View Full Version : Why so many motorcycles in bike races?!

04-13-2008, 08:58 AM
Seriously. Watching Paris-Roubaix today, and other races recently, it strikes me that there is an absurd number of motorcycles hovering around the peleton. They are clearly a hazard to themselves, the riders, and spectators. They interfere with the race itself, impeding riders, and giving brief drafting opportunities. I understand the need for them--for leading the way, for providing the footage I'm watching--but do they really need the 7 or 8 that I can see now with the leaders?

Blue Jays
04-13-2008, 12:53 PM
Onno, in short, yes, many motorcycles are needed. I've been a motorcyclist for many years and have marshalled countless Pro/Cat. I/Cat. II roadraces. Motorcycles are the only machines nimble enough and fast enough to ensure no outside vehicles enter the roadway. I've experienced situations where a careless motorist will exit their car, move a large police barrier, and reenter the roadway because they "wish to go somewhere" and can't see any valid reason why the road should be closed. Nevermind that there is a 175-person peloton bearing down upon them! Motorcycle marshalls are the people who escort those wayward motorists to the side of the road. As far as "impeding" cyclists, there isn't a professional rider alive who could possibly hang on the rear wheel of a modern sportbike.:eek: ;)

The motorcyclists utilized in races are very frequently cycling enthusiasts and/or former bicycle racers themselves. They absolutely understand race tactics, they know how to deal with multiple breakaways from the main field, they know how to prevent cyclists from drafting, and will report cheating cyclists who repeatedly attempt to draft. Motorcycle marshalls enhance the safety of the events and work closely with law enforcement and race officials to maximize the efficiency of the race. Potential "safety challenges" are discussed in joint meetings with police and race officials in the weeks prior to raceday.

These same motorcyclists often "pre-ride" the course to mark holes/grates and similar threats with orange spraypaint and to remove hazards like fallen branches, rocks, and other debris. Hope that helps to provide clarification on their role and how they perform those duties.

04-13-2008, 01:31 PM
I'm also curious about this, particularly as to the "Hanger-on" factor . . . When I was shooting news full time and would go to football games, there were always guys on the sidelines who were there solely because they were friends of the coach, buddies of star players or had some other sort of "connection." You could usually easily spot them because they had inappropriate camera equipment or just generally didn't know what they were doing and interfered with the rest of us doing our jobs because they got in the way, didn't care, or were downright hostile if asked to move.

Any of that go on at pro bike races with the motos? I've heard of various celebrities getting to ride in the team cars, but what about the motos?


04-13-2008, 01:56 PM
I understand that the motorcycles are doing important work, and that there's no other way of doing it. And I hugely appreciate the video images that the moto cameras give. It just struck me that at the last 2 classic races I've watched there seemed to me more than the usual number, and they clearly were getting in the way. In last week's Tour of Flanders a moto nearly took out one of the riders, who flipped him the bird (caught on camera, presumably from another moto). Something one of the commentators said last week seemed to imply that were rival networks and cameramen on some the motos, explaining why there were so many of them.

So I'm wondering if this is part of the problem. Presumably race organizers have strict control of how many moto/camera units it allows on the race, and to some degree where they go. Is this true? Could all of them be allowed at the front? Are there papparattsi (sp?) cameramen out there too?

Blue Jays
04-13-2008, 02:07 PM
BBD, not in my experience. The perch of a motorcycle saddle is often not the best place to be a spectator. The reason is because the vast majority of the motorcycle marshalls are ahead of the peloton ensuring pedestrians and vehicles don't enter the course from sidestreets.

As the peloton comes into view over our shoulders and in our mirrors, we ride away to close other streets ahead. This is essentially done as a "rolling roadblock" of sorts. We try our hardest to remain ahead of the field and hopefully never needing to thread our way through. The only time it becomes challenging is when engaging with a motorist who *insists* they wish to pass a checkpoint because they see no cars in either direction. At that time, the motorcycle marshall has to hold his/her position until the riders pass, and then "leapfrog" to get to the front again. The reason the motorist sees no cars is because the police and other motorcycle marshalls have prevented entry onto the roads where the race is happening! It is when the marshall must make their way back to the front is likely when the casual viewer *sees* these motorcycles on television coverage.

When the yellow line rule is in effect it facilitates zipping past in the opposing lane to get to the front again. If there is heavy police saturation, it makes this effort even easier because there will be virtually non-existent oncoming traffic if the rolling roadblock is effective. The more we can stay far ahead also eliminates breakway riders or even riders in the main field from attempting to draft the motorcycle marshalls.

Too Tall
04-13-2008, 02:35 PM
I rode motorcycle support for Tour Dupont two yrs. when the stage was in our area and carried a reporter. Motos are the only vehicle that is fast enough to get the he!! out of the way of bicycles cornering and esp. downhill. Also, if a potential hazard appears (people, cars dogs etc.) a moto is able to best contain more situations than a car ever could. I could go on but you get the idea. PS I am NOT 1 100th the moto rider that the really good moto guys are...you should see what they can do with a reporter on the back...I've seen these guys pass me downhill at full throttle on mtn. roads that gave me the willy's AND go into the weeds just to get a great camera shot. WOW the pros have amazing skills...I just twist the grips ;)

Nick H.
04-13-2008, 02:59 PM
The number of press bikes has increased because TV channels and newspapers don't want to share video or photos so much. In the old days there used to be quite a bit of sharing. But now the peloton is drawn from a much wider range of countries. So it's no good having the cameras follow only the French, Belgian, Italian and Spanish stars. American, British, South American and Australian channels want bikes to film their riders, even if they're not in the lead. So in recent years TV money has forced the organisers to permit more motorbikes than they really want.

Blue Jays
04-13-2008, 03:01 PM
Not to mention the great Tom Kellogg was a motorcycle aficionado at one point. :beer: