The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the world governing body for the sport of bicycle racing. Last Monday 15th June 2009 they issued a new set of regulations that are an addendum to the existing rules and regs pertaining to bikes used for Cyclo-Cross, Road Racing and Track Racing.
The reasoning behind UCI regulations, as with any other sport, is to put all the competitors on an equal footing. In bicycle racing it means everyone having the same size wheels, etc, etc. It would be chaotic to have some riders on recumbent bikes, or some with smaller wheels in the middle of a race pack.
These new regulations have got some people in an uproar, saying it will be a disadvantage to bicycle manufacturers, teams, and even certain nations. This article I felt was an over reaction. The UCI document was not easy to understand, but after studying it I put forward my interpretation.
As always this is only my view, but I think and unbiased one. I no longer have any connection the bicycle industry; I have no personal agenda to promote. This part of the new regulations (Quoting from the UCI pdf document.) probably caused the most controversy:
The bicycle must be accessible to all participants. It must be marketed (i.e. available for sale on the market) or marketable (i.e. available for sale directly from the manufacturer, by subscription or through an alternative distribution network).
Prototypes and the use of equipment specially designed for a particular athlete, event or performance is prohibited. “Special design” means a bicycle with a technical added value when compared with other equipment.
In part the bike industry is to blame for this one. Does anyone remember the “Million Dollar” one off bike that Koga built for Dutch Olympic rider Theo Bos? At the time I thought this whole episode was a huge publicity stunt, and I felt the Theo Bos would go just as fast on a stock bike.
It is my opinion, there is no technology available at this time that would give a rider a mechanical advantage. Maybe there is an aerodynamic advantage. If this is the case then is it fair that one rider should have access to unlimited funds, wind tunnel testing, etc? And this advantage is only available to limited riders.
The whole doping issue is about leveling the playing field so that one rider does not have an unfair advantage over another. The million dollar Koga was only available to Theo Bos, and even if another rider or sponsor would have came up with a million they could not have bought one.
Whether or not Theo Bos had an actual advantage is not the issue; there was the possibility he did, and there is a definite possibility it could happen in the future. As I see it the UCI is addressing the issue before it becomes a problem.
Professional riders and top amateurs have always had their bikes custom built, but the same basic bike has always been available to all. The new regulation simply states that, “The bicycle must be accessible to all participants.”
It has been suggested that the pros ride prototype bikes to test new models that will become future production bikes. I am no longer in the industry so I can’t say for sure, but I doubt the pros are riding true untested prototypes. It would be crazy to have someone race in an important event on an untested bike that might fail.
The UCI wording, as I see it, simply states the bike should be available for sale to all riders. It doesn’t say it has to be a stock model that your local bike store sells. It says the bike can be bought direct from the manufacturer.
It does not set a price or even say the bike has to be in stock to buy off the shelf. If special bikes are made for a certain team, there is no reason why other teams could not order the same bike, if they have the money and are prepared to wait for the bikes to be built.
There was too much information in the UCI document to discuss in one article, so I decided to make it a two part piece. In the second part that I will post on Friday 19th, I will write about the new regulations that affect the physical dimensions of the bicycle.
Please limit any comments to the "Accessible Bicycle" issue addressed here. We can discuss the rest of the new regulations after I post the final article