Sunday, May 30, 2010

93 Did Cancellara Use Illegal Motor Power At The Classics?

When I first read the story this morning via a Twitter shrapnel, I dismissed it as an unimpressive attempt at comedy. The story was titled "Former Pro Says 'Mechanized Doping' Is Real."

4 hours later, people were crying "mechanized doping, mechanized doping!" and sharing another story from Belgian source Sporza.

In it, Davide Cassani, an Italian commentator for RAI, implies that pros (like Cancellara) maybe using at races a bike retrofitted with a certain kind of motor. From first impressions, it looks very much like a modified Gruber Assist.

Cassani remarked that if he were given a bike like that at his age of 50, he'd probably win a stage at the Giro d'Italia himself! Among his other claims were that the mechanism has been in existence since 2004 and pros have even used it in the past.

A shady video (below) was then made by "CyclingmanagerItalia", whose real name is Michele Bufalino, showing how Cancellara may have used this device during Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Question remains : Who started the rumor about Cancellara using a motor?




The Gruber Assist, the interesting mechanism that maybe at the center of these rumors, happens to be a 900 gram (1.98 lbs) motor-control unit powered by a 1000 gram Li-Mn battery that is placed in a saddle bag from where cables and electronics run. The motor is switched on and off or placed into pedaling frequency recording mode by a button on the handlebar end.

The motor itself is designed to fit inside a 31.8 mm diameter seat tube, thus hidden from view. The drive mechanism appears to be a 90 degree bevel gear arrangement as shown in the pic below. The manufacturer claims that upto 200W of extra propelling power is delivered to the rear wheel at a rated cadence of 60 RPM, with a running time range of 45min-1.5 hours.


A peek at their website yields some specs for the battery. If human pedaling contribution was ignored, the battery has 4.5 A-hours of capacity at 6 A current and 30V rating. What that probably means is that a 6A current will discharge the 4.5 Ah capacity battery in 45 minutes. If the manufacturer's claims are true, the exaggerated 200 Watts could be from :

30V x 4.5 A-hours = 135 Watt-hours or 135 watts for an hour.

Of course, batteries work like human power. The faster you discharge energy from the battery, the less it can totally supply. This is called Puekert's effect. So the numbers above can drastically change with higher energy demands.

So suppose these video allegations from Cassani are indeed true, and suppose the motor was indeed suitable for the famed cobbles of Roubaix and the Kepelmuur (9.3% average, 19% max). What then?

On the hill section where Cancellara attacked dominantly, the motor must have been expected to supply an extra 200+ watts of power for him to power away from Boonen. On the cobbled sections to Roubaix, it must have been expected to provide upto 250 Watts of extra power to counteract wind resistance while accelerating away from the bunch. I'm not sure of the wind conditions, but with headwinds, add another 200 Watts give or take to that figure, for every 5 mph increase in wind speed.

All in all, with the weight requirements that pro cycling demands, the energy demands imposed on the battery are substantial. Not only is the discharge rate very high, such as that asked for in an attack during the race, but the gravimetric energy density (Wh/kg) of the battery must also be high. If the battery weighs 1 kg as claimed, you're looking at a desired supply of upto 200 Wh/kg and over. My first guess tells me that a Li-Mn battery could not meet these racing specific demands. But I maybe wrong given the rate at which battery technology is getting better. See the graph below :



To the lame man, more important questions, however, are the following :

1) How was Cancellara was able to get away from not being noticed in spite of sound from the motor? Observe in the video below the amount of noise this thing makes :



2) Where did he place the 1 kg battery, if he didn't have a saddle bag?
3) The seat tube must be internally drilled out with a reamer for the drive unit to be correctly placed. The drive unit would have to be made to work with the SRAM bottom bracket, as the off the shelf unit only works with Shimano Hollowtech II. After that, all parts would then have to be hidden from view, given the number of components in the assembly as shown.


Surely, if this event took place, someone knowledgeable in how to do all this would have assisted at the Saxo Bank camp.

This may either be a good one for the spoof books, or something just so good that it doesn't appear true.


* * *

93 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:17 PM

    Someone is out of their mind. How is it that the bike escaped tech inspection?

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  2. I suppose the same way as riders have been escaping anti-doping control. No idea. Hoping to hear something more from credible sources.

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  3. Anyone here think Cassani is enjoying some backdoor payments from Gruber in exchange for exposure?

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  4. i cant remember who said it at the time and would take a massive amount of digging, but there was a rider on the day of flanders said when cancellara passed him it sounded like he was on a motorbike and there was a buzzing noise. It was passed off by everyone at the time as being a joke, a few people joked he had a motor hidden on the bike and nothing else was said of it.
    Cant for the life of me remember who said it though, I think it was a french rider but wouldnt swear on it.

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  5. I think at the time though, a much smaller battery was suggested. with maybe only 20 minutes of assist, with people jumping on the fact he swapped bikes twice during flanders as a way of "!recharging"

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  6. Dim,

    Can you find out that French rider's name? Think hard! Drink coffee! :)

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  7. On May 27, journalist Gregor Brown chimed in on Twitter.

    "Motors in pro bikes is not just a rumour. I saw a version today. As bad as doping."

    See : http://twitter.com/gregorbrown

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  8. A motor that only provided an extra 50 or 100W would be more than enough to turn an average pro into a winner [citation needed :-) ].

    In the video, Cancellara did a couple of impressive accelerations. If he had a motor, then you could expect that he turned it on and also accelerated himself. Thus, his legs would provide some additional power, and the motor would too. If he didn't have a motor, then he's just got really good legs. There is no need to assume that the motor provided all of the 200W+ needed for the acceleration.

    Given how much money the teams have and how much they are known to have spent on doping (Landis claimed $90k/year), it's reasonable to think that they could easily fund a bit of R&D into these motors and batteries to squeeze them into a bike.

    If this is actually a real issue, then it should be fairly easy to detect if you're looking for it. Motors have magnets, and magnets make magnetic fields... If the riders use powermeters it might be possible to work something out from that too.

    I sure hope that this is just a viral marketing campaign by Gruber Assist (or, at least not a real issue). But if it is real, I hope the officials make sure that it doesn't happen again.

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  9. Touriste-Routier10:00 PM

    Any one besides me hate when the term "doping" is used for anything other than drugs? Blood doping used to be called blood boosting, which is more accurate.

    "Motorized Doping" isn't doping; it is just plain motorized or motor assisted.

    Doping may be cheating, but all cheating is not necessarily doping. If this sport ever wants to get over the dope stigma, WE need to start using proper terminology.

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  10. Anonymous10:00 PM

    Has noone ever seen sram shifting actuated? Seriously, this is all just bullshit "viral marketing" attempts by this p.o.s. gruber company. Why don't you show the part in the video where the "impossible acceleration" is done by boonen to try to chase. WTF is wrong with people that they believe this.

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  11. I agree with the post. The technology to do something like this is almost science fiction. Please tell me this is a bad dream and it'll go once I wake up again.

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  12. I never saw the footage of the 2 races until today, and I have to admit that the accelleration seems out of this world.
    Either Cancellara is a god, which I really hope, cause the sport needs it' s gods, or this is, indeed, a bad dream.
    That being said, this does remind me of the James Bond movie "A view to a kill".

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  13. By the way. This idea that Cancellara has been using an electro motor actually came out right after the tour of flanders as well, and it was Pat McQuaid who said it was a fable.
    Maybe there is more truth to this story then meets the eye.

    The fact is that even if it didn' t increase his poweroutput 200W during the accelleration, having ridden 200 KM with an additional push, allows him to conserve some energy, which he can then use later during his "demarrage"

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  14. David :

    Good point. Yes, my analysis assumes that the rider doesn't provide power..however in reality, you must and you can reduce motor power requirements this way. Eitherway, it is bad to operate a motor at its max power point. Its better to operate it at a point of maximum efficiency, and as we all know, a motor's max efficiency does not correspond with its max power right? But with a system so simple that it could go into the bottom bracket of a frame, it would be far fetched to think there is any motor control, so once you set it to "ON", it runs at a constant load speed. At 8mph, a 26" bicycle wheel rotates at 10.8 rad/sec, about 90-100 RPM. If the gear box were a 4:1 reduction (assume), the motor would be spinning at 400 RPM. For every factor of 2 speed reduction, efficiency drops by about 5%.

    So, Fabian weighs 80 kg, and say he put 5W/kg into that decisive attack to ride 10-12 mph up a grade of 10-15% - then his power output should have been 400W+. So motor supplied 130W and he supplied 270? Plausible. But why on earth would anyone risk his pride and his career and slap on a motor that can essentially provide the same kind of power that he can do himself?? We know from Fabian's Paris Roubaix days in 2006 that he can produce these kinds of power outputs.

    And if motor revs at 400 RPM, no noise? Perhaps the motor being caged in carbon fiber absorbs the noise? Boy, I have no idea.

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  15. “I though, I’d better let this motorbike come by but when I turned around and looked it was Cancellara” — Bernhard Eisel

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/eisels-big-day-at-flanders-affected-by-crashes

    Here's the quote that dim was thinking of, found courtesy of Google.

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  16. Anonymous12:32 AM

    The Bionx battery provides some 250 W but weighs 6-8 lbs. I have yet to hear about a 1 lb battery achieving the same.

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  17. I stand corrected. The gruber assist does have a speed control.

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  18. Actually, having ridden a Carbon bike for the first time last week, I can assure you that carbon does nothing but amplify noise. I was amazed at how loud the road noise was.

    Having said that, I just think Cancellara is a god...

    All the officials would have to do is to weigh one of the 3 bikes he used in the race to figure something was up. That would be easy enough to do and surely part of scrutineering!

    I think it's Gruber trying to get in on the back of an off the cuff comment from a competitor who just got his a$$ whipped... at the expense of the winner's credibility.

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  19. Crackhead1:14 AM

    The UCI already declared last month that this is hogwash, they ran their checks and they didn't find any souped up bikes. WHY on earth is Cassani still involved in a scam like this? Its very distracting.

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  20. Hmm, I'm extremely sorry guys. Looks like this is an April's fool joke that someone forgot to kill and now its wasting our time. Some news articles on motorized bikes in the Peloton go back as far as April. Until another credible journalist gets within the ranks and reports what he finds, no point in talking about it.

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  21. I'd also like to point out the bike were are shown in the Italian report is clearly not the Gruber assist. It looks like the motor is built into the botom bracket and requires a massive cylindrical bottom bracket which is unlike anything I've seen on modern bike. If you look when they show the cranks you can see a large white circular disc.

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  22. Forgot to say, Rai says the motor is made by someone from Hungary. Gruber assist is German.

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  23. Anonymous4:54 AM

    Just wanted to point out that Cassani didn't make that video and he never made any allegations about Cancellara cheating.

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  24. Anonymous5:28 AM

    There is no peurkert effect with lithium batteries. The voltage remains constant for almost the entire discharge.

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  25. Anonymous5:30 AM

    if you want to know how it's done google "A123 batteries"...they are the best batteries on the market currently. They are amazing and light weight. Also they are the kind of circular batteries that would fit in a bike tube.

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  26. Pieter5:35 AM

    Just want to mention there was a lot to do about bike changes during tour of flanders in the saxo bank team.
    Cancellara changed at least once and also Breschel changed bike, with a lot of trouble.
    Can't figure out if this an argument pro or contra the contested motorized theory.

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  27. here we go.. original article on 11th april in cyclismag (translated)
    http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http://www.cyclismag.com/article.php%3Fsid%3D5737&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&twu=1&usg=ALkJrhi4OjzXdtrDwP7IgF2hhbcAThLuxg

    or screenshot http://i45.tinypic.com/1hcwt3.jpg

    they dont mention the riders name.

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  28. ok, that link didnt work terribly well.
    this is better http://tinyurl.com/369ufg9

    article stated (11th April)

    Rumor Cancellara

    The secret of Fabian Cancellara? A dynamo hidden in his pedal, allowing it to move faster. The fantasy is all the funnier it became in an uproar within the platoon. A French rider has reported to www.cyclismag.com this "noise" surprising. Those who really believe the arguments brandished as many changes as Cycling Cancellara operates at full speed. It is already more original than a suspicion of doping!

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  29. Anonymous9:58 AM

    How *would* something like this last on the cobbles of Roubaix? I know nothing about engineering, but don't they have a hard enough time building bikes to withstand the cobblage? Unless the suggest is that Fab used it on the non-cobbled parts of the race, to conserve energy?

    I just don't buy it at all... it's a great conspiracy theory though, and a good distraction from the Landis stuff...

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  30. @ Anon 4:54 : I see. I suppose the tooth fairy made the video then. For all I care, Cassani helped in the preparation of the video and is incriminating someone with pure conjecture.

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  31. Anon at 5:28 : ALL batteries, even Lithium ion, show the Peukert effect. T=(C/I^n). Amperage or load up, range or capacity down. Its a rule of thumb. Lithium ion's Peukert constant might be very close to 1, but perhaps not 1. Saying it doesn't show the effect is rubbish - the cell has zero internal resistance then?

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  32. "Any one besides me hate when the term "doping" is used for anything other than drugs?"

    Yes. 'Doping' seems like a very odd term to ascribe to the use of a motor.

    To add to your chagrin, I just read an article in this months Pro Cycling magazine written by a guy who coaches Marco Pinotti named Omar Beltran. He describes the process of mental stimulation to secrete natural hormones as 'ecological doping'.

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  33. Doping is the process of introducing something externally to boost performance. In the semiconductor industry, it is absolutely required. In sports, doing it your own body is illegal. Fitting a battery on your bike illegally to power yourself is an external aid. In the strict sense of the word, it is not doping. I would just call it foul play or cheating.

    Euan : Do you have any information on the maker of the motor? I'd like to see the battery then. The Cassani video says the battery is near the pedals. If its that small that it cannot be seen, it must be borrowed from an RC car or something and I would think it would be near to useless for any signficant "short term" boost. The best Li-Mn batteries are about the size of what you see in my post, which is a picture I borrowed from the Gruber Assist website. I can't see any battery smaller than that shooting forth a 80kg rider doing 25mph on cobbles.

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  34. Shimano Di3??

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  35. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Casini is really stubborn guy , if he belivies in smething he is prove it. He take Rasmussen out of cycling rememebr?

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  36. Anonymous12:24 PM

    The 'no sound' argument is really stupid, he was on "De Muur van Geraardsbergen".
    Thousands of people were shouting.
    Of course you can't hear that !

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  37. On my homepage, to your left, there's the video of a MTB fitted with a Gruber Assist in my Vodpod. Unless Boonen had his ears plugged, I can't believe he didn't hear a faint motor buzz as Cancellara passed him on the Muur. If that's not tough to buy, how all the components were so small and hidden, at the same time having the power to "boost" someone up the Muur is a little incredible.

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  38. The new silver based battery cells can be tiny and deliver 4amps of power at 3 volts, you could likely run a 50 watt motor for around 5 to 10 seconds at that level. Unless the pedals are holding a very small magneto which is charging the single cell.

    Thing that makes me believe that video is rubbish though is the sudden jump in power, a 50 watt motor would never gain that much in such a short amount of time. It would maybe creep a meter further during that 5 or so seconds of sudden charge it has, but that's about it. Also there would be no reason to run the cell via a button (very easy to tell something strange is going on, plus it would look fake the sudden jump in power directly following).

    The magneto / cell could deliver a constant rate of power while pedalling, which would help a rider over the entire course while running flat almost the exact second the pedals stop, in that case there would be almost no chance of being detected. Surely professional riders would opt for a system like that if they were going to break the rules instead of a push button / heat activated sensor.

    Doesn't cycling have something similar to parc feme? where all the bikes are sent after the race to check for things like this? A system could definitely exist to do this but surely the top body in cycling would have realised this by now? the only places it could be held is within the pedal area and within the hubs. Wouldn't take long for officials to check both those areas for anything irregular.

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  39. I like the " strange swift motion with his fingers towards his brake/ gear lever" which "proves" he had one fitted eerrrrrr... maybe he was changing gear :-) strange but I do that all the time on my bike

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  40. I recall some perfect 8 second bike exchanges during the race. Battery recharge??

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  41. Conspiracy theories, but to some, if it is online then it must be true.

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  42. Anonymous2:16 PM

    RAI and Cassani had nothing to do with the video implicating Cancellara.

    The only people "incriminating someone with pure conjecture" are the creator of the video and you.

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  43. sigh. Cassani did a video on RAI showing the bike and he stated that the manufacturer told him that pros had used it. No rider name, no races mentioned.

    Someone else - CyclingManagerItalia - created the video implicating Cancellara on youtube. Not Cassani, not RAI. Yes they used the RAI video in the mashup but RAI/Cassani had nothing to do with the Cancellara implication.

    Obviously you don't like getting comments that don't agree with your point of view. I get the message no need to show me the door. I will stay on sites where discussion is truly appreciated.

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  44. I edited the writeup. Sorry from my part. But Cassani's first hand source knows which pros are using it. I wouldn't be surprised if Cancellara popped up...afterall, why did the creator of the video first jump on Cancellara's case to prove that there is a bike like this being used? He must have heard it from someone else. Rumors spread like wildfire.

    Also to get things straight, I'm not so jobless to sit and implicate Cancellara without evidence.

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  45. Slipshot3:54 PM

    Compact high performance batteries are not so unbelieavle. The Milwaukee cordless drill I have at home has a 450 in-lb motor at 18 V. The battery is about 2 pounds though.

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  46. Anonymous7:26 PM

    People, battery weight is irrelevant for the short bursts that are needed. It may end up weighing 2lbs or more, but today's bikes are well under the UCI minimum, to which teams actually need to add on weights to meet the requirements. Weight is also not much of a factor when it comes to flat to rolling stages.

    Short bursts of 250watts are all that's needed for a top level pro to take on a significant advantage. Time trial pros can hammer down 500 watts continuously for an hour, so a short 250 watt burst gives them needed acceleration to pull away, and once they do, shut the motor off to conserve battery.

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  47. ilovesoccer8:49 PM

    This is no Gruber Assist. It is some kind of James Bond technology that we haven't seen yet. We haven't seen it yet because its probably still on paper. What that probably means is that this news is FAKKKE.

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  48. Not that I'm convinced at this point...
    but If the Gruber system weighs in at approx 4lbs (motor/battery) it's not too hard to get a pro level bike in the 13lb range...add 4lbs...a still. reasonable 17ish...So that is not beyond the real of believabilty.

    Ron...Maybe you could figure this out.

    Since the Gruber Assist Motor is intended to be just that "an assist" with max a quoted 200 watts available (for a limited period determined by either the rider or battery strength...what ever fails first)

    What effect would this have if said rider is attacking at a (we'll say) a power output of 400 watts

    Is his power now a (temparary) 600 watts (?)... or is his power output diluting the assist motor and marginalizing the motor's output?

    Is the motor able to reach max torque instantly? My understanding is they do...But I stand to be corrected

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  49. Mick :

    It depends what the power-torque-RPM profile of the motor in question is like. Normally, DC motor have an inverse relationship between torque and RPM. At 0 rpm, you have stall torque, and at no load conditions (0 torque), you have max RPM (like in the video where Cassani demonstrates the wheel spinning without loading the wheel). Finally, the maximum power of the motor (in our case, 100W or 200W) would typically fall in between 0 and max RPM, hence at about half of stall torque. In other words, to get full power output out of the motor, the rider should be geared appropriately such that the motor is spinning at the right RPM. So if we suppose the Gruber Assist's max RPM is 200, then the rider would have to be pedaling at 100 RPM to extract max power. [Incidentally, when Cancellara decisively "jumped" at Paris Roubaix with 48K to go, his RPM went up from 90 to 105 or something (I counted it!). Make whatever you want from that.]

    As for your question, I think it depends on what cadence the rider is at while producing 400 Watts. You can produce 400 Watts with various RPMs and torque combinations. If you're going to produce 400 watts at very low or very high RPM's, don't expect the motor to deliver the full claimed 100W. Yes, I think it will be "diluted". So if all the conditions are right, will the powers of the rider (400W) and motor (100W) just add up in series, 1 to 1? Good question. I believe it won't as the rider has already "swamped" out the motor by supplying almost 2 times the power. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    It sure will help take the load out of the motor though, and make it last longer (Peukert's effect). So more Wh/mile or km.

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  50. Anonymous6:45 AM

    This would be an incredible story if it was true, I would almost be proud of him if he was able to pull it off.

    What makes this so interesting is that it is very probable and a lot coincidences are lining up.

    -The quote by Bernie Eisel.
    -Multiple bike changes for no apparent reason(unusual but not unheard of)
    -A specific Tube shaped battery could easily be made.
    -Incredible bursts of speed while seated.
    -Motor noise would not be noticed in the motorcade/fans.
    -the extra 2kgs. on a flat race like Paris Roubaix would not be that significant.

    I've used tricycles with battery assist motors and they definitely help under heavy loads. If this motor was setup to be maximized for Cancellara, when used it would be similar to getting a push in the back or tailwind. That is why they are called battery assist electric motors not electric bikes. I think the effect would be similar to 400w from Cancellara +100w from the battery easily giving him an advantage over his competitors.

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  51. Anonymous11:20 AM

    The problem is that in the Paris-Roubaix clip, his cadence exceeds the 90 rpm benefit that the motor would give, so that has to be tossed. I'm typically suspect of such performances as I have been jaded by the doping scandals of the last few decades, but Fabian has been a legend since he was racing in the junior ranks and having another decade of muscle maturity, racing experience and training underneath him, well, I find it difficult to imagine him doing this. We know procycling is in a poor state of fitness when conspiracy theories have become the norm, and that's not to say that it's not deserved.

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  52. Anonymous11:23 AM

    cancellara is not using "motorized" doping. He is using blood doping.

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  53. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Why would this be a hoax?

    All these numbers and math you are quoting Ron. Now that's speculation.

    Math won't solve this one.

    If a motor was fitted, then a motor was fitted.

    Math is there to explain things to people.

    Motor assistance makes a HUGE difference, it is easily possible to fit one to a bicycle so that it is hidden. The UCI does not allow motor assistance, but they don't check for it, even though motors have been available off the shelf since 2006, built for the purpose.

    Of course people are using them. That's what they are for.

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  54. MikeWhy11:59 AM

    @Mick, @Ron

    Great discussion of motor and human power.

    Don't think of it as power, since that's confusing the issue. Think of it as torque. Where the rider is concerned, he'll find he can spin a smaller sprocket for a given effort and rpm. Does it matter that it's a tailwind,
    descent, or electric motor that allows this? A DC motor's point of view is just as simple. It delivers torque proportional to current. It doesn't know or care what else is on the shaft.

    100W is about 1.5 W/kg for some typical size rider. I picked 100W as being both significant and easily achievable. If you need more boost, size the components larger. A link posted elsewhere in rec.bicycles.tech shows a commercial 200W setup, using a hobby grade DC motor and planetary reduction gear. These are typical of motors sold to power model airplanes. (The telltale gear
    whine in the videos is from the planetary reduction gear. A purpose-built brushless motor won't need one, and will be much quieter and more difficult
    to detect.)

    It's simple enough to make from store bought parts that I'm considering putting one in the wife's bike so she can tag along on non-training rides. The only real world problem is implementing a reliable kill switch. I think
    I would want it on the rear brake cable.

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  55. Peter Cole12:02 PM

    If the average rec rider has 100W average and 200W peak, a 200W motor with a 150 W-h battery can double the rider's effective power over a 90 minute ride. Many rec riders are stymied by the occasional steep hills they encounter on an otherwise not too
    challenging ride.

    The Gruber is rated at 200W, a 135 W-h battery brings the total weight to < 2 kg.

    One of those would be perfect for our 30 mile, ~90 minute weekly club rides. With my combined rider & bike weight of ~260 lb, I'd never notice the extra 5, but with an extra 200W at my fingertip, I'd kick ass in spectacular fashion. Gotta quiet down that drive, though

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  56. @ Mikewhy : Right. On paper, it would seem likely that the two torques, one from motor, and one from the rider, would just superimpose on each other. Its like statics. Torques can add and subtract from each other. I do find it somewhat difficult to believe that in reality, the system will behave this way.

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  57. Anonymous12:23 PM

    think of it this way.

    whoever has a motor fitted whilst going uphill.

    turning the motor on would not slow them down, would it.

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  58. Anonymous12:49 PM

    does anyone really think that when someone is using one of these things to cheat in a race that they are concerned about keeping the motor in it's peak power zone. I'm sure they'd be happy for whatever the thing churns out. They'll be riding at whatever RPM their little legs can do t that point in time.

    It's only when two motorised riders are racing each other that they will start to do the math.

    what are you upto Ron?

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  59. Thanks for the spelling shout-out, Ron. I got Cassani right when I quoted from L'Equipe but then got it wrong when I wrote the standfirst.

    As the BikeBiz.com piece alludes, I'm not yet convinced 'mechanised doping' exists yet. The technology has been around - in the open, at trade shows - since 2007. Cassani seemed to be saying he was on a top secret assignation.

    On the Spokesman podcast with David Bernstein and others I wondered aloud whether the Gruber Assist was good enough yet. If a pro kept switching bikes to get a recharged battery pack, maybe.

    But it's an awful lot of effort and the punishments, if the pro was found out, would be extreme.

    And, as others have pointed out, the Gruber Assist is noisy.eed

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  60. I'm leaning towards not believing this, but for all the people claiming that Boonen would have heard the engine on the Muur - I don't think so. You've been watching too many races on TV. It may have been the best time to use it. ;)

    Taken on the Muur in 2006. It was deafening.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxipbUyOfkA

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  61. Anonymous3:28 PM

    "But it's an awful lot of effort and the punishments, if the pro was found out, would be extreme."

    but how would they get found out?
    If they crashed and the motor fell out?

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  62. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Should be pointed out that the avg power output of a PR lead group rider will likely be over 300~400W. specially for cancellara.

    When he's attacking his output if likely to be in the 500~700W or even higher, basically the described motor would be overwhelmed by a pro rider's output -- not the other way around.

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  63. Anon at 3:29 said "When he's attacking his output if likely to be in the 500~700W or even higher, basically the described motor would be overwhelmed by a pro rider's output -- not the other way around."

    This is what I feel too as I described in comments earlier.

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  64. Anonymous4:05 PM

    "When he's attacking his output if likely to be in the 500~700W or even higher, basically the described motor would be overwhelmed by a pro rider's output -- not the other way around."

    got nothing to do with watts.

    overwhelmed. i dont think i have ever heard that term in engineering before.

    the motor will have some torque available depending on the rpm of the crank. as long as the rpm is not greater than that of the no load running speed of the motor+ some friction etc etc, its helping.

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  65. Anonymous4:14 PM

    if there are 2 motors of unequal power on the same shaft, will maximum output be equal to, less than or greater than, the the most powerful motor on the shaft.

    remember, there is a load on the shaft.

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  66. Anonymous4:32 PM

    say its 200w.

    if you had a 36v battery, youd need 5 amps out of it. sounds reasonable.

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  67. Anonymous4:41 PM

    just short circuit a battery from a drill, and measure how much current you can get out of it, and for how long if you want to know.

    id imagine its way more then 5A.

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  68. Anonymous4:43 PM

    youll need a stopwatch, ammeter and a drill battery, fully charged with the short circuit protection removed.

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  69. I think what I should be thinking, instead..and this my own fault, is that a rider can "potentially" use a motor not just to "augment" his power, but to "recover". So he can softpedal after a hard effort, while he turns on the motor..after he recovers, he turns it off and returns back to cruising speed.

    Another thing people may be getting confused about...No, the rider is not overwhelming the motor. If the rider supplies all the demand power for load conditions, and assuming he's pedaling at target cadence, I learn that the motor controller would just freewheel, leaving the windings of the motor open.

    But if the rider's target RPM drops below optimum because he can't supply the torque necessary for the demand, the motor controller increases the amperage and motor responds by supplying the torque, limited by the capacity of the battery.

    Pardon any misunderstanding.

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  70. While I think it's farfetched that any pro racers are using motor assist, if any of them were, it would make most sense to hide the battery in a gimmicked water bottle. That way you could take a handup shortly before the segment where you would need the assist, and dispose of the dead weight right after. The bottle cage would be engineered with electrical contacts.

    If the motor itself is 900 g (as per the Gruber site), that would get the weight of the rigged bike close enough to normal to avoid raised eyebrows during inspections.

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  71. Anonymous6:20 PM

    it might be a motor that gives a high power boost, setup like a starter motor on a car, so it self engages on spin up, and disengages on spin down. you know centrifugal force.

    could be anything in there. if you cant see it, how do you know what it is?

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  72. Placing a battery inside the water bottle reminds me of how the folks at Metrigear once tossed some testing circuitry into a bidon, and worked very well. It even came with an on-off switch.

    See : http://www.metrigear.com/2010/02/04/drowning-the-data-its-in-the-bottle/

    Its possible to engineer something like that but again, what are the chances it will go unnoticed.

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  73. When a race is won by seconds over a long distance among virtually evenly matched riders, even a small advantage can mean victory.

    One guy is in a better mood one day. One guy has EPO. One guy has a concealed motor. One guy brakes a bit more in a steep descent. One guy has a slow leak, runs the last few km 20psi low. All these things matter where a wheel's breadth separates #1 from #2

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  74. That would be nice to have for weekend rider, but for competition use is not.

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  75. Anonymous12:33 PM

    My question is, did nobody hear the engine? In the first video, where it is explained, how the mechanism works, You can hear a very high pitched sound of the electro engine, as well as in the second video. Dont tell me, that nobody would have noticed this sound! Fake IMHO...

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  76. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Let me add a cyclist's perspective. First off, the acceleration at Paris-Roubaix was not at all that impressive. The leading group was simply going slow at that moment, cancellara accelerated and everyone relied on Boonen (the other huge favorite) to chase Canc back, which didn't happen. Every pro has the capability to accelerate like that (top sprinters reach peaks of 2kW, while the group was doing 400 W tops). The impressive part is canc staying clear during the next 50 kms, which does not happen often in today's cycling. But then again, the chasing group wasn't cooperating much, which slows it down, and moreover Canc is notoriously strong in races against the clock, ever since the junior years. So, while it was certainly a profound testament of his strength, it was not some otherwordly performance. In fact, if someone asked beforehand who could pull something like that off, everyone would reply Cancellara without thinking. On the other hand, the acceleration at Flanders where he rode Boonen off his wheel is impressive, no doubt. But again, such things happen, there would be no winners otherwise.

    Now to the wattage side of things. A 5% increase in power output on a long ascent or in a time trial equals win. The best climbers archive up to 6 W/kg, which is usually around the 400W mark. The best time trialists archive slightly less power/kg, but their total power output is bigger, usually around 500W mark. So an extra 100 W over a 30 min period is an insane advantage. Even numbers like 30W would have a huge impact. So yes, I trust Cassani that he would be able to win some mountain top finish with such rigged bike.

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  77. Just had a thought (even though I think this whole thing is a load of bollocks).

    IF there was some mechanical device, unless it was able to disengage from the drive gear, it would provide drag when it was not in use, therefor slowing the rider down when the engine was not turning.

    As far as the effectiveness or otherwise (by the numbers) my maths is nowhere near good enough to give you an answer there, but I would imagine that if the first engine (rider) was already turning faster than the second was able to turn (motor) then that second engine would also cause drag, wouldn't it?

    Interesting conspiracy theory and I think that there is a lot of promotional/marketing stuff here for Gruber.

    As I said before, pity it has to come at the expense of a champion's integrity.

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  78. Anonymous5:43 PM

    i think all this sounds pretty "exciting". does anyone now where to buy this motor? it could be fun to test it. (:

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  79. Anonymous5:45 PM

    No way he used an engine. That video is such crap. On his first acceleration he clearly gets out of his saddle to catch up with the small attack that had formed. Boonen was at the back, which was why he wasn't able to counter. And really, it doesn't look at all like he was doing anything other than changing gears with his right hand. In the second clip, his acceleration does look more impressive, but it wasn't anything otherworldly. Chances are good that before that point he and Boonen had spent an equal amount of time working/drafting, and knowing how much faster Cancellara is over sustained distances (his incredible time trial strength), it makes sense that he may have been a bit fresher and Boonen just cracked, hence the ease with which he dropped him.

    In a lot of ways you'd think that using a motor that small while going that fast would be akin to pushing an already moving car to make it go faster, it wouldn't do anything. The video claims he used the motor to speed up, but all it probably would have done would allow him to save his legs.

    Just a stupid attempt at some form of viral marketing.

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  80. It makes some sense. While there are those that argue "why would they risk it?" at the same time people point out that the evidence is gone once the race is over. Seems like it isn't any more risky than doping. And with $ behind it you easily could make it quiet and find better places for batteries. Its all very sad...but fascinating.

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  81. I think that the motor must have been expected to supply an extra 200+ watts of power.

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  82. Its too risky .............

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  83. Anonymous11:58 AM

    You can put a one-way clutch on either of the gears to eliminate friction when the motor is not turning.

    All the bike race inspections I've been at just check the brakes and the handlebar stem.

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  84. Anonymous12:03 PM

    So how long have these been in use by the peleton? There is no hoax here all the technology is available and we know team managers and some riders are not above breaking the rules. This is worse than taking drugs - at least that was still the rider! If this system has been in use for a few years it explains how one American has beaten two generations of doped riders to win the tour. As an engineer the physics make sense and a rider it ALL makes sense. God help our sport.

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  85. Anonymous1:03 PM

    Unfortunately the forest is not being seen here for the trees. First, the idea that such a system is science fiction is absurd. The only requirement to build a mechanical assist like the one imagined is MONEY ! The mechanical assemblies shown in the video are off-the-shelf versions you or I could purchase. No one would use that in professional racing. You would have one designed specifally to meet your needs. I work at an engineering company that has repaired cracks in nuclear reactors 100 feet down with insane amount of radiation. How ? MONEY ! When the funding pool is endless anything can be built. We could build a quiet, efficient system to fit a bicycle in a month if you're willing to pay for it. The battery baffelgab it just that. BAFFELGAB ! The rider only need a burst of assist at critical times in the race based on his experience as a rider. To output 100W....200W...500W of assist for 5 seconds would be trivial to accomplish, even more if required. It's a simple matter of energy storage since all the stored energy is going to be delivered in a few massive blasts. Again, nothing more than a matter of MONEY. As an aside since we're talking conspiracy...read the post 2 above me. Is this guy using your website to pass terrorist instructions...read it carefully is all I'm saying.

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  86. Motorized bike are not use for the racing. if you like to buy motorized bike, please check the all parts with brand name.

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  87. Until we have one in the box, one used in a race, it's no different than bigfoot or the alien landing at Roswell.

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  88. I wonder where I would be able to purchase this motor. It would be nice for just occasional use with the family on weekends.

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  89. I am impressed by the way you covered this topic. It is not often I come across a blog with captivating articles like yours. I will note your feed to keep up to date with your approaching updates.Just striking and do uphold up the good work.

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  90. I agree with the post. The technology to do something like this is almost science fiction. Please tell me this is a bad dream and it'll go once I wake up again.

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  91. Thanks for the insight into this subject….I’ll keep reading

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  92. think of it this way.

    whoever has a motor fitted whilst going uphill.

    turning the motor on would not slow them down, would it.

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  93. Anonymous7:24 PM

    After recent events, I have no reason to believe it wouldn't happen. If you have ever been struggling up a hill and someone comes past and gives you a slight push on the back you would know how so little can help so much. If you had a 30+% boost to your power output that would make life so much easier when things get tough and leave you own energy to burn when you need it. All money (btw R&D funding does not have to come from the team, the developer would most likely approach someone in a team with an idea and demonstration, "What would you say of I could give your riders 30 + minutes worth of free power during a race and it would never effect their blood results)

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Thank you. I read every single comment.