UCI could relax minimum bicycle weight

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Weight weenies t-shirt

The UCI could amend its rule on the minimum weight for bikes. Rule 1.3.019 has stated “the weight of the bicycle cannot be less than 6.8 kilograms“. Now this might be changed.

The news comes from trade website BikeBiz.com after editor Carlton Reid had been invited to Switzerland to discuss changes to the technical rules set by the governing body.

I have seen the logic behind the rule, to ensure riders don’t have bikes that are too weak and also to ensure team issue bikes don’t get too exotic and expensive and out of reach of both fans and also poorer nations and their national squads alike. But in recent years it’s got easier to challenge the weight limit, a bike weighing less than 6.8kg is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, nor Dremel-wielding “weight weenie” obsessives. Nor are rule-busting bikes that fragile given the improvements in composite technology. In short, things have changed since the rule was introduced.

Several teams today have to add weight to their bikes in order to comply with the rules. Only the other day Colombian rider Alex Caño was prevented from starting a race as his bike was too light.

According to Reid, the rule could be relaxed but it is conditional on bikes meeting UCI safety requirements. In the meantime note the UCI has just issued a new rulebook dated July 2011 and the 6.8kg rule is still there.

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{ 35 comments }

Andrew Cohen June 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Looking at the new rules with the UCI requiring standards for the testing for wheels and now frames, it seems as if the weight requirement is no long as valid as it was (if it ever was). Now, if the frame, or other components stand up to the testing, that should be enough. Let the designers design away.

Carlton Reid June 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I was shocked at the u-turn and made Julien repeat it a few times. All on video. I will post on YouTube when I get back to UK.

Will this move ever happen? I don’t know but Julien said it wasn’t bike engineers after the move (that would surprise me cos they all love pushing the envelope) but marketing people. Yup, bike companies would like to use lightness to sell more race bikes.

grolby June 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Lightness? Interesting. Interesting, because lots of bike companies are selling their 13 lb bikes at the top of their line – some even lighter! Perhaps they would advertise it a little more enthusiastically? It still seems strange, since most of their actual customers aren’t subject to UCI rules.

Oliver June 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Was there not a recent article on safety by a pro respected pining about the solid (and heavier) steel bikes as opposed to ultra light (and fragile) carbon bikes.
The lighter the bike the less safe — let’s be real.
And I don’t how much you all make — but most people cannot afford a 17lbs or less bike… Imagine how much a sub 13 one would cost…

So basically the twin engines of this move are (1) disregard for safety & (2) fearless pursuit of profits…

Andrew Cohen June 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm

One of the reasons I was in favor of the change is the fact that there are now tests going on to assure safety of lighter bikes. At least, that is part of what the UCI is claiming. If that works, than I am for it. Of course with the UCI, anything is possible. Extortion just to allow frames to be used by elite racers is not above them.

The Inner Ring June 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Andrew Cohen: that seems to be the idea… but note the UCI has in the past said the rules existed not for safety but for cost, to stop some countries having “space age” tech whilst more modest nations lagged behind.

Carlton Reid: good story, well done.

grolby: yes, many weekend riders have lighter bikes than the pros.

Oliver: you can buy a 7.5kg / 17lb bike in a French supermarket for €2000 these days with size 55cm frame, get a size 50 bike and it’s even lighter. http://www.decathlon.fr/btwin-facet-7-id_8127610.html

Shane June 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Interesting story all right. Of course, allowing lighter bikes is a way for the UCI to ensure that interested companies have to get UCI accreditation for any such bikes… locks them in.

Q June 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm

In my opinion, the primary problem with the weight limit was that it is applied equally to all types of bikes. At minimum, there should be different weight limits for track, road, and mountain bikes. It might also be useful to have weight limits for different sizes of frames, but that could get overly complicated. Maybe there’s room for dropping the 6.8 kg limit a bit, but really, I’d like to see the bike manufacturers work on durability. When professionals are missing out on big opportunities in a race because their bikes are breaking (I’m thinking of Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix a few years back), what’s the point of a bike that super light?

Sometimes I think it might be nice to have a lighter bike, but why spend a lot of extra money on a bike to save 2-3 kg, when I’m already carrying around more than that in extra body weight that I don’t need?

Chuffy June 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Q – “(I’m thinking of Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix a few years back), what’s the point of a bike that super light?”

But really, how often has that happened? And was Hincapie’s break the result of a ‘super-light’ component failing?

So long as we don’t end up with a mad arms race I don’t see how this can be a problem.

Stephen Farrand June 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm

This is not good news.

Weight is not arbitrary. What the UCI decides is.

Oliver June 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm

@ inrng: 2000 euros is a lot of money. At least for me.
@Chuffy & Q: the operative question is would Hincapie’s bike would have broken if it had not been a carbon (Trek). The answer (inmho) probably not.
A plastic bike that doesn’t always show signs it will fail catastrophically after an even minor fall is inherently dangerous. And that’s what carbon bikes are. And now we are going to make them even lighter! Hip, hip, Hourrah!

The Inner Ring June 29, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Q: of course, a rider has to do the work and saving weight on the bike doesn’t matter but all the same, why stick weights onto a bike if it’s safe?

Stephen Farrand: we’ll see where the UCI draws the line.

Oliver: sure, my point was more that it’s mainstream and not exotica.

ave June 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

While I very much like my bike to be light, I’m in favour of the limit.
6.8kg gives a fair level for everyone, and it is not over expensive. Remember at the World Championships there’re many people not from the big trade teams. For some of them cost is really an issue.
Certainly I don’t want to see a no weight-limit-competition of the manufacturers.
Maybe bring the limit down a bit, 6.5kg or even 6kg might be ok.

You can be sure Formula-1 cars could be lighter too, but why would they want to make them lighter?

ManForAllSeasons June 29, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I think they should keep the weight limit, and here’s why.
We all know advances in current production methods have made it quite easy to approach and in some cases surpass the weight limit.
The problem for me here is that they are quite obviously making those weight advances while compromising safety and durability.
Ask yourself this: How many people with super light carbon frames have you heard of having problems, or worse: failures, that have had to be replaced through the “warranty” program of the manufacturer or even out of their own pockets?
For me, I have had the BB shell detach from the internal carbon of my dream bike. A good friend of mine is on his 4th replacement frame in as many years. Another good friend has had his carbon forks fail without warning, leading to a nasty crash. These were all top of the line frames from different manufacturers. Same as the pros ride. That’s just a few I can list of the top of my head. I’m sure if I asked everyone at my club I’d have pages of examples.

It’s great to have the advances in technology but not at the cost of safety for the rest of us. Fair enough for the pros they have mechanics and manufacturer reps available 24/7 for any little thing. They ride a frame for a few races or a season at most and then never have to ride it again.

For the rest of us that is not the case. The stresses and fatigue on a sub 6.8kg build carbon frame build up over time, on top of the day-to-day drops or dings the bike might take while washing it, putting it into/out of the car, etc etc (Note: carbon is only meant to withstand pressure in a very distinct direction. Something as small as dropping your bike and dinging the top tube, even with no visible signs of damage, can in some cases warrant a return to the manufacturer for inspection).

In summary, lighter might mean more dangerous, especially for the non-pro peloton out there. Keep the limit I say. As mentioned in the original article – the manufacturers just want to market “lighter”. And we all know marketing can mostly be ignored ;)

Dan June 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I appreciate the safety concerns from commenters but the weight limit isn’t making the pro bikes any safer today. Many teams use bikes that come in way under the weight limit. When the various gadgets attached still don’t add enough weight they just attach weights to get the bike up to the weight limit. That isn’t making the frame any sturdier. The weight limit also doesn’t take the riders weight into account either which favors heavier riders.

Besides, they weight limit stuff is over blown. If the fastest guy on the planet, Mark Cavendish rides a bike weighing 7.65kg as cycling news reports, maybe a pound or two isn’t going to make much difference.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/pro-bike-mark-cavendishs-htc-specialized-mclaren-venge

bikecellar June 29, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Interesting how this sort of thing always brings the Luddites out of the woodwork. Many years of working in the retail sector of cycling has taught me that any advance in technology has it’s naysayers. Evidence those older roadies who kept turning up looking for downtube levers, 7 spd of course and wittering on about 531. PS I am 62yrs old so am not some kid being ageist. :)

Beth June 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Doesn’t it seem like the UCI spends a lot of time fixing what ain’t broke and not fixing what is?

grolby June 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm

What Dan said: guys, the UCI weight limit is doing absolutely nothing to limit the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of lightweight carbon fiber frames – the ones are that causing a number of you in this thread so much concern, whether justified or not. The pros are riding the same bikes that these companies are selling to consumers, but they are adding weight to them to meet that limit. The reason for this is pretty simple – as I mentioned upthread, bicycle manufacturers are generally not selling to people who must obey UCI rules. The more weight Leopard-Trek mechanics needs to add to Andy Schleck’s bike, the happier Trek is. So a 6.8 kg weight limit isn’t making bikes safer (I beg to differ on lightweight carbon fiber bikes being per se unsafe, but that’s another issue).

There’s some sense to having a weight limit in the pro peloton; there’s a point where there’s a risk of teams resuming genuinely dangerous weight-saving techniques, such as motivated the ruling in the first place (though the certification program could circumvent that), and there’s benefit in teams being able to put equipment like power meters and what have you on the bikes without sacrificing weight compared to their competitors. But 6.8 kg is really high above that point – probably a good couple kg above it.

One more thing – please, please, PLEASE stop invoking George Hincapie’s steerer failure in the 2006 PR as evidence for the inherent danger of CF – the component in question was in fact aluminum, and it broke because of being improperly fastened by the mechanic. What should the teams do? Go back to steel everything and start drilling holes in it to lighten it up? That was SOP before lightweight aluminum and CF parts appeared on the market, and it’s a FAR more dangerous practice than using mass-produced lightweight components.

Pave June 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I heard somebody make an argument that light weight wheels are one of the (many) sources of an increased number of crashes in the pro peloton over the years. That seems to assume that per capita there are actually more crashes, which may or may not be true, but it’s an idea to toy with. I think his point was that with less rim weight, there was less centrifugal force keeping the wheel moving in a straight line, and hence it was easier to fall over when you touch wheels, find a slippery patch, etc. Not sure what I think about the argument in the greater context of pro cycling and crashes, but it’s an interesting idea.

Stephen June 29, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I’m sure many have seen Jens Voigt’s crash in the 2009 Tour. He fell hard while descending the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. He incurred a fracture of the right cheekbone and concussion. Don’t tell me that was not related to the weight (or lack there of) of his bike / tires. They didn’t seem to learn as he crashed hard in the 2010 Tour while descending another col. The cause of the 2010 crash – his front (brand new, light as a feather) tire blew up for some “unknown” reason.
The sad thing is, I’ve ridden light tires (Vittoria Corsa CX tubulars) and heavier clinchers (Specialized Armadillos) and there is a difference. But it’s not the difference that makes me suddenly jump up one category (i.e. from 3s to 1/2s). So, I’m sure it will not make the difference for a pro being at the ProTour level or a Pro Continential level.
I would rather finish a race, century or fondo, than end up in a hospital with a concussion.
Jens Voigt is one of the toughest men in the peloton and he is a professional (i.e. he feeds his family because he rides his bike), so he continues to race bikes. After any one of those two crashes, a normal cyclist would probably hang up his bike.
…and we want to relax the 6.8 rule… For Jens’ and our own safety sake, lets not.

JB June 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I have a Scott R3, same as Cavendish rode, the frame is only 790g but he couldn’t break it. All the discussion about lightness has centered around the frame, but my frame and fork are less than 25% of the bike’s weight. The limit is arbitrary and nothing to do with safety or frame strength.

The limit only applies to the few thousand pros and semi-pros anyway so my >6kg bike is fine for racing………and the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez in 12 days time!

PS If you don’t like carbon fiber (it’s not plastic!) don’t fly!

JC June 30, 2011 at 12:21 am

With the UCI-mandated weight limit and the ever-lighter bikes being produced, I had thought the end result might be that we would start to see more and more cameras and data transponders on bikes ala NASCAR. If you have to add weight to make the limit, why not add something that enhances the fan’s experience? How neat would it be to be able to follow a rider or two and see what they are seeing as well as track their heart rates and power outputs in real time. I’d like to see them keep the weight limit for this reason alone.

Andrew Cohen June 30, 2011 at 12:34 am

JC, at the Tour of California, a number of teams had some riders with cameras on the bikes to allow for better coverage. As for data transponders, not sure if the teams want that information too public, who knows what the data might show?

Bundle June 30, 2011 at 1:05 am

Lighter bikes = higher speeds, especially on the climbs, hence more advantage to ride behind someone’s wheel and more difficulty in dropping riders. Bad for the show. I vote against.

grolby June 30, 2011 at 1:16 am

Don’t tell me that was not related to the weight (or lack there of) of his bike / tires.

That was not related to the weight (or lack thereof) of his bike / tires.

Seriously, your argument is:
1. Jens Voight crashed.
2. When Jens Voight crashed, he was riding a lightweight bike with lightweight tires.
3. Therefore, the lightweight bike or tires caused him to crash.

Asinine.

Ultralight tubular tires have been around for decades, by the way.

Given better brake design, higher quality materials, cables, housing and advanced brake compounds, I would happily put money down that modern bikes are a good deal safer to race on than the old ones.

C Grade Cyclist June 30, 2011 at 2:40 am

I’ve often wondered why the UCI don’t make it a “frame” weight limit, rather than an entire bike?? Surely including teh weight of a groupset, wheels, etc, makes no difference when it comes to the safety of the frame??

With the new “frame certification regime”, it would be easy to do. All they need to do is weigh the frame, and if it passes the criteria, then it gets the certification sticker – no longer any need for bikes to be weighed by commissaires!!

As for comments about people having to have frames constantly returned under warranty… Why on earth do people insist on buying ProTour level frames (that are used by the pro’s for only 1 season, and meticulously cared for by mechanics), and then use them for their commuting and coffee shop rides over terrible roads, potholes and gutters, and are then shocked that it only lasts for a couple of years?? Maybe if people made more apropriate bike frame choices, it wouldn’t be such an issue…..

Stephen June 30, 2011 at 3:16 am

grolby,
Did you actually see the 2009 and 2010 Jens Voigt’s Tour crashes? Look it up on youtube. He was riding downhill in a straight line with no one touching him and suddenly he goes down at 70 km/hour. He and his mechanics admit that it was a front tire blow-out. The front tire blew out most likely because of a manufacturer defect because the weight tolerances were so tight. This happened 2 years in a row in the same race with the same rider. Apparently, this happens sometimes (but rarely)but the ProTour teams take that risk to gain those few precious seconds. I am sure if you ask Jens if he was riding a heavier tubular tire those two fateful days, he would probably say he would not have crashed.
However, I’ve read that some ProTour teams have better sense. A few teams ride 28 mm Vittoria Pave tubulars the first week of the Tour to avoid punctures. The rolling resistance and weight difference between the 28 mm Vittoria Pave and the 23 mm Vittoria Corsa CX is not noticeable in real life, so this really makes sense.
Further, anyone who rides a lot knows that 1 pound extra weight is not that significant. Try this test:
- Do an uphill time trial every Wednesday for the entire summer.
- Try to maintain everything constant except for 1 thing (see next line). Obviously this is not possible (i.e. weather, weekend races, etc.) but do your best.
- Carry a 1 pound camera in your back pocket every other Wednesday.
- You will find that the 1 pound camera in your back pocket is not the most significant thing that varies your time – a lot of other factors have much more significant effects on your time – i.e. wind, weather, temperature, your health, how you feel, etc.
- You may find that you ride faster with the 1 pound camera in your back pocket – I give it a 50 / 50 chance.

El Tejan June 30, 2011 at 5:24 am

@Oliver. Your point about Hincapie’s bike is factually incorrect. What broke was the steerer tube. And it was aluminum, not carbon. http://velonews.competitor.com/2006/07/bikes-and-tech/technical-qa-with-lennard-zinn-landiss-drivetrain-hincapies-steerer-thomson-stem-and-chain-pin-replacement_10369

grolby June 30, 2011 at 5:53 am

Stephen, tires blow out for lots of reasons. I certainly don’t recall anyone ever stating that the issue was that it was too light. That could well be true, but that’s beside the point, because this is not a modern era problem – as I pointed out, super light tubular tires are not a new phenomenon. This is not an area where safety has declined over time.

As for the significance of one pound on a bike, please try to remember that we are talking about racing, pro racing in particular – not Sunday rides and weekend warriors. No, half a kg does not amount to much, but this is a sport where races are decided by millimeters and by tenths, sometimes hundredths of a second. In that context, tiny details and tiny amounts of weight do matter. The fact that it is not the most important thing is missing the point, which is to make every variable that can be controlled as favorable as possible, because sometimes it does come down to minutiae. I can promise you that anyone who doesn’t have that attitude, if you are directing a pro team, is NOT someone you want working for you.

ZC June 30, 2011 at 7:50 am

I can imagine some bikes coming in a lot bellow the minimum weight, I have a 58cm cervelo which is not designed too be a super light bike but it weighs in a 6.9kgs.
If I had the same bike in a 50 frame it would be under 6 easy.

for riders to have to put almost 1kg in the bike theoretically may make the bike more dangerous, I doubt bikes are designed to have lead/steel pushing outwards on the carbon. things like this could create problems that shouldn’t happen.

Stephen June 30, 2011 at 8:01 am

grolby, your argument supports that the 6.8 rule does enhance the safety of the riders in the peloton:
- I agree that super light tubular tires have been around for decades.
- Tire blow-outs and flats happen every once in a while with these super light tubular tires – even today.
- I really do trust the stress analysis tests on the modern day frames (like Cervelo) and I really do think these sub 1 kg ProTour frames are safe and dependable.
- As everyone agrees, it’s easy to build a bike less than 6.8 kg.
- So, ProTour teams should put stronger (i.e. heavier) equipment on the highest failure pieces of equipment – i.e. tires.
- So, in theory, we should see less tire blow-outs and flats today. Maybe this is not the case in the ProTour because they are still using super light tubular tires (I think this is wrong). But for me personally, my entire team rarely gets flats and never encounters tire blow-outs.
One example of this was the 2004 Team Time Trial at the Tour. It was a wet miserable rainy day on the 65.5 km TTT from Cambrai to Arras and Lance Armstrong’s USPS team chose to ride heavy Hutcheson tubulars to avoid flats and for better traction on corners. Tyler Hamilton’s Phonak team rode BMC TT bikes. These bikes had no tolerance for tubulars larger than 21 mm, so they had no choice but to ride on their 21 mm tubulars on the wet roads. Lance Armstrong’s USPS team had no tire issues and won the TTT. Tyler Hamilton’s Phonak team had 4 flats so they had to wait for some team mates and lost 1:07 to USPS. If you think about it, Tyler Hamilton’s Phonak team should have won by 1:07 if it was dry as they lost so much time waiting for team mates and gingerly going around corners on the wet roads. This could have been the difference between winning and losing the Tour. In the end it did not matter as Tyler Hamilton dropped out of the Tour because of a crash, but I think everyone can see my point.

Roadie1 June 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Blimey. Safety should be the paramount issue. Weight is no absolute guarantor of it though, neither is it why UCI have the limit. Testing and specification of load bearing capabilties of the whole bike would ensure safety. That still won’t stop freak accidents or manufacturing defects.

Stephen June 30, 2011 at 8:31 pm

grolby , this is to address your second paragraph. A 1 pound weight added to a ProTour rider would not make any difference even at that level.
I will site 3 examples: uphill stage race finish, uphill time trial and a flat time trial.
In last year’s Queen stage at the Tour, everyone saw Andy Schleck attempt to drop Contador on the Tourmalet. He was unsuccessful and both riders arrived at the summit together. Let’s imagine that Schleck was carrying a 1 pound camera in his back pocket. I think everyone would agree that the end result would be the same. Now imagine that Contador had the 1 pound camera in his back pocket. There is no way that Contador would get dropped regardless of the weight penalty. His emotion, inspiration and motivation would overcome the weight obstacle. On a side note, this (emotion, inspiration and motivation) is a bigger factor than weight.
In the 2004 L’Alpe Huez uphill time trial at the Tour, Lance Armstrong passed Ivan Basso during the race and put significant time into him. He also beat Jan Ulrich by 61 seconds. Now let’s imagine Armstrong rode the time trial with the 1 pound camera. Everyone can agree that Armstrong still would have passed Basso and still beat Ulrich. I must admit that in this case, the 1 pound penalty would make some difference but certainly not change the podium placements.
In the most famous final time trial in the Tour’s history (1989), Greg Lemond’s Bottecchia time trial bike with full rear disk was 26 pounds. Yes, this is not a typo – 26 pounds (I weighed it). Greg’s ride still remains the 2nd fastest non-prologue time trial in the history of the Tour (David Zabriskie’s opening time trial in the 2005 Tour is the fastest). Everyone knows, Greg put 58 seconds into Laurant Fignon and won the Tour by 8 seconds. Now imagine Greg rode with the 1 pound camera. I truly believe the weight penalty would not make any difference.
The bottom line – Light weight bicycle equipment is highly overrated.

Colin July 1, 2011 at 7:10 am

Stephen, agree with you that they probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference of a 1lb weight in there back pocket, but heavier tires ARE noticeably slower.

J.D. June 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Yet, the t-shirts come in xl and xxl. Someone is lying about their concern about weight.

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