GOCEM wants UCI to shift on weight and 3:1

At Eurobike yesterday, the first meeting of Global Organization of Cycling Equipment Manufacturers sets out roles and goals
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At Eurobike yesterday, the first meeting of Global Organization of Cycling Equipment Manufacturers sets out roles and goals

GOCEM was founded in July to lobby the UCI on aero rules and weight restrictions. Eurobike was the first chance for many execs and lead engineers from the participating companies to meet together.

The UCI is the world governing body for cycle sport, based in Aigle, Switzlerland. The UCI famously bans innovative cycling equipment and has a weight restriction for pro bicycles.

At Eurobike yesterday many of the group's founding companies met to discuss GOCEM objectives. Member companies include 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 organisation's leaders are Phil White, co-founder of Cervélo; and Claudio Marra, general manager of FSA.

Shimano, a sponsor of the UCI, is not a member.

When cycling teams select equipment for their riders, they are subject to the rules and regulations hatched by the UCI. In January, the UCI informed teams it would start to enforce its ‘3:1 aero equipment rule’ on all parts and components, not just the frame tubes as it had previously.

This interpretation caught manufacturers unaware. The concern that the strict and immediate enforcement of the ‘3:1 rule’ could potentially cause significant financial hardship on manufacturers was one of the catalysts that prompted the formation of GOCEM. At this year's Tour de France, team mechanics reported that one commissaire said a bike was illegal but another later said it was legal: the aero regs are badly worded and there’s a great deal of interpretation needed to work out what the UCI may mean in some sentences.

Companies such as USE of the UK market its aero handlebars as "compliant with the UCI" but, without UCI rules, could make their products even slippier through the air. Such stifling of innovation rankles within the bike industry although GOCEM is the first time companies have joined together to tackle the UCI en masse.

In 1994 the UCI banned Cinellli’s Spinacci bars; and in 1999 the UCI banned Mavic’s Mektronic electronic road bike transmission. The bans were for competition use so product could still be sold to consumers who didn’t race but these kind of products would mainly appeal to racers, hence Cinelli and Mavic scrapped their innovations, wasting a great deal of R&D money in the process.

In July, Phil White of Cervélo said:

“Cycling equipment manufacturers have the greatest investment and a vested interest in the success and growth of the sport."

He believes bicycle frames can be made ultra lightweight but with no sacrifice in safety.

This was echoed at Eurobike by Chris Peck, vice president of R&D at Cannondale.

“The industry is not going to do something to put riders in jeorpardy,” he said.

“My personal opinion is that there should be no weight limit at all, but we have to work with the UCI to see how much movement we can get.”

He welcomed the foundation of GOCEM:

“In retrospect this should have happened a long time ago. As it stands now the UCI feels the rules are already in place and up to us on how those rules are interpreted. But the interpretation is a challenge, for sure.”

The first GOCEM meeting was to establish which individuals from which companies would take the lead on product categories; and to formulate a way forward for the group.

The aero debacle is top of the GOCEM agenda but for consumers it’s usually weight that matters most.

In 2003, Cannondale added ballast to its Six13 carbon/aluminum Tour de France bikes.

“But,” said Peck, “imagine how much further we have progressed technologically since 2003. It’s now very easy to get something below the UCI weight limit and still be very safe.”

The weight limit is 6.8kg.

Clive Gosling, owner of Bike Lab of Dorset, a bike shop that specializes in lightweight bikes (he’s also tech editor for The Bicycle Buyer magazine), said the foundation of GOCEM was timely.

“If the UCI hadn't banned Mavic Mektronic shifters all those years ago, what we've got today with Shimano’s Di2 groupset would have been available much earlier because Mavic would have continued developing their electronic transmission.

“Making bikes lighter and more innovative – and safe, too, of course – is attractive to consumers and anything that helps sells bikes is good for us all, especially in a down economy.”

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