Sorry, but we’re struggling to understand the hype surrounding on-bike cameras. The way people in some quarters are talking about them you’d think strapping a GoPro to your stem or seat post is some kind of technological and financial holy grail, an exciting new income stream set to rescue the sport from the ongoing financial volatility that has plagued it since, well, forever.
Look, we understand the footage is now (or in the very near future) able to be broadcast live which, technically speaking at least, is a big deal as the logistical obstacles posed by point-to-point racing have been quite significant. And true, if you’ve watched some of the race footage released to date it can be impressive stuff, providing an intriguing insight into the goings on from the very heart of the pro peloton.
Earlier in the year the 2015 World Track Championships were a real eye opener, featuring live cutaways to on-board cameras as the riders orbited the track at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. That was pretty neat, albeit a very different environment to road racing.
But all the same, much of the hyperbole currently being sprouted seems way over the top. Unlike many sports where fans are a considerable distance from the action in the stands, cameras at bike races – be they in fixed locations or zipping back and forth on motos – are already able to get us incredibly close to the action.
On-bike cameras are just another camera angle and unless something dramatic is actually happening at that moment in the race – such as bunch sprints or perhaps riding through a frenzied crowd on the slopes of an epic climb – chances are the novelty will soon wear off. By way of example, much of footage from the recent Dauphine (released post stage, not live) actually seemed rather pedestrian. Seen one video grab, seen ’em all.
And that’s the thing. On-bike cameras aren’t content in themselves, but a way to deliver content. Their use is no different to the occasional helicopter shot as the peloton passes another French chateaux at the Tour de France. A quick shot from stump cam at the cricket. Or a sweeping drone or spidercam flight over a packing scrum at the footy. It’s just another option at the host broadcaster’s disposal; a novel new way to break up the coverage and provide another dimension for viewers, sure. But it’s certainly not the fundamental game changer many seem to be toting.
Having spent far too many hours cheering in front of the idiot box over the years, a host of other sports – including, but certainly not limited to, motor sports and cricket – have been innovating with this kind of fly-on-the-wall footage for years if not decades. To us it seems more a matter of cycling finally catching up, rather than blazing amazing new trails.
A welcome development? Sure. A revolution? Nah.