Gates. gates, gates...

Starting Line (Ramp)

Moderators: Jani Soderhall, Henry Hester

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Post by Henry Hester » Fri Aug 23, 2002 7:08 pm

I feel totally qualified to post here on this subject. I've had plenty of gate starts in my career, I created an option and I've been hurt using the current system. You guys know me. I've been a promoter of a wheel stop (like La Costa 2001) for the past year. I've seen too many people get hung up on the gates, including myself (fat paw) and more recently, Sharon Sidlo.

I'll admit, the system I came up with was a little lightweight for a whole series of races. The "doors" would need to be made from 1/4" aluminum plates that dropped into a flush-with-the-floor position. The pneumatics are strong enough to hold anyone back, in fact, there would be no way to create an unsafe start for anyone.

The reasoning by JK and TLP is that the gates we are currently using provide a visual effect for the public. We saw Charlie Ransom plow the gates on TV and it looked fairly stupid, the coverage was too quick to explain just what happened and basically it wasn't a win-win moment, especially for Chuck himself.

There will certainly be improvements to the system next season. TLP probably won't want to go forward with the current funding or on-site rigs. Now is when a discussion can happen that may turn things around.

I like the wheel stop system. Period. There is no reason not to refine it and use it in the future. See my site link below a rough photo of it if you haven't already experienced this smooth, relaxing and easy start system.

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Post by Jani Soderhall » Fri Aug 23, 2002 8:45 pm

I've always been dreaming of a system capable of handle false starts. The FCR series already seem to have an electronic system to start the race such as beeps or white/yellow/green lights. Couldn't a non-obtrusive detector (laser, light beam or other sensor) for false starts be added?

Three false starts and you're out.
Nobody will get hurt. Nobody will be afraid. You can still pull to the maximum of your strength. In the case of a false start the red light will show and a sound beep to prevent the racers from heading too far into the course.

The negative thing is that there will be a number of false starts, but the athletic 100m event has had that for 100s of years and they can live with it so I guess we can as well. Even the audience is used to it and in a way sometimes it adds excitement.

It seems to me as if the system holding back the wheels (which I quite like) could be as dangerous as the closed gates if you pull really hard and the board stops or jumps over then you are most likely in trouble. I may be wrong, there are certainly those of you who have thought more about this than I have.

I hope we can see some creative ideas here. We need something not to complex that can be built in a standard format and sold to all contest organizers around the world.

PS. I'm glad to be part of the slalom community again! Looking forward to see you all one day.

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Post by Henry Hester » Fri Aug 30, 2002 7:35 pm

Jani, both the trap door and the wheel gate completely do away with false starts. In fact, other than a gate bashing attempt, we haven't seen a false start in a year, thanks to new technology. My beef was the gate being so high that you can actually get hurt if you "jump the gun" and get mixed up with the swinging gate.

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Post by Jani Soderhall » Fri Aug 30, 2002 11:26 pm

Henry, I have raced with closed doors and I think they are pretty OK, but I think it would be even better if there was no gate and the checking of start and false starts would be entirely electronic.

Doors that swing open couldn't be made the same all over the world. I was hoping we could get a system together that everybody could use, regardless of the quality of the start ramp. It could even be used for push starts (Yes, I guess they still happen).

Let's keep thinking about it.

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Post by John Gilmour » Wed Sep 04, 2002 6:05 pm

Push starts still happen and as they are the easiest to do as the require no ramps I hope they will continue.

Ramp starts I believe were to help equalize the playing field however experienced Vert skaters have an easier time with the ramps and newbies are often imtimidated by the ramps. Many of our newer entrants to slalom are from longboarding and cruising and are not familiar with ramps and may be discouraged from racing because of the ramps. Also a ramp start dictates roughly the amount of speed the racer will enter the course and for some racers it can be too much- and for others frustratingly slow requireing that the race equipment be optimized for Slow speeds (ironic).

Besides every time you go out and practice slalom you are practicing your push starts- I do not know of any racers who drag starting ramps to their different practice sites. Don't get me wrong -I do enjoy ramp starts though (less effort required physically) - but I do feel push starts better serve the racers.

IMHO push starts- (and though I personally love unlimited *more than 100 feet* starts, I am refering to push starts of less than 50 feet)tend to EQUALIZE the start more than Ramp starts.

In a typical dual push start you will see one skater lead the other skater. Once the leading skater has established a lead he will stop pushing and get his footing correct on the deck. The trailing skater will almost always opt for getting a few extra pushes in and trying to fix his footing with less time before entering the course. By the time both skaters reach the 4th cone in the course the spacing between the two skaters is very often fairly even. Then the stronger of the two skaters will begin to pull away.

In Ramp starts The ability of a skater to pull down the ramp as well as the ability of the skater to pump the transition and his timing of the start + upper body strength all contribute to enormous gaps in the starting distances. In courses less than 35 cones a bad start may be an insurmountable problem. By the 4th cone there can be huge gaps between competitors and more often than I would like to see, the more practiced slalomer who happens to get a poorer start loses mostly as a result of a ramp start with a common start.

With common starts Good racers often do not know who won the race regardless of who crossed the line first before cone penalties are tallied so we can not expect the spectators to know the outcome of every race either. The only point of confusion for a spectator with an independent start is where both racers have clean runs and the one who got out of the gate slower on an independent start posts a shorter time despite finishing last. IMHO that is a rare enough occurance that we could live with that.

As for the Gates vs HH wheel block. I would prefer a tapeswitch without gates opening. In the case of a common start TV cameras could show just how close a competitors wheels came to hitting the switch prior to the start. If gates MUST be utilized then Henry's wheel trap (using 12 volt Linear Accutators as opposed to compressed air) used in conjunction with gates that open 1/2 second earlier would work better. It would prevent skaters from physically hitting the gates, damageing the gates, or getting injured from contact with the gate or any sharper parts of the gate.

Also USE split gates like in western saloons- (I and others got badly cut up on the gates this year because they travel too much distance to swing out of the way) That way the racers could "pre-load" by pulling against the wheel stop and both racers would be launched at nearly the same time. Yet not hit the gates which open a fraction of a second earlier. Reaction time would be reduced yet not eliminated as a peak pull would best be timed with the timing chime or the opening of the gates.

Realistically I feel the gates and ramps are an expensive production and a headache for the promoters and only worth it to sell Premium banner space to sponsors. The set of the gates and ramps detracts from time which could be spent improving a course and enhancing safety for the racers and spectators. You often can't set the course before the gates and ramps are ready and moving a start is a pain once that is done- however you can set a push start up quickly and easily move it and set the course earlier and allow practice to begin earlier ....the impact bags can be inflated last. (see below)

Over the past 12 months a bunch of racers were injured on ramps by the ramps- gates, or equipment failure - to the best of my knowledge no one has been injured during a push start this year. I know ramps symbolize the "big leagues" but IMHO the racing would be better without them as it would require promoters to choose hills that did not need ramps. Then the promoters could put something in that really does make racing more exciting- impact bags at the bottom to save our skin and our shoes and make it easier for front foot pushers to stop. I truly believe a large sponsor logo on the impact bag gets a lot more attention from the viewer than a banner at the top when the attention is focused on the racers faces not on the banners. I watched Henry Hester and Tom Sims race at The Nassau Collesium in Long Island New York in 1976- they had a gate start came down to flat bottom of the collesium and crashed into the impact bags at the end. You watched to see who started first but you often gauged the finish by who hit the impact bags first. I liked seeing the impact bag thing enough as a kid to convince a friend to buy our first set of cones that day.

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Post by Henry Hester » Wed Sep 04, 2002 7:13 pm

Good comments from JG, a real thinker. I agree with everything he says although I have a hard time "pushing and setting" just as others might on the ramp trannies.

We are not that untechnical to incorporate the wheel-stop with the gates. I really like a double saloon gate over a swinging door as I have used both. I was suprised to see just one gate being built for this season.

And... where were those corporate logos on the gates this year. If I were TLP, I would have painted <b>FORD</b> on one and <b>CHEVY</b> on the other. Run all year nad hope for sponsorship the next year.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Henry Hester on 2002-09-04 13:26 ]</font>

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Post by Howard Gordon » Thu Sep 05, 2002 12:55 am

I'm all in favor of the start ramps. I got my first ramp experience at Donner, and even after 2 falls in practice rounds from overpumping the transition, I really liked the fact that my feet were set when starting to skate, especially on a steep tricky course.

The kids have been very comfortable with ramp starts from the beginning, and even 13yo Lauren, who ran her first ramp start rounds at Hood River, really likes them. Visually, they're much more appealling to viewers, and they really add a lot to the professional air of an event.

Having helped in setup and takedown of the FCR ramps, it's fair to say that neither is a particularly difficult or time-consuming task - Gary Cross really has this streamlined. There have been issues with riders getting hung up in the single swing gate, but it's not clear whether the concept is fundamentally flawed or just in need of additional tuning.

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Post by John Gilmour » Mon Sep 09, 2002 7:01 pm

When I see a new face at a race I try to make it a habit to go up and talk to the new would be prospective racers. Unfortunately I do get negative feedback about the ramps..... perhaps because people know where I stand on ramp starts.

Unfortunately the only skaters you see competeing have already made the decision to ride the ramps- you don't see the others who may have become slalomers- but upon seeing the ramps were intimidated enough to pass on the sport or competeing altogether. I would like to see the women's class grow more quickly and though we have a lot of gutsy women out there who are willing to bomb the ramps I would like to even the more apprehensive women and guy skaters out there competing.

With FCR we were fortunate to have the same ramps used the entire season. (And a special thanks to the guys who spent endless days on the road (Breckenridge to CA) carting the ramps around in a huge trailer).

Still there are people having problems ie. wipeouts concerning the ramps and it isn't always the newbies. What sort of signal does it send to a potential new entrant who sees myself (East coast slalom poster boy)), Dave Hackett (of the new Z-Boys Movie), or Charlie Ransom (legendary Badlander) hang themselves on the ramps? Does that inspire confidence? Those wipeouts did not all happen early season either- I doubt they will competely go away. HH's wheel block used in conjunction with the gates could prevent us from further blown starts and injury. Yes- it is racing when someone hangs themselves on teh ramps but as a spectator and competitor I would rather see the race than some guy hang himself and the other guy glide down the course.

Strangely enough what I would prefer to see to have safer racing are larger ramps. The smaller the ramp the less time a person has to prepare for the transition. A significantly larger - taller ramp- though not necessarily steeper would be an improvement .......but only if coupled with a larger gap between the ramp and the first cone. How much larger a gap? Well perhaps a gap large enough so that a less seasoned slalomer could take a wide turn or two to slow down to adjust his speed for the maximum he or she can handle.

With the current size of the exisiting ramps the speed generated from them is about equivalent to 4-5 pushes.

That means that all competitors are entering the course slowly. Indeed in such an instance many races are won or lost at the top- where time adds to you total time more quickly in the slower gates. That reduces some races to the top 5 cones- make a mistake in the top 5 cones....miss a pump, and "you are out" because the time mounts much more heavily through the slowest cones.

In a course where the top competitors enter at a high rate of speed (with a nice gap to adjust ones footing) a few things happen.

1. It looks more exciting and faster (like racing should be)

2. It is more exciting and faster (like racing should be)

3. The course is not won or lost for the top racers at the top 5 cones- IMHO the racer can make a mistake anywhere in the course. If racer A makes a mistake at the top- racer B might make a mistake at the bottom and the cost for both mistakes is about even.

4. The accident rate often goes down as most "dismounts" occur when straining to generate speed at slow speeds resulting in a lot of lateral force on the grip tape - like trying to pedal your bike from a near standstill in top gear. (see Mollica's vids)

5. Lastly it allows for more technical courses to be set as we do not have to have the obligatory set of 3-10 "pumping cones" to get up to speed. That's 3- 10 more cones to use to make a course interesting.

It is not to say that the entire course must be run at top speed. IMHO a well set course has sections where the faster racers can continue to pick up speed where as the slower racers might have to scrub speed to make the gates and then accellerate. Or even a case where the top racers hit a technical section which requires braking and then acceleration thereafter. So it is not as if the skill of "pumping to generate speed" is lost. It is just that every course does not have to start slowly.

Of course with all these different starts and ramps and bungee starts etc.... it all starts to look a bit like Wile E. Coyote just to get going.

My concern is not limiting the speeds through the course for fast racers and allowing slower skaters enough room to adjust their footing and tailor the entry speed to their liking. That way we can see racing at its full potential. IMHO racers want to leave a race feeling they ran the course the fastest they could safely and not feel that a starting ramp hindered their speed.

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Post by Jani Soderhall » Mon Sep 09, 2002 7:48 pm

I personally think that starting ramps are a must for contests. I think it's embarrassing when skaters push in front of a crowd to start the race. Especially if there is dual racers.

When you have a ramp, everybody knows where to look for the guys to start. You know it's your turn. Your knees are trembling after having mounted the ramp. This is it!

On the ramp you can put plenty of ads or even better build a whole wall behind/around the ramp. FCR seems to be going in the right direction here. Even the contest name is up there, what a good idea!

Although I always thought the Swiss ramp in Hombrechtikon was great for speed on a flat surface, I think it is a bit too much for a downhill course. The platform of the ramp was mounted on the top of a minibus (of the larger size). I think it also did scare some skaters, although I don't think this is such a threat as you indicate John. The Swiss finally managed to twist the arms of enough ISSA representatives to have the ISSA rules say the ramp must be a minimum of 1.80m high.
This was more a recommendation than a fact. Only the Swiss followed that rule.
I would happily vote to lower that to 1.50m which I consider the perfect height for getting just the right amount of speed.

Ramps of 1m or lower, in my opinion, are too low. If the race is steep downhill I think it could be OK. I think the FCR ramps looks quite OK. Maybe a feet more would make them excellent.

I think modern ramps should have a rounded descent. I don't know who came up with that idea first, but it is really nice not to hit the bottom and wobble onto the tarmac.

I'm still worried about the potential danger with the FCR swinging doors, but I guess western saloon doors could solve that in a future revision. Even better though with an electronic gate, sensing the false starts. Tway seems to be supporting this idea (check out his posts in the timing equipment forum).

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Post by John Gilmour » Tue Sep 10, 2002 3:39 am

I did enjoy the Swiss Mini bus mounted ramp quite a bit as it was one of the few ramps that really gave you a good amount of speed into the course. Also the entire ramp mounted on top of the bus and as a result was easy to transport (no trailer needed- and as the base of the ramp was the bus no scaffolding needed to be erected. Since both riders were using the same ramp surface you could be assured the ramp start was as even as possible. I think a rounded transition strip at the bottom would have been nice. I have photos of the Swiss ramp and I'll send some to Adam T. to scan in.

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Post by Jack Smith » Sat Sep 14, 2002 12:09 am

Lots of good brainstorming on starting gate design and function. I encourage everyone of you to build and experiment with your designs.

We have run 1'000's of starts this season on the FCR starting gates and I can only remember a handful of hang-ups.

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Post by Henry Hester » Sat Sep 14, 2002 12:34 am

Yeah, I remember one and it hurt. If I had more funding, I could come up with the trick starting gate system, complete with a wheel safety stop, saloon door configuration and christmas tree light system that runs handicap (stagered) starts. One gate opening before the other on purpose.

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Post by George Gould » Mon Sep 16, 2002 10:37 pm

i am a new-er, part time racer. i liked the wheel blocks at L/C 2001. at 2002 L/C, the new gates were different, but i can see how spectators like em. they leave no doubt as to the start. thankfully the ramps are pretty well designed. i need more practice. one thing that has helped is my taping the the Fox (for my own use of course) Turner downhill. watch Chicken over and over. i am able to see how much a good start is absolutely necessary for a good race.

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Post by John Gilmour » Thu Sep 19, 2002 3:58 pm

I am still scarred from Breckenridge lol. But Henry In think a ramp with teh works would be killer. The staggered starts could introduce a new option.... adding the differential time gap to be made up to the other racer. For instance if I were to lose by a second to Giammarco Luca in the first race (I believe this may have happened before) the gate in the second race would open 1 second later for me in the second race. Cone penalties would still have to be tallied and only in clean runs or runs of equal cones hit could spectators immediately determine a winner...but it is possible. However the tone start would have to be scrapped for dual Xmas tree starts as two tines going at the same time would be confusing.

Unfortunately I do doubt that we could get gates to open with 1/10 of a second accuracy let alone 1/1000th of a second.

What it would bring to the racers though is a clear understanding of who is ahead. For instance if you lost the first race and then with the differential gate start ran a clean run and passed your opponent in the course you could be assured that for that moment you had the lead. ....of course it works both ways in that the other racer would see you approaching and attempt to go even faster.

Having another racer starting .2 seconds a head of you would be a huge distraction.

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Post by Henry Hester » Fri Sep 20, 2002 9:14 pm

Yup, you got it.

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Post by ur13 » Sat Sep 21, 2002 12:05 am

I must admit I favor push starts...give a box (6x6') and 20' to the first cone and be done with it. I even like GBJ style "lunge" starts, though they need the right course.

However, I did dig the feel of the FCR ramps once I got the feel for them a bit. I skated mini ramps for a long time so pumping the transition eventually came back to me like riding a bike.

That being said I think that there is no one way to start a slalom race. The only FCR event I raced this seaosn was La Costa, where due to the pitch of the hill a push start would have been JUST fine...even a lunge would have worked. Without being there, sut seeing pictures/video...the battle by the bay sorta needed the ramp to add a "kick" into the fairly tech course...but either could have gone eitherway.

I guess my point is I would like to see some FCR events (or whatever they are) next season utilize different start methods, not all need to be ramps.

I like Henry's concept...if you put that on a ramp (no flat) loaded the rider into it and the lip went down on the start it would be an even start...no pulls, no nothing...just pumping the transition. It would be almost like BMX starts. It might not look good for the crowds and I do worry a little bit about the possibility of the lip not going down and a rider taking a superman off of the ramp...but it has possibilites.

I know this has been brought up before...but what is wrong with a wand ad the shin level, with a series of beeps (like FCR has now....like the use in ski/snowboard racing. YES they are easier to barge, but they can be designed so it is VERY easy to tell. It still gives the spectators a visual cue to see the start.

FCR's curent ramps I thinka re as good as good gets for that design....

(ur13)

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Post by Henry Hester » Sat Sep 21, 2002 1:18 am

Here is a photo of the start block we used at La Costa 2001, if you haven't seen it on my page. You know, all I'd have to do is run another race to use it again.
<IMG SRC="http://www.niteriderdive.com/graphics/startblock1.jpg">
We also put an L-angle behind the rear wheel so you couldn't roll back and try to barge the "gate".



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Henry Hester on 2002-09-20 19:20 ]</font>

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Post by Brady Mitchell » Wed Sep 25, 2002 4:38 pm

Though I was intimidated by the ramp at LCO `01, I`d have to agree that ramp starts are better for a contest. It adds visually to spectators. I also think it levels out the playing field to an extent with vert and transition riders having a slight advantage. It might not be as easy for others to practice a ramp start without having a ramp to practice on though.

Maybe a longer ramp with softer transitions would help those with less experiance. The drop in at King of Kona WAS SCARY. Think of the FCR ramp but 3` higher.

As for starts, IMHO, there needs to be a way of registering the false start. If a tape can register a false start, then there is no need for gates or wheels stops. Just a XMAS tree light start and tape switch that registers a false start would be perfect.

Somehow someone can figure out how to make the start tape switch to be DE-activated once the XMAS tree light goes to green. Have dual switches and maybe lights mid course to show which course has DQ`d. This will allow the other racer to complete his course and eliminating restarts.

Now it`s manu e manu like at a 1/4 mile drag race :smile:

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Post by Jani Soderhall » Sun Oct 06, 2002 12:10 am

Brady,

Seems like you and I have exactly the same view upon this subject, now we just need to find someone who can put it all together!

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Post by Henry Julier » Wed Oct 09, 2002 1:08 am

Hello Everyone!

I just read through quickly all the posts on this forum. I talked with Gilmour some about the advantages and disadvantages of start ramps and I would have to agree with him. However, I do see some positive traits in starting ramps-

1) For me, it's really important to have proper footing when going into a course, which is one reason why I have a love-hate relationship with push starts- often I don't have enough time to set my feet where they feel comfortable. I realize though that as I get better this wont be a problem. Anyways, a start ramp would allow me to set my feet and worry about other things.

2) I guess there is the whole crowd-pleaser aspect, which I am in favor of.

well I guess that's only 2 positive things. If I had to design an ideal system, it would use a start ramp, like the ones currently used, and a soft gate, like in ski racing. When a skier races he has 5 seconds to leave the start house and when he moves the gate (which is literally a long stiff plastic dowel) the timer starts. this could be used for single- man runs. For duals, the system ideally would be the sytem used now but with the stick-gate thing again. 4 rapid beeps, time starts on the fourth beep. if you hit the gate too early you dq.

Obviously, it would be costly to have 2 systems, thought one could use the same hardware and write different software programs. Basically I suggest fcr should use the start ramp system but with a non-dangerous gate that if tripped early would dq the rider instead of wrecking them.

That, or just use Henry's system, which is beautiful in its simplicity.

Henry J

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Post by Leonardo Ojeda » Thu Oct 24, 2002 3:50 pm

Push starts are cheaper, and easier than gate starts, but i think that also depends on the type of race thats beign held. i.e a GRASS race its per se a cheap easy-to-make race and gates or ramps will be "against" te idea of the GRASS idelogy.

ramp starts are difficult IMHO because not everyone knows how to drop in(my case) and prefers to push harder on flat to obtain the desired speed. u cant break on a ramp, its like a slingshot, in the other hand, if u have a wet course (WV) or a steep course (morro) you will exit the ramp with a lot of speed u may not like.

maybe if the ramps are more like a incline ramp and not as a half pipe drop in, they wil lbe more easy to take.

p.s.

in push starts, how do you place the deck and the foot on the surface to obtain more momentum at the start?

LEO
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Post by Jani Soderhall » Thu Oct 24, 2002 7:59 pm

Leo,

Although I am quite used to different kind of start ramps, I don't think you should be the least worried about the FCR ramps for example. Those are in no way "half-pipe drop ins". They have a very nice rounded transition and are very easy to learn.

Also they are not high, so standing up there, looking down, should frighten only the real beginners (and those with a parallel stance).

I think the FCR ramps were the perfect size and shape for the races at Avila Beach and Morro Bay.

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Post by ur13 » Fri Oct 25, 2002 5:06 am

I bitch an moan about ramps more than anyone. But I gotta agree with Jani. The FCR ramps are about as good as they get. They are not so intimidating after a few pulls off of them. If anything the entire transition of the FCR ramps could be extended 1-2 feet making the "drop" smoother, but that is being nit picky. The FCR ramps frankly rock.

I love push starts. Most of my slalom racing experience is from a push start> I gotta admit though the more I run ramp starts the more I am unhappy running ONLY push starts, and vis-versa. Both ramp starts and push starts AND lunge starts are valid starts in slalom racing IMHO. Races should be a mix of all of them.

If you have trouble with getting your feetin the correct place on push starts...practice MORE. Practice, practice, practice. i found last winter practicing push starts uphill made them much stronger for me. Not only getting a powerful push out of the box but getting my feet settled and a strong pump started quickly. After all that practice I now have a FAIR push start. My ramp starts are even getting better.

Example. The ramps were NOT needed for the Avila Beach course on day 1 of the world championships. IMHO a push start would have been much better. However the ramps didn't take away from the course. It is easy on the FCR ramps to suck up the transition with your legs and/or take the first cone wide to drop any unwanted speed.

On day 2 in Morro bay...the ramps were 100% needed! a push start on the course/hill would have been painful. If anything the ramps could have been twice as far from the first cone allowing an even more aggressive pull and double pump before the first cone..

My problem is since most of my racing is from push starts my feet are NEVER exactally where I want them. I deal with it and move on, I get them pretty close but not perfect. So on a ramp when i can place my feet where I want them I get messed up being that I never get to do that....it all takes practice that is all....

practice as many starts as you can. That is a HUGE part of racing. In most FCR races this season (ramps) the races were decided by who got the better start. IN push starts the better start doesn't necessarliy win....

practice, practice, practice.........

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Post by Wesley Tucker » Fri Oct 25, 2002 11:41 am

Ok. Silly Question Time: Who says you can only have gates if you have a ramp? Why can't a gate swing open (thus the visual effect everyone desires,) and racers push so many feet to the first cone?

This levels the playing field for racers who don't have 24/7 access to practice ramps and also gives a good demonstration of a skater's athleticism when bolting for the first cone.

Oh, and anyone who says that a gate start without a ramp would be boring probably has never watched the Kentuck Derby!

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Post by Chris Chaput » Sat Nov 09, 2002 3:57 am

I can certainly understand that a spectator would "get" the concept of a gate on a ramp. Most spectators would assume that the clock starts for both lanes at the same time. In the case of the FCR series, they would be correct. It is however, only an assumption and would not be accurate in the case of a race that uses independent start timing for each lane. Actually, there is always independent timing used, it's just that some races implement it along with a common start.

This is neither wrong nor right, it's just one method of starting a slalom race. Spectators understand that some racers get better starts than others, but it doesn't always mean that much. There are two runs, cone penalties, DQs, advantages after the first run and of course, the race to the finish line. After the second run of heat, even experienced racers are left to wonder who has won the race because there are various calculations to be made before a winner is determined.

Sometimes a guy is slow out of the gate because he has a commanding lead after the first round and doesn't want to blow it by hitting the gate. Sometimes he is just "off" on that run. Sometimes they are hung up after barging the gate. Sometimes they're a little slow out of the gate, but make up for it with a great pull and/or transition pump. Some guys are just plain slow. I've seen Chicken and Olson and Dunn with "perfect" starts, and I've also seen all three have it backfire on them.

What's my point here? Ramps and gates can work well, but I wouldn't use gates. Here's why.

Gates are based on the concept of a "fair start". I think that fair starts are important, but there are several ways to achieve a fair start without gates. Gates are what I call "restraint devices". Henry Hester's wheel holder is another example of a restraint device. The concept is simple. Racers can't leave until the gate/door/lever is open. In reality though, racers will attempt to leave before it's open. Powerful athletes force their way through to try and get a jump on the other racer. They often defeat the system or break it, or end up hurting themselves. IMHO it's not "if" this will happen, it's "when". It introduces a high likelihood of down-time on race day. Although spectators can relate to the effect of a racer's good reaction time, they can also relate to a great start that is the result of a strong pull (or push) and a good transition pump. I honestly believe that if spectators saw a racer pull out of the top of a ramp that had no gate, they wouldn't be missing a thing. They would naturally assume (and correctly so) that some method of determining a fair start was in place. In other words, you could run a race on ramps without gates and no one would care.

Race organizers however, do care about racers leaving the start at about the same time. It would look wierd if one guy left a couple of seconds after the other guy, finished well behind the other guy, and still won the heat. I would never propose a system that allowed for this because some racers would choose to "pace" the other rider and attempt to "reel him in". With a very simple system that implements a small window of time in which to leave the starting line, fair and exciting starts could occur without the need for gates.

Consider the following:

In single lane racing, we already accept a "good start" as one that comes from a strong push, not a well timed push. We know this because races like the San Francisco GS and the banked slalom race in Albuquerue had the timer start when the rider crossed a beam or wand or tapeswitch, rather than from a countdown.

In dual lane races with a common start, there is only one set of circumstances in which someone can determine the winner of a race without doing any calculations. That is when a rider crosses the finish line ahead of his opponent and is clean in BOTH heats. Otherwise, time differentials and cone penalty differentials must be calculated before determining the victor. Considering that spectators often can't even determine who crossed the line first (in tight races) and don't always do the math with regard to the cone penalties or even remember who is ahead after the first run, I see nothing wrong or bad in having a system where sometimes the rider who crosses the line slightly ahead of the other isn't the winner. It's already like that now. We wait, we count, we do the math, and THEN we announce the winner. Everyone accepts this.

Here is what I want to see in racing:

1. Fair starts.
2. No false starts.
3. No gates.
4. Independent start devices (triggers) in each lane.
5. Making the system as bulletproof, inexpensive and available as possible.

To me, it's cheaper, easier and safer to put a tapeswitch on each ramp than a mechanical gate. Fair and exciting starts can occur without promoting false starts. If ramps are not available or desireable in certain situations, the same timing system can be implemented without them.

This is a very simple and basic programming task and one that I think we should explore. I am confident that once such a system is used at a race, everyone will accept it. I am also confident that until it is built, many guys will knock it before they even try it.

If anyone would like to pursue this idea with me, I'd be happy to share the details of my idea. It's nothing new, but perhaps new to slalom skateboarding.

p.s. There was a 4-Man downhill skateboarding race held in NM the day before "The Bear". The starter released an elastic cord (like the one Jack used at Cambria and Gary used in Colorado) and a small metal weight attached to the cord struck a cymbal at the starting line. The STARTER was responsible for releasing the cord within 5 seconds of "SET" when no one was touching the cord. THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS A FALSE START. Restarts could have been necessary but never were because everyone was frozen at the line without being able to time a countdown. Not only were the racers able to visually determine when they could leave, but they could hear the start signal (the cymbal) as well. Not only did this idea work, but several riders were overheard saying what a great idea it was and that they'd like to see it replace some of the questionable starting methods that other organizations use.

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Post by Etienne de Bary » Sat Nov 09, 2002 9:37 pm

as a slalom newbie who has never competed i'll make myself ridiculous once again..., i'd say JG demonstration introducing the topic is rather convincing

and the comparision with athletic running is all in the advantage of slalom, more fake starts means less runs, and less riders on stage

in my idea what matters is the ability to decide one's right speed, i mean the best rider in my eyes is the guy who will ride his optimal speed whatever the slope, ... so i guess my ideal is a very little ramp, so the guys would still have to pump, and then various declivities so one would have to carve too and make more decisive decisions

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Post by Matthew Wilson » Mon Nov 11, 2002 7:20 pm

Has anyone experimented with trying to develop a system where the actual start of a timer is dictated by the position of a light?

For example, a system that consisted of tape switches in each lane that would not be activated until a red light turned green, let's say. If a skater false started the light would turn a different color, like yellow, for instance.

I like what Chaput has said, and though I have little to know experience to base my thoughts, I will not pretend to be an expert. But I imagine that there needs to be a balance between the racer's ability to dictate his/her own movement and mechanical influence--or responsibilities--on the timing aspects of the race.
slalom is good

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Post by John Gilmour » Sat Jan 18, 2003 7:15 pm

It seems though I may be wrong, that one of the FCR gates does not open at the exact same time as the other one perhaps a tenth or so later.

Hackett got hung on one of the gates at Catalina as did I at Breckenridge "TS" against Cross. After doing that I get a bit "gate shy". I would prefer to see the gates go away and give way to tape switches to indicate a false start- or perhaps have the gates set to open a bit sooner than the actual start. You can barge the magnet as the gates are electromagnets and being that they are driven by electric current which is stored for a bit in the magnet even after the current is stopped. A larger person who hits the gate with more mass has the ability to pop the gate open sooner (Especially easier if the battery powering the magnet starts to wear down at the end of the day :wink: If the gates were to open using 12 volt linear actuators with "dead bolt" type latching with a rounded pin the gates would be impossible to barge.

Still the gates are not needed.

I wonderhow many of the racers would prefer to keep gates (lets assume they are switched over to linear actuators (available from selectproducts.com or http://www.edrivedesign.com/eliminator.html
or http://www.parker.com/euro_emd/uk/productsf_3.htm

Still selecting two acutators that move at exactly the same time is as hard as selecting two magnets that demagnetize at the same rate.

So we are back to inexpensive - low power required simple- easy to understand tapeswitches.

Of course having separate ramps allows for a fudge factor- having them be the same would help. Realistically independent lane timing without a common start and no gates would help the most.

Best of all is to have a hill where the hill provides enough speed as ramp start races on shallow hills lend themselves to unchallenging courses and less exciting racing for the racers and spectators alike.

My hopes for this season is for racers to be looking for good venues all the time and let promoters know if they find a "golden spot".

I don't think the burden of doing everything should fall on the promoters. I think it would be easier for them if racers all were to contribute to find good spots with good exposure and cooperative local authorities. Then the promotoers would have more time for advertising, anf fund rasing and hopefully for securing TV space.

I've got my eye on a section of the Boston Common to be repaved. Ideal race spot -nearby underground and above ground parking, food, bathrooms, loads of college age spectators, good hill, and central to the rest of the city with high foot traffic, and no roads to be closed as it is in a park area.

Where's your spot?

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