Welcome to the Age of Thermography


There was a time when I was enamored with the beauty of pro cycling.  Then my fascination hardened into cynicism.  Now I’m pleased to report my love for the sport has bloomed anew, only instead of marveling at the actual racing I am reveling in the spectacular beauty of its complete and utter collapse:

Yep, Femke was just the beginning, and now the façade is cracking like a bootleg Specialized:

Thierry Vildary and Marco Bonarrigo reveal that they used an expensive heat detector to spot hidden motors at both the Strade Bianche race in Tuscany and the Coppi e Bartali stage race. The full investigation was broadcast on Sunday evening on French television during the Stade 2 programme, with key details revealed in Sunday’s edition of Corriere della Sera newspaper in Italy.

That’s right, Greg LeMond totally called it with the heat detector, that crazy bastard:

The fact that LeMond turned out to be by far the most sane person in pro cycling goes to show just how screwed up it is, and at this point the only way the sport can save itself is if they put him in charge of the UCI…which they never, ever will, so that’s pretty much that.

Has it ever occurred to you while on an airplane that at least a few of your fellow passengers are secreting narcotics in a bodily orifice?  Well, it turns out it’s pretty much the same thing with the peloton, only instead of a cocaine-filled condom it’s a tiny motor:


The two-page article in Corriere della Sera claims that the heat detector – which was disguised to look a video camera, managed to spot seven different motors being used at Strade Bianche and the Coppi e Bartali races. Five were hidden in the seat tube, with two hidden in the rear hub and cassette. The newspaper report and Stade 2 video report did not name any riders involved. However the French report- which lasted more than 20 minutes, recalled the numerous suspicions and accusations of mechanical doping that have emerged in recent years. 

The scandal even has its own Michele Ferrari in Hungarian hidden motor specialist Istvan Varjas, and only a third-tier Euro sport like pro cycling could have a figure as bizarre as a Hungarian hidden motor specialist:

Vildary and Bonarrigo also talked to Hungarian engineer Istvan Varjas, the alleged creator of the hidden motors and suspected supplier to a number of professional riders. Varjas showed an early rudimentary version of a motor and admitted it may have been used as early as 1998. He suggested that it best worked with an extremely high cadence. 

Hmmm.  1998?  High cadence?  Any of that sound familiar?

(“The motor goes in the seat tube, Bill.  It’s about the size of a cigar.”)

In case you’re too young to remember (which is unlikely because millennials don’t read this lame-ass blog), they key to Armstrong’s climbing prowess was supposedly his high-cadence pedaling style, which Freds everywhere attempted to emulate after reading about it in “Bicycling” magazine.

Now it turns out he was probably just stoking the electric drink stirrer in his frame.

But that’s turn-of-the-century technology, and the latest system involves Bluetooth mag-lev crabon rims or something:


Varjas also confirmed that the most advanced form of mechanical doping is now hidden in carbon fibre rims, with neodymium magnets able to produce 60 watts of power. The wheels can be activated and modulated via a bluetooth device – even an expensive watch which has bluetooth  – and can only be detected via a powerful magnetic field detector.

Which at €50,000 are only available to the top-tier pros, as well as the vast majority of Cat 4s in New York City and the Silicon Valley:

The wheels reportedly cost 50, 000 Euro but are only made available to a very limited number of athletes.

Anyway, here’s what happens when you point a heat detector at a Fred nowadays:

By next year motodoping is going the be the New Normal.  In the meantime however, some people will continue to carry on for awhile that this is somehow “worse” than regular doping, even though a hidden motor gives a rider a little boost now and again whereas regular old doping improves performance even after the rider gets caught, becomes contrite, and signs a contract with Jonathan Vaughters.   Other people will simply continue to deny that it’s happening (I certainly dismissed motodoping as absurd until pretty recently), and we’ll get to enjoy a whole new crop of entertaining excuses such as:

–“It was my friend’s bike who rides with me when I train”
–It’s the battery pack for the electronic shifting system
–It’s hub friction

And so forth.

(The “hub friction” defense is my personal favorite, since manufacturers have been selling us $2,000+ wheelsets with “precision bearings” for years now, yet we’re supposed to believe the pros are riding around on hubs that drag like a dog’s ass on the carpet.)

Nevertheless, it’s safe to bet amateur Freds will continue to take their inspiration from the professionals, and what’s more inspiring than The World’s Most Slammed Stem?

Because your stem’s not truly slammed until you’ve removed part of the headset:

Meanwhile, in Cat 6 news, San Francisco’s already rather robust smugness factor has grown by nearly 9%:

Daily commutes by bicycle in The City are up by record numbers, according to the newest Annual Bicycle Count Report, released Friday by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.


The report draws its bike count from three sources: automated bike counters at 15 locations in San Francisco, manual evening bike counts at 80 locations in September last year, and American Community Survey Data.


Out of San Francisco’s total commuters within The City, bikes made up 4.4 percent of trips in 2014. That’s a jump from 2.3 percent in 2006, with an increase of 86,000 new bike commuters.

Unfortunately, during that same time period, San Francisco housing prices have grown by nearly a billion percent, so this probably points less towards some utopian bike-tastic future and more towards rich people paying lots and lots of money to live near work.  It’s no different here in New York, where bike commuting in the “city center” is also steadily increasing, though we’re still waiting on last year’s numbers:

More than three months into 2016, DOT has yet to release last year’s screenline bike count, which shows how cycling in the city center has changed over time.


It’s called the screenline count because it measures the number of cyclists who cross key points around the central business district: the East River bridges, on the Hudson River Greenway at 50th Street, and the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal.

SPOILER ALERT: you can’t afford to live near any of those “key points” anyway.

Hey, I’m glad more people are riding to work, but it’s all just the halo effect of gentrification until the police stop running into people and lying about it.

Lastly, Prince was recently spotted riding a deeply uncool bicycle:

Sure, it’s good to see him riding, but I’d have expected something more like the motorcycle he rode in “Purple Rain:”

Though if you do an image search for “Purple Rain bike” you do find this:

So maybe it’s an appropriate bike after all.