I have been critical of the UCI a few times in the past (here, here, and most recently here), but I now know it was only because I have been woefully uninformed. In a video posted today by Carlton Reid, UCI president Pat McQuaid explains that his organization is often treated as a ‘punching bag’ by cycling journalists (and I assume that includes bloggers like myself), who have a little bit of knowledge, but do not fully understand the work that the UCI is doing to make sure that the sport of cycling remains fair. In the video, McQuaid admits that the wording in the UCI’s equipment regulations may be somewhat ambiguous, and he defends the new stickering program, which he believes will clear up any confusion between the governing body and bike manufacturers going forward. The UCI also confirmed that the homologation program (sounds much better than stickering scheme) will be extended to helmets, clothing, and components sometime after the Olympics in London. The stickering program is not, however, a way for the UCI to generate a profit according to McQuaid. He says that the pricing was structured to cover the costs associated with the program and nothing more. As tempted as I am to make a snide remark, I’ll refrain and just encourage you to watch the video for yourself. As critical as I am of the Lugano Charter and the resulting equipment restrictions, I will give Mr. McQuaid and the UCI credit for opening up and directly addressing some of the common criticisms against them.
There is no doubt that the UCI is trying to improve their image among cycling fans. They hired a PR firm not too long ago, and for the past few months I have been receiving the occasional press releases about the homologation program and other newsworthy happenings at the organization. They took that PR push a step further recently by inviting a few cycling journalists from around the world to the UCI’s headquarters in the Swiss Alps (at the UCI’s expense), so that they could explain the stickering program in person. Carlton Reid was a member of that select group, and in addition to the videos in his YouTube stream, he is covering the story at BikeBiz.
One of the most interesting pieces of news to come out of this PR event, is the hint that the UCI may allow lighter race bikes soon. The UCI has always maintained that the equipment restrictions, including the 6.8kg (roughly 15 lb.) minimum weight, are in place to make sure that no team has an unfair advantage, and that the riders are not on bikes that are prone to failure. According to the BikeBiz story, the UCI’s technical coordinator, Juilen Carron, said “the limit could be dropped if manufacturers could prove their frames and components were safe.” If true, that is pretty big news. Does it mean that the UCI is actually looking at changes in materials and manufacturing in the bicycle industry and adjusting its regulations accordingly, or is it just another product test that manufacturers will need to pay for? However you look at it, Carron’s PowerPoint presentation explaining the approval procedure for frames and forks is pretty interesting…and Carlton promises to upload the video of his presentation soon.
Update: The video of Julian Carron’s presentation is now up.
One bike that probably would not have any problems getting UCI approval is the Limited Edition Eddy Merckx UMX Mexico Hour Record Track Bike (picture above). I don’t know though, that flip-flop rear fixed/free hub sounds suspect. Eddy didn’t have that in 1972, so I think an expensive independent lab test is in order.