Travers MTB Series - Race Timing
TRANSPARENCY ON THE SITUATION
We made a big leap forward in 2021 (it was actually ready for 2020) regarding the timing of the race, we now have chip timing across all categories with instant results…kind of.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
It was a massive undertaking to implement the timing chips into the race series, it has involved learning new software for both the registration and the timing side as well as the timing hardware itself. Getting an off the shelf solution was too expensive, so we have developed our own system, whereby chips are stuck to the number boards.
We were obviously slightly nervous going into the Clubs Champs as it was the first time we had used it in the real world, we did setup the system at home and went through as many scenarios as possible, testing out every number board, angle, height and bike attachment we could think about but there was always going to be the odd issue.
The first race issue we had was due to us using a side mounted antenna which gave the most accurate timing but had a limited reception. Directing the antenna down the track increased the coverage but picked up riders before the finish line. We obviously have a backup system so no results are lost, we still do manual timing and can highlight missed riders and update the results after the event. We also have a time lapse camera which picks riders up going across the line, so if everything failed we could watch the race back.
This setup picked up every rider on the first lap then 85% of the riders 100% of the time with the remaining 15% missing either single or multiple laps
Round 1 of the Series
We upgraded the system with a gantry and 2x antennas above the riders to give a more accurate read right above the finish line, plus the antennas are much closer to the riders. The antennas cycle on and off multiple times a second meaning they are scanning from slightly different angles to get the best reading (the best reading is chosen from the strongest signal read withing half a second of the first reading).
This setup also picked up every rider on the first lap and then just over 90% of the riders 100% of the time with the remaining 10% missed either single or multiple laps.
What’s next to improve accuracy?
We are looking into a number of things:
Additional side mounted antennas to work alongside the overhead antennas to create a ‘curtain’ scanning area.
Helmet tags: This is something I wanted to avoid, the logistics of getting them back from the riders, the need to remove them because they will mess up timing at other race events (not run by us), and the cost is far higher than the ones we currently use on the number boards. We have ordered a small batch to test and depending on the results we may run a live test at the next race with riders we know have not been reliably picked up by the system in previous races or, if time permits, swap to this system.
The benefits are the rider’s head is much closer to the antenna and it has an unrestricted view with no bike or rider in the way to cause issues and it is not going to be touching any metal parts of the bike. It’s also sealed from the weather.
Antenna cables: These can be shortened once we have a final setup to prevent signal loss.
Currently we post the results straight after the race (even when we know they need editing). The reason for doing this is because we are only a small team and in an ideal world, we could hand over the timings to another team with the manual results to check and update before publishing, but we need to move on to setup and use the timing system for the next race. So nothing is lost we publish and then go back and update it later.
We plan to have the updated results ready by Monday, possibly the same day, as we improve the accuracy of the system and there are less issues to update.
Things you can do to help
Don’t bring your number board too close to the gantry when other races are on. When you have finished your event, do not walk back through the timing gantry (or close to it). There is a delay between the system recording your lap time and being able to record another, but if you sit there and have a chat then walk back through, the system thinks you have done another lap. To help with this we will try and finish all races up the hill, which will result in riders finishing on the car park side and thus no need to come back through.
I would like to thank my girlfriend, Amanda for spending hours researching and pulling together the system from the initial idea I had and the box of parts I gave her! Also, thanks to our friends Natalie and MariAngel (who comes down from London) who help out calling the riders through and recording the results manually. They have been amazing and are invaluable. Neither of whom have any connection to cycling but have both just turned up to help.
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