Hein Verbruggen of the UCI is an inveterate reformer. But his dictats have not always gone down well in the industry, especially when his back-to-the-basics campaign to prevent technological advances on racing bikes have impacted on sales of high-margin kit. However, in a recent meeting in Switzerland, representatives from Euro bike trade orgs COLIBI and COLIPED met with Verbruggen and UCI tech officials to "open up direct communication."

Suits meet blazers in an attempt to bridge gap between cycle industry and cycle sport

The industry delegation comprised COLIBI President René Takens, Gérard Jacques, Pietro Boselli, and Siegfried Neuberger.

With Verbruggen was Jean Wauthier, the UCI’s Material Unit’s technical advisor, and Marco Bognetti. Also present was Nicola Petrone from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Padova. He’s the chairman of the CEN TC333 WG3 ‘Racing Bicycle’ standards working group.

There are four new European safety standards (Road, MTB, Children and Racing), soon to be applied to bicycles sold to consumers. UCI Regulations can differ widely to these standards, and such divergences have led to friction between the UCI and the industry in the recent past, causing headaches for Mavic and many other companies.

During the UCI/COLIBI/COLIPED meeting, Petrone presented the latest version of the racing bike Standard, which is coming into force after the present stage of Public European Inquiry.

At the meeting it was agreed that "owing to the endless evolutionary process of the bicycle, any regulation must in principle welcome the innovative process when this process is effectively helping human performance."

Wauthier said: "Any improvement of the vehicle must first be focused on quality (better ergonomics, safety and body comfort) and not merely on quantity (power and vehicle’s weight reduction) of the human performance."

Verbruggen has always claimed he isn’t against innovation per se but he has stated that what he saw at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 was enough to convince him that elite riders were in danger of taking the sport out of the reach of ordinary users because of their increasingly sophisticated machines (oh, and weird seating positions aka Graeme Obree).

The UCI famously banned Spinaci-type handlebar extensions for safety reasons despite no riders claiming to have injured themselves using them and went on to impose new and tight regulations on the shape of a racing bicycle, in effect banning low-profile bikes.

Giant was later successful in getting these regulations loosened but the worldwide cycle trade has often been at odds with the UCI. Some manufacturers have lost money when pre-market designs were ratified by the UCI but later rejected when the product was already on the market, making them useless for competition use.

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