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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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: Why Formula 1?

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

It is interesting to note that, almost without fail, whenever I start on another time-consuming project in life, specifically Formula 1 class RC racing, the naysayers, those that discourage, and the envious show up.

What is it with people that they cannot be encouraging towards someone starting out (a newbie) in a new sport or hobby?

If I had a dime for all the negative and envious people I meet day-in and day-out, I would be an extraordinarily rich man.

In the words of Rhett Butler (Clarke Gable) in the 1939 motion picture “Gone with the Wind”:

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Continue reading “RC Racing: Why Formula 1?”

RC Racing: Formula 1 (Part 2)

Tamiya TRF 102: Red Bull Racing

 

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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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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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