Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Photo: Cycling and the Olympic Derny

I was watching Team GB's win in the Olympic Track Cycling and noticed that there was an older man riding ahead of the pack, acting as a pace bike. He was riding something that looked like a motorized or electric-powered bike, and he would pull out of the race when the racers have 600 meters left in their race (and when the racers have gotten to 30 mph).

What is that bike? I asked myself. Well, it's a derny, and this particular style of racing is called keirin (not to be confused with kirin or Keiron). Learning from the NYTimes article ("Leader but Never the Winner") that this is an ICE-motorized bicycle
One of the more incongruous sights at the Olympics has been Peter Deary, who drives the derny, a two-stroke motorized bicycle that leads the riders in the keirin race.... His cycle looks more like the one ridden by the Wicked Witch of the West than a track racer’s sleek model. His pedaling speed is glacial.
made me wonder what the lead cyclist must be thinking while breathing in the fumes as s/he races to ride in the slipstream of the slowly accelerating derny. While it is only for 5.5 times around the velodrome track, following so close to a two-stroke engine has got to have some sort of health impact on the lead rider, right?

There is a bit of inaccuracy in the reporting of whether the Olympics derny is electric. According to the Telegraph, the derny used in the 2012 Olympics is electric:
The faintly comical sight of a man on what appears to be a white battery-powered bicycle should not distract from the high stakes and high drama of track cycling’s keirin race.

In Olympic competition, the pace rider is mounted on an electric motor-assisted pedal bike, known as a derny.
I think that the Telegraph might be wrong, since, even in the Telegraph's own story, the derny appears to be sporting something that really looks like an internal combustion engine, and this evidence is further supported by the BBC story about Peter Dearny, which states:
He rides a two-stroke throttle-controlled petrol engine bike during the event, which originated as a betting race in Japan.
Oh, well... To me, this model of derny looks pretty jaunty (and would likely be a great addition to many a steampunk's set of accoutrements), and the incongruity of its lines and stylings (and obvious weight) - along with the incongruity of its OAP sitting astride it in decidedly non-sporting uniform and helmet - make it a colorful addition to the Olympics. However, I'd personally like to see an electric derney for the Rio games in 2016 (like the Optibike in the Boulder Velodrome; change the stylings to make it look more like the classical Derny).

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