In a move announced at Eurobike yesterday which one industry executive said was a "huge step", the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body of cycling, is to form a technical commission which will pre-approve frames and aero equipment.
This commission will issue what in effect are 'approved by UCI' stickers. This will remove the worries of go-faster equipment being rejected on race start lines. In January 2009, the UCI started to enforce its Lugano Charter more rigidly. This UCI equipment dictat was created in 1996 with no input from the bicycle industry.
The Charter, and spin-off technical regulations, have always been open to misinterpretation. Famously, thanks to UCI commissaire decisions, products have had to be stripped from bikes soon before the start of races such as the Tour of California and the Tour de France. UCI commissaires at previous races have allowed the same equipment.
The ‘3:1 aero equipment rule’ - since 2009 applied to frame tubes as well as accessories such as handlebars – has long been a bone of contention with teams and equipment sponsors.
In July 2009, a group of leading companies created GOCEM, the Global Organization of Cycling Equipment Manufacturers, the first meeting of which was at last year's Eurobike.
Founder members of GOCEM included BH; Bianchi; BMC; Cannondale; Canyon; Cervélo; Cinelli; COLIPED; Felt; Focus; FSA; Fuji; Giant; GT; Hed; Look; Mavic; Orbea; Oval; Prologo; Quark; Ritchey; Rotor; Specialized; SRAM; Teschner; Time; 3T; Zipp and A-Team firms from Taiwan.
The bike industry has previously had a rocky relationship with the Switzerland-based UCI. In 1994 the UCI banned Cinelli’s Spinacci bars; and in 1999 the UCI banned Mavic’s Mektronic electronic road bike transmission, which were hugely expensive R&D projects.
In a well-attended meeting at Eurobike yesterday, UCI president Pat McQuaid introduced Professor Jan-Anders Manson (pictured) to members of the bicycle industry. Professor Manson will sit on a UCI committee to decide which products get the UCI stamp of approval. Professor Manson is a composites expert and is vice president of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne of Switzerland. He is also the president of the Approval Commission for FINA, the world swimming body. Last year FINA banned performance-enhancing, non-textile swimsuits to "level the playing field."
The UCI's approval's committee will also appoint a full-time staffer, who will be an engineer. This might not be until next October.
Addressing the bike industry, UCI president Pat McQuaid said: "[The UCI will take] an engineering approach to the rules instead of the philosophical approach... Dialogue with the industry is something that can now happen. We hope we have now dealt with the fears and worries of the bike trade."
A UCI statement said: "The relationship between the UCI and the cycling industry must be closer. The vitality of the sector will be positive if we manage it correctly together."
Pat Cunnane, president of ASI, owner of bike marques such as Fuji, now in the Tour de France, told Eurobike Show Daily he approved of the UCI initiative: "It's what we've been asking for: a stamp that says a product is OK."
He added: "We want to design products that allow athletes to perform and need the reassurance that products we develop won't fall foul of UCI rules. The UCI working with the industry is a huge step."