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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Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend) is celebrated in Germany on December 24. It is the last day of Advent and the start of the Christmas season. Many people spend the afternoon and evening decorating Christmas trees, attending church services, eating traditional dishes and opening Christmas presents.

More information on a German Christmas

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The Big Green Meanie: Jealousy

1968-Jaguar-E-type-Roadster-Front-940x636
Facsimile of a 1968 Jaguar XKE Roaster (4.2 Litre) that I purchased as a 17-year-old. Mine was nearly identical, including the wire wheels with tube-type Pirelli tires; silver with black interior.

If there is one thing that human beings struggle with, almost on a daily basis, it is jealousy. In our tendency to be self-centered, we honestly believe that the whole universe revolves around us. When things do not go our way, and we begin to feel cheated in life, envy and the big green meanie on our shoulder suddenly appears – jealousy is made manifest.

Anyone that claims that they do not wrestle with jealousy, from time-to-time, in it’s many overt and covert manifestations, is in my opinion, either delusional or a compulsive liar.

Of course, some people struggle far more with jealousy than others. I think that jealousy is both a learned response (nurture) and a deeply imbedded feeling and/or response within our human makeup (nature).

The Bible tells us that jealousy is like cancer to the bones and is not wisdom from above, but rather earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones. Proverbs 14:30 NLT

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. James 3:14-16 ESV

It is interesting to note that the latter part of the verse “...disorder and every vile practice” can rightfully be translated as “…disorder and every evil thing” referring to the invoking or welcoming of demonic spirits into our personal lives or the church community because of unchecked jealousy and selfish ambition.

As a father of three beautiful girls (now adults), I am well acquainted with the petty jealousies and squabbling that can go on amongst girls over just about anything. It is harder for me to admit that, I too struggled with petty jealousy when my wife poured her heart and life into our children, sometimes leaving me feeling isolated and left-out of the process. Something that took years for me to openly admit or confess to my wife much later in our marriage.

The empty-nest experience tends to bring out a whole new dimension to relationship in marriage.

Sometimes, jealousy over someone else’s possessions can lead to very hurtful actions. Permit me to relate a story to you concerning how jealousy perpetrated against me as a 17-year-old, led to a very painful initial consequence and a life lesson learned.

Just after high school, I was fortunate enough to land a well-paying seasonal job in prospecting and mining exploration in the far north of our province. It was an eight to ten hour day, seven-days-a-week, remote, camp-type job where I was isolated for months at a time along with a small crew, a pilot, engineer, and a camp cook. Most of our work was done many kilometres from camp and necessitated being flown in daily to our cut lines via helicopter or float plane.

I worked really hard that summer, battling adverse weather, hordes of mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, and other nasty critters including the occasional massive black bear that would invade and destroy our camp. I saved almost every penny I earned in order to buy a nice sports car of some sort. Upon returning home to Saskatoon later that fall, I took out a modest bank loan and purchased a beautiful nine-year-old 1968 Jaguar XKE convertible. The fine British-made automobile was a real looker and attracted a lot of attention wherever I went – my pride and joy, the fruit of my labour.

One late Saturday night, a friend and I stopped by a popular Italian food restaurant on 8th Street (Tiffany’s) to grab my favourite snack, spaghetti and white mushroom sauce, before heading home. We bumped into a couple of friends there and we talked through the early morning hours until closing. When I came outside to start my car, I noticed someone had run a jagged key or serrated knife alongside the entire length of the car, from bonnet to rear trunk, leaving a horrible deep gouge in the original paint, effectively destroying the appearance of the car.

At first I was really angry, and then bitterly disappointed, nearly in tears. Some mean-spirited vandal, obviously jealous of someone else’s possessions, had nearly destroyed a beautiful classic sports car. That indignant, big green meanie, full of spite and jealousy was to later set me back a significant amount of money in careful bodywork and repainting the entire car.

I learned a very hard lesson or two through that experience that may surprise you:

  1. Don’t put too much emphasis on personnel possessions – where your treasure is, your heart will follow.
  2. Don’t be envious of other people’s possessions or blessings.

I was to later sell the car for a handsome profit and purchased my grandfather’s old putrid green, four-door, Ford LTD of 1969 vintage. The car served my purpose for a couple of years, the painful memory of a cruel act of jealousy had cleared my system, and I moved on to bigger and better things in my life.

Fancy sports cars no longer had a hold on me or a place in my heart. Someone else had got a hold of my heart, a beautiful young woman that I married roughly a year later 🙂

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Capture One 10: Split Toning

 

I miss the days of the black & white and colour darkroom. An eight hour day would literally fly by while immersing myself in the art of traditional film developing and the darkroom print process. My few experiments with split toning* were always a bit of a hit-or-miss, nonetheless, always a challenge.

When digital photography became the norm, production in the studio went way up, but the “fun” component fell to an all-time low, at least as far as I was concerned.

Eventually, any Tom, Dick, or Sally could become a “professional” photographer by setting their fancy DSLR to auto and rapid firing away.

Post production editing, especially print production, was often passed on to professionals in Pro labs. At one point in time, I was producing approximately 7000 prints a day (over 40,000 per year), many of them enlargements, on a quarter-million-dollar Noritsu.

I felt like a slave to the machine. The fun of professional printing work had left the building with Elvis.

All that was left to look forward to was correcting other people’s mistakes in the lab, invariably made during the production phase of “pro” photography.

To this day, I am shocked how little many working pro photographers know about digital editing, let alone the silver halide print process.

Like many photographers in the 1980’s, I started digital editing with some of the earliest versions of Photoshop. I moved on to Aperture (v. 1 through v. 3) until it’s forced obsolescence by Apple, replacing it with either Lightroom or Capture One. Somewhere along the line, I just lost interest in the entire photography process, selling most of my pricy Nikon DSLR bodies and lenses.

Today, I shoot with a simple Panasonic G6 Micro Four Thirds camera body with a 14-42 kit lens. A lightweight and compact system, capable of decent 1080P video, that I picked up used for a mere $200. Additionally, I have an original Sigma DP1 that I have utilized over the years for wide angle or landscape work – the colours, detail, and sharpness of the little Foveon-based camera often rivalling my Nikon D300 with a 2.8 zoom. I also carry a diminutive Canon point & shoot with me, more often than not, a simple and effective instrument for candid photography.

I still believe that most novice photographers should start out with a simple manual film camera and a 50mm kit lens, shooting black & white film. It teaches individuals the very basic principle of “seeing” light and shadow – the very essence of “light writing” better known as photography. The hard part, today, is finding decent black & white film locally and a lab to develop it.

A novice photographer in a black & white darkroom is like a kid in a candy store. The look in their eyes, upon seeing an image slowly appear on paper immersed in chemical, is one of wonder and amazement, their inevitable smile stretches from ear-to-ear.

*The original digital colour photos were edited in Capture One 10 utilizing a built-in split toning preset. The images of the Tamiya F1 1:10 scale car were shot rather quickly with the Panny for blogging purposes without too much concern for lighting or composition.

#CaptureOne

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F1 Racing: A Proper Foundation

Tamiya TRF102
Tamiya TRF102 1:10 chassis for F1 racing.

Over the years, TRF (Tamiya Racing Factory) has established itself as one of the elite R/C racing teams in the world, with its drivers taking numerous championships at both the national and international levels. Fans all over the world can enjoy the fruits of their labor with this TRF Series and arm themselves with these products infused with TRF’s expert knowledge.

Tamiya

There has been only a few times in my life where I stumbled upon a deal that I could not pass up. Thus was the case a few weeks ago when I just happened to notice a completed, 1:10 scale, Formula 1 class RC car sitting on a shelf in the back of a local hobby shop.

After two inquiries with the shop owner, I broke out the Visa card and made, what I consider, an equitable purchase. If I revealed what I paid for the pièces de résistance, it would bring tears to the eyes of those in the know.

The truth is that there is not much market, in our Queen city, for F1 cars intended to be raced on a indoor/outdoor track only. Only a select few individuals actually race in F1, mostly at a Western Canadian Championship level, the 1:12 scale Touring and Modified Touring classes being much more popular.

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Tamiya TRF 102: Red Bull Racing © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

Did I start out with the idea of spending big bucks on a chassis, body(s), tires and wheels, electronics, and spare parts for indoor racing? Absolutely not! But, I clearly understand that in order to be competitive in F1, the chassis of the car is of prime importance.

In the real Formula 1 world, the folks over at Red Bull Racing would wholeheartedly agree.

Assuming my driving skills will develop over time to a more competitive level, I am looking forward to the challenge. Now, if I could only nail down some sponsors 😉

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RC Racing: Formula 1 (Part 2)

Tamiya TRF 102: Red Bull Racing

 

#Tamiya

RC Racing: Formula 1

When an individual first starts RC Racing, one of the most difficult decisions to make is deciding which scale, racing class, and type of car chassis and electronics to burn our money on.

The history of indoor and outdoor RC racing is quite convoluted in North America. Its popularity seems to follow the ebb and flow of the American economy. One thing I did notice was that, historically, each time something rather simple, fun, and relatively inexpensive comes to the world of RC racing, manufacturers and retailers turn that simplicity into a complex monster that eats up one’s hard earned cash faster than you can say wahoo!

Recently, I have been taking a good, hard look at the racing scene locally and considering what it would take to be competitive in that environment. Learning to be a skilled, consistent driver is most important to me.

The quality of car(s) and hop-up potential is secondary to developing good driving skills.

Formula 1 and GT class racing, in real life, has always appealed to me. Although I have never had the privilege of viewing an F1 race in person, I just love watching the racing online or on the big screen. Perhaps, the 2018 Formula 1 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal might just end up on my bucket list of things to do in 2018.

A few days ago I visited a local hobby shop and spoke at length with the owner, a seasoned RC racer himself. He was kind enough to show me a selection of his racing cars, including a rather beautiful Tamiya 1:10 scale Red Bull Racing Formula 1 car.

Trust me on this, once you see the inner workings of a high-end pan-type carbon fibre chassis of a 1:10 scale F1 car, everything else seems to be just run-of-the-mill plastic or nylon junk.

Needless to say, I thought about the Tamiya F1 for a day or two and then made another inquiry. The owner seemed generous and was willing to sell the pre-built kit, including motor, servo, ESC, and battery for a reasonable price. I jumped the gun on this one – hopefully I will not regret it down the road.

I suppose, in the final analysis, the car makes a nice Shelf Queen and a terrific conversational piece.

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