Is the UCI bike approval scheme a money-spinner?

Friday, 4 February 2011

News that the UCI’s scheme to approve frame designs and oblige racers from the Pro Tour to the village kermesse to ride on a UCI-approved bike is set to go ahead. Only the reports say the costs of licencing have been reduced substantially, in some cases from 12,000 Swiss Francs down to 5,000.

I can cheer the cost cuts but still think the scheme is flawed. As I’ve said before, I’d like manufacturers to opt-in to guarantee their products comply, but enforcing a rule that requires all licence holders to buy approved bikes is excessive. It’s way beyond the remit of a governing body, it crosses a line from regulation and into personal consumption.


Follow the money
But I’m left with one question. On what basis are the scheme’s fees set? Because if they can now be cut in half then this suggests either the previous levels generated a surplus of revenue above the costs needed to pay the lab in Lausanne; or that the new rate is going to impose a loss on the UCI. In the first case the scheme smells like a money spinner and in the second case using up cash to fund an unpopular scheme just compounds the mistake.

Inventing rules that generate substantial revenues for the UCI but impose costs on everyone else is a bold idea to say the least.

David February 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I don't see the scheme working even with reduced charges. Why do they want to regulate what bike I ride??

TdF Lanterne Rouge Blog February 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

How about a program based on their real costs? Like customer pays shipping 2 ways, nominal 100-200 Swiss Frank fee for costs of measuring personnel's time?

Are they planning to use gold-plated micrometers? This just seems like a blatant revenue-generating scheme.

Touriste-Routier February 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm

As much as this program sucks, it isn't a huge revenue grab.

Let's say there are 500 different frames to certify; that yields 2.5 million CF in revenue. Big, but not huge by corporate standards. But there will be also be a large amount of operating & administrative costs for this program. SO I don't see a huge profit in this initially.

TheInnerRing February 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm

David: I'm with you and we'll see what happens next.

TdF LR: exactly. The charges involved are high and hard to stomach, especially if this is a revenue-raiser.

T-R: the figure you quote is – from memory – roughly 10% of the UCI's annual turnover. Note that each model of frame comes in different sizes and these all need to be tested.

TdF Lanterne Rouge Blog February 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I can see it might cost slightly more if they x-ray the bikes for hidden motors or something, but they already have the equipment for that, right?

Honestly, they're just taking a tape measure and maybe a micrometer to the bike and eyeballing it for illegal design, correct?

The word that comes to mind is "extortion".

Nick February 5, 2011 at 4:55 am

Do we know whether the UCI sticker is required for riding a bike in a UCI race?

If not (or if we're just speculating as much), there's nothing wrong with the UCI sticker system. It's voluntary. If it's voluntary, price is not important – the companies who want to pay it will, the ones who don't won't.

If it's not voluntary, the UCI should not be doing this themselves. They should act as an accreditation body and farm the certification out to certification companies (Underwriters' Lab, etc.). Or run a certification program with a self-certification mechanism.

Anonymous February 5, 2011 at 9:37 am

I don't think it's that bad of an idea. Consider the increasing number of framesets that are made in Asia somewhere, cost $300-$700 and can be purchased on EBay. Are these things truly safe? If the UCI imposes a fee for manufacturers and if there is a certification process and a series of testing involved to earn the UCI approval, then it is good.

One question I have is, what big bike makers are behind the UCI pushing them into doing this. If any.

TheInnerRing February 5, 2011 at 11:21 am

Nick: yes, it is for all "licence holders", from the Tour de France to any local race in Australia, America, Britain or Japan that is run under the rules of a national governing body that adheres to the UCI.

Anonymous: note that there isn't proper safety testing. This is more about ensuring the product meets the rules on geometry. That's why the design and measurement is important, not crash testing.

I don't know who is supporting the scheme but if I was Trek, Specialized etc I'd love this since I can employ staff to navigate the regulations with loose change, whilst it imposes substantial costs on a small frame builder.

Anonymous February 5, 2011 at 12:17 pm

the game is all about control and manipulation.

Bandidos February 6, 2011 at 2:25 am

This rule, if imposed on all licence holders will be disastrous for cycling.
Today I raced with 250 riders (graded) including 2 ProTour riders. That's 250 new bikes required. That's a lot of officiating for a club meeting.
My bet is that if those 250 riders are required to comply, then 100 or more won't come back to racing.
Then you've got the junior, who gets given a (lower spec) bike which is not compliant and uses it to ride with bunch rides; likes cycling and wants to try racing. This dad isn't buying a UCI stickered bike just so the kid can try out.
This dad is also an Accredited Commissaire and you can be sure as soon as the rule is applied, the Commissiares will leave the sport – I'm not telling 200 Open racers that 190 of them can't race….

TheInnerRing February 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Exactly Bandidos. That's why I say it should be voluntary, let Trek or Specialized pay to ensure their frames comply and that way we don't see their models banned halfway through the season. But licencing ALL new bikes is strange, to the point of being unenforceable.

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