Last week the UCI met cycling industry representatives to discuss its controversial "Approved by the UCI" frame stickering programme now details of that meeting are emerging and it would seem that such was the level of industry discontent the UCI has been forced to think again and to temporarily suspend the programme.
In a letter written today (full text below) and then posted by its recipient on the forum of the industry website BikeBiz, Julien Carron - the UCI's technological co-ordinar (yes they really do co-ordinate things at the UCI) says that:
"Given the pertinence of the questions, remarks and propositions that came up and following on from the mail we have received since, the UCI has decided to modify certain points of the procedure.
… As a consequence, the procedure in its current form is suspended until 1st February. From this date, a revised version will come into force. "
Monsieur Carron goes on to say that the changes that the UCI will make "In no way questions "the foundations and the objectives of the approval procedure". We will all get to make own judgements on that when the UCI re-presents its approval programme to bicycle industry on the 1st of Feb. More pertinently for the UCI they will have to persuade the industry and the wider cycling public that their proposals do not represent a tax on innovation and smaller cycling companies.
It would seem that the UCI massively mid-judged industry reaction to their proposals possibly calculating that the big players would support, or at least not oppose the frame approval programme. Some observers feared this might be the case with the major bike companies able to absorb the costs of the programme and perhaps viewing the "UCI Approved" frame stickers as a marketing tool the fact that the frame approval programme would hurt smaller companies was also cited as a reason why the big players might back it. However, this does not seem to be the way things went, and certainly road.cc has not spoken to anyone from a bike company big or small that has had a good word to say for the UCI's programme - quite a few choice words though.
The UCI's secretive and arbitrary approach in devising the now suspended programme will not have made it any friends, nor the tight deadline it imposed on companies in the run up to Christmas to get initial drawings to it for the start of the approval process. It may well be that all this combined with the looming prospect of more "approval" procedures for components and even clothing meant the big companies thought it better to hang together now for fear of hanging separately in the future - certainly none would relish the prospect of the UCI tail wagging the bike industry dog. It is also worth noting that the big four: Giant, Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale are all relatively new companies and what it's like to be a small company is well within the management memory of all of them.
It will be very interesting to see what proposals the UCI comes back with, at the very least we would expect them to propose some sort of sliding scale of fees to level the playing field for manufacturers. That is unlikely to be enough to appease their critics because so much of what lies behind the frame approval process and in particular the "clarified" rules on prototypes and testing runs contrary to the benefits the bike companies get from being involved with pro-race teams. Given the level of opposition that their proposals have so far received and how badly misjudged the implementation process has been it is by no means a certainty the the industry will approve the new approval system either, this may be the first of very many visits back to the drawing board for the UCI.
That UCI letter in full…
Aigle, 20 January 2011
Modification of the approval procedure
Dear Sirs / Madams,
The meeting organised with bicycle manufacturers at the International Cycling Union headquarters on January 13th and 14th concerning the approval procedure for bike frames and forks, in which a large number of you participated, led to some very constructive discussions and we would like to thank you for this.
Given the pertinence of the questions, remarks and propositions that came up and following on from the mail we have received since, the UCI has decided to modify certain points of the procedure.
We will contact you again before the end of next week in order to inform you of a procedure that has been adjusted to take your contributions into account. As a consequence, the procedure in its current form is suspended until 1st February. From this date, a revised version will come into force.
We are confident that this process, which in no way questions the foundations and the objectives of the approval procedure, will benefit all concerned. We will endeavour to carry out the necessary modifications as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your understanding.
Best regards. Julien CarronTechnological Coordinator
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.