Thursday, October 6, 2016

What Would We Do Without the UCI?

If it weren't for those innovation-stifling UCI regulations keeping bike design stuck in the stone-age, just think how advanced bikes would be today.

Yes . . . just think.

Read enough bike industry cheerleading blogs and bike magazines, you'll encounter some variation on that lament almost as often as you'll find the words laterally stiff and vertically compliant.

I found it today in a couple articles on BikeRadar about some new triathlon bike designs. One was on the new Diamondback Andean - a bike which is claimed (by its designer) to be "the fastest tri-bike on the market" today.

Lookit me! No seatstays!
"The Andean is the product of a two-year project, whereby we set out to build the fastest triathlon bike on the market, with no concern for the arbitrary limitations placed on bicycle design by the UCI."

As opposed to a standard stone-age-worthy UCI-compliant time trial bike, the Andean tri-bike sports a heavily faired carbon fiber frame with lots of storage compartments for integrated hydration packs (that's "water" to you and me), as well as energy bars, gel packets (sticky goop supposedly for "endurance"), and tools/spares. The tool storage strikes me as both superfluous and cruelly ironic for most of the bike's likely buyers. The bike also has disc brakes because as we all know, you'd have to have a death wish to ride a bike with rim brakes today.

Then there was this one: the Cervélo P5X:

Lookit me! No seatstays and no seat-tube, either!
"Along with a radical frame design, the new P5X debuts disc braking, and represents what a manufacturer can do when it chooses to no longer conform to the restrictive regulations that the UCI imposes."

Like the Diamondback Andean, the Cervélo P5X sports disc brakes, and has lots of integrated storage for "hydration" fluids and sticky goop packets. Cervélo has a bunch of different trademarked names for their various storage compartments: Smartpak, Stealthbox, and Speedcase - because one catchy name isn't enough.  As for its radical frame design? Well . . . let's just say we've been here before.

To be honest, I don't actually know specifically what keeps these monstrosities from being UCI-compliant, nor do I care in the least. In fact, I am still trying to figure out exactly why so many people - from designers, to manufacturers, to cheerleading bloggers - care so much about the cycling governing body's supposedly archaic, arbitrary, and restrictive regulations in the first place.

You see, except for top-level road and track racing, which makes up only a small slice of the bicycling pie, UCI equipment regulations are a non-issue. The vast majority of cyclists don't race, and manufacturers have always been free to design, build, and sell anything they want. Most buyers are unaware of such "restrictions" because they are completely unaffected by them. The way I understand it, that goes for triathlon bikes as well, since the UCI has no bearing on that sport, and tri-bikes have long had features that would not have been permitted on, say, a time trial bike in the Tour de France. Go-fast freds who want the latest thing aren't necessarily restricted by the regulations, either, unless competing in a UCI-sanctioned event. Consider the marketing opportunity for manufacturers when they push the fact that their bizarre wünderbike is "too fast" for the UCI. It's enough to make a fred's knees get wobbly.
While we're on the subject, remember this thing?
Even when it comes to bikes for competition, I have no problem with a governing body setting some limits on technology - whether it's to ensure the safety of the competitors, or to help level the playing field. Consider a venue like the Olympics, where equipment restrictions can help keep the racing a competition of athletes, and not an arms race dominated by national teams with huge R&D budgets.

When you get right down to it, the only people truly affected by "the rules" are the people who get their bikes for free anyhow. So, if manufacturers are free to make any bike they can market and sell, why the defensive attitude? C'mon folks - get a grip. Make your ugly wünderbikes. Make as many as you can sell. Most of us just don't care.


  1. > "The tool storage strikes me as both superfluous"

    Sort of. Assuming you will sometimes be carrying tools anyway, it would arguably be far more silly to optimize THAT aggressively for aero and than just strap some random loose bag onto the bike.

    >"The bike also has disc brakes because as we all know, you'd have to have a death wish to ride a bike with rim brakes today."

    Probably so that the rim design doesn't have to account for a braking surface.

  2. If they really wanted to make a fast bike unencumbered with ANYBODY'S regulations-including those of triathletics-they'd make a recumbent faired bike. Those go so fast they need to measure their speed on automobile test tracks. Which is not to say that I want one of those either.

  3. Every time I see that jerk from Specialized I want to bash him senseless with one of my beautiful metal bikes.

    It also reminds me to never ever give Specialized a penny of my money.

    1. Hey man do some research look up the flying Scotsman

  4. I've said for years, we just need two playing fields for this stuff. Both tech, and doping.

    A traditional, clean of dope, double diamond framed racing circuit for those who want it, and a no holds barred, teched to the limit, dope all you want, circuit.

    Allows everyone an opportunity to showcase their strengths without being overshadowed by the other side wanting to horn in and shove it's principal in the others face....

  5. Oh! Stop it ! "Laterally stiff and vertically compliant" is makin' me all hot an' heavy.

  6. I like the traditional Schwinn Street Bicycle. I love bicycle riding, hate the newer mountain bicycles!

  7. Did anyone else read the first one's downtube as saying "uihmunudhlk" in the thumbnail? No? Just me then.

    1. Not just you -- I had to look, and look again, to try to figure out what the heck was written on the downtube.

  8. In a word - hideous. Why do they keep trying to reinvent the greatest of all man's inventions. Ya think it profit? Nah.