On-Demand Bib Numbers from RaceDB

Post date: Jan 24, 2017 3:27:44 PM

These days, chip timing done properly has eliminated race results errors (no more missed laps, etc).

But, as they saying goes "when you solve problem one, you just promoted problem two".

"Problem two" is rider registration errors (wrong chip, no chip, wrong bib, etc.).

From release one, RaceDB had the ability to create chip tags on-demand from registration. And, its ability to check in riders based on their chip read was a great way to ensure that the chip was coded correctly and operational. Because on-venue registration staff make changes to the database directly, every race has perfect start lists regardless if riders are pre-reg of on-site.

Bib number errors were the next source of problems.

Traditionally, one orders a set of pre-printed Tyvec numbers by race (or by season if the numbers are kept between races). And, at a pure per-number cost, this seemed to be the cheapest option.

But, there are other hidden costs and opportunities for mistakes:

  1. Wasted unused numbers. Or, not enough numbers when there is unanticipated demand.

  2. Volunteer time spent issuing numbers (especially issuing matching body numbers, shoulder/plate numbers and frame numbers). And, volunteer time wasted stuffing race packages.

  3. Tracking and re-issuing lost numbers.

  4. Retrieving pre-printed numbers/race packages - slowing race check-in and creating sources for error.

  5. Commercially available bib numbers often not UCI standard (important for sanctioned events). Numbers folded down and rendered illegible.

  6. Participant's name not on bib numbers (encourages numbers being placed right-side-up, and not cut down).

The solution is for bib/shoulder/plate/frame numbers and chips to be created at registration at the same time. This would eliminate the pre-work, errors and trouble of lost bib (just re-print at reg).

But is it cost-effective to create bibs and chips on-demand from RaceDB?

For some, the answer is yes. Although pre-printed bibs are cheaper by the unit, when you add the waste, processing time and potential for errors, they can be more expensive overall.

Escape Velocity used label printers extensively in 2016 and is expanding in 2017. Label printers are relatively inexpensive, and shipping labels are relatively cheap (thanks internet shopping!). The labels are printed from RaceDB and applied to stock Tyvec for branding and structural stability:

This format includes a barcode of the rider's license under the bib number. This allows riders to be able to check into the race with a barcode scan (added convenience).

The plasticized label on the Tyvek has proved to be extremely tough, and, if it does get lost or destroyed, it is a simple matter to create another one. Feedback from officials has been very positive as the font is highly legible.

Midweek has plans to try printing on synthetic paper in 2017 (available for under $0.50/sheet). With two bibs per sheet, the unit cost is cheaper than pre-ordered UCI-formatted bibs even when considering the cost of the ink.

See here and here for samples of the format.

This layout is consistent with ASO and UCI bib number specifications, but without the advertising strip at the bottom to allow accommodating two numbers on a page. Stay tuned as the format evolves after real use.

In both cases, the key issue is minimizing volunteer time and eliminating errors.

The per-unit cost is competitive, but of course, you need to buy a printer and ink cartridges etc.

RaceDB supports both label formats. It can be configured to print-from-the-server computer (supporting tablets and other mobile devices) as well as print-from-the-client when using desktop PCs.