Just for Giggles: Road Bike Position Video Analysis

The Story Behind the Story

As a former competitive Nordic skier and Biathlete, I grew accustomed over many years to video evaluations, the content ranging from both classic and skating technique to shooting position and technique. Under the watchful eye of a qualified coach, I learnt a lot about my visible strengths and apparent weaknesses throughout the duration of the competitive ski season.

Often, in early season on-snow junior/master XC camps, my coach would put together a funny video of unintentional mistakes and epic crashes made by athletes over the long weekend. Everything from inadvertently planting an uber-expensive carbon fibre pole between skating skis, leading to the infamous face-plant in the snow and frequent whining and crying over a broken pole, to horrific blowouts on technical downhill turns. The most famous of those downhill crashes is subject material for another post.

Sometimes, just to aggravate or irritate my coach, I would literally fly through the camera field of view, double poling like a madman. The subsequent video would just show a colourful blurred image blasting across the video screen. Thus, my nickname, “the Flash” stuck with me on the domestic racing circuit of western Canada.

My acquired knowledge from video tape analysis for Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon led me to start video analyzing my road bike and time trial bike position and pedalling technique while on a trainer or out on the road, especially while hill climbing and sprinting.

In some ways, this analysis has proven to be far more helpful than paying a bike shop an exorbitant sum of money for something similar.

The Problem

As I grow older, my flexibility over the cycling season often changes for the worse (very tight hamstrings and lower back muscles). I find that comparative before and after video analysis, while on a trainer, can clearly reveal those weaknesses in pedalling inefficiency and upper body overcompensation. Tight hamstrings, butt muscles, and lower back muscles often lead to pretty weird knee alignment in multiple planes over the entire pedal stroke. Left without some form of correction for muscle tightness and possible shoe/cleat/pedal alignment readjustments (including subtle saddle height adjustments, saddle fore/aft positioning, and stem adjustments), this problem of obvious improper pedalling mechanics inevitably leads to knee pain, calf/achilles tendon injuries, and SI joint inflammation and dysfunction sometime in the cycling season. None of us are perfectly symmetrical, thus, I tend to suffer from problems with my slightly longer and stronger left leg than my right. Paradoxically, the SI joint inflammation and discomfort that I experience is predominantly on my right side.

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Video analysis of bike position and pedalling efficiency (BCR; out-of-saddle climbing position) ©2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

The Solution

I have developed a much more sophisticated approach to video analysis than when I first started out. In the early days I used a DV tape-based camera with questionable video quality under poor natural or artificial lighting. Today I use a multi-camera setup utilizing a Garmin Virb Elite (1080P) in conjunction with a Panasonic G6 (1080P) with a Zoom lens set to the same field of view as the fixed lens in the Garmin. Normally I use at least a two video light setup indoors (much clearer video and no shadows).

In this particular video, I did not use any external video lighting because I find the lighting runs just too hot for an hour long training session. A good warm-up of at least 20 minutes is essential to providing a clear indication of true body position pedalling mechanics.

The approximately one-hour long video was edited in DaVinci Resolve on a MacBook Air, the end result is a comparatively short clip demonstrating both my body position(s) and pedalling efficiency in a multi-camera viewing environment. The edited clip is then evaluated on my iPad utilizing the various measurement tools of Dartfish Express, a sport video analysis app. All training metrics including power, speed, distance, cadence, and heart rate are recorded simultaneously on my relatively ancient iBike Pro head unit and within the VirtualTraining app on my iPad mini.

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Dartfish Express for iOS

As you can see, the lighting in the video is sub-optimal, but still useful for evaluation. Shooting at a wide angle in 1080P allows me to crop in and output at 720P for further analysis in Dartfish. I made the error of securing my rear wheel too tight on the trainer (a big no-no on a carbon fibre framed bike) and was having trouble shifting my rear derailleur while in the big chainring in front. My normal cruising cadence of 90-105 rpm (on average) is a little slower in the video due to pushing a pretty big gear. For those in the know, I utilize a narrower handlebar (42mm) for better aerodynamics in a rather upright and relaxed position suitable for longer distance cycling like Century rides. You might notice from the back viewpoint, my relatively wide shoulders are rolled in somewhat, possibly accounting for more-than-usual upper body fatigue and sternum and collarbone pain on rides longer than 2-3 hours. For enhanced breathing (worse aerodynamics) I could easily use a 44cm or 46cm bar and a slightly longer stem. Unlike the tendency of many Pro Tour riders, small frames and stupid-long slammed stems are not for me – that simply affects bike handling and comfort in a negative way.

A Comical Side

The video itself is rather comical, especially for the uninitiated, all decked out in my Old School (circa 1970’s) cotton handkerchief headband and modern black-framed funky glasses. The black kit (t-shirt and cycling shorts) does work well though, providing a stark contrast against freshly painted white walls. Our former family room/rumpus room had recently been renovated, devoid of normal furniture and pictures on the walls.

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Cape Breton Highlands National Park

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Full Colour. © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.
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Black and White. © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.
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Red Only. © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.
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Blue Only. ©2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

The original colour photograph was taken with an iPhone 4 (f/2.8 @ 1/800 second). The event was a 2014 road cycling trip through the ‎⁨Cape Breton Highlands National Park⁩, in Nova Scotia,⁨ Canada. Editing was done in PhaseOne’s Capture One 10 utilizing built-in presets to accomplish selective colour variants and a black and white variant.

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Update: Gun Culture, Bicycles and the Law

Rather Bizarre
Unidentified road cyclist with semi-automatic firearm. The image may have been photographed somewhere in South Africa, circa 2014.

via The Ethnocentricity of America: A Gun Culture That Must Change — EclecticChoices

Well…apparently a member of the Montana Highway Patrol was in error to detain me on the Interstate highway (Route 93) just south of Hamilton, Montana. As far as I understand current statutes, it is lawful to bicycle on the shoulder of an Interstate highway in Montana, as long as a cyclist does not impede traffic.

I am not certain why I was singled out on that particular scorcher of a day a few years ago, but, in my opinion, the actions and words of one particular Trooper was clearly out of line.

My recommendation to fellow cyclists, especially Canadian road cyclists, who venture through the Bitterroot Valley corridor on Route 93, is to immediately comply with any police authority, and then file a formal complaint later with all those concerned.

And, no, don’t do something stupid like the guy in the picture, even if it may be theoretically legal in certain countries and US states to do so.

The choices we make today become who we are tomorrow…

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The Ethnocentricity of America: A Gun Culture That Must Change

Sometimes, Americans can be so ethnocentric. It is difficult, for more than a few, to appreciate anything else different upon this great blue marble. All that one sees is their own interests within an ever-shrinking worldview.

I don’t hold that against them. After all, your average American appears to be indoctrinated, from an early age, with the notion that the US is the greatest nation on the earth. There is considerable truth to that idea. Unfortunately, any individual or nation that just happens to disagree with that sentiment, in whole or in part, is invariably considered irrelevant and/or a threat to their American Way of  Life.

Strong words? Perhaps…but my point of view is quite prevalent amongst many Canadians, the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, the EU, and a good deal of the rest of the world.

The questions remain. Is the aforementioned viewpoint or opinion valid? Is there some truth to this? Are Americans ethnocentric?

As an American, please do not allow your insides to get all tied up in a knot over mere words and opinion. Many Canadians have family, friends, and associates in the US, and visit various parts of America on a regular basis. California, Arizona, and Florida are filled with wealthy Canadian snowbirds and retirees. We are joined at the hip to Americans socially, culturally, economically, and so forth.

It is out of my own travel experiences, that I have come to some of my conclusions.

Sometimes, when I travel to the beautiful State of Montana, I am reminded how different we are as Canadians in some aspects.

I am frequently asked the question, “Where are you from?” in reference to my apparent accent and choice of vocabulary….eh?

Funny thing is that your average cowboy in Montana, dressed in Wrangler jeans, a plaid western-style shirt, a black Stetson, pickle-stabbers (cowboy boots), and adorned with a pearl-handled revolver in a ornate leather holster, often just does not get it.

Do they realize how difficult it is for people like me to grasp their unintelligible western drawl (strange pronunciation of English words), and seemingly threatening appearance (the gun-thing)? Just visit one of the local watering holes that many tend to congregate around as human beings and you will understand my dilemna.

You can talk about almost anything…just don’t talk about the politics of gun control in Montana.

I do love the warm hospitality of the people of Montana State, but their general preoccupation with firearms and apparent gun culture does make me a little nervous.

I have cycled through a significant portion of the Bitteroot Valley and some of the passes that traverse the majestic mountain ranges towering over both sides of that long corridor. What troubles me though, is the few occasions where I came across dangerous situations, i.e., people using firearms inappropriately in public spaces including National Parks.

It is a bit unnerving to be climbing the Skalkaho Pass on my road bike and come across a couple of guys rapid firing their Beretta 9mm* and Colt 45* pistols against a rocky outcrop, barely a few meters away from us.

The potential of something going haywire, perhaps a ricocheting bullet, could prove to be life-threatening for any of us within the immediate vicinity.

Unbelievably, on our return leg, descending the mountain at considerable speed, we came across a second group, this time several teenagers, not much older than sixteen or seventeen, carrying two semi-automatic AR-15’s* amongst them.

Wow…is all I could think to myself. Has everybody gone loco around here?

I knew this was the July 4th weekend, but does that justify the open-carry and discharge of firearms alongside a public highway in a National Park?

I wanted to stop, get off my bicycle and raise a little hell with those kids concerning their questionable and rather dangerous behaviour.

My cycling partner, a big, burly American, and native of Eugene, Oregon, strongly suggested that we just keep moving along.

“Locals around here do not take kindly to the suggestions of strangers, let alone Canadians, concerning what constitutes responsible firearm use.”

I get that…I truly do. I do not want to challenge anyone’s viewpoint on US Second Amendment rights and responsibilities.

But, seriously, a little common sense should apply here.

Canada, as a nation, has moderate gun control laws in comparison to the rest of the world. The events that I experienced on the Skalkaho would be considered extremely inappropriate and definitely in violation of various laws in Canada.

A few days later, I ventured solo up the same Skalkaho Pass with almost no one in sight. I think I was passed by only a handful of vehicles during the entire time I rode up and down the mountain.

So quiet and peaceful…

I decided to head home to our place of lodging via the shoulder of the Interstate highway, rather than the longer, and much more convoluted bicycle path that stretches from just outside the southern edge of Hamilton all the way to Missoula. A member of the Montana Highway Patrol drove up behind me, hit the siren and lit up his lights. He pulled off the Interstate rapidly, exited his patrol car, and made a cautious beeline towards me, his hand on his holstered weapon.

What the foosball? Now what? What did I do this time?

The police officer basically instructed me to get off the “damn” highway and onto the bike path. When I tried to explain to him that I often see cyclists, especially fully-loaded touring cyclists, pass through town via the Interstate, his demeanour immediately changed from irritable to down-right hostile.

He lectured me for a while and then demanded to see my ID. I carefully reached into the back of my jersey pocket, explaining to him what I was reaching for behind my back. I reiterated that I did not know whether or not it was legal for cyclists to ride on the wide shoulder alongside the Interstate highway, and apologized profusely. After my identity checked out, and a very stern warning, I bolted out of there as fast as I could.

It was a disheartening experience to be approached by an armed State Trooper, who was obviously having a bad day (or just did not like cyclists). I stood there sheepishly in the 27C heat for over twenty minutes, sweating profusely, dehydrated, and obviously exhausted from my 16+ kilometre climb. I was beginning to feel naked and vulnerable in my spandex cycling attire, wondering if I was about to be given a ticket, or worse.

Was I really in the wrong? Or was that experience just “business as usual” in an American State where guns are everywhere and just a part of everyday life?

The choices we make today become who we are tomorrow…

* My knowledge of firearms comes from being a former hunter, competitive target shooter, and biathlete.

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The De-evolution of the Bicycle — EclecticChoices

Modern society has evolved from travelling on open terrain to creating paths; from paths to cobblestone and gravel roads; and from gravel roads to pavement. Meanwhile, the bicycle and the bicyclist has taken an odd path of de-evolution. In the beginning, someone decided to build some sort of self-propelled contraption on two wheels. Eventually, after […]

via The De-evolution of the Bicycle — EclecticChoices

It’s NOT about the Bike…

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Just returned from a skiathlon/pursuit training session. All decked out in my National Masters racing suit of days-gone-by. Photographed in 2016. © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

I have a few friends and associates that love to road cycle. If you have read even a small percentage of the almost 500 posts (in one year) on EclecticChoices, you will know that I am a road cycling nut also.

But, heres the thing, when the first snow falls in Saskatchewan, I get really excited about the cross country ski season, especially racing again. In fact, after I finish this post, I am heading to my small workshop to begin the often long and laborious task of removing the storage wax off my ever decreasing fleet of classic and skating skis. There are few things in life that make me happier than prepping and waxing my cross country racing skis for the winter season.

I love the snow! The whisper quiet glide of a good pair of skating skis on corduroy tracks, and the click-clack of carbon poles digging into a well-packed ski trail.

Sadly, as some of you know, I have been struggling with bad asthma episodes over the last couple of years. What started out as exercise-induced asthma, something that has become almost a plague amongst elite skiers, has devolved into a rather chronic all-day-long situation for me.

When a person cannot breathe properly, even with the assistance of various short and long term meds, one’s personal fitness can go downhill really fast. I have managed to gain bodyweight, far more than I am comfortable with, and my personal fitness tests are rather dismal. I am not seeking sympathy here…but I do appreciate your prayers 🙂

It is important to realize that the aforementioned troubles and setbacks should not discourage us or keep us down in a pit of frustration and despair.

Only the courageous keep trying in the midst of adversity.

I am no longer a spring chicken, burning up the ski trails like Warner Brother’s cartoonish Tasmanian Devil. I try to set realistic goals in recovering from illness and injury, training, and, hopefully, xc-racing amongst 20-year-olds and old-timers alike.

Be kind to yourself when suffering from illness and/or injury. Be patient…REALLY PATIENT. Your time will come. Cheers!

Ps. Winter is so much more fun when you are active outside!

The choices we make today become who we are tomorrow…

 

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