In July, BikeBiz reported that UCI president Pat McQuaid said high-end pro-level carbon-frame bicycles were potentially "unsafe" and were made in China for "$30 or $40 a piece."
Soon after the BikeBiz.com story went online, the UCI received a forthright letter from Robbert de Kock, secretary general of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry.
Revealing he had sent the letter in July, Kock told BikeBiz yesterday he said McQuaid’s comments were "unproductive". Kock was speaking at Eurobike.
He added : "It’s a shame for people in our industry, who work very hard, when they are accused of doing such things which are far from reality."
The WFSGI is a Swiss-based industry organisation which acts as an intermediary for global sporting goods brands, including, since 2010, 28 leading brands in the cycle industry.
The letter to McQuaid said: “You can imagine that our members were quite surprised by the interview you gave to some journalists at the homologation presentation in Aigle a couple of days ago. Your statement that the industry is manufacturing low quality racing bicycles and safety is not an issue. These manufacturers work very hard every day to create innovative and safe products."
Kock (pictured) spoke to BikeBiz in the show halls and was accompanied by Dirk Bruynseraede, chief information officer at Ridley Bikes and chairman for the WFSGI Bicycle Technical Committee.
McQuaid’s July comments were made at a trade press meeting held at the UCI’s HQ in Aigle, Switzerland. The meeting was staged to provide journalists with more information on the ‘approved by UCI’ stickering program.
McQuaid had said the bike industry was "turning out thousands of carbon fiber frames, at a cost of maybe $30 or $40 apiece, and that same bike is ultimately sold as a bike for five or six thousand Euros."
McQuaid also claimed Asian-made frames, unlike steel frames of old, are unsafe and cause crashes because they are light, guilty of "hopping all over the place."
"The UCI president’s comments were inappropriate, because they were not true."
The letter was signed by Kock and Bruynseraede, and copied to bike industry members of WFSGI.
"Safety is the number one priority [for bike companies]," said Kock."We want to help the UCI understand the issues. Pat McQuaid gave the impression that we as an industry made a lot of mistakes. Those comments were misplaced. The way the issue was raised was the wrong way."
Last year the UCI created a new tech division, employing two engineers. At the Aigle press meeting, Julien Carron, the lead engineer (a composites expert, but who has never worked for any bike companies), had said the UCI was considering creating a new layer of product safety regulations.
Kock said the UCI’s plans would come to nought:
"The bike industry already complies with governmental rules and regulations. It would be hard for the UCI to come out with regulations, and we are not expecting them to do so but they may have certain recommendations that we may wish to consider.
"We welcome that engineers are now in place at the UCI but they are still far away from our industry. We need to inform them further and we will continue to support them."
Kock added: "Federations do not move as fast as industry, and never will. Federations are traditional, more reserved. Industry is about innovations, moving forward all the time."
At a BMC press conference, held yesterday, 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans said the UCI’s technical regulations stifled innovation:
"I can understand the UCI’s idea of trying to keep the sport affordable for more people but if the bike industry didn’t have as many regulations the industry could develop faster and more efficient equipment…There certainly has to be some regulations to keep things in check."
Kock said: "These are interesting and helpful comments from Cadel Evans. Maybe more professional riders should talk to the UCI to ask for more innovation to be allowed."
This story first appeared in the Eurobike Show Daily.