The UCI has revealed more details on its equipment approval scheme, including - and this is new - evaluation of cycle clothing.
At Eurobike earlier this year (reported by BikeBiz.com at the time) the Union Cycliste Internationale attempted to make peace with the bike industry by announcing a pre-approvals process for equipment to be used in UCI-sanctioned races. This is aimed to 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.
GOCEM was invited to join the 30-year old World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) of Lausanne, Switzerland and subsequently its role transferred to WFSGI.
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.
Earlier today the UCI released a few more details of the 'approved by UCI' scheme, although many suppliers have already complained they have been kept out of the loop.
The new approval procedure will result in the granting of a label certifying that new models of frames and forks comply with the requirements of the UCI Regulations (articles 1.3.001 to 1.3.025).
A constantly updated list of approved products – mentioning the name of the model and that of its manufacturer – will be published on the UCI website.
In charge of the committee overseeing the approvals process is Professor Manson, a composites expert and vice president of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne of Switzerland.
The UCI promises that "manufacturers will be assured of the conformity of their products before they go into production phase; they will therefore be able to take maximum advantage of the most recent technologies, notably concerning composite materials, without running the risk of investing resources in equipment that may then be declared non-conforming with the regulations."
The UCI also claims that "collaboration between the UCI and the manufacturers, in particular concerning the exchange of information, will be easier."
Affixing a UCI-approved sticker will be worth it, stresses the UCI: "the label will provide added value to frames and forks which have obtained it, benefitting the concerned manufacturers."
All the new models of frames and forks still at the conception stage on 1st January 2011 will be "subjected to the new approval procedure," stated the UCI. Older models will not be obliged to follow the approval procedure, even though they remain subject to the UCI Regulation in force. However, models produced in 2009 and 2010 will be able to obtain backdated approval.
The UCI's statement said approval will be later extended to wheels, handlebars, and saddles. This was to be expected.
However, what wasn't expected was the next product category to be subjected to UCI approval: cycle clothing.
It's likely Professor Manson will oversee the committee approving cycle clothing, too. Suppliers such as Nike and others have been developing new technologies for cycle clothing for some years, adding dimples, wings and other methods of making cyclists slippier through the air. Some of these methods have been banned by the UCI; others may soon follow.
Professor Manson has form when it comes to go-faster clothing. He doesn't like it. One of his other roles is being 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."
Hopefully, Professor Manson will have cycle clothing experts on the committee. Previously, UCI tech officials were close to banning "moisture management" fabrics because experts admitted they gave a performance advantage to athletes. The experts had to stress that almost every high-activity sport now features clothing made from sweat wicking materials.