And bullies need putting in their place, believes Mike Burrows. The Union Cycliste Internationale has been snubbed by ASO, owner of the Tour de France, so perhaps the bike trade should shun it, too…

CHAIN REACTION: UCI is a bike bully

Just imagine you are in the business of making or selling a product designed when Queen Victoria was on the throne. Even with paint jobs and cosmetic changes, it would look dated. Never mind that its function is as near to perfect as makes no difference, and as for being green… But this is the 21st Century and ‘antique’ is not an attribute that bicycle marketers want.

Then just imagine someone came up with a radical new version of our favourite toy, one that was faster than ever, and looked it, and there was lots of room for advertising on its expansive shiny frame. How good would that be?

But then how would you feel if someone you did not vote for told you to stop using it and instead go back to racing replicas from the ‘good old days’? Would you be a happy bunny or would you want to do something about it? After all, these people – the blazers at the UCI – only have the power that we give them.

It’s worth remembering that races like the Tour de France are not run for the benefit of the riders or the sport’s governing body. They are run to enrich ASO, in the case of the TdF, and to be a sandwich board for sponsors. Nowadays these are mainly sponsors from outside cycling, but equipping a team with lots of bikes is a major commitment for a bicycle company, so these companies can be considered major sponsors, too.

But cycling companies let the UCI trample all over them.
There’s no industry-wide rejection of the UCI’s silly
tech rules.

When I was with Giant and the ban on all detectable improvements came in, the only other cycle company who would stand with us was Cinelli. The company’s bar extensions had been arbitrarily banned by the UCI a couple of years previously. No major cycle manufacturer then or since has had the balls to stand up to the bullies at the UCI. These are bullies capable of putting an R&D-minded bike company out of business. Yet if only half a dozen of the major players were to withdraw their equipment, and sponsorship, support of the UCI until the organisation enacted rational and progressive tech rules it would be the end of the UCI’s stranglehold on the business.

Some may disagree with this embargo-style operation out of fear it might impact on cycle sport itself. But it need not. The UCI needs to be told it’s run for cycle sport not as a personal fiefdom for out-of-touch officials still hankering after the steel bikes of the 1950s.

The unhealthy restriction on road bike innovation spills over into other categories. If we want more people in the UK to commute, tour, race or pootle, we need to give the humble bicycle a new, improved image. But bike makers are afraid to make bicycles the UCI rejects for breaking its rules.
‘Aerodynamics’ is a dirty word at the UCI. So is ‘lightweight’.

It’s plain daft to have a minimum weight for a bicycle when modern materials can make a bike lightweight, strong and, importantly, safe.

In 1887 the racers of the day were riding bicycles that weighed less than 10lbs. 120 years later they have to be 15lbs or more because of UCI tech rules. That’s not progress, that’s tyranny.

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