Is Your Bike Banned?

UPDATE added below at 18:00 CET

I read about the scheme for UCI approval of bikes soon after it was announced and my first thought was that it sounded like an excessive procedure, that a governing body doesn’t need to validate equipment. After all, manufacturers can face prodigious law suits from customers if the product is defective. It’s not like high end equipment keeps getting released and defects are discovered.

Now there are some arguments in favour of the scheme, for example Alberto Contador’s Specialized time trial bike was “banned” because the geometry and dimensions of the tubing did not meet the UCI rules. Getting the frame approved in advance means no last minute worries, no longer will a rider see their machine confiscated at the starting house of a target time trial. But that is a humiliation for the manufacturer. A company that can’t read a rulebook and measure their own frame looks stupid enough already.

In short, the scheme looks like the answer for a question that few were asking. Worse, it appears to pose several serious issues for the sport and the manufacturers. It could thwart small companies and penalise racers from poor countries.

A dream come true for Giant, Specialized and Trek?
Far from levelling the playing field, the scheme risks handing power to big business at the expense of artisans and start-ups. Why? The bigger the company, the more it afford the costs associated, the more likely it has in-house lawyers, designers and CAD design teams who will be able to walk the frame through the UCI approval process. A smaller producer wanting to supply an U-23 team will find the hurdles to hard to overcome. Would an early-stage Cervélo or Cannondale have succeeded?

Illegal material?

Is Your Bike Approved?
You might think this is all about special time trial bikes but no, it covers standard road bikes too. You might also think it’s something for the pros teams. But no, if you have a racing licence then these rules apply:

1.3.001 bis Each licence holder shall ensure that the equipment he uses on the occasion of road, track or cyclo cross events shall be approved by the UCI according to the specifications of the Approval Protocols in force and available on the UCI Website.

Note the reference to “each licence holder”. In theory anyone taking part in a race that falls under the UCI regulations now has to have a bike that complies with the regulations.

Or imagine a UCI race like the Junior Peace Race, an event held in the Czech republic. Is a 17 year-old Czech boy now obliged to get himself an approved bike in order to comply with the rules? What about the upcoming race in Gabon, La Tropicale Amissa Bongo? Will the teams from Kenya, Ivory Coast and Rwanda have to use approved bikes?

UPDATE – 18:00 Central European Time
I’ve got some answers to the questions above. If you want to race then you must:

a) use a frame or bike made before 2011 or;
b) if you buy a frame or bike in 2011 then it must be UCI-approved.

These are the rules and they apply to anyone taking part in a race held under UCI rules, ie any race run by a governing body that is a member of the UCI. Obviously the UCI does not imagine checking every race, especially your local amateur race, just as the minimum weight of 6.8kg is not enforced everywhere.

But if you race at a high level and get an unapproved team bike or if you buy your own bike this year from a company not on the list then you could get in trouble. Like I say, not for every small race but imagine race were something is at stake, for example a big U-23 race in Italy or the US Masters Road National Championships. If the winner was found to have used an unapproved frame then second placed rider would have grounds under the rules to get their rival disqualified.


16 thoughts on “Is Your Bike Banned?”

  1. My worry is that this is just the start. McQuaid has already stated that this will eventually apply to clothing. Now I can maybe understand skin suits at best. But to what degree do they take this to. Will club jerseys and shorts somehow have to be UCI approved as well?

    The NJS system is similar in a way. But manufacturers of frames are approved and then left to build the NJS frames themselves. However that is a controlled environment with no grassroots competition unlike TT and road racing.

  2. Euan: if this spreads to clothing then it goes beyond safety and level-playing field aerodynamics. We start to see "official merchandise" and licencing royalties, no?

  3. This is getting to be control freakery, how long before you can only ride the specific bikes that UCI approve ie manufacturers pay for a license to be allowed into UCI events just like teams do. Is UCI a business funding a sport or a sport funding a business ?

  4. TheInnerRing: It certainly is their intention to extend it to clothing. Whether it is high tech fabrics or aerodynamic advantages. Regardless I would expect having to pay a premium for your UCI sanctioned clothing.

    I know in the UK their aren't too tight on the UCI regulations regarding equipment, but I think Aus and the US follow the rules. Australia especially.

    I thought the days of the ruling shoes and shorts had to be black, and your socks white were over. Maybe not.


  5. The best thing the industry could do is stand up to the extort^H^H^H^H^H^H I mean certification fee.

    There is no question with "Cannibal" class kit. We know it's legal, now kindly (expletive) off.

    What about exotic kit? I repeat myself (and many others) on a number of cycling blogs, but we know how capricious the UCI is. I wouldn't trust them to not revoke a cert if they were in the right mood.

    And of course there are always the testing protocols. At what point would one-offs/prototypes need the UCI blessing, and how much can they change between consumer models without needing to recertify? Sure, changing Red's front mech cage to steel/Ti is probably kosher, but plenty of other subtle changes could run afoul of the "rules."

  6. Inner Ring, do you have any thoughts as to ways that ordinary cyclists could voice their disapproval of these actions to the UCI? Obviously, a lot of people complain about it everyday, but it would be nice to send a message directly to them. I wish I spoke French…

    I can't think of too many comparable sports organizations with that much international power, except maybe FIFA and the IOC, and I think the UCI's basically non-democratic nature is starting to pose problems as they go to grab more and more control over world cycling.

  7. UCI: Just create the rules and enforce them. A license fee is a tax for the UCI to use to pad their bank accounts with. Yes, I know they are broke, but if they functioned properly and had good leadership they wouldn't have to resort to playing a game of chicken with bike manufacturers and creating BS ways to "earn money". I hope the bike companies tell the UCI to stick it. And for the average rider – race what you got. Last I checked, the local crits are still won by the rider with the best legs, not some UCI sticker (yes I know all sorts of snark will come from that comment, but f it).

  8. If the UCI was out of money, they could have just held a private chat with Alberto Contador about paying an indulgence for the grain of clenbuterol in his system before the news came out.

    I mean I'm sure they can always use another blood analysis machine. They've got the receipts somewhere…

  9. Isn't it obvious that this 'new process' has come from the large producers to start with? Specialized played the UCI like a 5 year old kid, they got exactly what they wanted.

    The UCI needs to toughen up: start enforcing their rules ALL the time and stop bowing to big money companies. There is a desperate need of leadership there.

    Whenever you hear the story of Contador's bike being banned 'at the last minute' everyone conveniently forgets to mention that the teams were given an exemption from compliance for basically the entire 2009 season. 1 Jan 2010 the rules were in effect, Specialized knew the Shiv didn't comply, but they needed their little incident so they could come crying to the UCI for a better system.

    Small producers definitely lose out.

  10. Robert: judging by my update, we're there now.

    Euan: that's getting strange. Like I say it is moving well away from safety and design and into "official merchandising".

    Jay T: that's a big question. You can pester your local federation but even if you could get them to change their minds, you have all the other federations to contend with.

    Anonymous: that's a big change in the UCI's role, no?

    Anonymous: that's quite a conspiracy! But it is true that this represents a massive gift to the big guys who can fund this out of small change whilst a little artisan frame builder will find themselves blocked from "race testing" their frames with a talented rider or local team.

  11. I personally see it, at least in the way it is implemented, the same way you do, as cheap and unhealthy lobbying.

    But I must point out those arguments you put out there, that this secures supremacy of the big companies because they have the better resources, can be turned against you, by saying that needing an UCI approval makes sure they don't use these resources to put out some prototype bike worth several thousands of dollars just for one or a handful or riders.
    But there again is the point where I stick with you, the rules for that are already there, though one could argue that this makes sure the rules are implemented, so fine, give out that seal, but for gods sake 15 thousand euros for it? UCI, you've got to be kidding. That's not only impudent, that is downright rip off.

  12. The interesting thing will be whether each manufacturer or each label/brand has to be certified. The vast majority of bicycles are made by 5 manufacturers; some brands own their designs, while others are merely private labeling a standard design.

    One might be able to state this is a Merida frame X or a Giant frame Y, which is on the certified list, it just happens to be labeled brand z model b

  13. Touriste-Routier: true but that's a gift for big business. It is like two or three washing powder producers having many brands each, this is a big block on newcomers to the market as well.

    Gillis: the rule here is specific to road, track and cyclo cross. But there are others relating to MTB, I'd expect them to follow.

  14. How does this work then? which member countries of the UCI have voted for this protocol? is this a democratic decision? or an edict. The UCI like FIFA and the Qatar debacle seem to be beyond the control of the membership. Perhaps ASO can do something? they seem to have the measure of Jerry.
    Tomorrow I Ride with Jerry (thats Jerry Bonham)

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