Lawsuit Jolts Athlete-App World — Is to Blame for Cycling Accident Deaths?

The athlete-motivation application world got a jolt Monday when news broke of a lawsuit being filed against, in part alleging that the results-comparison site caused a rider to push himself too hard, resulting in an accident that killed him.

This San Francisco Chronicle report (scroll down, it’s the second item) has most of the details — which stem from an accident two years ago when then 41-year-old William “Kim” Flint lost control of his bike while going approximately 40 mph in a descent on an East Bay road. Here’s a quick snippet quoting the attorney from Flint’s family, who is filing the lawsuit:

“If they are going to host events, give away prizes and draw in users to get the fastest times, then someone should at least come out and see that the routes are safe,” said Susan Kang, attorney for the family of William “Kim” Flint, the 41-year-old electrical engineer who died in the bicycling accident June 19, 2010.

Kang says Flint was “obsessed” with the bike-times website maintained by Strava Inc., the company being named in the lawsuit. He had learned the night before he died that someone using the site had beaten his record “King of the Mountain” time on the same hill, she said.

We’d never looked closely at before but the site and its challenges seem pretty popular — certainly at the front of a marketplace just getting started, where weekend warriors can “compete” using recorded times on known routes, all done via GPS and device wonkery. But are some users getting out of control, breaking laws and endangering lives in trying to become virtual champs? The latest twist in this scenario, according to the SF Gate report, is that Chris Bucchere, the cyclist charged last week with felony manslaughter (for running down a 71-year-old man in a crosswalk) was also trying to beat a record.

We haven’t yet reached out to the company for comment yet, but on the company blog, Michael Horvath (who is referred to as’s “fearless leader”) had a post Monday that seemed to answer the lawsuit obliquely: Titled “Stand With Us,” the blog post started with what seemed like a it’s-not-our-fault disclaimer that may or may not mean much to a judge and jury. Here’s the top of the blog post:

Each and every day we strive to improve Strava for you ­­ the athlete. We are athletes too, just like you. As the Strava community grows, we all need to follow a few simple guideposts to ensure that Strava’s impact is positive.

This is what we, the Strava community, stand for:

We know the rules. Laws and rules are created for our protection. Cycling, running and swimming are inherently dangerous and following the law, and common sense, when it comes to traffic, weather, or conditions, reduces our odds of getting hurt or hurting others. It’s as simple as that.

The blog goes on to talk about resting and honoring sportsmanship (aka, no cheaters) and ends with this line: “If you want to be part of the Strava community, we’d like you to stand with us and take these guideposts to heart.”

Something tells us that if lawyers are getting involved, it’s not going to be as simple as a statement on a blog to prove that’s competitions didn’t cause harm. Or that the bad apples aren’t a part of the community. There are going to be many who decry the lawsuit as some part of a nanny-state weirdness, but there is probably some legitimate question to be asked whether or not a site that promotes virtual competitions on real streets and trails is responsible for the participants’ actions, much in the way a 10K race must take out insurance to cover its runners. I have a feeling this may be the tip of the iceberg for such sites like It’s something we’re going to watch closely.

UPDATE: There’s a new blog post on the site, with some new terms of service that appear to include language that basically says “you can’t sue” if you happen to say, die or kill someone else while you are trying to beat your best time. Interesting language, no?

Webscorer Debuts Timing Apps to Save Plenty of Time at Races

Sports fans, coaches, event organizers, timing companies, publishers and even proud parents can now easily track sporting event results with a new a comprehensive platform that automates much of more complicated manual timing formats.

Webscorer Inc., based in Redmond, Wash., has introduced a platform that includes three integrated components, also usable separately: a race registration tool, a manual race timing app that runs on the iPad and iPhone, and a website that supports race results posting from the Webscorer timing app and other sources via an open interface.

Webscorer PRO is available as an in-app subscription from Webscorer FAN at the following rates on the iPhone and iPad versions for $9.99 for one week and $49.99 for one year. Webscorer Online Race Registration Service Webscorer has varying costs. Webscorer .TXT Results Posting Service is free.

“As a racer myself, I witnessed the difficulty race organizers were having in timing races and providing timely results to racers,” said Vesa Suomalainen, CEO of Webscorer. “With the emergence of the mobile Internet, we saw an opportunity to help modernize the pen & paper method still widely used in recreational racing today.”

Founded in July 2009, Webscorer began with a mission to make race timing easier, more affordable and to improve the quality & speed to get the results to racers.

The full Webscorer platform is available worldwide. Webscorer has identified 36 timing-sports that can benefit from its products.

For more information, visit as well as the company’s Facebook, YouTube  pages and Twitter account (@webscorer).

Pro Cyclist Lucas Euser on the Mend, Connects to Fans via Social Media

Lucas Euser is in the midst of his second career as pro cyclist. Four years ago, at age 24, he advanced to the top level of the sport while racing for the Colorado-based Garmin-Slipstream team.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck. While training in Spain in 2009, Euser suffered two broken ribs and a shattered kneecap. The injuries placed his career in jeopardy.

But Euser, who’s competing this week in the Amgen Tour of California, returned to the sport in 2010 and is continuing his quest to return to the top levels of the sport. His recovery, which he discusses on Facebook and Twitter, is an inspiration to cycling enthusiasts and to those who’ve suffered through injuries.

“For me, social media is the future of the sport,” said Euser of Denver, Colo., who rides now for Team SpiderTech, the Canadian-based squad sponsored by therapeutic athletic tape. “It’s a way to connect people with our sport and the riders. We don’t have a stadium they can go to or an enclosed course where they can see the whole race.

Lucas Euser, left. Image © Brian Hoges/Velo Images

“But the team can do live updates and we can do individual, personal touches on top of that. We can endorse sponsors and we can speak our minds freely. Some people get in trouble for it and some people know how to control themselves.

“For me, it’s in a controlled manner. I’m usually doing it three or four times a week. I definitely add it to the top of my list that’s part of my job.”

Euser, a former stage winner at the Tour of Georgia, is a regular Twitter user and has a following on Facebook. But cycling fans not only follow the rider for his athletic skills, but also because of what he has overcome.

“I usually collect my thoughts after a stage in a race and then do two or three,” said Euser, who has a few thousand Twitter followers. “It’s one way to have a personal connection to people, right. To share your personal stories.

“I have a lot of people who come to me via social media and tell me about their knee problems and car accidents. I tell them what they can do this or they can do that.”

Guy Napert-Frenette, media relations director, says the team uses social media as “its main way to reach fans across the world.” Team directors use Blackberry smartphones on race days to update the team’s Twitter feed (@teamspidertech) with race developments.

The SpiderTech directors also use the team Facebook page for fan-based contests, such as “Guess the Gap.” The team also uses Flickr to share team images from races around the world.

Texts, Twitter and Social Media Help Keep its Fans at the Front of the Pack's Laura Weislo working hard at the Tour of California press room. Credit: James Raia.

Cycling fans are as passionate as any sport’s followers, and no one knows more about how following the sport has changed than Laura Weislo, the North America editor of

Weislo is coordinating the site’s stage coverage of the Amgen Tour of California. The eight-day race, the largest in the United States, features 128 cyclists from 16 teams and riders who are Olympic medalists, Tour de France stage winners and world titlists.

In addition to daily in-depth articles on the race,, the world’s largest English language cycling site, is providing live text at least every five minutes from all of the eight stages. The seventh annual race, which began May 13 in Santa Rosa, will continue through its Los Angeles finish May 20.

The site also has a Facebook page with about 70,000 fans and an equally active Twitter following.

“Bike races now are completely different,” said Weislo, a former competitive swimmer and cyclist who joined the site in 2006. “We find that people are out there watching live streaming. They’re on Twitter on their computers. They’re looking at our live coverage. They are using that altogether and they’re having a conversation at the same time with all their followers or fans.”

At the Tour of California, has a reporter in the media caravan of the race and others who on the course reporting the news to editors who post the updates.

Weislo and other reporters and photographers contribute results, news and images shortly after each stage is complete and then additional details after conducting post-race interviews. reports on the sport globally, but selects its live coverage depending upon an event’s anticipated popularity.

“When I started in 2006 we didn’t use social media,” said Weislo. “It was about a year or two in we realized we better get in on this Facebook thing. Now it’s really important to direct people to specific stories and other content, so they don’t have to check the web site all the time to see if there’s something new. We inform them, and it’s actually a pretty big driver of traffic to the website.” live reports are not a new concept, but Weislo believes how cycling fans follow the sport has substantially changed in the past year.

“Everyone used to be sort of isolated,” Weislo explained. “There wasn’t really a way for people to converse about what was going. But now I have close to 3,000 Twitter followers. It makes it more interesting and I think it’s happened in the last year.

“I noticed last year that there was a little bit of that. But now we get people commenting about our live coverage. People get the information from us and then they correct each other on things that happen in the race. It does add to the conversation of what’s going on.”

Garmin Connects Athletes with Ant +

Looking at the growing number of fitness devices available there is a thread that is increasingly running through all of them, they feature a low powered wireless technology called Ant + from Ant Wireless, that enables the athletes and others to get real time feedback from sensors such as heart rate monitors.

It is no real surprise that the technology has caught on in the market; it was designed specifically for this use by Dynastream Innovations to provide feedback from its power meters. When Garmin purchased the company in 2006 it took Ant + to a much wider market.

A look at Garmin products shows a strong presence of the technology, but it has also become firmly entrenched as a standard technology in a wide range of products from other developers in the sports market with support from an estimated 25 million devices.

The growing importance of the technology can be seen in one of its most recent partners, Sony Ericsson, which has a family of Ant + enabled phones including two that were announced earlier this month. Both the Xperia S and the Xperia ion will have native support for the wireless technology when they are released later in the first half of 2012.

Using one of these phones, which include a feature that enables the user to be always connected to the Internet a serious athlete can not only check their vital signs but have a remote trainer also get the data and so be in a position to provide important feedback. You can use Ant + with other phones but need a dongle.

At the recent CES show there was a range of fitness developers showing technology in the Ant + booth aside from Garmin. 4iiii, a developer of audio and display feedback systems incorporates it, no real surprise since 4iiii CEO Kip Fyfe was CEO of Dynastream when it developed the technology and sold it to Garmin.

Others in the fitness space that use the technology include Wahoo Fitness, Pioneer, Garmin, Nordic,CardioSport, and Fatigue Science to name a few partners.

Not just for sports
ANT+ has gained widespread adoption as the interoperable standard in ultra low power wireless communication in sports but also as a technology that is gaining ground in medical applications. It was recently adopted by Qualcomm Life’s 2net hub technology that is designed to provide wireless communications between medical devices.

There are other medical users such as Dexcom, a company that develops glucose monitoring systems and A&D Medical which develops wireless blood pressure monitors and other equipment. There are also companies developing games, bridges and hubs and other mobile applications that use the technology.

The technology is a 2.4GHz wireless network protocol and is used in wireless sensor networks that require low cost, low power, small form factor and flexibility such as being able to form ad hoc mesh networks. The devices that feature the technology have a small battery that can provide years of operational life.

It is interesting how well this, a privately developed technology has found acceptance while rival technologies such as ZigBee seemed to have struggle to find a niche, while offering much the same features.

4iiii Delivers Feedback System for Bikers and Runners

A new product from startup 4iiii Innovations could prove to be a boon for every jogger that has run into someone looking down to check their time or for every bicyclist that has hit a pot hole checking their heart rate monitor.

The company has debuted Sportiiiis (pronounced Sport-Eyes) it is a display technology that attaches to glasses to enable an athlete to check monitors for instant feedback.

Designed to be used with a heart rate monitor and other sensor technology, the Sportiiiis attaches to any set of glasses a user wears, be they sunglasses, prescription glasses or anything in between by using the device’s universal attachment points.

A user first configures the device using software that can be used on a range of smartphones as well as PCs and Apple computers, setting performance goals and ranges within which the athlete wishes to work.

The device provides feedback that can be read off a multi-colored LED boom that runs across the bottom of the glasses between them and the user and can be followed by a user’s peripheral vision without taking their eyes off of the road. The feedback can come from a rage of user-supplied monitors or sensors including heart rate monitors, speed monitors as well as power meters, via a wireless transmission.

The projection shows current and recent performance and has a red light to indicate that the user is going too hard, green if just right and orange and yellow to show that they are in between. The Sportiiiis also include built-in speakers that provide audio feedback using either a male or female voice. Both the volume of the speakers and the intensity of the LED colored lights are adjustable.

To control the Sportiiiis a user accesses its Tip-Tap technology that allows a user to tap once to get audio feedback including current heart rate or cues related to the current workout while a double tap switches between sensors and can switch between power, cadence and speed.

The company is led by Kip Fyfe who has had previous success in related sports feedback development. He was the founder of Dynastream Innovations, a company that developed a variety of technologies and products, possibly the most notable being a sports sensor that was mounted in running shoes that featured speed and distance sensors and was first used by Nike.

The company also developed ANT +, an ultra-low power wireless protocol that is increasingly finding its way into a wide variety of athletic devices (including Sportiiiis) that provide real-time feedback. In 2006 he sold the company to Garmin for $46M CAD.

He said that he realized that it was inconvenient and even dangerous for athletes to take their eyes off the road to get feedback, and being an avid runner even during Canada’s cold winters, we wanted to see his heart rate, speed and other information easily and simply, which gave both to the idea of Sportiiiis.

The device is expected to be on sale within the next month and will have a MSRP of $199.