Jens Voigt’s hour record bike and my confusion with the UCI

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Jens Voigt’s Trek Speed Concept 9 Hour Record bike. Photo: © Maxime Schmid

I have been a fan of the hour record for a long time. Back in the early to mid 90s, I really loved the technological arms race that was happening as Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman swapped the hour back and forth on very different, but equally innovative bikes (not to mention the amazing hour record bikes of Moser in the 80s and 90s). Interesting things were happening with the bikes used for the hour, until the UCI put an end to all that innovation in 1996. I have shared my feelings about the Lugano Charter a few times, so I won’t repeat it all here. I understand the reason for equipment regulations, but I don’t see why Merckx’s 1972 drop bar equipped steel track bike was chosen as the gold standard of acceptable technology. But hey…there is no need to rant. Things are changing…slowly.

If you follow cycling at all, you know that Jens Voigt is attempting the hour record today (live stream starting now in fact, so I had better keep this short). According to an article in CyclingNews, his hour record bike is a “modified version of Trek’s Speed Concept 9 Series time trial machine and he has even modified his own riding position in recent months in order to improve his aerodynamics.” As you might imagine, creating a track bike from an existing carbon TT frame mold is not without challenges. The rear dropouts were changed to fork ends with 120 mm spacing for a track hub, but the chain ring is still further from center than on a typical track bike. According to Trek’s Jordan Roessingh in the CyclingNews article, to accommodate that (TT bike) chain line in the back, we’ve also manufactured some custom rear cogs, with the help of Shimano, that are spaced out so that the chain line is optimised.” Read more about the modifications and custom equipment in the CyclingNew piece. Pretty interesting stuff.

I am still a little confused on the UCI rule changes though. If Jens is allowed to go for the UCI Hour Record on a modified TT bike with disc wheels and aerobars, does he need to break Ondřej Sosenka’s 49.7 kilometer mark, or Boardman’s 1996 “superman position” record of 56.375? I know that he is going for the former, but I don’t really see how that is fair to any of the riders who have already furthered that distance (Moser, Obree, Indurain, Rominger, and Boardman). I still need to read the finer points of the UCI rule changes, but I think at least one of those 1990’s records should stand under the modified rules (Rominger’s, maybe?). As I said before though, I can look into it further later. For now I am watching the feed…and pulling for Jens to hit an even 57 kilometers to definitively clear up all of my questions. Yeah, I know that won’t happen, but I can hope. Either way, we will know something in just under an hour.

Update: It’s over, and I enjoyed watching Jens set the new hour record. I agree with everyone that it was an impressive ride and a fitting end to a great career, but I am still a bit confused by the rule changes. If a standard modern pursuit bike with disc wheels and aerobars is now allowed for the UCI hour, why is Rominger’s Colnago from 1994 still lumped in with the super bikes of Boardman and Obree? I am not trying to minimize Voigt’s achievement, but I really am curious about this. It is probably (almost definitely) true that Rominger was not riding clean in 1994, but as far as I know his 55.291 km record was downgraded as a result of the Lugano Charter equipment regulations, not because of doping. So what am I missing? Someone please enlighten me.

One more update:  I can’t resist adding a link to this excellent Cycling Tips article- Obree on the hour record: “It is a whole phenomenon rebooted.”  Well said…and further proof that there is no one more likable in cycling than Graeme Obree.

Final post update…really: It was pointed out to me that the smaller diameter front wheel is the reason that Rominger’s 1994 Colnago does not meet the current UCI rules. The wheel size difference was certainly not as drastic as Moser’s bike, but it does make sense now. Thanks to Tom for clueing me in!

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  1. Stijn Vernaillen September 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm -  Reply

    What bothers me more about the UCI rulings is the fact that they won’t accept the existence of recumbent bicycles and the record breaking done with them. I can understand that putting recumbents together with upright bicycles in a peleton is asking for problems but completely ignoring this type of bicycles and their merits is a shame. (See records here: For the hour record, 1 person, man, standing start: 68.72 km (42.70 m).
    Some of the other records worth mentioning:

    LAND – MEN’S 24 HOUR RECORD – STANDING START: 1041.25km (avg 43.39 km/h)
    LAND – MEN’S 100 km RECORD – STANDING START : 89.50 km/h (time 1:07:02)

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