Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Don't Buy Upgrades, Ride Software Upgrades

Well, racing bikes outside had a good run.  In 1869 it was high-wheelers gentlemanly glove-slaps:

[PDF]

In 1903 came the first-ever Tour de France:


And for some reason to this day cyclists keep racing against horses:


How is that fair?  Shouldn't Casper also have to pull a passenger?

Actually, for it to be truly fair he should have to pull a horse.

Regardless, after well over a century and a half of thrill, spills, and doping scandals, it appears the days of racing bikes outside are over, only to be replaced with this:


Someday in the not-too-distant future, the world’s premier cycling races are held inside arenas packed with screaming fans. The cyclists do not travel an inch on their bicycles — instead, they pedal invisible miles on a stationary trainer. The attacks, counter-attacks, and strategic drama play out in the virtual world on a computer screen. Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of fans tune in to watch.

This is Frank Garcia’s vision.

And if your first thought was that Frank Garcia must be a masters racer with too much money on his hands, then it shouldn't surprise you to learn that you're right:

Garcia, 53, is a software engineer and entrepreneur from Tucson, Arizona. A longtime cyclist and masters racer, Garcia was an early adopter of the virtual training platform Zwift. Garcia’s passion for Zwift racing was so strong that in 2015 he rode the entire elevation of Mt. Everest in the virtual world, pedaling 165 miles on his stationary trainer over the course of 17 hours.

Over the past year, Garcia has bankrolled a series of virtual races on Zwift, called Cycligent Virtual Ranking, or CVR. In 2017, he held live CVR World Cup tournaments in Las Vegas, Paris, and London; each event was broadcast across the globe via a webcast that included live commentary, racing metrics such as power output, and even athlete interviews. CVR’s next event is the March 25 World Cup race at the VELO Sports Center velodrome at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles. CVR will award $100,000 in cash and prizes to its competitors this winter.

As antithetical as all of this might appear to be to the spirit of cycling and bicycle racing, the truth is I only have one problem with it, and it is this:

If it's all virtual, then why wear cycling clothes?


Seriously, isn't all this stuff optimized for propelling a bicycle forward while being outside?  Seems to me that aerodynamics mean nothing here and cooling is everything.  I mean what's with the sleeves?  Have they never seen a SoulCycle class?


Indeed, at the pro level it would probably make the most sense to compete "Full Cipo" for maximum cooling, with perhaps the judicious application of some small taintal pad to protect the perineum--and if virtual racing really is the future I may start selling a new product called the "Stand-Alone Chamois:"


Just add a light adhesive and you're off (virtually) to the races.

Oh, and one other thing bothers me about this whole thing:

Why hold the races in a velodrome?


Isn't that like going to a movie theater to stream Netflix on a tablet?

I mean really, you're already in the clothes, and you've already got the bike, and there's a perfectly good track 20 feet away, so why not just...oh, never mind.

Sounds like thrilling viewing:

In September, Garcia held his third race at the National Velodrome in Paris. The tournament featured a prize purse of $44,735, paid in part by Garcia and through donations — fans that tuned into the broadcast submitted cash through online transactions to boost the prize pot. Similar to the previous competitions, every athlete had a camera pointed at them throughout the racing.

If you can't get enough of sweaty people wincing in a non-sexual context then clearly this is the spectator sport for you.

By the way, speaking of competitive pedaling without going anywhere, whatever happened to roller racing?  It was having a big comeback until everyone gave up on track bikes and defected to gravel bikes:



Oh, well, it was fun boring while it lasted.

In any case, as long as pro bike racers are desperate for money there will be no shortage of virtual cycling competitors, which means the future of the sport is all but assured:

“For $100,000, I’ll do any bike race, any format, it’s all suffering one in the same,” said Jelly Belly rider Ben Wolfe.

For $50 he'll also help you move.

And even USA Cycling, that most desperate of sports governing bodies, is in the "early stages" of exploring it:

UCI representatives did not respond to queries about any future relationships with CVR. USA Cycling provided a statement that said any plans between the governing body and Zwift are “still in the early stages.”

“We are exploring engaging new ways to collaborate that offer more value to our core racers as well as bring new riders into the sport,” the statement said.

USA Cycling should probably just stop with the bike racing and pivot to becoming a moving company already.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

"USA Cycling should probably just stop with the bike racing and pivot to becoming a moving company already."

Why? They'll just fuck that up too.

Top 10 Scranus? Yay!

Anonymous said...

First Loser!!!

Bunyip said...

Numberoh oono soono .baloon .

Anonymous said...

Next will be stationary e-beiking

dancesonpedals said...

Stand(sit) alone chamois? Say it taint so...

Bikeboy said...

My money is on the hamster!!

dcee604 said...

Missed the podium, just wasn't zwift enough.

tobeistobex said...

So no turning or balance required? Who would benefit from that?

wishiwasmerckx said...

I have never understood running on a treadmill at the gym when it is perfectly nice weather outside, and I don't even grasp the concept of Zwift racing.

Whatpressureurunninginplace?

Which is closer to reality? The virtual fucking machine or the stationary bike race machine?

1904 Cadardi said...

On the one had misery loves company so the whole group trainer ride might make a little sense, but on the other hand isn't masturbating something you're supposed to do alone?

Fnarf said...

"Cycligent". Jaysus.

Grump said...

If Frank Garcia is a Masters Racer, he must not be a very successful Masters Racer.

Schisthead said...

What they really need is some sort of crossover, like the Super Murican Patriot Biking Shootout, (now with more guns!,) where people ride around a post-whatever wasteland first person shooting it up.

Gary said...

LARPing is cool and whatever, but I think spectators like the possibility of seeing crashes.

Anonymous said...

Uh, no helmets? That's dangerous and a clear loss of sponsorship money

HDEB said...

I'll stick with real-world masturbation thank you very much ; )

Anonymous said...

I so spinning classes sometimes and fake how hard the resistance is set to.

N/A said...

isn't masturbating something you're supposed to do alone?

Hey pal, why don't you just worry about yourself? How I spend my time at Starbucks is my business.

Drock said...

Maybe they’re trying to reduce the number of riders who get skin cancers from all that sun. Maybe it’s big oil at work forcing our freedoms inside so people will think cycling is an inside activity. It all conspiracy to end outside life. Would anyone like to buy my forest air secented photo frames for they’re new indoor activities? $$$$

Chazu said...

Regarding Fred v. Horse; Fred was losing traction on that dirt surface. He may have been a contender on asphalt.

I'm offering 1 BCH to anyone to help me move.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Kind of ironic that an 1869 fixed gear bike racer was named A.P. Messenger, eh?

That Jimmy Casper should race against a racehorse who gallops. You don't see anyone skipping at a track meet do you? Isn't trotting the equine equivalent of skipping?

Freddy Murcks said...

Professional bike racing is just an excuse to use drugs. Kind of like a Phish concert, but a whole helluva lot less fun and interesting.

janinedm said...

I'm with Snob. There's a million ways to make stationary races as cool as professional races (mostly because this is a very low bar). 1 you can let the Freds and Fredericas race along at home via the internet, so they can truly understand that they suck, but without risk of knocking down/impeding the real contestants with their suckiness. 2) If aerodynamics don't matter, put some flair into it. Dress em up like KISS, cover them in Tron light strips and have em ride under black light. 3) Do a Pink Floyd Lazer show. 4) Hook up some sort of crank powered Rube Goldberg machine so that the slowest person, instead of falling off of the back gets a bucket of Nickelodeon slime. 4) Have bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones play (why not aim higher, you ask? It's cycling; that's the cachet level. Deal with it. 5) Speaking of ska, give each cyclist a toaster/hype man.

But I really came here to share the grossest kickstarter I've seen. It's some sort of device to make texting while driving better. It's a sensor you put on your dashboard that will send a notification to your screen when the light turns green. It frees you from the inconvenience of looking up at all times when you're behind the wheel. Get this, they say "We understand how scary it is to be honked at, and our engineers have ensured that this frightening experience will be a thing of the past." https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/redlight-greenlight-mobile-phone# But yeah, let's all yell at each other for another 72 hours about the proper way to ride in a bike path with traffic.

BamaPhred said...

Hhhmm I may have to check out this Soul Cycle thing. Unless I have to wear the skimpy stretchy clothes too. Nobody wants to see that.

Fredder said...

Cut out the middleman, no human cyclist virtual races. Been to a professional sporting event in the last 30 or so years? They have been having 'virtual' races on the jumbotrons for ages during time outs and seventh inning stretchs. The crowds go wild cheering for their car/horse/train/bicycle to win, even though the outcome is known to the animator long in advance. Fortunately, those 'virtual' races only last a minute.

Anonymous said...

Next there will be betting on virtual bicycle races, just like in The Triplets of Belleville.

JLRB said...

The purest will only participate in a zwift race on a proper velocipede with no larger than a 43 inch front wheel. Intweed.

Olle Nilsson said...

You could pay the winner in carbon credits for all the vehicles that don't have to lead/follow them around. Hook them up to generators for extra credits. Play a 4K video of the French countryside for the audience since that's all they want to see anyway.

leroy said...

Dear Mr. Fredder @4:45 PM - okay, I get the pre-determined outcome of the animated Jumbotron races, but how is it my dog has never lost a bet on a Milwaukee Brewer's Sixth Inning Sausage Race?

FDB said...

It's good that there's no possibility of cheating in an entirely software based race.

1904 Cadardi said...

janinedm,

You've given me the heebies AND jeebies with that kickstarter.

Anonymous said...

Don't be tainting my stand-alone chamois.

Anonymous said...

If they didn't have to descend maybe the Schlecks could have won the TdF on the "road".

J. Zwift said...

To FRB....J.Zwits says...
I hate to inform you...there is rampant cheating going on in virtual races already! All a racer has to do is lie about his watts per kilogram. A 110 kilo behemoth just claims to weigh in at 68 kilos. It even has a name: e-doping.

der blaue Reiter said...

FAQ
Q: Is RedlightGreenlight legal?
A: Like Waze, you must confirm that you're the "passenger" to access the app.

And those quotes are really in there. Geez, Janinedm, did you google "nightmare" or "dystopian" to find that thing?!?

der blaue Reiter said...

Also... they really missed a bet when they didn't name the damned thing "Windshield Perspective."

Anonymous said...

1) I don't know who the bigger assholes are - the people who invented Zwift or the ones who use it.
2) That Marc Fidel guy on Idiegogo should be arrested and thrown in jail for coming up with that shit.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

I love riding my bike, but I hate cycling

Rolf Raffhauser said...

Warmouth, Messinger, Harding. Olden day cyclists had cool names

Anonymous said...

I see a couple of benefits if this catches on: Most important, by getting it off the streets, it makes it easier to ignore. Second, if racers get acclimated to riding indoors, it may help with overcrowding on the streets where I ride. I think it should be encouraged, not mocked.

NourskSiklist said...

Oh boi. It am being a lot of stupid in the 3d rendered real world these days, but add software and even the bottomless pit of ineffable dumbness is far from the limit. FFS. But hat's off to Janinedm, whose pro tips would go a long way for making a Zzzwift "event" watchable. Seriously. More jokingly, I would recommend Zzzzwift hitting up Ubisoft for a Far Cry crossover. Just imagine, virtually cycling through beautiful exotic landscapes, to escape/catch/kill weird and bloodthirsty foes like sabertooths,mercenaries,religious fanatics,mammoths,guerillas, and of course badass honey badgers.

Anonymous said...

Pay, old hat. Have you not seen “Les Triplets de Belleville”? A visionary documentary https://youtu.be/cwxIUiEzD2E (Jump to 5:00 in)

bad boy of the south said...

janinedm,hmmmm....

ELBO NERS said...

Can you throw elbows and hipcheck the riders next to you?