe?) so I don't think it would be that hard to sell the teams on it.
Don't think that was live stream though so maybe all the extra gubbins to support that would be a turn off.
As pointed out though a lot of teams add weights anyway to get up to the minimum.

posted by Chuck [384 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:33

10 Likes

Although we don't know what's going to happen to the 6.8kg weight limit, the fact is that pro-level bikes often undercut this by some distance, so adding cameras, batteries and transmitters might simply be a case of removing the ballast that was dropped in the seat tube etc.

The idea of a first person view of Nibali descending or Cav sprinting turns me on. As does on-screen telemetry, actually. Show us the heart rates and power outputs of all the guys in the break!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3208 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:36

23 Likes

Gkam84 wrote:
If the UCI get behind cameras, will the make British Cycling reverse their recent rule change, banning cameras from helmets, bikes and body harnesses. Even in test runs on MTB courses and of course in road racing?

That would be brilliant!

tommyjz's picture

posted by tommyjz [10 posts]
9th April 2014 - 13:54

22 Likes

live pictures would probably have to rely on near-field communication and the rider being close enough to a receiver, eg on a camera bike; anything else would need a more powerful transmitter and that means extra weight. On a climb that should be fairly easy, as it would be on a stage finish where you could have static receivers. on a descent it might be trickier.

live camera footage would vary considerably, I expect, depending on the circumstances and also the rider's style.

assuming you're broadcasting the live image it'd be great (and fairly simple) to be able to get live telemetry too, power output, speed and the like.

when they bin the race radios they can use that little pocket for the transmitter Big Grin

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7391 posts]
9th April 2014 - 14:11

13 Likes

Given that the teams are moving billboards, it is hard to see why a team would be against the idea of getting more coverage.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [165 posts]
9th April 2014 - 14:11

19 Likes

Maybe they can have their sponsor logos in the corner of the bike feed Wink

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7391 posts]
9th April 2014 - 14:23

10 Likes

It gets a big +1 for me. Party

I also want to see some super-slow-motion HD footage like they have in Tennis and at the World Cup.

Dedicated cycling price comparison | http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [191 posts]
9th April 2014 - 15:34

12 Likes

I hope this is enacted I'm sure we'd all like the opportunity to see more cycling of all types from the big events and the more viewpoints you have the better.

It wont always be great but to have the option there for when it is. I can imagine it would be useful for determine who caused a crash too.

With the advent of Google glass why can't we have riders eye views.

posted by Steve Jarvis [4 posts]
9th April 2014 - 16:25

9 Likes

They could all just switch to using these bad boys. I've heard nothing but good things and the quality of the footage seems to be up there with helmet cams

http://www.immortal.co.uk/

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8873 posts]
9th April 2014 - 18:30

11 Likes

apidya wrote:

Would there be issues with picture quality? F1 cars are (for the most part) flat on the track, in bike racing, there can be quite a lot of lateral movement when out of the saddle. Is camera technology sufficiently advanced to mitigate this?

I'm a cameraman and cinematographer and I am constantly amazed at the quality coming out of smaller consumer devices such as GoPro's. We sometimes use these cameras for additional shots alongside cameras costing 50 times more. You even occasionally see them popping up on Hollywood feature films. The colour science, encoding and sensor quality have come on leaps and bounds - together with a wide lens (minimises shake) and all important lens stabilisation there is no reason that this style of camera cannot be an excellent acquisition tool for broadcast.

I'm imagining that someone like GoPro would jump at the chance to develop a specific rig for the UCI - it's excellent marketing and they are rumoured to be pushing towards a more professional market. There are also a number of other manufacturers who could potentially offer an excellent product for this.

tommyjz wrote:

live pictures would probably have to rely on near-field communication and the rider being close enough to a receiver, eg on a camera bike...

Absolutely - the equipment for a long range transmitter would be huge not to mention the power considerations.

Tommy's hit the nail on the head here. My main concerns would be radio transmission and subsequently battery life - even the smallest current camera transmitters would triple the size of the camera. If they are going to broadcast a radio feed I can't see a GoPro sized battery lasting more than 30 minutes. If they can get around these issues then this could be a great development in the coverage of the sport.

I imagine an F1 camera is powered from the car but I can't see dynamos in the peleton anytime soon though...

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [147 posts]
9th April 2014 - 20:38

18 Likes

I like the camera idea, but I don't think everyone would take kindly to the Heart Rate/Power Output/etc. figures being made public. Aren't certain teams fidgety about having other teams look at their data? Having it broadcast on live TV might cross a line in some minds.

Not to try and be pointlessly negative. I'm glad Cookson has said all this stuff. It's seems as if the UCI is actually being 'led' now, rather than dragged around stroppily in the mud.

posted by Quince [147 posts]
9th April 2014 - 21:30

10 Likes

True, but teams often publish the data for, say, a particular rider. That would be a start.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3208 posts]
9th April 2014 - 23:11

11 Likes

For anyone unsure about the use of cameras on bikes, in terms of aero performance or the quality of shots I'll allow Alex Dowsett to answer via his Twitter:

@alexdowsett wrote:
best view in the house I promise pic.twitter.com/jN3X3ewsg7

https://twitter.com/alexdowsett/status/453971332318105600/photo/1

posted by farrell [1461 posts]
10th April 2014 - 9:27

7 Likes

Although I welcome the camera ideas and other innovations. All I want from Cookson is for a blanket ban for life for riders who cheat with banned substances such as epo. The potential for a prison sentence wouldn't be going too far in my opinion for any rider cheating with banned substances. The idea that you'd let a rider back in to the sport after cheating with drugs these days sends the wrong message. There also needs to be stronger punishment for those that facilitate drug cheats in cycling.

Rupert's picture

posted by Rupert [92 posts]
13th April 2014 - 6:11

6 Likes