Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For the rainy days

Would you pay $99 to watch cycling races for the year? I signed up to http://www.cycling.tv/ early this year. I wanted to see more racing then is currently offered in the US. After using it for a few months I thought I would post a quick review.

They have a few tiers for races, offering a couple different levels. Depending on the size of the races you want. There are also Giro and Vuelta only packages, if you only want the Grand Tours. Cost is between $25 and $99.

You mean there are other races then the Grand Tours and the classics? I've seen most of the week long stage races and tons of the Belgian one day races so far this year. Most of the races are shown live and all of them without commercials(No more commercials right before the sprint!!). They have shown about 50 races or stages since January, including a few Cyclo-cross and track events. The commentators are quite good with some being covered by former pro Magnus Backstedt. If you have only watched a race with Phil and Paul commentating you may need some time to adjust.

If you miss an event the highlights and the recorded "as-live" are available in a few hours. Sometime I have to be a hermit and avoid the cycling news site until I can watch the race. The on demand videos are always available so you can watch last years Paris-Roubaix. The downside is you have to use the player they supply. It only runs in a small window or full-screen. The full-screen looks pretty grainy even using the highest of the 3 bit-rates they offer. I wish it had the ability to resize to make the player slightly larger. They have some free2view stuff so you can try out the quality before buying.

The service has been good. I haven't had many issues with slow connectivity or playback issues, but there have been a few. Normally, I wait until the as-live is available to see the start and interviews then move further into the race. I did watch all 4+ hours of Paris Roubaix though... If you like watching the coverage on Versus but want it more then 1 time a week this is a great sevice. One thing to watch - some events are highligts only. Depending on the distribution rights, like the Tour and Versus, some events aren't live. The site doesn't explain this well and the race list seems more like a "guideline". It hasn't bothered me much but somebody may want an ironclad list before they fork over 100 bucks.

A great day on the bike trumps watching somebody else ride, but it is good entertainment on those rainy days.


Kevin T said...

Thanks for your review. That's really helpful stuff. I've always wondered if it was worth it, and just how flexible it is. I actually went to a sports bar to watch the ATOC on Versus this year.

bullcitybiker said...

A warning for Mac users- watching live events works pretty well with Cycling.tv but there are known issues with their "as-live" archives. They do not disclose this and refuse to acknowledge it. After I received no response to several of my complaints, I disputed the charges through PayPal and Cycling.tv finally refunded me half of my quarterly fee. All I got for the $29 I lost was 3 hours of live coverage of Het Nieuwsblad. Again- this only applies to Mac users running Mac OS. There are some Intel-chipped Mac users who boot up in Windows and are happy with Cycling.tv.