Enforce a rule or scrap it

Radioshack team car

There’s a mini-fuss at the moment over some of the UCI rules. Specifically rule 1.3.014 requires the saddle to be level:

1.3.014 The saddle support shall be horizontal. The length of the saddle shall be 24 cm minimum and 30 cm maximum.

Only during the season some riders have been using a tilt on their saddle. Some prefer this position naturally but there are biomechanical gains possible for a time trial where the rider tips the nose of the saddle down. When turning a big gear they can push against the saddle as they push down on the pedals. If it helps, think of it like doing a leg press when you’re seated, if you want to push big weights whilst seated then it helps to do it with your back against something. In years past some riders have gone to extreme examples which have since been banned.

Rules aren’t rules
But the point here isn’t bio-mechanical, it’s the way riders had been doing something all season only for the rules rules to suddenly be enforced at the Tour de France. Now I’m all in favour of the rules being applied, it’s the inconsistency that’s bad. Tolerating breaches of the rules throughout the year only to insist on them minutes before the biggest time trial of the year so far surely isn’t the way to run the sport? It makes pro cycling look a bit unprofessional, as if the rules are selective and deployed on a whim. This shouldn’t be the case, if a rule exists then it has to be valid all year round.

Working together
Also if there’s going to be a crackdown, some advance warning is good. Unlike a doping raid, where catching someone red handed has its uses, there’s little use in trying to “bust” teams in the race. It’s a clear case where advance notice is a winner. If the UCI were to say “we’ll be especially tight on the bike rules” a month in advance then everyone would be warned. But riders have been training and racing on their TT bikes with angled saddles right up until yesterday.

More measurement rules
Here’s another rule from the UCI book:

2.2.032 Except in time trials, all the vehicles accompanying the race are restricted to a maximum height of 1.60 m.

Only I can’t help noticing that Radioshack are driving the Nissan Qashqai. As well as an oddly unpronounceable name, the car is 1.61 metres high in its lowest configuration, some models are taller.

Will the UCI insist on 2.2.032. Do the commissaires have a special jig, like the one you see in the entrance to a carpark, that is set at 1.60 metres? Of course the answer is not. But again, if you have a rule, either you enforce it or you don’t. The height rule seems an odd one, perhaps to ensure big cars don’t clog the convoy or offer too much shelter to riders working their way up. But if it exists, enforce it… or scrap it.

Once there’s an attitude that teams treat the UCI rule book as if it’s an à la carte menu, picking rules they like and ignoring ones they don’t then the rules themselves lose credibility. Worse, like a police force that gets lazy with the law the UCI and its commissaires give up a bit of their authority when they get selective about applying the rules.

The UCI might have been surprised to find teams fighting the race radio ban earlier this year but I can’t help wonder if a firmer approach before on other rules might have helped the UCI, it gave ground on the technical rules before and the teams willingly took it.

None of this is race-changing stuff. Garmin-Cervélo too were forced to deploy the allen keys and spirit levels moments before they started but they still won. But the rules on bike measurements are precise and if the UCI hasn’t upheld them all year, suddenly getting serious right before the time trial is a funny place to start. Better later than never perhaps but there are more professional ways to run a sport.

Finally, in case I get accused of UCI-bashing, note I want more of UCI here. I’m saying the commissaires need to be firm all year round and this is easy to do.

Thanks to the top cyclismactu website for supplying the photo

26 thoughts on “Enforce a rule or scrap it”

  1. I think Cadel Evans made a good point, that if saddles are sculpted, or have a channel in them, then it’s very difficult to say what horizontal means. Do you make sure the rails are horizontal, or if it’s from the top of the saddle do you use the channel, cut out, or any bits that flip upwards at the rear!?

  2. It’s not uncommon for oversize vehicles to run low profile tyres to get convoy ok. I’m not sure if the Shack vehicles are though.

    I’ve even seen national federation cars roll up to height checks are tours with 1/2 flat tyres, just to scrape in.

  3. The Specialized Romin, for example, has a great big kick up at the back http://www.bikeradar.com/gallery/article/specialized-romin-sl-road-saddle-review-26523?img=5&pn=specialized-romin-sl-saddle-10&mlc=gear%2Fcomponents%2Fsaddles%2Farticle, I wonder how the UCI would measure that to be flat?

    I run mine a few degrees down when measured across the flat mid-section, I doubt I could ride it at all if I was forced to run it flat if taken from the front and end points!

  4. It’s a small point, but given the comfort factor (I tend to ride with mine angled slightly nose down), mayne it would make more sense to set a maximum angle, rather than outlaw it completely. It does seem the UCI are taking a hammer to smash an egg in this instance

  5. So
    Sometimes I compare the UCI to a drunk staggering up the pavement, one step bumping into shop doors, then bouncing like a pin ball into litter bins and teetering on the kerb.
    Commissaires seem to be acting under inebriated direction, bouncing round the rule book.

  6. So how would they measure a Cobb V-Flow Max?

    Someone need to take a few saddles and give McQuack a ‘fit session’ with them.

  7. Agree that the inconsistency is ridiculous. On the cars, my understanding was that it was a safety issue, it’s much harder for riders and other drivers to see what’s happening ahead if the pack is full of people carriers or big 4×4’s, that’s why the UCI stipulate saloons or estates.

  8. as i understand it, the vehicle convoy limited height rule, is designed to a relative ‘uniform’ driver eye line height so that riders are visible, in alongside, or rear view mirror type, convoy chasing etc.

    Sitting in a team car of similar height, is compromised when a larger higher vehicle is amongst the cars. VIP Cars are usually mpv types, and can present problems in conveys, you get the gist.
    Few years ago, rock racing attempted to ‘rock’ up to the TOB with SUV US ‘fatty boy’ type vehicles, and led to the refusal to drive in the convoy by race organisers.
    You would think that the UCI would have an official list of vehicles that teams could use – have they considered a vehicle sticker ‘approved’ accreditation……

    As for the saddle debate – it is ridiculous.
    Saddles are designed with varying load weights/widths (of riders) and the multiple models, have different angles of curve, sweep, and at which point do you place the spirit level to determine ‘levelness’?
    If you simply say ‘rear edge of saddle to nose tip’ then you distort the manufacturers optimum setting, or not.
    Riders have varying preferences – some prefer upward tilts, others downward, if a rider uses a specific setting – (as they all do) how can anyone state that is incorrect ?
    Does the UCI hold insurance in the event that a change, damages or hurts the rider ? of course not.

    Somewhere, within the under carriage of the UCI technical dept, they need to sniff the coffee.
    Saddle angles (on roadbikes or tt) is a minor detail – we are not talking Castorama Thierry Marie prologue saddles, but daily used roadbikes.

  9. Regarding the radioshack cars i read somewhere that they have modified, lowered suspension so that they conform to the UCI rules. Either the shack decided that they were the most appropriate vehicle in the nissan range, or nissan wanted to promote them, and got them modified accordingly.

  10. I think it’s right to bash UCI for inconsistency, but do they check everything all the time? Is it not incumbent on the teams to respect the rules or face sanction – and in some ways shouldn’t UCI just be conducting spot checks?

  11. does not “saddle support” imply that it is the rails under the saddle that have to be horizontal rather than the top saddle? As has been mentioned most saddle models are not dead flat and even the flat ones can wear.

  12. I have to agree with the general argument. The UCI has been inconsistent throughout the whole year. There were also the incidents earlier in the year with time-trial shifters and whether they are part of the forward support of the bars, some yes, some no. It appears as if there is no rhyme nor reason behind the enforcement.
    But, then again, this is the UCI, and who says anything has to make sense. Figuring them out is like following Alice down the rabbit hole.

  13. Roadie1: bikes have been checked during the year… but the commissaires never objected to the saddles.

    Seriously: “saddle support” is an undefined term so it’s unfortunately vague.

  14. There have been people seriously suggesting that the UCI was just F***ing with the teams in order to show them who’s boss, who’s in charge, blah blah blah. It looks like it too. The UCI presumably know something about the sport they regulate; they had to know this was a really shitty thing to do to the riders just before the TTT. How can they NOT have been just F***ing with everyone?

  15. According to an article on cyclingnews, the UCI did give the teams advance notice that this rule would be enforced at the TDF. If true then they’re just upset at being shown up as unprofessional.

  16. Oooh this is interesting I wonder how it equates to Downhill and to a lesser extent full suspension bikes which obviously have saddles off level to allow for suspension loading, looks like a case for a spring loaded seat post if so?

    The UCI are saying that they let the teams know at the pre tour team briefing, so they could have made the changes before Sunday if they’d really wanted to…

    Still absurd though really you either enforce rules or you don’t?

  17. @Seriously,

    If the rails were horizontal then many saddles on the market would be mounted nose down. Additionally, not all saddles have the same rail tilt, so different manufacturers (and different models across a single manufacturer’s line) would offer more or less tilt with the rails horizontal.

  18. So is this a prelude to the new “UCI saddle approval programme”…?? Good grief…

    I don’t mind the UCI outlawing ‘extreme’ positions so as to maintain the ‘spirit’ of using a normal position… But to proscribe position right down to the millimetre (ie. saddles must be exactly level) – what I don’t understand is what they are ‘protecting’ via this rule?? What does it matter if there is a ‘slight’ tilt either way??

  19. Pat McStupid and his bumbling crew strike again… the issue is not with the rule but with the decision to enforce it only at the TdF. I’m sure Pat The Rat’s representative that went to the Tour de Suisse, skulked around in the background – this is why no teams asked him to explain! The sooner McDud head’s is loped the better for the sport… as long as we don’t get Pat MkII which sadly with the hierarchy of the UCI is very likely! They take the DNA of incompetent cycling officials and breed the next generation to take their place.

  20. Maybe I’ve only recently started paying enough attention, but I don’t recall the UCI having such a high profile in the past. If they did their job properly perhaps we wouldn’t hear about them so much?

  21. The UCI is not enforcing the “approved” frame rule – 1.3.001bis – which is perhaps more important than the saddle rule (1.3.014). Nor are they enforcing the wheel rule – 1.3.018. No wonder they are regarded as a joke by the Pro teams and the national federations.
    Why are they enforcing the saddle rule for TT bikes, but not road bikes?

  22. And what of the poor undercarriages of the riders? TT positions lead to a lot of saddle sores. Seems a little cruel just to force someone to give themselves a potentially nasty cyst just 2 days into a 21 day race. At least give the guys some time to “toughen up” down there…

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