OK, to be fair it was about 14 minutes of coverage that aired over the weekend on the CBS program 60 Minutes. In the segment titled  “Enhancing the Bike” news magazine correspondent Bill Whitaker leads off with a nicely inflammatory statement that “the sport of cycling is notorious for its culture of cheating…” From there 60 Minutes heads to Hungary to talk with Istvan Varjas who claims to be the pioneer of hiding motors inside bikes for almost two decades. Varjas has popped up in the cycling news streams a good bit over the last couple years, especially after the young Belgian crosser was caught last year. He puts Whitaker on a bike with a hidden motor to try and tells CBS News that yes, pro riders are competing on these bikes.

60 Minutes also sat down with the former testing director for French anti-doping authorities who tells that they have been told that a dozen riders raced the 2015 Tour with hidden motors. Then CBS News pulls in Tyler Hamilton to test a motor-doped bike, links Varjas’ motors to infamous Dr. Michele Ferrari within the last 3 years, and infers a link to Team Sky possibly racing the Tour de France time trials with motorized wheels. 60 Minutes doesn’t present any hard proof of current pro peloton motor doping, but they certain make a case that many people will see as rather damning.

We can’t embed the 60 Minutes segments here, but you can go to the CBS News page for the story’s video. Just beware that the video will autoplay and won’t work with ad blockers turned on. There is also another 6 minute clip with a further look at how the newest motor doping tech may be going into wheels with embedded induction electromagnets.

Feel free to discuss in the comments after the break…



  1. To be fair, cycling is notorious for it’s culture of cheating. Also, junior women’s cyclocross isn’t the first stop for new tech. If it’s being used there, it’s being used elsewhere.

    • or: Professional Cycling is notoriously the subject of well publicized cheating investigations.
      Do you really think other sport’s athletes are powered only by pan y agua?

      • So…? This may be pedantic but, based on the definition, notorious is exactly the right word; this is regardless of other sports’ behaviors.

  2. It was an amazingly bad example of journalism with very little evidence presented to support the voluminous amount of conjecture that the reporter and some of his interviewees offered. The topic deserved a much better effort.

  3. It is like a drunk and alcoholism. Until the cycling community comes to terms with their “illness” and admits the sport is inundated with examples of cheating, until the cycling community stops burying it’s head in the sand – until these things happen, the sport will never be “cured”. Thanks for 60 Minutes for the story. Hopefully the cycling media will act like the journalists the sport needs and not simply purveyors of infomercials.

    • I don’t think there is any denial of cheating or disdain for it within cycling. Further, this “story” has been reported by several cycling publications for a couple years now.

    • Yep. Just read ‘rough ride’ by Paul kimmage. Very eye opening. Cheating is inseparable from cycling until teams are banned. Paid domestics are the issue.

  4. There was a really good video about this on Youtube (GMBN Or Bikeradar? I forget which). They put a stealth motor in a bike and did test runs up a hill climb. Two things quickly became apparent, the first was that those seat tube motors are really loud. The second was that the extra drag from the system attaching to the cranks quite rapidly cancelled out any gains from the motor. They gained nothing worthwhile from the effort and nay pro peloton would instantly notice the amazingly noisy bike.
    Pretty crappy effort by Sixty Minutes, but then it is Sixty Minutes.

    • Like all product ranges, there are poor quality ones and DARPA-level ones. MIL-spec silent motors exist. Don’t think for one second that every unit ever made is loud and draggy.

      And don’t forget about human nature either!

      • Ah the old fallback of totally black ops classified tech yo. If you can find a 150-300W motor that can direct drive a set of cranks (since a gearbox is noisy) silently and fit inside a bicycle seat tube and run off a bottle sized battery, I’ll find you a pink Unicorn named Gary.
        Even if you can, all Gary would have to do to discover it is weigh the bike, huh, this one’s two pounds fatter than it should be, wonder why…

  5. Another hack story by the same people who nearly killed AUDI with their bogus unintended acceleration piece of garbage journalism. The National Enquirer has more journalistic integrity then 60 Minutes.

  6. Sad that they’d lob conjecture out there (is that even journalism?) on a sport that most Americans don’t care about, when they could be doing a “PED’s in college sports”, or “Steroid use in the NFL” spot every week, with actual proof included.

  7. We’ve all seen the same video’s of the bikes moving after they hit the deck or get laid down. I ain’t sayin, I’m, jus sayin…..Those didn’t look quite right to me.

    • I once crashed kinda violently pushing the front tire and my rear wheel spun like crazy while the bike was on it’s side on the ground. I don’t know if Ryder had a motor but I know for sure that I didn’t.

  8. This is a great opportunity to expose a bazillion people watching 60 Minutes that bicycles be easier to ride with an electric motor! I know this is off point, but some of the viewers will have their curiosity piqued and be open to E assist riding because of this feature.

  9. While i do not argue that the “doping” mechanical or otherwise is being used in cycling. This story really and truly did not do a DAMN THING. Most if not all of these details have already been discussed in numerous articles. Just regurgitated a bit in many ways. All this did was make the public-who does not care about bike racing- aware that the cheating continues…….From a mention of lance, to Fabian, to Ryder Hesjedal…..blah blah blah blah!!!!!! Either spill the beans on who is doing it /or has done it. Until this happens the story will just fade away. off into obscurity!!!!!

  10. So what is the maths of the situation? sure you can get an extra 200w or something or 20 mins, but how much extra energy does it take to work that 800gr of gear the other 3 hours.

    • Considering the extra weight is down near the BB or in the rear hub I can’t imagine the weight penalty is an issue. A lot of rd racing is drafting and saving energy for the sprint. A motor coupled with your highest output would far outweigh the weight penalty. Put all that weight in the rim/ tires and you’ve got a good point.

    • There is no extra weight as pro bikes have to meet minimum weights that manufacturers can easily come under. So you just build a lighter bike and add in a motor and battery to meet UCI minimum weights and you’re good to go.

  11. Of course they have motors on their bikes. They have actually two of them. One in the front- derailleur and one in the back-derailleur. The motors are part of Shimano Di2, Campagnolo EPS and SRAM eTap. This is not an alternative fact.

  12. Why couldn’t they test out the wheel motor? It seems that would add a lot of rotating weight for a limited advantage. Maybe they could have consulted with some wheel makers how a wheel like that would perform.

    Then again there was the Hed Stalingrads that helped Roberto Heras win the 2005 Vuelta.

  13. Lots of money/glory at stake and people will cheat. It really isn’t a big deal as long as you don’t tell your kids these are people to look up too, probably about the same as thinking most politicians would be great role models. . . Just not a good idea.

  14. The what I think is a homopolar motor is pretty cool. Though would require a large battery or a board to control the effect. Not sure a Di2 style battery could handle that. Maybe if a couple were chained? lol…

  15. I’ve never understood the tribalism of people and their willingness to attack those who point out the actual corruption in their beloved sports. You can love pro cycling and admit that it has a long, sad, and continuing tradition of cheating. You can love something and admit how flawed it is. Stop attacking people because the truth makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable.

    This simplistic, polarized way of thinking isn’t only hurting the sport, but it’s ruining society. Life is complicated and difficult, Accept it.

  16. I’m just going to be honest here. I think the whole thing is hilarious. I wish that UCI and other governing bodies would be a little more diligent in their work to search out people doing this thing, but they have a lot to do I’m sure. Anyway, I view this as part of the chase. Who will think of the next way to cheat? Who will be using it in the peloton? How will they be caught? Which funny cheater video will come next? Obviously blood doping has higher risk and should be priority, but things like this are part of the narrative that make cycling fun to watch and talk about.

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