Reinventing the UCI

Miscellaneous, Road 9 78

In case anyone has not picked up on it, I am not a big fan of the UCI’s restrictions on the bicycles used by professional cyclists. The evolution of road and track bicycle design was accelerated in the 90’s when Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman were trading the hour record back and forth. So what if the bikes themselves were the center of much of the attention? If it is true that advances in materials and manufacturing have given today’s riders a slight advantage over their predecessors, who cares? It is no shock that bicycles are a part of bicycle racing, so why halt innovation to level the playing field? In the case of the hour record, why choose Merckx’s 1972 bike as the appropriate level of technology? Why not default to Henri Desgrange’s 1893 hour record bike? Better yet, why not require the use of a high wheeler or a boneshaker? After all, the use of 1972 technology is not fair to those gifted mid 19th century riders who did not have access to modern inventions like the pneumatic tire. No matter, Boardman’s 56.375km distance in 1996 is the true hour record in my mind regardless of the arbitrary level of acceptable technology that the UCI decides to allow.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot what prompted this post. Steven MacGregor has an interesting article on the Core 77 design website about the evolution of bicycle design. He discusses, among other things, the influence of the UCI, not only on racing, but also on the bicycle market. It is definitely worth reading; check it out.

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9 Comments

  1. :)ensen January 24, 2006 at 4:32 pm -  Reply

    I think you need to investigate the history of the IHPVA and recumbent bike design.

  2. James January 24, 2006 at 5:17 pm -  Reply

    Yes, of course I am familiar with the IHPVA and I realize that full fairing recumbents hold all the current land speed records. Still, I don’t see them as practical machines for racing. I guess your comment is referring to Francois Faure’s 49.99 km hour record in the early 30’s. That is what prompted the UCI to ban recumbents in the first place, right? Yeah that was a really fast ride and Moser’s time in the 80’s was not a whole lot faster, but recumbents are still impractical bikes for pack racing.

    Since you brought it up, I am curious about the current velodrome hour record for a recumbent. Does anyone know it? My guess is that it is pretty fast.

  3. pedaller January 24, 2006 at 7:51 pm -  Reply

    Hour record for recumbent is 82.60km (51.33miles) held by Lars Teutenberg of Germany and was set on 27 July 2002 (according to the IHPVA).
    I guess you could call that “pretty damn fast” James.

  4. James January 25, 2006 at 9:05 am -  Reply

    Yeah, that is very fast.

    Thanks for the info pedaller

  5. :)ensen January 25, 2006 at 7:21 pm -  Reply

    I agree, not for Tour racing as it would be impossible to catch a 9kg bike on a Cat2 climb or any of the really big breakaways. Typically, speed HPVs are around 60lbs including the fairing.

    On the other hand, I heard that the reason Team Gold Rush dropped out of the 1989 RAAM was of the downs not the ups…the bike was reaching 80 or 90 mph on some of the mountain passes. The support RV was taking 15-20 minutes just to catch up where they could see the bike. Gardie Martin was so worried that somebody would drive off a cliff and never be found that he thought it better to drop out.

  6. Oliver October 24, 2006 at 4:04 am -  Reply

    Las year I wrote an article based on “The Lugano Charter” The 1996 UCI philosophical document that keeps too many bikes in the stone-age.
    http://www.uci.ch/imgArchive/AboutUCI/Mission/
    Charte%20de%20Lugano-a%20
    (nouvelle%20traduction).doc

    Read the charter first.

    What’s Wrong With
    The Lugano Charter?

    The Lugano Charter is a relativly recent UCI offering of philosophical verbiage now added to the debilitated history of road racing cycle regulations which helps retard bicycle evolution by one hundred years.

    The essential role which cycling must now perform in the transport mix of towns and cities is now so pressing, that an obsession with history, pure athleticism, and spurious sociological notions of the bicycle, should not dominate the current competition rule making decisions of these most efficient land vehicles.

    The rigorous control of Road Racing rules since the inception of cycle sport directly correlates with current road bicycle design; is there another vehicle in production which bears such close resemblance to its original Victorian embodiment?

    Allowing the bicycle to evolve will not cause society to break down or lose touch with its history. We perceive history from “where we are now”, and compare with “how we were then”. There will only ever be a handful of people aware that the bicycle reduced inbreeding in villages, by providing a means to travel further to find a mate, and was instrumental in the rights of women to gain independence by wearing trousers.

    It makes no sense to include sociological factors such as “utilitarian” and “freedom” that cycling offers in The Lugano Charter. It must be noted that these highly restrictive regulations are for road and track cycling only.
    If these regulations are so significant and seemingly support a moral purpose, why have mountain bikes escaped this crippling philosophy?
    Examine the type of bicycle which has dominated mass-market consumption for nearly twenty years; the UCI had no option, but to accommodate the rapid and continuous evolution of the Mountain Bike in its regulations, because if it did not, then a breakaway organization would have formed.
    Mountain bikes surely show the way forward; an innovative environment where technical innovation nourishes the sport. A celebration of the man-machine ensemble which produces a winning combination; critically, with little fear that innovative machines will be banned from the course. Unfortunately these innovations are developed mainly for off-road applications, and as such, often lessen the efficiency of the vehicle on the road, where the majority of bicycles are used.

    Road and Track Cycling has never had the blessing of a governing body which supports innovation. Why is this? What is the governing body scared of? Recumbents never recovered from the Velodrome ban in the thirties when they showed superior speed. More recently, Mike Burrows’ radical “Lotus Bike” was banned shortly after showing its winning pace, and Graham Obree’s riding style and his machines were similarly annulled. Did these fascinating machines damage the sport? Of course not; they generated a global interest in it!

    There never has been and never will be a level playing field to assess the individual performance of athletes, whilst I acknowledge that this is a good aim of all sports, be they technically driven or not.
    Road Cycling knows this only too well, with an unblemished history of drug abuse in the sport. Would it not make better law to permit cyclists to compete on differentiated machinery rather than the reality of performing with illegally differentiated bodies?
    In any sport where the athlete needs a sporting accessory to participate, there is an inevitable man-machine ensemble; to pretend otherwise is nonsense.

    The UCI Management Committee has no understanding of technical evolution and fears technology in a quasi-religious manner. New innovations are discussed by associating them with fears of lesser safety and comfort. What about technical innovations which could achieve the opposite of this?
    If a cycle is produced with poor comfort and inferior controls it will not become a successful product. Also if the cost is too high, commercial failure is likely.
    People like to choose technologies which are useful to them; evolution, by its very nature, brings with it, its own direction and controls.
    What, that is sacred in the bicycle is being protected by The Lugano Charter? I believe the bicycle can protect itself if only it was allowed to do so.

    In the 2005 Tour de France, one team utilised a frame material which included carbon nanotubes, one of the most hi-tech structural materials available, and certain to give a competitive advantage. Do any of the Lugano appointees have any notion of what the future will bring, or indeed, what carbon nanotubes are?

    Cycling needs a new racing discipline which welcomes the new and where innovation is the norm; just one technical step or an environment of continuous evolution may hold the key to cycling’s rebirth.

    I would suggest cherry picking certain aspects of motor sport competition. Although by no-means perfect, the most widely viewed sport in the world is F1, a sport which arguably epitomises that magical unknowable combination of the man-machine duet. This style of endeavor does not restrict one from having a strong opinion on who is the best sports person operating the vehicle! Regulations in this sport are designed primarily for driver safety, entertainment, and cost control; they are not written to lock motor-sport into nineteenth century style motoring.
    Top level motor racing also provides an inspiration for many other lower profile motor-sport activities.

    The creators of The Lugano Charter are not friends of the future of cycling. They live in a world of soft and social science. They do not wish to engage in progress. They are not technically minded. They are not using their immense influence on the fantastic potential of cycling on this planet.

    Oliver Penney 15th December 2005

  7. alan mccluskey May 11, 2007 at 8:02 am -  Reply

    can anybody tell me who and when were the forearm rests first used, i have good reason for asking, so if you know please answer,,,thanks,,,Alan McCluskey

  8. Marielos November 6, 2007 at 4:20 pm -  Reply

    Motor Racing Post comment free blogspot

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