Wednesday, June 02, 2010

25 GRUBER Assist Made No Sale To Cancellara

GRUBER Assist, an e-bike drive train company in Austra, has (fortunately or unfortunately) found itself at the center of rumors regarding illegal motor use among the peloton.

I covered the story two days back and wrote about my feelings of what a motor should be capable of to help someone win the Paris Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders. We took for granted that this motor could be the GRUBER Assist. In the comments section of that blog post, I agreed with posters that at high cadences and power outputs such as Cancellara's (see Anatomy of a Cancellara Attack), the rider can "dilute" this motor, if you will.

Don't get me wrong. I'm also very impressed about the product's capabilities. I suppose one good thing that has emerged out of this controversy is that it is showing people a neat little technology for use in bicycling and potential use in bike racing.

BikeBiz already reported that the motor involved in the controversy in fact comes from Hungary, not Austria where GRUBER is based in. But hey, Hungary and Austria share a border.

Just to get the record straight about the product and its alleged use in the peloton, I had a chat with Julia Timmerer, a representative for the company. The following is what she told me in reply. I quote her :

"We are pleased about your interest in our product.

GRUBER Assist is an ultra-light drive for bicycles, invisible and built into the seat tube of the bicycle. The auxiliary drive supports with 200 Watt engine power (100 Watt Output) and weighs just 900 grams (plus 1 kg battery).

You can store the frequency of the pedals between 30 and 90 rpm. And so it gives the difference to your frequency. For example: You pedal 60 rpm, the motor is stored to 80 rpm, he supports the 20 (as far as it’s possible with it’s 100 Watts). BUT, if you pedal faster than the motor (you pedal 80, motor is stored 60) you overrun the motor and have no support.
For installing the GRUBER Assist into your bicycle, please note the requirements for the bicycle frame:
  • - Aluminium or steel bicycle frame
  • - Straight, continuous seat tube
  • - Seat tube inner diameter of 31,6 or NEW 30,9 mm
  • - Shimano Hollowtech II crankset – with outer bearing shells
  • - Seat tube should be as central as possible on the bottom bracket
  • - Minimum length of 62 cm from the middle of the crank to the saddle or 57 cm at a shorten seat post
  • - Installation by a certified GRUBER Assist dealer
On our homepage you can find 3 spots which explains the GRUBER Assist exactly:

Please note, that neither the GRUBER Assist, nor the battery is admitted in the USA.

Please note, that the GRUBER Assist has not installed a blocking. For example in Austria an E-Bike needs a blocking at 25 km/h, otherwise you cannot drive legal on a public street. If one wants this blocking, the customer should let us know with their order. A later installation is very complicated and more expensive.

We never sold the GRUBER Assist to Fabian Cancellara and we don’t think that one of our dealers did this. And I don’t know anything about the using of our product in any races. At the moment our product is unique and we also have the patent for it. I don’t know anything about a similar product. There are many other E-Bikes (hub dive, bottom bracket motor,…) but those bicycles are not only very heavy but you can also see the motor."

Fabian's race winning bike posted by Jered Gruber. Where's the motor?

* * *


  1. The most interesting thing about the company's reply is that the product supports a "frequency of the pedals" of up to 90rpm. I would imagine that a cadence of at least 110rpm would be more likely during an attack, and judging from the video segment 2:07 to 2:22 you previously referenced, it would appear that in the initial seconds of the attack, Cancellara's cadence is over 140rpm - determined using one tap each time his left knee came up.

    Since, as the company says, "if you pedal faster than the motor (you pedal 80, motor is stored 60) you overrun the motor and have no support" the (unlikely) presence of the device would have provided 0 benefit. Furthermore, since a cadence of above 90rpm is common for competitive cyclists, it's hard to see the moto-doping scenario as feasible with regards to the device in question.

  2. The issue is three fold.

    1) I already commented in my previous post that Fabian was doing round about 110 RPM after the attack. I wondered whether there would be any use of a motor such as GRUBER's at close to 900-1000W and 110-130 RPM. Someone in Austra with the product can go bust the myth once and for all. But I maintain that I'm not convinced the motor can provide the boost necessary nor is it any useful given the pedaling facts we have for Cancellara.

    2) Like I said before, where the potential of the motor shines is in its ability to let the rider "take a break" after a hard effort. He softpedals while kicking into gear the motor. After he has recovered, he switches it off. Voila. Makes for unbelievable television.

    3) Since we now now this isn't a GRUBER assist, there is another variant of such a technology floating around from Hungary that may have more impressive specs. So its tough to say what the motor can and cannot do WITHOUT knowing what the product really is that these riders are using.

  3. Anonymous1:43 PM

    This is silly. Why would Cancellara buy a motor if he wanted to keep it secret?

  4. Anonymous1:45 PM

    Radioshack donated their motor from Armstrong's bike. "Single use only Fabian!"... now he's in trouble for using it in two races.

  5. I had a laugh with my wife about this during dinner last night. Absolutely had no expectation that this would spread so quickly to another serious drama. Even the NYT has picked up on it.

  6. quick way to figure out if he used a motor on the muur. find his time on the climb and compare his power to weight ratio with his known threshold. i would really look hard into anything above and beyond 6.5 w/kg. its just the nature of the sport.

  7. Anonymous2:23 PM

    ... compare his power to weight ratio with his known threshold....

    "Threshold" has nothing to do with "maximum." A brief attack or a sprint can be done at well above threshold. I know that even I can generate 1000 watts, but not for very long.

  8. Anonymous11:41 PM

    Jesus Christ I didn't know a mere electrical apparatus could turn on the journalism of the cycling world. Whatever happened to women and booze.

  9. Spiffy2:31 PM

    My god the Danish media are loving this story. How the hell does a youtube clip with conspiracy theories become a credible source? All hail The Cult of the Amateur!

  10. I knew an ex belgian racer back in the 80's and he told me of racers drafting off team cars while officials turn their heads...they would also hang on to the team cars' it is quite possible that any important sporting event and all its glory will have cheaters...and so does the world that we live in...

  11. Ah, just for the sake of keeping the conspiracy alive...that pic of Fabian's bike is not the same bike he's riding in the posted Youtube clip...unless they had time to change his SRAM hoods to red ones for the photo... so obviously the motor is in the other bike! Oh Gruber couldn't pay for this kind of advertising...

  12. Mick

    There's also something else odd I noticed. In this video from Specialized, they show his SRM after the race that clearly shows a time of 6 hours and 22 mins. Here's the video :

    Now ee know Fabian finished the race first in 6 hours and 25 mins.

    We also know he swapped his bike twice, one specifically at 58K to go. I'm not sure of the other one.

    How does he have 6hrs and 22 mins on the bike then if he didn't take his SRM with him during the exchange? It musn't be the bike he rode!! Or he must have miles on the bike accumulated from before the race. I'm really confused!!

  13. Mick,

    The comment about red hoods is not true. Fabian did ride a bike to victory at Flanders with red brake hoods.

  14. Interesting article and i will be adding "cozybeehive" to my blog!
    Evening of the rest day of Giro at Brunieco i was talking to the Mechs at a few of the Teams some of them having seen Cassani's report. Laughable was the most prevelent comment.
    Over the years i have watched frames being built into bikes outside team buses which entertains the Media and public alike. Some will even pick up a variety of items as the mechs. work. Do you really think that a Pro. would consider using this "Toy" except when paid to do a "parody".
    Even i would not find value in this "toy except as extra weight for a faster descent!
    Cassani is someone i meet regularly and i am sure there are others that find him "evasive" and his reports "suspect"! Not even sure he knows all that he has claimed.
    Last year at the Giro i had a drink with him,Paulo & Auro and offered my bike as a backdrop on his evening RAI TV report. well instead of "Disabled sport" and the bike decals getting publicity as agreed, he attacked the position of the "San Marco Carbon Saddle". Position for me is comfort during 6 - 8hrs each day and this year i find Bettini using the same saddle albeit in a slightly different position.
    Had a few laughs with Pat Mc Quaid on Plan Corones about this story as well as "mr worm's exposures", 4 years pass and we are still reading "same old, same old" , time to move on to the real racers and those currently are coming from Australia to fill their wardrobes with a variety of Coloured shirts!

  15. As in every conspiracy theory, the plotters are required to be ingenious and simultaneously incredibly stupid. Why would Cancellara switch the motor on during the attack which, if successful, would be the attack of the day, possibly the attack of the year? Why do it in the moment, he knows, all the cameras are fixed on him?

    If he had a motor, why not to use it on the killer hills before that? Why not to use it while hidden in the group on the uphill where nobody would notice?

    Doing id, he would arrive to the final fresh as a daisy and destroy everybody easy and quietly without useless fireworks.

    But no! He does it while attacking alone for everybody to see and produce nice videos for youtube. How stupid you have to be to do that?

  16. Anonymous5:49 AM

    the bike pic is not the right one. I won with another bike:

  17. Hey Fabian,

    We're talking about the Ronde, not PR. Welcome to my blog btw...if that's you.

  18. @ Parrabuddy : Great to have a person such as you who is inside the "ranks" so to speak. Interesting account of Cassani you have there. On cycling news forums, a poster wrote the following about Cassani. Not sure what to believe about him since I don't know him :

    "I live in Italy so I watch the cycling coverage here and, consequently, have been listening to Cassani for years.

    Some of his remarks and way of handling certain situations, as when he bullied another commentator once for challenging one of his points, has smacked of Black Shirt (meaning fascist) behavior. Cassani's prepotency at times, is typical of the fascist mentality.

    On the other hand he's a fanatic of the sport, thus it seems unlikely that he is making this up nor do I believe he'd be foolish enough to do so.

    PS. Today we read in Gazzetta dello Sport that Musseuw claims the doped bike exists too, that he had actually seen a model several years ago at a California bike show. He also said that he didn't believe Cancellara used it to win Flanders and Roubaix this year, however he also admitted that some of his peddle strokes and the unusual bike changes have left him with some suspicions. "

  19. Musseuw(king of belgium cheats?), yes met him whilst he was escorting clients after his retirement.
    Have you seen the blog and my thoughts that "Cheats get 4yrs unless they make Public confession and the sentence can be reduced to 2yrs!
    "Tagged in the house banned from "ALL cycling related business activity" is the way to go! They are Social Pariahs, with no redeeming features so keeping them from corrupting the sport in any manner is my take on the situation.
    Professional Racers remaining in the sport are at a disadvantage against those who have had an "enforced holiday" and so return fresh to collect "plaudits and prize money"!
    Do the Crime, Serve the Time but no longer be allowed to compete in the "Pro Tour Races is another disincentive to Cheating your way to "Fame & Fortune"!
    This year has been disillusioning to many Genuine Clean Racers as the fickle fan base welcome back those who have had the 2yr holiday.
    Problem is that there are still those like FRei who think we the public will accept their unconscienable behaviour.
    Past years the Giro had a 8pm programme i would attempt to appear on or have the wheel with the decals on display there, saw the way "Prima Donna Cassani" would deal with people and at Salzburg worlds rode with him as we circuited looking for stories, treated many with distain and was put out when Italians asked me to introduce my friend, so he even rubs Racers up the wrong way!
    Cancellara/Saxo bank build their bikes in full view of the public and i have been the recipient of "used parts" as they renovate the existing race bikes. Each racer has good & bad fitness levels during the season and if Fabian targeted his fitness levels and had Stewie tow him to the point where he could do the business on Tom then "Well done Stewie"!
    Basso had my mate Silvo tow him and Cadel over the mountains and i told Cadel several years ago that this "Maestro " was a real asset as Damiano will vouch.

  20. Anonymous3:56 AM

    The UCI has already put a ban on psycological doping

  21. Anonymous10:08 AM

    One could determine whether such a motor was in use by simply imaging the bicycle with an infrared camera at any point in time during or shortly after the suspected activity. The portion of the down-tube where the motor resides would show an unmistakable heat print in the photo.

  22. I'm not knocking the Di2 by all means, but isn't that a form of "Mechanical Doping"? I here of all this talk of the Gruber Assist and I know it's way different but if you think aboot it. It's technically "doping". Eh?

  23. Hi,

    According to this web page, you aren't going to do better than good old alkaline batteries for watt-hours/liter, which is the most relevant measurement for our purposes. I think that perhaps some of the best Lithium technologies were not considered in that table, but I don't think we're going to exceed the alkalines by all that much.

    He does describe in the text a battery with signifcantly higher energy density, but it also has very low power output, and I think that would preclude it's use here.

    At any rate, I'd heard one description that said the gruber could give you 100 watts for 45 minutes. Let's assume alkaline C-cells, which will probably fit nicely into many modern seat-tubes. According to this page:
    we're going to get about 10 Watt-hours out of one C-cell. So if the system is 75% efficient (motor losses, and losses from higher current drain in the alkaline) that means we'd need 10 C-cells to reach the desired power.

    Only the tallest riders might fit that many C-cells into their empty seat tube, and of course we aren't talking about an empty seat tube. Still, we should consider that even two or three of these batteries would give a 10-15 minute 100 Watt boost, and this may well be worthwhile. Although someone does need to do the math on how much energy the rider wastes lugging this equipment up and down hills just for those 10-15 minutes of boost. They may be better suited to a time-trial than to a mountain stage.

    Finally, let me say that as a geek, and an old, fat, out-of-shape guy, thoughts of adding a motor to a bike and entering the local time trail have certainly crossed my mind. But I always thought the perfect place to hide the motor would be inside the shell of a rear-hub power meter. Plenty of space for a motor, and that leaves the seat tube free for lots of batteries. I'd use the wired power meter of course, and route the wires through the frame, where no one could tell that they actually go to the batteries.


  24. Jameson makes a very good point.

    I know that all you regulars must be quite annoyed by the doped bike nonsense. But consider this: I'm an out-of-shape attorney who has never biked a mile in my life. I started looking into the Cancellara scandal because I enjoy YouTube controversies. According to my untrained eye, Cancellara was just a better cyclist on those occasions. I don't see any evidence at all of a motor. But I'm so fascinated by the story that I'm seriously tempted to get myself a bike and see if it's any fun. Maybe it's a good way for me to get into shape. There is at least one new fan of cycling as a result of this silliness.

  25. I went looking for electric bikes but found they are also dealers for Brompton non-electric folding bikes which are in demand & hard to find, I was surprised to find they had a good good stock of them. electric bikes


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