Could SMS messages be a way around the radio ban?
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Could SMS messages be a way around the radio ban?

by Ben Atkins at 7:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Text messages between riders and directors might be the way forward

garminWith the International Cycling Union (UCI) apparently standing firm on its decision to outlaw the use of two-way radios, some teams may be working on a way around it, using SMS text messages! According to Dutch newspaper de Telegraaf, it could just be a matter of time before team directors are sending text messages to devices on riders’ handlebars instead of shouting them in their ears.

It may sound like an April Fools’ joke come a month early, but according to Team Sky sports director Steven de Jongh it could well be on the way.

“It’s only a matter of time before this means of communication is commonplace,” he told de Telegraaf. “Everyone is looking for a solution, if the International Cycling Union won’t [change it’s mind].”

Many, if not most riders race with some sort of computer fitted to their bike, whether it be the simplest speedometer or a sophisticated power measuring device. It would not be a great leap, says de Telegraaf to add messaging capability to such a device; particularly with companies like Garmin (navigation devices) and HTC (cellphones) sponsoring some of the biggest teams.

While it would be altogether possible to equip each rider with what would effectively be a cellphone on his or her handlebars though, it may well be some way off. While Garmin and HTC are certainly investing heavily in their respective teams, and Garmin does make specific cycling devices, the development costs for a device with limited consumer demand make its development unlikely.

Riders could, of course, simply strap their existing cellphones to their bars however.

Should the sending of SMS messages become as commonplace as de Jongh predicts though, it would be difficult to make the safety argument that is at the forefront of the opposition to the ban on radios. While directors argue that being able to communicate with their riders remotely makes things safer in the race, the act of writing each message while driving in an already chaotic race caravan would more than counterbalance this.

Additionally, once a rider receives such a message, he or she would be forced to take his or her eyes off the road and look down at their handlebars to read it. Should a whole team of eight or nine riders suddenly stop looking where they are going it could cause chaos in a speeding peloton.

SMS communication in the peloton would also necessarily be one-way, from the director to the rider; the idea that a rider would be able to type a reply from the middle of a charging peloton is a frightening one.

Should this sort of communication become a genuine possibility the UCI is almost certain to quickly rule against it, although it may not have to as existing rule 2.2.024 is not exclusively limited to radios; it states:

"The use of radio links or other remote means of communication by or with the riders, as well as the possession of any equipment that can be used in this manner, during an event is prohibited".

The exceptions to this are currently races in the men's WorldTour calendar, women's World Cup races and time trials. The only time an SMS device would be within the rules would be where radios are allowed anyway, making it superfluous.

If safety is a genuine concern of team directors this idea should quickly be consigned to the early-April Fools bin.


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