"Doping" in Cycling: Now with Motors


41 Responses to “"Doping" in Cycling: Now with Motors”

  1. hijukal says:

    Gruber Assist? What they really need is Hans Gruber Assist!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think the Swiss cycling team is using something as noisy as that gruber consumer model. I bet if the Swiss were cheating, it would be a intricate, smooth, quiet mechanism packed into a small space, much like their watches. Heck, the swatch people (Swiss) cooked up the smart car idea, why not hidden bike motors years later?

    Also, I’m plussed, BSNYC on BB! I didn’t realize it was such a small blogosphere.

  3. red says:

    video claiming to announce that an official panel has been formed to investigate. Real? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omM74AvKRgM

  4. iamameatpopsicle says:

    what they captured as “evidence” is just him upshifting. it’s normally done by a smaller lever just behind the brake lever. the accuser has obviously never ridden a modern bike.

    attacks on hills or even flats like this happen all the time, and have for many, many years.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Have a listen to that video, I swear that thing sounds just like the Big Dog robot – perhaps thats whats really powering the bike?

  6. cheeken says:

    What the hell? You got BoingBoing all over my BikeSnob…

    That’s the sound of worlds colliding.

  7. Anonymous says:

    lol, i love how all the defenses just say “he’s really fast” or even more stupid, “he doesn’t need a machine, he IS a machine.”

    Maybe the premise of the video is stupid, but the defenses are just as lame.

  8. Bugs says:

    I’ve always assumed that doping must be very common in sports generally.

    In almost any large competition (Olympics, Tour de France, etc), a small number of athletes are found to be doping and/or get in trouble for failing to submit to tests. So it’s widely known that the tests work at least some of the time, and that the consequences for failing tests are harsh and strictly enforced.

    Given this, there seem to be only two possibilities:

    1) Doping is rare; most people who use it are caught and suffer the consequences. So only a complete idiot would try it.

    2) Doping is common; most people who use it are NOT caught. So sensible athletes will see it as another controllable risk in their training regime. The small number of people caught each year are simply those stupid, incautious or unlucky enough to fail to avoid detection.

    Given the resources that get poured into athletes and the extensive health coaching and monitoring they undergo, I find it hard to believe that there’s a sufficiently steady supply of morons (both athletes and their support teams) for (1) to be true. If we assume that these teams of well-paid professionals are mostly quite bright, then (2) seems a far more likely explanation for the pattern we see.

  9. InsertFingerHere says:


    “Also works with the new listaunganmaugnojuan batteries.”

    Good to know.

  10. mralistair says:

    Over the 100 miles or so per stage I cannot beleive the power is worth the weight penalty, maybe if the can do it then ditch the weight but they spend thousands to loose a few hundred grammes of weight I cannot see that this is feasible.

    maybe for the team leader that is dragged allong or a solo rider going for king of the mountains.. but is still cant see it

    • Niklas says:

      The minimum weight of cycles in the tour is quite high (7kg if my memory serves), in fact you can find many relatively cheap carbon cycles that are much lighter, like this one.

    • Lobster says:

      If they’re just going to ditch the motor mid-race then why use electric at all? Strap some solid rocket boosters on that baby, then jettison them once they’re dry.

      • Niklas says:

        Gaining 100W during even half an hour would be a huge advantage, I have a trouble producing that amount (sustained) for longer than 25 minutes on an exercise bike.

        More on the battery issue: Look at this example of a laptop battery and see the multiple cells, no large battery is a solid chunk of matter but they usually consist of multiple separate cells.

  11. phead says:

    For those that don’t know the world of cycling, if your winning and you are not French, then you must be cheating.

  12. Jim Strutzin says:

    If the allegations against Fabian Cancellara have merit, this could be a huge blow to cycling. I for one would not like to see doping integrated into the sport.

    • RedShirt77 says:

      ” I for one would not like to see doping integrated into the sport.”

      But then it would essentially be required that participants all take drugs with potential side effects and probably make the sporting officials in charge of the policy liable when things go bad.

  13. rustybike says:

    Nice publicity stunt for the manufacturers of the device.

    Completely ridiculous, but any publicity is good publicity.

  14. Brainspore says:

    It finally makes sense now… all this time Lance Armstrong was actually riding a Harley.

  15. pAULbOWEN says:

    Hiya Snobbers, fancy meeting you here – my two favourite interwebs, together at last!

  16. pAULbOWEN says:

    That Cancellara video is jaw dropping. The sprint up the pave is incredible – I never saw climbing like it since…well I guess Contador, in TdF ’09…

  17. Anonymous says:

    The more plausible explanations of this theory suggested that the moto-assist bike would be used in the early stages of the race. The Gruber-assist motor can add about 100 watts to a cyclist’s output. This would be better taken advantage of by allowing the rider to exert less effort in the early stages of the race, then switch to a legal bicycle before the key move is made. Both Cancellara and his teammate Matti Breschel made bike changes right before key action at Flanders. (Note that bike changes like this are an accepted practice and not evidence of cheating. Plus, the mechanics flubbed Breschel’s change, losing him time.)

  18. jenjen says:

    Dang, I want one of those motors. I live in a pretty hilly area and get so sweaty on them that I can’t really go for a bike ride to meet up with friends unless we stay outside. But a pudgy person on one of those e-bikes is a target for derision – get a real bike fatty, etc. Plus you don’t get the exercise of pedaling when the terrain is easier. With a little hidden motor, I could get a little help with the bigger hills on what appears to be – and otherwise works as – a normal bike.

  19. bpratt says:

    I dunno… a rider can tinker with his own chemistry without the knowledge of the team, but to hack the bike involves the techs and thus puts a lot more people and potential whistleblowers in the loop. This just seems unlikely. But maybe I misunderestimate the desperate lengths these teams will go to in order to win. I could imagine weekend lone-wolf racers doing this, though. (And heck, I wouldn’t mind having one of these units after a long day at work and a stop at the grocery store, with one more hill to go…)

  20. Anonymous says:

    RTMS on BoingBoing? Yessssss

  21. Anonymous says:

    A motor might fit in a down tube, but a battery big enough? No way.

    • Michael Smith says:


      There are still the top and seat tubes. I had the batteries for my lighting system in the seat tube for a while. If you are willing to cut and weld it should be possible. Also a motor wouldn’t take all of the down tube.

      I competitive bike rider told me that Lance Armstrong had his own doctor all the time he was at the top. I have no doubt that doctor was involved in doping.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Not only are his finger movements compelling evidence that he is activating the device, his position on the seat makes it fairly obvious to the astute observer that he is concealing a 1000 gram lithium ion battery in his anal cavity.

  23. mercator says:

    The whole story is a diversion to keep the Landis story out of the headlines. I expect the organizers will have much better success catching these kinds of cheats than they do catching real dopers.

    Also, welcome to BB RTMS! It’s been a slow week what with the hiatus and all.

  24. JonStewartMill says:

    Calling this “motorized doping” is like calling sex “penetrative celibacy.”

    Love it.

  25. RedShirt77 says:

    yeah, I want one of these for my bike. REally, these things should come standard and charge from breaking while they are at it.

  26. ncinerate says:

    That uphill sprint does look pretty -cheaty-, look at the guy behind him struggling to even attempt to keep pace (he has to come off his seat to pump harder while the leader stays seated and pulls away incredibly fast. Somebody has a turbo button :).

  27. bpratt says:

    Yow, check out the “lying down” link in the original post. It’s a promotional video for a “prone bike”, like a recumbent but you’re face down and have to wear crazy mirror goggles to see the road ahead. Just skip right to 0:19 for a really icky design detail…

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