Back in not-so-simple Kansas

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I’m always amazed when I get back home how much stuff I have. It is overwhelming. Even though I was gone for less than two weeks, I somehow get used to living on what is in my bag. And I don’t use everything in that. We can all get by with a lot less. I think that living more simple usually makes me more happy.

I read this on yesterday. It is from Gianni Bugno, the head of the Pro Riders Union.

Bugno insisted that riders must be heard on the radio ban for safety reasons.

“Radios are important for rider’s safety just as much as say helmets are. The riders need them to be told of dangers up the road and in case they crash or puncture,” he said.

“We don’t want to impose the use of radios on anybody. If Philippe Gilbert or a team doesn’t want to use them, they don’t have to. But my members voted on the matter and have mandated me to represent them. I’m happy to do that so that I can help them have voice in the decision making process.”

I’ve written about my views on radio usage. I hate it. And this safety aspect is bullshit. But, this isn’t all the arguments. It is about simplicity.

Radios complicate the sport. Radios take away the individual riders freedom. To experience the race the way it should be experienced. I don’t think that the riders should be using a radio to tell their team director to call their mom, as in Andy Schleck’s case in last year’s TDF, and tell her that he won’t be taking any risks on a descent.

I’d hope he would be enjoying the simplicity of the race. The connection of his tires to the road. The crowds. Or lots of other things. I can’t say exactly what he should being doing, but I know he shouldn’t be calling his mom.

It’s the same as having a follow car on a training ride. I know at most professional training camps, the team directors and mechanics follow the riders on training rides. I would hate that. I do hate it. I’ve experienced it a few times and it really detracts from the riding experience. There is a beautiful simplicity of riding a bicycle. Out on a road on your own. Even when you’re riding through urban sprawl. You loose the individualism of being a cyclist when you have an automobile following you.

I’m getting close to the point to where I’m going to leave my cell phone home when I ride. It detracts from the freedom. I always turn the ringer off, but that doesn’t do it. Even turning it off won’t release me from it’s “weight”. It will always be there.

I know I don’t live in the moment as much as I did in the past. And if you don’t live in the moment, then you have no memory of the true experiences of your past. Radios, cell phones, ect. detract from the special moments in cycling. And, somewhat, of life in general. It is going to be a toil to sort it out, but I think the end result will make it worth it.

It amazes me that this is a thing of the past. A rider changing his own sewup on a ride in a foreign country. Guys don't realize what they are missing out on.

19 thoughts on “Back in not-so-simple Kansas

  1. sydney

    I agree with you, though I’ll probably keep taking my mobile. I’ve found making “airplane” mode its default setting really conserves the battery and makes it a pretty decent camera that will work to call someone in a pinch. 😉

  2. WildCat

    I always leave my cell at home. But before I go ride I make sure someone knows the general route I will be taking and about how long I plan on being out. After doing that what’s the biggest worry? Being out on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with a blowout? It’s happened before. A nice farmer comes by after awhile and can help, loan his/her cell, or give a ride. And in my experience the best part about this is that the person who finds me and I always have great conversation, then they leave understanding that in general cyclists are very cool/nice people. Then that guy treats cyclists better on the road and hopefully tells his buddies to do the same. All because of leaving my cell at home. At least here in Kansas we can still count on the simple kindness of strangers. Treat your mind, leave your phone behind.

  3. Marty


    I agree with your comments about race radios and share your feelings.
    During my career, our team did not have enough radios for all of the riders and I was happy to ride without one.
    To me getting less than accurate information in a race was distracting. Listening to your teams GC man having a laugh with the director as you were pulling your guts was distracting.
    I have fond memories of working my way throughout the Professional European peloton to find friends on other teams who would share information about who was in the break. It was an asset to be able to communicate in different languages.
    Cycling is a bigger business these days and the directors and big name riders benefit from the radios, therefore they are going to fight hard on this issue…

  4. B Ruther

    That was WELL SAID. The bicycle was the first thing that gave kids their freedom when they finally learned how to ride. The bicycle is what gives us freedom now as adults. This type of post is why I check your blog several times a day to see if you have updated with insight like this. Thanks.

  5. Steve Wathke

    i bring my phone but I don’t talk on it. I’ve ridden with guys who like to listen to NFL and College basketball games and it’s nice to get an update on the score. As far as a professional experience i don’t have one but it doesn’t bother me that they use radios. In fact to make it more exciting to watch on tv they should broadcast or have “live look-ins” to see what these guys are planning. That may help drive the sport. It couldn’t hurt. We know the sport isn’t watched by many. Younger guys and people new to the sport might be able to gain a better understanding of cycling.

  6. CurbDestroyer

    I used to compare Cyclist to Athletes, now I have a new comparison, Cycling to Exercise.

    CYCLING to me has always been about adventure and over coming the occasional adversity. I remember times when me or someone else were riding and flated the spare tubular and having to break out the Velox sewup patch kit, and have to patch a tubular with sweat stinging my eyes. If you want to EXERCISE I’m sure the air conditioned YMCA has a nice recumbent sitting in front of a TV someplace for you to ensure your safety.

    Safety really? Sounds like someone might be in for a little something/something if they directly or indirectly sell some radios.

    Just for the record I really dislike the idea of radios, or any form of communication between the break away and main field. I like the magic of “Out of Site, Out of Mind” and how it works. Funny how that magic diminishes when you allow communications between the breakaway and main field. You eliminate the a human component everytime you add a new technology.

  7. TJ

    There are moto’s that follow the riders all along the race course, when there is a break there is always a moto. They have radios and can safely tell the break or peleton that there are dangers up the road..
    It’s a race, ride with instinct not ride till your team gives you a call and tells you how hard to go or when to go… Mamby pamby’s!

  8. Chris

    Maybe I’m just oversimplifying things, but couldn’t there be a one-way radio under race director’s control? That would keep tactics in play, but alleviate safety concerns as well…

  9. f

    About a decade ago I was pushing the pace at the front of a group of about 20 riders on a training ride when the cell phone of the rider next to me rang. He answered the phone and then handed it to me. It was one of the riders of the back of the group telling me to slow down. I found it amusing and somewhat annoying.

  10. Neil Kopitsky

    Wonderful blog today, Steve.

    No one has a space problem.
    People only have a STUFF problem.

    And no one has an income problem.
    People only have an OUTGO problem.

  11. DavidR

    Race radios are just crutches for people who don’t know how to race without being told what to do and when to do it. Freaking Sean Kelley never used no race radio. I’ve never used a race radio either (and that is all the similarity between myself and the great Sean Kelley) and I’ve never felt unsafe, so what kind of wimps are these guys? Safety my ass; if you wanted a gaurantee of safety, then you shouldn’t be racing a bicycle anyway.

  12. Gary

    Reminds me of when I used to coach youth soccer, I used to run up and down the field yelling at the kids what to do. Then I realized one day when I was attending to an injury, my kids on the field didn’t know what to do without me barking orders! I since have changed the way I coach, allowing the kids to think for them selfs. It was a wonderfull epiphany, all they need is a little before game advice. To think that athletes can actually think on their own!

  13. Greg

    I haven’t read this elsewhere (sorry if I’ve missed it), but if safety is the argument for race radios… then why not issue a listen-only radio tuned to 1 frequency and have the only broadcaster be the race officials? That way if a car travels onto the course or there’s an accident the race officials can announce it to the peleton. While there at it time checks could be provided to the break and even calling up team cars. Those that want a radio for safety can have it and those that don’t, well, don’t have to wear it.

  14. tilford97 Post author

    Greg- It is not about safety. If there was a generic broadcast of road conditions from one single source during a race, no riders would use a radio. Not one, it is that simple.

  15. C.P.

    I agree. Less is more. What I’m seeing is that the riders fear is based on not having a voice. I think radios will be phased out. I just don’t think issuing a fiat is the right way with a bunch of frustrated riders/employees is the best approach. I’m sure with UCI racing being EU and all, *safety* will be pursued. I agree that it may be done with closed channel radio, perhaps with only the commissares being able to communicate with the riders, or a new separate third party group called *race-traffic* or something that ONLY deals with crashes, mechanicals, emergency feeds, flats etc. Each rider still *safe* still carrying a device… but alone and without director guidance.

    Essentially the caravan needs to be neutralized. It plays too big of a role in shaping a boring race.

  16. WildCat

    TO: f

    Now that is funny! I am at my desk laughing out loud.

    I was next to a guy pulling two-file with him one time on a training ride. We were going up this long hill. Neither he nor I even looked at each other. We just kept pulling harder and harder. Neither of us got out of the saddle. I thought he would never let up. At the top of the hill he told me that he was thinking the same thing about me. Wondering if I was ever going to let up. We had both toasted our legs. We looked behind us and found out that we had dropped the other 6 or 8 guys with us. I bet they would have loved being able to call us. But, we had a good laugh about it because after all there we were inches from each other and still didn’t communicate. We were just in the moment, feeling strong.

  17. Larry T.

    You’re dead-on about “stuff”. When we return from Italy, after living for months with no more than will fit in our support van, I always say the same thing — too much stuff! The wife’s getting rid of all kinds of stuff we don’t use, either by selling it on ebay or giving it away.
    The radio-safety issue is BS, let’s see some statistics showing how crashes, deaths and injuries have gone down since Motorola introduced the communications between team members and the DS. It does affect racing, in my mind not in a positive way — remember years ago when a certain DS, watching the race in TV in his car, phoned a doc in Italy to inquire as to how long the other guy could keep up the pace on the huge climb? The doc was watching on TV too, and gave his opinion to the DS who radioed it to his rider — who adjusted his tactics. In the old daze he would have had to look him in the eye and decide for himself!
    I take the cell phone on bike rides (turned off unless I know the wife will be summoning me for some reason) and now consider it as essential as the brain-bucket.


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