US tech journalist and frame builder Lennard Zinn says it’s time to take on the UCI. In a powerful piece on VeloNews.com he says the ‘approved by UCI’ stickering programme is a "tax by an unelected governing body" and "more power-grabbing from an organization that has no oversight and cannot be removed by recall election."
He admits that the UCI chipping away at the costs is progress of sorts but doesn’t see why traditional bike builders have to be roped in with makers of aero-tubed composite frames:
"Sure, it’s better that it costs less for a framebuilder to get a UCI-approved sticker than it did last month, but the fact that certification is required at all for frames that are made out of metal tubing in designs that are very little changed from those of 100 years ago I find to be ludicrous."
He says it’s a "tax by an unelected governing body on all framebuilders for building frames that might be raced in UCI-sanctioned events. Add to that the fact that the UCI’s frame dimension rules don’t take into account riders at either end of the size spectrum on bikes that are designed rationally for them, and the fact that the UCI is extending its tentacles to control ever more events and finding new ways to expand the number of cyclists and events that it can extract money from, and you can begin to see why I have my hackles up about it."
He’s not the only one but many in the industry are allowing the UCI to introduce its frame certification programme seemingly without realising that the UCI is planning to extend certification to clothing and other accessories.
In effect, without being checked, the UCI could one day hold the industry to ransom, charging what it likes for "approved by UCI" stickers and clothing labels.
Zinn fears that the stipulation of having to ride on UCI-stickered bikes in UCI-sanctioned races will extend to the growing number of sportives the UCI is organising (Zinn calls sportives Gran Fondos, the American name for the non-race events that are the fastest growing sector of sport cycling).
He also can’t figure out why steel-framed bikes need any form of certification: "I find the fact that the UCI-approved sticker would even be required for bikes that are little different than those raced in Fausto Coppi’s day to be aggravating to say the least.
"Anybody with any knowledge of bicycles could look at a frame from a small builder of metal frames and see that it has all of its required tubes and that each tube fits within the UCI-mandated 8cm-tall ‘box’ and that the tubes are not overly flattened, and they sure wouldn’t need to charge $450 to see that."
He stresses: "There’s no point whatsoever to requiring frames made out of metal tubing to even be subjected to the approval process."
Italian framebuilder Dario Pegoretti doesn’t agree with Zinn.
“I think it (the ‘Approved by UCI’ programme) is good for us as a community. We (small builders) have the same rights as the big companies. Like them, we’re building bikes for people to ride. If we decide to not participate in this process, then we don’t get to be in the game; we will be relegated to a niche on the side.”
And Specialized’s head of bike R&D Chris D’Alusio is another fan of the UCI’s homologation programme. He said: “We have to get the UCI sticker on all of our models. We have no idea what the customer might want to do with the bike, at any price point. And if a guy wants to do UCI Gran Fondos, and one bike in the shop has the sticker and another one doesn’t, he’s going to buy the one with the sticker.”
That this is a cash grab by the UCI is self-evident to Zinn. He writes: "There can be no other explanation for the high fees than creating a new source of revenue to keep paying all of those people in the beautiful metal UCI headquarters building in Switzerland. A rubber-stamp certification of this sort makes a lot more sense if it’s a $25 or $50 fee; then the UCI can stand on high ground and say it’s doing this for the community and not to enrich itself.
"I’ve been a framebuilder for more than 30 years, and I don’t like being taxed by a self-appointed governing body to do something that framebuilders have been allowed to do since the beginning of bike racing, namely build bikes that people race on."
He believes a revolt is called for:
"Unchallenged, the UCI will continue to operate as a de facto dictatorship with no oversight, and the only way to get rid of it is for its ‘subjects’ to become ungovernable, just like the masses in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria have become. Only then can it be overthrown and replaced with an elected governing body whose directors can be replaced by vote of its membership when it overreaches, as I, for one, believe it already has.
"Here’s hoping that the huddled masses of cyclists and cycling businesses have had enough and are finally going to stand up to the UCI and stop its onward advance into yet more unconquered frontiers."