Cycling & Radio Communication
Give Us A Break
22“Radios add an extra tactical layer to what you can do in a race, but I don’t think they profoundly change the excitement of an event…[while they] add a little bit of insurance to your strategies…help to form more cohesive and timely team efforts.” Kirk Willett, Pro, Team Director
When there is an immediate threat to life or property, radio operators use ▪ ▪ ▪ – – – ▪ ▪ ▪ SOS or MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY. BREAK is the term used to interrupt any messages on any frequency for this purpose and all other radio uses cease. Priority is given to the emergency.
Bike racing uses radios to handle emergencies. Most events are run with the use of two-way communication technology. Since big money pays for bandwidth and resells it to the consumer, we are fortunate to have free air space set aside. This is expensive airwave real estate carved up by international treaty for various uses.
Competitive cycling uses either basic citizen band frequencies or mode restricted sub-bands on high frequencies, dual-band amateur radio for marshalling and operations, police and emergency bands, and general mobile bands propagated by small antennas so shorter waves can bounce while moving along at high-speed. Some frequencies require special licensing.
The use of team radios among riders and staff in competition gives intelligence that influences results and potentially alters strategy. This point is what has been brought under scrutiny. A Directeur Sportif who is a brilliant strategist can assist a rider to capitalize on the thinking part of cycling. However, in order to capitalize that rider cannot be a donkey – or lack racehorse ability to act upon the information. Neither can a racehorse with a lobotomy win races. Even WITH a strategy in your ear from a brilliant strategist, a talented rider must also THINK and WATCH and ACT with appropriate timing. Without this strategy in one’s ear, a talented rider must THINK, WATCH, and ACT to win races. Do the radio detractors think that riders, teams and organizations who are less radio-savvy are suddenly going to “be competitive?” Not likely since savoir faire – knowing how – is what makes bike racing so elegantly challenging and beautiful.
Then there’s the issue of safety. Providing information to riders about upcoming course features and directions makes safer racing. That more races are finishing in bigger packs is a reflection of more parity not communication technology. Information about training is wide-spread and no longer held by the elite, for example. Bigger packs may make it more tactical not less. With radio directions, there’s a better chance for a safer ride.
These communication technologies educate everyone, including the spectator. Imagine football without several coaches calling plays from a press box and you have a great retro game, but is that more exciting than now? Television coverage of this has expanded to hearing what players and coaches are saying and provide a richer spectator experience. These technologies make the strategy more available and perhaps more interesting to our audience. Without the audience, no one is going to be talking about or within sponsored cycling; it will be retro.
Prayer for Radio Communications
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” 23Proverbs 19:20
We are glad that part of the excitement of sport is in appreciating its key grooves by its successful movers and shakers. We ask for continual discretion and developments in the use of communication devices. We ask for more dialogue about radio talk between governing authorities and end-users.
Ponder What are the insights I’ve learned from radio transmissions? Affirm I use instinct and information to act decisively. Watch and listen to the races to gain strategic insight and clarity about teamwork.
22“Kirk Willett Weighs in on the Use of Radios in Cycling,” Toyota Life. Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team. Pro News. July, 2007 www.toyota.com
23The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society