Whistle while you work

This is what really drives me nuts: the motobikes, hovering around the peloton like hornets. I know they’re needed. They are there for our safety, they block roads and stop traffic, they take photos and film us, and they show how big the gap for the breakaway is.

But they also want to pass us all the time, along the bunch packed on the road. So they torture their horns until your ears ring, they make their engines roar ‘til it drives you crazy, and they blow their filthy fumes in our faces.

In the meantime, we really don’t feel like making space for the motobikes trying to pass us. Experience shows that if you do so, you will lose your carefully-obtained spot in the bunch. There are a lot of riders who boldly profit from a polite move like that – they pass you quickly to pinch the place you just made for the moto. After a while you really don’t feel like being the idiot making space all the time anymore. So the motos and the riders keep on battling the whole race. They try to direct us aside, getting more agitated by the minute. And we try to ignore them as much as possible.

Even though I belong to the group of riders who, after a while, desperately starts yelling to please fi-nal-ly make some space, the problem is this – you get used to the honking and the roaring of engines. You develop a deaf ear for it. In the end you don’t bother the motos deliberately, you just don’t notice their presence anymore.

One of the moto men in France last week found a solution for that. He didn’t make his engine roar. He didn’t honk. He whistled. A piercing four-tone tune which was impossible to ignore. The first time I heard it, I looked around in confusion. Who was whistling like that? The motobike passed me quickly, whistled again and overtook the bunch in just a couple of seconds.

The second time I heard it, I steered my bike aside automatically. I saw my colleagues doing exactly the same. Hey, I thought, the whistling works! We are not used to it, so we listen! Finally!

The third time the piercing noise penetrated my ear, I was just giving it my all riding uphill. I wasn’t the only one, and apparently the suffering resulted in some girls having temporary deafness. The moto kept lingering halfway through the bunch, and he kept repeating his tune. If you’re giving it all, you cannot handle a lot. So it didn’t take long before I felt like hitting the moto man in the lips so he wouldn’t be able to pucker up and whistle. After another minute I wished I had a gun. Not to murder the moto man, but to shoot myself in the head, so I didn’t have to hear that horrible whistling anymore.

The fourth time I heard the moto man whistle was during the lunch break between the morning time trial and the afternoon stage. I heard his tune long before I saw him. He was filling his plate at the other side of the hall. And at that moment a miracle happened: the riders in front of him, who had all crowded before a box of bananas, looked over their shoulders and hurried away as fast as possible. At long last, the moto man had plenty of space, and was able to find for himself the most fresh and delicious banana.

Photo: Geert Nachtergaele

Translation help: @cycletard

» Nigel Farquhar said (13 Sep, 2012) :

Lol. Where can I get one of these whistles?

I work as a Moto marshal in the UK and we are fully aware of how out horns/engines/fumes annoy riders and how a hard fought for space gets lost by simple cooperation.

I know the riders know this too and also the importance of the Motos, just like you’ve stated.

Teaching the correct way to pass a peloton safely and with due care and respect for riders is however, not a simple task.

Just like a Cat 4 newbie cyclist, learning the ways of peloton riding are like learning a black art. Time and experience alone will tell wether a rider or Moto pilot are upto the job. The difference is that a cyclist can only do so much damage in learning their craft, the odd collarbone, carbonfibre frame and wheelset for themselves and their colleagues. Not quite the same for a Moto though. Much more dramatic effect if it goes wrong both on cyclists and pilots never mind the fact the pilots are self funding their entire participation outside of expenses.

Ideally the UCI would have a training programme where experience could be gained at certain races alongside drivers, the sort that Hoogerland would appreciate.

In the meantime, don’t drown out those horns and engines so much. Flick an elbow like you do on the front, we know to accelerate for a pass then, allowing less time for your wheel to be taken by others. Treat us as one of you, most of us have raced also.

Now….that whistle….

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