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.