New UCI rules on bikes, equipment and clothing

Friday, 23 March 2012

The sport’s governing body, the UCI, is moving towards greater regulation of equipment, both the bike and clothing. Whilst rules about the bio passport or race radios might seem abstract, there’s a high chance these ones will affect you.

Whether you’re racing locally, buying new parts or worse – if you define yourself as a road cyclist – that moment when a triathlete overtakes you out on the road, here are some rule changes that could change your riding.

The UCI’s new regulations are set out in a new presentation given this month, a copy of which I’ve uploaded to inrng.com (PDF). Much of the 53 page document is normal and a reminder of existing rules but there are some new changes and things to take note of. To save you reading everything, here’s a look at some of the slides.

Slide 23

As the slide above makes clear, not only must the bike have appropriate handlebars but the rider must hold them in a particular way. They are trying to standardise the position of all riders here and this will have a variable effect since some riders can achieve a tuck with their back and others cannot; some can keep their elbows closer together than others. It also seems a hard one to police, are you able to move your hands at all during the ride?

Slide 34

Here the UCI is explaining that the rule on minimum weight is staying and all bikes must weigh 6.8kg or more. Note that this can change should European safety testing prove that lighter bikes are ok. I still find this arbitrary and one unintendend consequence of the rule is that riders are now fitting expensive power meters and deep section wheels to add weight to their bikes.

Slide 36

Out goes compression clothing and anything with a coating on the surface. In the 2010 Olympics several teams including the British track squad were using clothes with a coating to smooth the air over the fabric. No more.

Socks (and shoe covers) used in competition must not exceed the mid-distance between the ankle and the knee” says a new rule should have purists rejoicing although the spectre of black socks is still permitted. Joking aside, on a technical basis I’m not sure why socks are subject to regulation

Slide 37

The use of helmet covers and modifications, as used by Mark Cavendish during last year’s World Championships and more recently by the likes of André Greipel is out. It looks like Team Sky can use their existing non-vented helmets but no helmets where you can unclip a cover will be allowed.

Slide 41

This slide is interesting as it stipulates all “technical innovations” need UCI approval. By the examples shown any new winged handlebars or special seatposts now need approval. I find this an interesting move as hopefully the UCI can review something but it now places the governing body as a technological gatekeeper for the cycling industry. If you invent a new clipless pedal or a better way of attaching the saddle to a seatpost, you now need to get the UCI to say yes.

Slide 43

Slide 43 is another one of interest. Forks, bars, wheels and more must be tested to an approved international standard and labelled as such. If your bike is not compliant, no race. In addition the UCI reminds team mechanics of these standards when they work on bikes, so not only must parts be compliant but they must be fitted properly.

This rule also includes complying with the tabs on forks. I’ve covered how French teams can’t file the tabs on their forks before and the UCI is effectively extending this rule. It’s an interesting call where a design feature essentially there for customers who buy a bike in Wal-Mart and forget to do up the quick-release is now in place for elite competition. It’ll mean slower wheel changes but I suspect innovation will mean people find new ways around this, like larger cams on the Q/R so they lever allows the clamp to surpass the tabs upon opening.

Slide 52

Finally Slide 52 reminds us that these rules apply to all and someone on a non-compliant bike can be prevented from starting, disqualified from racing or see their result nullified after the event if their machine is not in line with the rules.

It means you too
This isn’t abstract stuff concerning bikes used in the Tour de France or clothing used by Olympic athletes. Whilst the slides above talk about World Tour, the UCI rulebook says “all licence holders”.

If you’re outsprinted next Sunday by someone, check if their bike is approved. If not, you could have grounds for appeal (is that a groan I hear?). ow I hope that these rules are ignored but it’s never good when you have rules that are selectively applied or designed with the hope people ignore them. If commissaires forget to enforce the rules for beginners, it’ll be interesting to see where the line is drawn. Regional championships, amateur national series, I suppose it will depend on how zealous the officials are?

Worryingly the rules are saying a newcomer must have a compliant bike. I can see the logic in ensuring our newcomer has a safe bike, nothing will put them off more than seeing their machine crumble under their legs mid-race, even if crashes are usually caused by the rider. In theory our newcomer can’t show up on a bike they bought a few months ago at a local fitness store.

Call the lawyers?
There’s also the question of liability. Whilst the UCI is no stranger to the courtroom, the reference to international safety standards is useful but I have a concern that in acting as a guarantor of bike safety that someone crashes and decides to sue the UCI. Essentially they say “you told me it was safe” to the UCI. Imagine, for example, the UCI approves a frame by a well-known manufacturer, insert a name as you choose, and then the frame is subject to a product recall because of a manufacturing or design flaw. If the UCI has approved the frame will some see this as proof the item is safe? Hopefully the UCI has this under control.

Summary
Here’s a chance for you to see the new rules. I can see how the UCI wants to ensure fair competition and a level playing field but have some concerns. The UCI is there to set the rules after all.

But there’s a stronger stance here as the UCI is not just setting rules but assuming a degree of responsibility for safety. It is also imposing itself as a gatekeeper for cycle technology whereby new products and innovations must be approved before use in competition, often the shop window for the sport.

I can see the logic in all this but let us not forget the cycle trade has backed teams since the dawn of the sport as a means to publicise products. If a century ago Cycles Alcyon found the Tour de France was not the place to show off its best products, there would have been no Alcyon team. The risk now is that the likes of Cannondale and Specialized might prefer triathlon as a shop window… or they get behind a less restrictive breakaway league.

1909 Tour de France winner François Faber

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{ 63 comments }

Redeye March 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Is it just me that sees an irony in the UCI being so keen on regulation for riders and teams yet so keen to avoid answering to anybody itself?

Lester van der Staal March 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Nice price again!!

CD March 23, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I wonder if the sock rule has to do with preventing riders from wearing compression socks in competition?

Another Dave April 17, 2013 at 11:17 am

Long socks are a shocking look either way

bikecellar March 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

So glad that I can race under the aegis of The League International (affiliated to the International Cycling Federation) and avoid British Cycling events and thus the officialdumb (pun intended) of the UCI. :)

jkeltgv March 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm

an example of how stupid and arbitary these rules are is the helmet rules – there is nothing about them needing to fit properly or straps being done up to what would be considered a level where the helmet can’t be knocked off….most riders could fit their whole fist between their chin and the straps.

What’s overlooked on the weight thing is that the 6.8kg top of the range bike and perhaps a clunky 8kg (but, importantly, affordable) bike isn’t such a big gap….once we start having 5kg super bikes allowed the 8kg to 5kg difference becomes massive and, importanly, so the price difference gets even more stupid. While it might not matter at the top level the sport needs to remain accessable below that. We must remember that cycling was a sport for humble workers/farmers, not dentists and doctors with the latest aero frames & carbon wheelsets.

Imagine if, say, Bernard Hinault gave up riding because he got his arse kicked in his first few races on his shitty alu frame down tube shifter 7 speed screw on cassette bike while the quite good but never going to be a champion doctor’s son rode away up the last climb on his dad’s last season £3k bike?

The sport should always be about the legs and the head but never the wallet – not a problem at the top but it will be at the bottom if the pro side of the sport keeps harping on about becoming “Formula 1″

Ad March 23, 2012 at 9:46 pm

jkeltgv: couldn’t agree more about the weight thing. As an owner of a ‘shitty alu frame down tube shifter 7 speed screw on cassette bike’, I can say there is little more satisfying than the rare occasions when I skip past a few lawyers on their £2k carbon specialized. Although Hinault would have done that on a BMX.

Gerrald March 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm

So, my honest question is: why does the UCI want to regulate these things? Innovation is good, right? As long as you are not harming anybody, why not allow everything people can imagine?

Michael March 23, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Gerrald: because recliner bikes are much quicker than current bikes, and cars are quicker than bikes. You need some regulation.

I agree with all of this, bar the TT stuff which seems to be fairly arbitrary.

The Tashkent Error March 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I don’t remember there being track disciplines at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. :)

Q March 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Some of these make sense, but I agree with other commenters that I can’t think of any justification for the helmet rules. Prediction: some time in the next year or two, Cavendish will change helmets late in a high-profile race to something more areodynamic, win the race in a very close finish, and 6 months later there will be rules about switching helmets in a race. Rules like this, and the requirement of “pre-approval” for all “technical innovations” seems to me like the UCI is just daring a breakaway league to form.

Rowan July 11, 2012 at 1:30 am

Q – he already did. In the Giro d’Italia (I think it was anyway…some time in the last couple of months). With about 30k to go he dropped back to the team car for a change of helmet. And won the stage. Naturally.

Owen March 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I think it’s all a case of the UCI building it’s empire. I also believe that if they don’t start consulting interested parties, it may well blow up in their self-interested faces.
I have to agree about the weight aspect brought up above.

grfab March 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm

did you hear about “lawyer tabs” being mandatory? I just filed mine off last week!

anton March 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm

At least the numbers of long, black-socked, triathlete poonces in the road will now be fewer from here on. There’s some good in eveeything it seems.

Bundle March 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Some of this limitations make sense, and if if you ask me, pants would always be black and helmets optional.
But I think it should be up to the race to decide these details. In Wimbledon everybody wears white and that’s that. If Strade Bianche, or the Tour de France, wants to oblige everybody to race on a 1960′s bicycle, fine. And if the Tour of California wants to allow Obree’s Old Faithful, fine too. It would be interesting to see which races would audiences prefer.
The UCI shouldn’t try to standardize everything.

Owen March 23, 2012 at 11:16 pm

On the lawyer tab thing, I know it was my rear wheel, but I raced with a loose rear wheel last week. I worked it out afterwards, but had wondered why my gears weren’t right.
I won by the way.

Mike March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm

So what’s the difference between compression clothing and say, clothing that’s just a touch on the snug side? “It’s not compression clothing, the soigneur gave me someone’s Small base layer instead of the Medium I usually wear…”

Martin W March 24, 2012 at 12:18 am

That slide about technical innovations speaks volumes I think. First, “…has decided to no longer tolerate…” as if the teams and manufacturers were naughty children. In other words, they’ve been “tolerating” illegal equipment at races for some reason rather than enforcing their own rules consistently. Bad parenting.

Second, presumably every submission of an “innovation” for approval carries a fee payable to the UCI.

The UCI should be working for the people who take part in the sport, not the other way round. It looks more and more like a racket – they should be ashamed to call themselves a “union”.

David N. Welton March 24, 2012 at 12:37 am

They should just be done with it and require everyone to ride a copy of Fausto Coppi’s bike, and wear the same clothes.

fat pat March 24, 2012 at 12:59 am

f–k me. the horizontal arms in a TT in a TT is a joke. perhaps they also need a rule saying you must only sprint in the drops. fabian, take note, you might get banned for sprinting on the hoods….

Ken March 24, 2012 at 1:37 am

Greg Lemond won the 1989 tour by 8 seconds, using the then-innovative handlebar extension to dominate the final time trial. I suppose this was the ultimate equipment advantage, which the UCI would prefer to avoid.

I don’t, however, see how applying such detail to lesser races makes much sense for the sport.

grolby March 24, 2012 at 3:53 am

Jkeltgv – I don’t think I agree that this is a serious issue. Not to be dismissive of the importance of technology, but talent trumps all. Riders with the talent to be world-class pros (domestiques, let alone stars) aren’t going to lose that amateur bike race because some doctor’s kid has a bike that’s six pounds lighter. It just doesn’t work that way.

In any event, I don’t know about other countries, but local races in the U.S. are run under local federation rules, and UCI rules aren’t enforced. There is already no restriction on amateur racers of means in the United States racing on sub 6.8 kg bikes, and it happens all the time.

I have some other small thoughts on these issues, mostly the lawyer tabs, and may scribble them in my own blog if I did myself bored as with some time this weekend, but I doubt very much that I have anything of interest to add to this discussion.

Lucas March 24, 2012 at 4:48 am

So does technology such as electronic shifting and hydraulic breaks fall under “innovation?”

On another note, it seems that the problem with applying this to all license holders is that countless Cat 5′s 4′s and 3′s who ride on outdated gear (such as myself) because they can’t afford a brand new bike, could be sanctioned too easily.

Anonymous March 24, 2012 at 5:14 am

“that moment when a triathlete overtakes you out on the road”

Never! No matter what bike I ride!

JimW March 24, 2012 at 5:46 am

Add what we have learned about OEM and it’s not a reach to think some folks are pondering the possibility of getting into the bike biz too. It will be all sewn up. Making money all over the place. Fat Pat on the headbadge backed with a laurel made of $100 bills. Maybe two golf clubs crossed underneath.

It will go down at license renewal time:

Ok teams you will be buying UCI framesets for this season. Don’t worry about size we have that sorted out with 56cm for everyone. We did it that way in my day and it worked out fine. No more “anatomical” parts either. After much consultation with Grant Peterson we agree that if square taper spindles were good enough for Eddy Merckx they should be good enough for today’s riders as well. Remember the easily adjusted quill stem? It’s back! Padded bar tape, gone. Cloth only, single wrapped.
This is a man’s sport.
So we have added two sectors of landscaping work to all the one day Classics. This should really level the playing field and in some cases a farmers field or two as well. We of course will be issuing the shovels and regulating the style of coveralls.

On to Gent-Wevelgem!!!!!

inopinatus March 24, 2012 at 6:34 am

Wow, that technical innovation slide is a spectacular piece of institutional arrogance.

If I was a bicycle manufacturer, I’d be considering whether it was now in my own financial interest to sponsor a breakaway league in conjunction with the teams.

Champs March 24, 2012 at 8:21 am

All this time, a wider-opening cam was the solution to lawyer tabs. Maybe someone will finally act on that.

Larry T. March 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

I think the clothing regs are to prevent what happened in swimming, the super-suits starting making a big difference between the haves and have-nots. The UCI approved equipment thing could be interesting as now the super-light bikes (which may be dangerous) are simply brought up to the weight limit with ballast if the electronic gizmos are not enough – there’s nothing safe about that. A lighter machine could actually end up being safer though the cost elements are important, which I think is the reason for cutting back on all the prototype, limited production stuff. I’m guessing the lawyer tab issue is a sad effect of the UCI trying to do away with modifications of the “off the rack” components sold to the public to gain ANY performance advantage, so if everyone has to fiddle around with unscrewing Tullio Campagnolo’s wonderful invention (he must be spinning 90 rpm in his grave about now) they’re all equal again. A modified Q/R skewer, approved and sold to the public might result though I tried one awhile back, thinking it might speed up racking customer bikes on our van, but the thing wouldn’t hold well at all on non-lipped forks (including our personal machines and our rental bikes) so I forgot about it. Overall I agree with the UCI’s “primacy of athlete over machine” idea but just like most things the “devil is in the details” and there’s plenty of room for improvements here. Worries about the bike industry are folly, they do whatever is in their best interest anyway, they care little to nothing about sporting values.

Kjetil March 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

The lawyer tabs… Mine were filed off long ago. My wife’s beautiful steel Colnago (no lips standard) might now not be gran fondo compliant.
I just had this idea of a double quick release for the front wheel. Opening one side will not let the wheel come out. You’d have to open both. Still would be quick, or?

Tom March 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

That technical innovations slide is really strange. It’s bad enough in road and track cycling, but what will happen in mountain bike events? Would 29″ wheels have counted? What about modified valve arrangements on shocks, dropper seat posts, etc. etc. ?

Also, at what point does something count as a technical innovation? Easton have a slightly different way of tightening the face plate on some of their stems. Would that need UCI approval?

Martin W March 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

And another thing… the weight slide . “The UCI receives a lot of complaints about the safety of carbon frames, forks and handlebars that break immediately in a crash.”

I’m convinced that’s a flat-out lie. Who is complaining to the UCI, of all people, about snapped forks? Riders? Manufacturers? Teams? “The sponsor gave us this really light bike but we crashed it and it snapped so we had to buy anothe… well, they gave us another one. Can you stop them making bikes any lighter please?”

I actually quite like the weight limit simply because it *is* arbitrary – it’s simple to measure and understand, it’s high enough that it doesn’t disadvantage riders on a budget and once you’re able to build a bike that weighs less it opens the door to innovation in other areas like disc brakes, power meters etc. But it’s nonsense to suggest that it’s a safety rule. Quite apart from the fact that you could make a spectacularly heavy and unsafe frame out of, say, glass, they don’t seem to have a problem with carbon braking surfaces on wheels.

James March 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Regarding the sock regulation, I am not exactly sure what the purpose of this is, but my guess is to have another way of stopping people from using compression technology- compression socks usually run up near the knee. I’ve not really seen many cyclists use them in races, but it seems to be popular in tri and running events. I don’t know about performance advantages, but compression socks look god-awful enough that I’m glad the UCI stepped in there.

Overall, though, the UCI has been fairly incompetent with this stuff. Part of it is just then difficulty in regulating things (what to limit, how much, what ranges, how to stop people from getting around it). But it seems like whenever they have a new technical rule imposed, it is not always clear why and it’s often vague and problematic when you get into the language.

The Inner Ring March 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Martin W: I wondered the same about the complaints issue.

James: compression wear is not allowed at all during competition. I suppose sock length is partly to ensure this but perhaps also a visual thing. But the ambiguity here – why regulate the length of socks – means we’re left wondering.

Mike C March 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Agree with Martin W’s comment: the UCI should be there to promote the sport, protect the riders – from both themselves and unscrupulous sponsors (think a scapegoated Pantani in the first instance, Armstrong & Cofidis in the second) and ensure that the smaller races that give our sport its character survive, rather than being replaced by some F1-style commercial circus. This latter trend & pointless rulings on equipment, position and clothing seem like dereliction of duty to me, a simple money-making exercise.

Owen March 25, 2012 at 12:02 am

Mike C, spot on, I’ve been trying to think that for a long time.

dave March 25, 2012 at 12:58 am

Slide 4 has a cool x-ray shot showing a hidden motor. Wonder if that was a example shot, or if it was actually found in competition.

dave March 25, 2012 at 12:59 am

whoops slide 44

rufio March 25, 2012 at 1:47 am

@ Q,

This already happened in the last stage of the TDF last year. One of the Garmin-Cervelo boys (DZ maybe?) swapped out for a TT helmet right before the laps of the Champs Elysees. He didn’t contest for the win, so it was viewed more as a novelty, but I agree: if someone pulls that off and takes a win the UCI will be up in arms and more rule changes will be seen.

C Grade Cyclist March 25, 2012 at 1:51 am

I’m still trying to work out how 6.8kg = a safe bike…??

I’m sure we could all find examples of sub 6.8kg bikes that are rock-solid, and 8+ kg bikes that you wouldn’t ride down a hill for love or money…..

Confused C Grader March 25, 2012 at 3:06 am

anyone who wishes to use these new rules at your local grind should be relegated to ‘ Z ‘ grade and 50 lashes

Confused C Grader March 25, 2012 at 3:10 am

just been to Ironman in Melbourne to watch bike leg the whole field would be banned if part of UCI OMG

Simon March 25, 2012 at 9:20 am

I’ve recently come around a bit to the UCI’s position on a lot of things, although I think it’s fair to say there’s as much they do wrong as right. Firstly, the whole minimum weight thing is ridiculous. Anyone worth their salt can make a safe bike under the limit by a country mile. You want to do something good? Come up with some method of banning deep section wheels in local level racing – firstly, so the kid who turns up without a pair of three grand zipps doesn’t feel like he’s wasting his time, and secondly, so the tw*t who nearly took me out this weekend in a howling side-wind turns up on something more appropriate. That rant over…dictating a rider holds the bars in a certain way is just asking for a kicking.

With a good set of rules there’s plenty of room for innovation. I’d like to see those rules thought out to benefit the rest of us who ride bikes, first and foremost.

Wal March 25, 2012 at 9:38 am

The comment ‘dimensions of TT helmets will be regulated’ scares me. A few years ago I had to buy a new TT handle bar because the one I’d been using for years was suddenly illegal. $800 gone. Is the TT helmet that I’ve been using for years now also going to suddenly be illegal? The bike I’ve been riding without lawer tabs – it’s 8 years old – do I have to get rid of that now too? Be far cheaper to just not renew my racing licence.

The other thing that bugs me is that it’s all about ‘safety’. There’s a 6.8kg frame limit because otherwise the bikes would be ‘unsafe’. Surely then it should be a *frame* weight limit rather than a *bike* weight limit. ‘Cause, you know, right now it’s a light frame with a chunk of metal in the BB to get it up to weight rather than a heavy ‘safer’ frame. And lawyer tabs? Yeah ok, but if you’re going to then allow QR that clears the tabs the whole point of the tabs is being circumvented anyway.

It’s not only that the UCI enforces these decisions but the fact that the manner in which they implement them costs grass-roots racers a bomb and yet doesn’t meet the stated aims anyway that just drives me out of racing. It’s the first time in 10 years that I haven’t renewed my licence

Confused C Grader March 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

Wal and Simon hit the nail on the head these dictators are’nt thinking past their own back doors
Sad part is I was once a believer

Kjetil March 26, 2012 at 10:21 am

A local note on kids and the equipment spiral:
The Norwegian Cycling Federation this year put new rules in effect for riders up to 16 years old:
Minimum bike weight 8 kg, no carbon rims (and minimum 16 spokes), no TT bars in TTs, and no electronic shifting.

MattK March 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm

The UCI should stick to making sure racing is safe and done on an equal playing field. Something none of these regulations accomplish. The idea of a breakaway league is slowly moving from a crackpot fantasy to a reality if manufactures can’t find a venue to showcase their new innovations. As a baby racer, I have never seen bike weight limits or any of these more arcane UCI rules implemented. I know for a fact a lot of the guys I race with are on sub 6.8kg bikes, it just makes any victory sweeter and gives me an excuse when I lose. As for compression wear, does this include all the new lycra shorts made to offer better compression? Because if it does, half the pelaton will need to order new bibs.

Bundle March 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm

MattK: this “innovation showcase for manufacturers” argument needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, for if bicycle buyers (and not all of them, only the ones looking for the last technological improvements for their bikes) become the main commercial target for pro cycling sponsoring, it means the sport will have become so belittled that we wouldn’t even be able to watch the Tour de France on TV. The big audiences don’t buy so many bicycles, and if they do it’s the ones they buy for their children. If there is a breakaway league aiming at the sector of the audience who has heard the word Shimano, competing with other races targeting the rest of the world, I think the latter would have much more airplay (which, by the way, I would be happy with). UCI, ASO, and RCS would do well to keep 8- and 78-year-olds in mind as potential viewers, and if that requires imposing some limitations on equipment, so be it.

inopinatus March 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Bundle, I’m afraid that reality is dead set against you. Bicycle racing already is a showcase for bicycle manufacturers and in fact the majority of cycling fans know that Shimano is a brand of bicycle component. Bicycle buyers may not all want the latest electronic shifting, but the brand imprinting of all those close-up shots of the bikes has a significant economic impact at purchase decision time. This is advertising 101. This is why the makers sponsor the teams.

Nonetheless, this is not the only source of income for the teams, far from it because only 3 out of the 21 teams have a bike name in the team name. Curiously, however, this has NOTHING to do with TV because the teams realise no revenue from the ASO for TV rights. Whilst that holds, you need not fear an F1-style domination by manufacturers.

The idea that the UCI would impose equipment limits to make them appropriate for the very young or very old is just ridiculous – the sponsors wouldn’t allow it, because the teams won’t allow it, because at the top, the margin between winning and losing is often a fraction of a percent of overall ability. Indeed this is the crux of the problem: with the UCI declaring themselves a central clearinghouse for innovation they are creating vastly more pressure from the outside for teams to break away. That’ll have to happen with a revenue stream in place, and the easiest one to bargain over is the TV rights. And when it does, it’ll be a tripartite action between the teams, the race organisers, and the sponsors acting to maximise their joint economic return. The biggest AV here is the race organiser. In other words, it’ll crystallise around the ASOs TV rights.

Jimmyp March 27, 2012 at 2:13 am

Love to have a part by part difference between the UCI and tri tech rules…

Bundle March 27, 2012 at 4:20 am

Inopinatus: I get your point, but I don’t think I made myself clear enough before, so I’ll say it otherwise. I don’t deny the showcase function racing plays for top manufacturers (it has existed since the beginning of the sport) but if it is so important as to condition the rules and structure, then the sport might be doing badly, because it would mean that companies selling household appliances for housewives, petrol for cars, lighters for smokers, beer for drinkers, supermarkets that sell bicycles for children along with chocolate for fat people, all of these potential sponsors will not be there to sponsor, because their customers will not be following cycling, which would then only be followed by amateur cyclists ourselves. What I’m saying is that if limiting the use of technology in pro cycling races can widen their appeal (and I think it can), it will be good for everybody, except perhaps a few bike and cloth producers (and not even the majority: if a Basque boy wants an Orbea mountain bike, it’s because they it’s associated with the riders in orange, not because of the great aerodynamics of Samuel Sánchez’s bike).

Confused C Grader March 27, 2012 at 6:40 am

Triathalon’s starting to look pretty good maybe at 50 I can take on Lance

Larry T. March 27, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I’m with you Bundle – marketing only to folks who actually ride bicycles (certainly in the US and seemingly elsewhere, with some exceptions) makes for a very small audience. What some here are missing is the SPORT element vs pure entertainment/marketing. While I’ll admit the sport was pretty much invented as a means to sell newspapers and has evolved (or is it devolved?) from there to what we have at present, if one wants to call it a sport there must be rules to keep the technology from making it little more than a contest of machines piloted by athlete/drivers instead of a sport of athletes using bicycles. This is the fundamental challenge and it’s been going on pretty much since the sport began – the industry and marketers want the sport contrived for their benefit with sporting considerations at best a distant second while the sport governing body tries to preserve the sporting elements (fairness, level playing field, equal opportunity, etc.) though they certainly are guilty of letting commercial elements enter into their decisions as well.
While I’d stop short of going back to bicycles issued by the race organizers, I also want to stop short of having anyone think that the bicycle the athlete used truly made any difference in his/her performance. Nobody wins (or loses) simply because they ride a particular brand of bicycle, despite what the folks who market that brand want you to believe. The UCI must prevent the sport from going the way of F1 or MotoGP where no matter how good you are, without the best equipment your chances of winning are almost zero. Even today a reasonable argument can be made that Cadel Evans could have won LeTour using a bike just like Fabio Sabatini’s and vice-versa. If that changes, the result will be a far different sport. Pro cycling certainly has its problems but do we want to add the ones facing MotoGP and F1 too? I don’t.

Alex March 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Fascinating topic. Mountain Biking has largely been left alone and it’s become fairly obvious that the manufacturers self-regulate to a degree because otherwise sales suffer.
One contentious area recently was skin suits in downhill. They were eventually banned, mainly because of calls from sponsors that they found it harder to get cool photos of riders wearing skin suits in an ‘extreme’ sport where a more ‘moto’ look is more in keeping with the image of the fans.
So it was decided that to keep the playing field level, no one was allowed to wear them.

I have some sympathy with this approach, but it has to be regulated with some focus on either marketing, safety or ‘inclusion’. Any rule change should be backed up with actual research which show evidence that one or more of those areas is compromised by the lack of a rule.

Some of those slides seem completely arbitrary. Especially the blanket ‘no innovations’ rule.

sillyoldbugger March 28, 2012 at 12:37 am

The quote below is from the UCI (and Cycling Australia) Technical Regulations, Annexure 6. It may surprise, but this rule has been in “force” for about 12 years:
Ҥ 2 Technical innovations
1.3.004 No technical innovation regarding anything used, worn or carried by any rider or other license holder during a race (bicycles, equipment mounted on them, accessories, helmets, clothing, means of communication, etc.) may be used until approved by the UCI Executive Committee. Requests for approval shall be submitted to the UCI before 30 June of any year, accompanied by all necessary documentation. If accepted, the innovation will be permitted only as from 1 January of the following year. Acceptance shall refer solely to the fact that the innovation will be acceptable from a sporting point of view. There is no technical innovation in the sense of the present article if the innovation entirely falls within the specifications foreseen in the regulations.
(Text modified on 1.01.02).”
Perhaps the UCI is showing its frustration that it has a rule which is unenforceable, except at the highest level – WorldTour. For the rule(s) to be enforced, local federations and clubs need people (unpaid volunter commissaires) who are fully versed in the rules, their interpretation, have enough time before and after events and have the necessary equipment. Indeed, if all it achieves is stopping new entrants to the sport, then where’s the incentive to enforce such rules, especially at (massively) increased cost to local race promoters (and much higher race fees)?

Symo March 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

The UCI’s time is ticking, the skinsuits rule in downhill showed that it was about image.

Some should recall the story in the UK of the NCU and BLRC. NCU favoured time trialling over open road races and as the “UCI’s” UK reps they held the power. Slowly but surely though a new breed of cyclists took to the roads, racing in the early hours. The wikipedia article is worth reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_League_of_Racing_Cyclists

What the UCI could end up developing is a rival that will allow rapid advances in technology as well as ridding the sport of the weight limits and aerodynamic rulings that make bikes unattractive to a younger generation.

Lets not shy away from the fact that the UCI has already effectively lost freestyle BMX and it’s attempts to get hold of Skateboarding for the Olympics are laughable. (Most skate companies would happily tell Fat Pat and Corruptbruggen where to shove a rulebook). It has failed to put an end to the use of performance drugs and is little more than a junket provider for a bunch of people who have no real passion for cycling anymore.

Cycling should be about innovation, it should be about making humans+machines=speed. The safety aspect cannot be ignored, but I am willing to bet most of the UCI’s technical department aren’t actually that well versed in modern engineering and as such are unable to deliver a decent verdict on any innovation.

The marketplace should decide, what the UCI are effectively saying is “WE THE UCI DECIDE THE FUTURE SHAPE OF THE BICYCLE” which is as ludicrous as it is arrogant.

Mythbuster March 30, 2012 at 1:48 am

@Symo. Fantastically well said. It is as if I wrote it, only more eloquent :-)

Your last sentence sums it up. UCI wants to define what a “bicycle” is and what a “rider” is for all. Everyone is affected, not just the handful of top professionals. The fact is that bicycle equipment manufacturers would be crazy to make any new product that does not have a UCI sticker since without the mark of UCI it is guaranteed that the sales of their products would suffer and that customers would buy the UCI marked goods instead.

This stance by the UCI is both insidious and ludicrous. Insidious since there is no organised opposition to this insanity and because UCI is an NGO, presumably non-commercial entity and thus not regulated by government rules on trade and corporate behaviour. The fact is that there is NOBODY in the way of UCI getting away with this and that there is NO WAY to stop them, if you ever want to race anywhere in any event.

There is a minor chance of enough people getting pissed off enough to start a popular revolt using social media, and perhaps by complaining to their respective countries’ consumer protection bodies. If sufficient number of people find it in themselves to complain and to be heard, then there may be a chance to save cycling and allow riders to define themselves and what a bicycle means to them.

Mythbuster March 30, 2012 at 2:03 am

@Bundle

…actually as a consumer, I was far more interested in Olympic track events when the crazy bike designs were the pride of nations and subject to months of mass media coverage about how great and superior the new team track bike is. Consumers want bling, they want aspiration, innovation, advancement.

F1 rules are there due to safety, and only safety. Small teams in F1 brought in innovation that spawned F1 rules regarding downforce, not Ferrari et. al. F1 would be much better for it if engineers were allowed to fix the safety issues related to cornering speeds using science and engineering and law (make it manslaughter if you kill your driver due to crazy design) rather than the crippling rules that now everyone works around anyway and the cars are faster than before the rules, on average.

Safety in cycling should not be the domain of the UCI. They are not equipped or skilled enough to administer safety standards nor to carry the liability risk. Governments to that, CEN and ISO do that.

UCI is welcome to regulate rider position since I for one would get rather pissed off at a time triallist on an open road staring at their toes in a barely ridable bike just so the sake of the last iota of aerodynamic advantage. But, regulating everything else is not sensible and it retards the sport, limits consumer choice and reduces popular public interest.

Back to the F1 example, how would you feel if FIA (F1 governing body) regulated what car you could buy, what it can look like, what it can be made of, how you can drive it, or what clothing you could wear while driving your car?

norbs (@norbs) March 30, 2012 at 2:36 am
Touriste-Routier April 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I was thinking about this when loading some bikes on my roof rack today, some w/ tabs, some w/o.

My guess regarding the UCI’s decision to not allow filing off of “Lawyer Lips” is probably not for safety, but one of equality. Since the French teams are not allowed to do it due to French law, perhaps the UCI sees this as a way of not putting them at a disadvantage vs teams from other nations.

Larry T. April 13, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I remember an organization all about innovation and invention – it was called something like the International Human Powered Vehicle Association. If that’s what you’re interested in, no problem, if they’re still around with their hairy-legged, bearded guys climbing into egg-shaped contraptions on two (or three, or?) wheels, I’d bet they’d be glad to have you. But leave BICYCLE racing to conventional bicycles used by athletes, where any given rider could win the race using any of the bikes approved for competition. If simply getting from one place to another the fastest is your issue, motorcycles and cars have eclipsed bicycles a long time ago…so spare me the innovation and evolution arguments.

Richard Scholz July 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

And they outlawed recumbents in 1934 because they were more efficient bicycles

Another Dave April 17, 2013 at 11:33 am

What bothers me is if our commissaire at the local club races decides to get carried away with the rulebook and destroys the enjoyment of your weekend race

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