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Old 07-15-07, 10:13 PM   #1
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Tour de France motorcycle info

I don't know if anyone did mention this in the earlier thread about the motorcycles used to support the Tour de France, but Kawasaki has had an exclusive contract with the Tour organizers for something like 20 years. Those are mostly Kawasaki bikes.

I also heard today that France has a regulation that limits motorcycle HP to 100hp. Bummer.

Watching the Tour today I was focusing on the camera bikes - I can't imagine piloting a motorcycle like mine down the Alps @ 50-60mph trying to stay safely in front of the bicycles and get good TV pictures on some of those descents. Bicycles CAN blow down those mountains faster than cars or bikes at times. On long descents in the mountains of Greece this summer I was catching the cars on the switchbacks (they were dropping me on the straightaways). But I didn't have the entire road to work with and I wasn't hammering like a pro bike racer (mostly just coasting downhill).

No motorcycle cameras, no good tour coverage. Very crucial to bringing the bike race to a global TV audience.
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Old 07-15-07, 10:24 PM   #2
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I'm more impressed with the camerman getting the shots on the descents than the motorcyclists. the few times my wife was trying to take action shots in the mountains was bad enough. I can't imagine doing it turned around around with a tv camera.
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Old 07-15-07, 10:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by ericcox
I'm more impressed with the camerman getting the shots on the descents than the motorcyclists. the few times my wife was trying to take action shots in the mountains was bad enough. I can't imagine doing it turned around around with a tv camera.
Both jobs are tough. But the motorcycle pilot has to do this with an overloaded bike and a cameraman who is not in an ideal passenger position. That is some dicey stuff.
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Old 07-15-07, 10:36 PM   #4
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patentcad, we're in 100% agreement. Bicycle racing fans seeking to watch races close-up couldn't do it without the presence of those great motorcycle pilots and the skillful cameramen poised on the backs of their machines. They're twisting and turning the camera (often at odds with where the motorcycles need to go) yet the motorcyclist doesn't interfere with the peloton and moves gracefully up to the lead groups. The contractual arrangement is very interesting.
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Old 07-16-07, 05:07 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by patentcad
Both jobs are tough. But the motorcycle pilot has to do this with an overloaded bike and a cameraman who is not in an ideal passenger position. That is some dicey stuff.
For anyone who has ridden a passenger who won't lean with you cough..ex girlfriend, it makes for dicey handling.
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Old 07-16-07, 07:26 AM   #6
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Has anyone else noticed the crappy camera jiggling from the motorbikes this year? It seems to me in years past the shots have been quite stable-- they must have gone to a different camera without stabilization gyros or something, the shots are extremely jumpy especially at zoom.
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Old 07-16-07, 07:53 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by patentcad
I don't know if anyone did mention this in the earlier thread about the motorcycles used to support the Tour de France, but Kawasaki has had an exclusive contract with the Tour organizers for something like 20 years. Those are mostly Kawasaki bikes.
...
I swear I saw a BMW logo on one of the spedo shots. Maybe I was just dreaming.
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Old 07-16-07, 08:31 AM   #8
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I swear I saw a BMW logo on one of the spedo shots. Maybe I was just dreaming.
Very possible. I saw a Pan European (Honda) in England during one stage. Just because Kawasaki has this deal with the Tour organizers doesn't mean you might not see other brands. But most of them do appear to be the Kawi's.
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Old 07-16-07, 08:31 AM   #9
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Unless they're intentionally embracing a choppy, motion-filled camera technique in an effort to bring the "high-speed action" to an overseas television viewer who isn't there to see it live? Anything is a possibility.
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Old 07-16-07, 09:00 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by patentcad
... I can't imagine piloting a motorcycle like mine down the Alps @ 50-60mph trying to stay safely in front of the bicycles and get good TV pictures on some of those descents. Bicycles CAN blow down those mountains faster than cars or bikes at times...
Some of my teammates were bombing past a few of the Hardly Movinsons on some Skyline Drive downhills yesterday. I hadnt hooked up with the group yet for the fun.

I would love to be a M/C guy on a pro Stage Race.
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Old 07-16-07, 09:07 AM   #11
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I swear I saw an FJR on of the stages as well.

A bad pillion can make the ride interesting. One of the worst fights my wife and I ever had was shortly after I had my first touring bike (we were engaged then), and was taking her for a ride. Going around a curve, she does a double take in the opposite direction, sitting bolt upright. Scared the crap out of me. A few years later, she road Deal's Gap with me on my Buell. Did very well, thank you.

To FatguyRacer -- longer road races are really not all that fun on a motorcycle. You are riding along, at not to high a speed, which often makes handling a bit more difficult (following riders up a 10% climb -- not fun). You are on your ass for several hours which does get old. The best part -- no speed limit when going between groups!
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Old 07-16-07, 09:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericcox
"...The best part -- no speed limit when going between groups!..."
Nothing quite like zipping along at 80 m.p.h. without fear of license loss. That is absolutely an enormously fun aspect of bicycle race motorcycle marshaling.
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Old 07-16-07, 09:23 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ericcox
To FatguyRacer -- longer road races are really not all that fun on a motorcycle. You are riding along, at not to high a speed, which often makes handling a bit more difficult (following riders up a 10% climb -- not fun). You are on your ass for several hours which does get old. The best part -- no speed limit when going between groups!
I've worked races and centuries for my club as official club photog from my bikes. I get a lot of lattidude from the officials. Blasting around the race corses was the best part.

I'd like to try a ride on one of those Piaggio MP3 scooters that were being used at the Giro. Those look like fun too.
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Old 07-16-07, 10:04 AM   #14
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The motorcycles supporting the race also seem to have dual-tone Fiamme (or similar) horns installed. They are very loud, almost at automobile volume, which makes sense for the duty the motorcycles are pulling.

Last edited by Blue Jays; 07-16-07 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 07-17-07, 04:57 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by ericcox
I swear I saw an FJR on of the stages as well.
Hi all, here is some info you might be interested in regarding motors in the race.

There are several brands out in the peloton that are "outside" the sponsorship agreement referenced above.

Kawasaki Concours 14s are used by the "staff" positions. These include the info motors (blue), beverage motors (Coke red and Aquarel blue) the Moto Commisaires (passengers in red helmets) and of course the famous yellow CL Timeboard. These all appear to be part of the the Kawasaki agreement.

The camera bikes are supplied by the TV production people and the the same BMW LTs they have been using forever. They use the same bikes every year as they are pretty heavily modified with microwave uplink equipment for the TV signal.

The FJRs you see are driven by the French Gendarmes. They moved to them last year and away from their fleet of older BMWs.

The Honda STs in England were driven by British police or possibly their National Escorts Group.

Any others you see are contract motorcycles that carry private photographers (ie. Graham Watson). Most of these guys use the same drivers year after year.

Chuck
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Old 07-17-07, 05:29 AM   #16
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Thanks for the helpful information Chuck, interesting. If you'll note we're talking mostly sport touring motorcycles like the Coucours, FJR and Pan European (Honda ST) - and that's a relatively arcane niche of the motorcycle market which is dominated in the US by sport bikes (crotch rockets) and cruisers (HD type bikes and Japanese imitations). But sport tourers are ideal for Tour de France support.

If botto calls this thread foo again I will be forced to lead a Hell's Angel's style raid on his European compound and exact retribution. Enough of this. Versus Tour coverage begins....

now.
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Old 07-17-07, 06:06 AM   #17
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Tech Director, sweet information about the motorcycles of the TdF! The factoids about the microwave uplink was especially interesting. You wouldn't happen to have a close-up photograph of one of those heavily-modified camera bikes to post to the thread, would you? Cool stuff.
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Old 07-17-07, 06:23 AM   #18
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foo.
We're coming for you botto.

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Old 07-17-07, 11:10 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by ericcox
A bad pillion can make the ride interesting. One of the worst fights my wife and I ever had was shortly after I had my first touring bike (we were engaged then), and was taking her for a ride. Going around a curve, she does a double take in the opposite direction, sitting bolt upright.
It must be very interesting driving one of those camera bikes with the swivel seat on the back with a cameraman paying zero attention to the road and swiveling and leaning all over the place to get the shots!
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Old 07-17-07, 12:12 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patentcad
we're talking mostly sport touring motorcycles like the Coucours, FJR and Pan European (Honda ST) - and that's a relatively arcane niche of the motorcycle market which is dominated in the US by sport bikes (crotch rockets) and cruisers (HD type bikes and Japanese imitations). But sport tourers are ideal for Tour de France support.
Er, not quite. In Europe anything with a full fairing and an upright riding position and panniers is just a tourer. BMW K series and R series and the Honda Pan European are the most popular models. Most Police forces use them. A sports tourer is more of a crotch rocket with a reasonable size fuel tank and a half-decent pillion seat, and some token luxuries like a clock and a fuel gauge. But it still has a semi-crouching riding position and good aerodynamics and could cut the mustard on mountain roads or a race track. The Honda VFR 800 is the classic sports tourer. The Triumph Sprint ST is another.

Kawasaki doesn't make a tourer any more. They used to have one called the GTR 1000, and for a few years you would see tons of them on the Tour, usually with a huge red K covering the screen. There are hardly any left now.

There are also at least two BMW GS examples on the Tour this year. One is a 1200 I think - or it might be an 1150 Adventure. The other is an 1100 with a 'duckbill conversion', i.e. it has only one front mudguard, not the standard pair. Some people call the GS a sports tourer, others call it an adventure tourer. It's probably the most versatile bike there is, and can do both jobs. I've done many of the climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees on a GS and on my bicycle, and you can get round hairpins quicker on a bicycle. On a less extreme corner the motorbike wins. I once raced all the camera bikes down Alpe d'Huez on my bicycle. They had a big head start but I overtook them all by outbraking them before the hairpins.

There are also a few 'feet forwards' super-scooters in the Tour. These are very popular with commuters in European cities. Kawasaki doesn't make one but I have no idea which one they're using on the Tour - they all look so similar. The Suzuki Burgman is a typical example.

If anybody is still reading, my apologies for boring the pants off you with motorcycle trivia!
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Old 07-17-07, 12:28 PM   #21
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Er, not quite. In Europe anything with a full fairing and an upright riding position and panniers is just a tourer.


Do they not sell the R1200Rt in Europe?
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Old 07-17-07, 12:28 PM   #22
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Good points - I'd missed that part about bikes either being HDs or Crotch Rockets. That's just not the case in Europe. Sure, you see a few HDs and imitators with people just riding them for the pose factor (same as here IMO, flame suite on.... ) but you see a lot more in-between bikes with people riding them as serious transportation rather than for weekend fun as most US bikes are ridden.
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Old 07-17-07, 12:36 PM   #23
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Do they not sell the R1200Rt in Europe?
Of course! We call it a tourer. The R1200S is the sports tourer. The R1100RS was probably THE classic sports tourer.
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Old 07-17-07, 12:42 PM   #24
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I must have missed your meaning. Subtlety is not my thing.
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Old 07-17-07, 12:50 PM   #25
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...Sure, you see a few HDs and imitators ...
We call those metric cruisers
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