CATCHING

MOTOR

CHEATS

Welcome to the honeypot

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Introduction

We are group of concerned racers and industry insiders.

We set up a honeypot website claiming to have made hidden electric motors for bicycles.

We did it find out who was prepared to cheat our sport

And to make organisers and competitors aware of what to watch out for over the coming months.

Backstory

Femke Opens Our Eyes

It was February 2016 when Femke van den Driessche was caught using a bicycle equipped with a hidden motor at the World Cyclo Cross championships in Belgium. Suddenly the cycling world had to wake up to the fact that the rumors over the past few years were true – it was possible to enter high level races with motor assisted bikes and hardly anybody could tell. We were aghast at this. We knew technology was advancing at such a rate that this was going to be inevitable as some point but we hadn't expected it to be now, and certainly not in a junior race. Around the same time we'd also become aware of a junior rider in the UK being caught for EPO usage. Interestingly this cheating wasn't stopped through a drugs test, but instead by a suspiscious third party who handed information to the governing bodies.

If you want a healthy sport - get involved in deterring cheats

We are strong believers that sport should be a healthy activity, conducted in an aspirational environment rather than a destructive one. We want to foster a sport where parents are keen to get their children involved because it will help them grow and develop in a positive way.

We don't know much about pharmacology or sports science but between us all we do know about electrical engineering and websites, so we put our thinking hats on and came up with the idea to set up a dummy site that would offer a seemingly too good to be true motor that someone lacking in any type of moral scruples would want to use to help win bike races.

Imagining a Motor To Fool The Cheats

Designing a Power Supply

First we had to look at current technology and battery systems to see if this was even feasible. We knew that the cheats would want a system that didn't need a bottle or saddle bag that could be easily spotted by commissaires or fellow competitors so we had to come up with a system that was completely hidden.

We soon realised that getting a battery to fit into the small part of a bicycle frame was going to be a tall order. The most cost effective batteries that get used in everything from electronic cigarettes to Tesla cars are the 18650 battery specification. The provide 3.7 volts and in theory can provide up to 9mah of power. This isn't enough so you'd need a quite a few of them to get any decent combination of power and charge. We settled on four, in series, in the seat tube part of the frame and four in the seatpost. We'd address the Di2 issue later.

Designing a Motor

We had seen the pictures of units in the aftermath of the Belgian cyclo cross affair and realised these were simple enough to concoct. We approached Chinese factories for motor pricing and dimensions and realised that theoretically all that would need to be added is a planetary gear system and a gear spline to go over the bottom bracket axle.

Showing the Concept

We approached a highly respected 3d games modeler and described the system to him. In the absence of us being able to photograph a product that we never really want to exist we realised that a working animation was going to be the best we could use to display the principle.

The website needed to be as brazen as possible to meet several objectives

Get shared online to reach the widest audience possible

If huge numbers of sporting cyclists know what to look out for, the cheats will be a lot easier to catch.

Create a long term Awareness

in riders who would consider cheating but daren't incase it is too good to be true and that their details would be passed to their national governing body.

Hook the cheats

Catch those who typically have a 'win at all costs' mentality even if it's against the ethics of good sport.

Create talking points

Ensure regular principled cyclists become very aware with what technology is out there and what to look out for.

Awaken event organisers

Get event organisers thinking about how to spot this type of motor system in their own events for when people do indeed source and use this type of equipment.

Asses the State of the Bike Industry

We wanted to know if the bike industry was going to be complicit or aghast at the thought of hidden electric motors. There was only one way to find out.

The Finished Honeypot Site

Click or tap for larger versions

Reeling Them In

Initial Promotion

We got our intern set up as many web2.0 social profiles as possible including YouTube, Pinterest, Disqus and About.me accounts as well as a twitter account appearing that it was from the inventor of the motor system.

We commented on stories on mainstream cycling sites using the Disqus profile to guage what the response would be from fellow commenters.

We started discussions about the motors on some of the world's most popular cycling forums and also on Reddit.

We emailed a number of news and international cycle industry/trade sites asking for distribution hook-ups. The responses to this surprised us (see below).

Additional Promotion

We used the contact forms in the Australian Cycling Association to contact Australian cyle clubs.

We ran a small facebook advertising campaign to our webiste and found that using Facebook adverts for cycling motors is not a cost effective way of promoting.

One of our number emailed friends at a small number of select UK cycling clubs thay they thought would be well placed to pass the story along. They used an outlandish email that appeared to be from the manufacturer of these motors that they felt was certain to garner attention.

This was the last bit of outreach we had planned to do.

Some of the emails The motor site received

iPhpone

We Loved these emails

We got pages and pages of emails like these and we were over the moon. They re-inforce to us what the real cyclist thinks. Real cyclists want nothing to do with hidden motors and motor cheats. If the sport was left in the hands of grass roots cyclists there wouldn't be the opportunity to cheat. Read on and you'll see what we mean...

Industry Responses

We wanted to see how areas of the cycle industry would respond to this type of hidden motor

We sent his email out to the major cycle trade bodies around the world

“Ciao [name],

We are emailing you because we have heard you are familiar with major cycle distributers in your region and hope you can help us make the correct connections.

We are looking to partner with [country/continent] wide distributers to sell our electric motors. The model is fully race proven and has previously been sold, but not on a major scale. We are now looking for a partner to facilitate the distribution and possibly to discuss investment opportunities if they feel they need more motors than we can currently supply.

We would be interested to know if you have any ideas that can help or we are happy if you would like to pass our details on to partners on who may be interested.

With best wishes,
Moreno Grazioli / Roberto Bassi
PiuBiciSport
http://dopedbikes.com”

The Results Were Troubling

“Hi Moreno

Thank you for getting in contact with us. We can certainly help you find someone for distribution in [country redacted]. We are regularly read by all the major distributors in [redacted] and would be perfect platform for you to use to get in front of them.

It might be best to look at an editorial and advertising campaign to promote your search for a distributor. We could look at getting an editorial piece in our magazine along with an advert and a news piece on our website. I have attached our media information pack for you with more details on the products we offer.

I would love to discuss this further with you and hear your thoughts. If you are free for a phone call then we could discuss it over the phone.”

They weren't the only ones who wanted to promote cheating

“Ciao Moreno,
[redacted] from [redacted] passed on your enquiry to me, as he is not in a position to help you.

I am [country redacted]'s only bicycle industry specialist consultant and a regular expert contributor to [redacted] magazine, [redacted] and other publications.

I work with many international brands and manufacturers who are looking to access the [country redacted] market; whether it be one off go-to-market studies, or ongoing consultancy or distributor negotiation.

You clearly have a very exciting product and one that I was only just recently discussing the sales potential for the other day,

Let me know if you would like my assistance finding distributor or retail partners in the [country redacted] market.

Kind Regards, ”

These guys as well...

“Dear Roberto, Dear Moreno,

Thank you for contacting us.

I am [redacted] and work on the marketing/advertising department of [huge trade site].

We have experience with helping companies building up their global distribution network, especially in Europe.

[redacted] mentioned to use advertorials/advertisements for communicating your message.

This is indeed a good way to go for.

When would be a good moment to have a short phone call?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards / Mit freundlichen Grüssen,

It's worth re-iterating again here - we weren't pretending to sell e-bikes here, we were pitching a product whose only use was to cheat in races.

We had hoped that the emails we got back would be along the lines of "Thank you for your contact, we do not feel this is beneficial to our sport and have passed your details on to the UCI".

Call us naive but realising there were people higher up the food chain in the cycling industry who were prepared to make money of selling tools to cheat the sport was probably the most disheartening part of the exercise for us.

Uk Teams

We even had a UK team boss contact us.

“Roberto
Thank you for your email regarding in-bike motors. We would be interested in hearing more

Kind rgds
[name redacted]
CEO
[team redacted] ”

We wrote back to say we didn't have pricing details so couldn't sell now

“Hi Roberto

If you contact me then when you have exact prices

Speak to you then”

And then again, same team boss

“Hi Roberto

We would interested in hearing when you have price information”

Not cool bro, not cool at all.

Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one

“Hi Roberto,

Could I have a trade price list please ?

Regards
[Redacted]

[Distributer redacted]

They came from overseas as well

“I M BIKE SHOP IN [small mediterranean island] I HAVE SOME COSTUMERS ASK ME ABOUT THIS IS IT ANY SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR MY BUSINES? THANK YOU"

These won't be the only unscrupulous people looking to exploit cycle sport, you can be sure there will be others looking to gain an unfair advantage. The sport as a whole needs to look at putting precautions in place to ensure honest cyclists aren't cheated.

Ideas for Event Organizers

The technology to build these systems is very real. We realised during the course of this project that what we were imagining could indeed be produced and sold by a small team with a solid electrical engineering background. With the parts all easily available from China these are probably being built by someone with very few scruples as you are reading this.

So the question arises, how do you protect your event from people who think they can cheat this way?

In brief you've got three options.

  • 1. Take seatposts out and check
  • 2. Use magnets
  • 3. Get a thermal camera

Firstly, we would recommend tht you have a stipulation on the entry form that every bike is liable to having it's seat post removed upon request, by the rider. Refusal to this means no race/event entry/disqualification. Once the seatpost is out its easy enough to use a bamboo rod or soft wooden dowling inserted into the seat tube to see if it goes all the way down and is not blocked by a motor or batteries.

If the budget will stretch to it invest in an inspection rod with a camera and light affixed. Have several torque wrenches available for riders to reset their seatpost.

In triathlons or time trials use a magnet on the seat tube of carbon bikes. Steel bikes will probably not have the correct diameter to insert a motor at the time of writing. In triathlons this can be done in the transition area. In local and regional time trials this can be done on the start line as the rider awaits the countdown. In cyclo cross races this same inspection can be done in the pits.

In UK road races there used to be bike checks to ensure a bike was roadworthy. Every competitor had their bike checked over by a mechanic (or technically minded person) at sign on. The same can happen with magnets and seat removal where deemed necessary.

Thirdly, if you are part of a race league or promote a series of events then you may want to consider investing in a thermal camera. We have heard good reports from thermal cameras for mobile phones, as well as dedicated handheld thermal cameras

Checking bikes at an event may feel like a cumbersome path to take but at the technology to cheat becomes more available we feel that this will become a necessity.

A central method of notification needs to be set up and shared between UK cycling bodies where riders who refuse to be checked for a motor or indeed fail a motor test (yes we are certain there will be cases of this in the UK as well in the near future) are submitted. The governing bodies will have to work out amongst themselves how to deal with the various outcomes of these motor checks. Unfortunately, it's not a trivial issue.

Summary

We hope we have opened the cycling public's eyes to the methods of cheating that threaten our sport in the immediate future.

There will always be unscrupulous people determined to cheat honest riders and others further up the chain prepared to facilitate and profit from it.

The overwhelming response from grass roots cyclists was so incredibly strongly against the ideas of motors being used secretly in cycle sport that the sport is in a healthy condition as long as we are all vigilant against those who would cheat.

For numerous reasons cycling is one of the greatest sports in the world and we believe grass roots riders and organisers will keep it as such.

CONTACT US

Like what we've done? Feel free to drop us a line here or email us at info@dopedbikes.com

Got butthurt because you emailed us asking for a motor?
Email your local federation/ADA and explain it to them. They'll be waiting to speak to you.