…and both come with not for profit UCI approved stickers… the badge of backwardness?

The International Cycling Union (UCI), cycle sport’s world governing body, yesterday announced new 2012 road bikes from Cannondale and Pinarello as well as a new Corima track bike when it published its first list of frames and forks that have been approved for UCI-sanctioned racing.

From now on if you want to know what high end bikes will be in the shops next year, and how long it will be until the bike you've just bought will be an obsolete race weapon all you need to do is check the relevant page on the UCI site… link below. They will be announcing such things long before the actual manufacters get around to it.

We’ve reported previously on the UCI’s controversial plans to introduce the new procedure whereby every new frame and fork needs to gain an ‘approved’ sticker to be eligible for racing at a high level. Existing frames and forks have to comply with the same regulations, but they don’t have to get the sticker.

Objections to the whole concept of the stickering process aside, many manufacturers were unhappy about the timescales involved in the introduction of the new scheme – they were told in December that the stickers would be required from 1 January – and the UCI was forced to delay its launch until now.

The first approved models listed on the UCI’s website are monocoques from Cannondale, Pinarello, Corima and Felt, and a tubular model from Richard Sachs Cycles, a framebuilder based in Connecticut, USA.

A UCI press release says that models from Scott, Willier Triestina, and BMC have also been approved, but they weren’t listed on the website when we checked.
Other manufacturers have submitted models for approval. As of yesterday (15 March), the UCI said it has received approval requests from 17 manufacturers for more than 40 models, although the approval process has yet to be completed on many of them.

By looking at the UCI’s approved list we know, for instance, that Cannondale have a new Super Six Evo monocoque in the offing. It’ll be interesting to see if that affects sales of the existing Super Six range.

The UCI have gone into full-on PR mode in their selling of the scheme.

“We appreciate that manufacturers on a (sic) whole have welcomed this new approval procedure,” said the UCI’s Technology Co-ordinator Julien Carron. “In January a meeting was organised at the UCI headquarters to enable manufacturers to actively contribute to the structure of the procedure. The UCI now continuously receives requests for approval from manufacturers, which clearly shows that the approval procedure is well accepted.”

Does it? Possibly. Or it might just show that manufacturers feel they have little choice if they want their sponsored riders to be allowed to race. Either way, the UCI have wheeled out a few quotes to support their case.

For example, according to Bill Duehring, President of Felt Bicycles, “Felt is very proud to be among the first bicycle makers to receive the new UCI race-approved label. As a performance-oriented company fully committed to the competition side of cycling, we totally support this new clear and streamlined process. It takes any subjectivity out of what is UCI-legal and what isn’t, something we are 100% in favour of. Given the modern day complexity, lead times and costs associated with building advanced design bicycles we are quite happy to see the UCI embrace manufacturers as they have.”

We’ve spoken to other people in the bike industry who agree, and think that the stickers will be a good marketing tool.

However, that opinion is by no means universal, it good be argued that having technical approval from the UCI is basically a badge of backwardness. We've spoken to people from the big manufacturers who are not fans of this procedure. We’ve also spoken to one smaller manufacturer (who didn’t wish to be named), who is going through the process of frame certification at the moment who on the one hand, like the man from Merckx, thought the UCI label would be good for business on the other also thought that the UCI were stifling innovation in bike design which would have an effect on the non-racing cyclist and his or her bike too. As race bikes were the core of this manufacturers business not getting approval was not an option.

And, as we reported in our initial story on the approval scheme before Christmas, another industry source who didn’t wish to be named said, "I have a feeling of dread! We are pretty small and I'm really not sure how I will cope with the extra workload I can see this causing. Just keeping up with designing frames is hard enough."

The UCI is also keen to point out that the approval process is not a money-making opportunity. Manufacturers have to pay 5,000 Swiss Francs (£3,383 on today’s exchange rate) to have a monocoque TT or track bike approved, 3,000 Swiss Francs (£2,030) for a road race or cyclo-cross monocoque, and 500 Swiss Francs (£338) for a tubular model. Each payment covers up to eight different frame sizes.

“It is important to note that the… costs are merely cost-covering prices. The UCI will not in any way profit from the approval process. The amount charged for the various approval procedures may be adapted in the future, depending on the evolution of the project’s finances."

Indeed. The UCI's "cost covering" frame approval process has already seen "some evolution of the projects finances". As road.cc reported earlier this year the original "cost covering" pricing structure was 12,000 Swiss Francs (£8000) for one-piece frame approval and 800 Swiss Francs (£537) for a tubular model, with a further fee of 1,400 Swiss Francs (£940) or any additional changes. These prices were subsequently evolved downwards in the face of an almighty backlash from the manufacturers.

Our guess is that by dropping its prices the UCI hopes to divide and rule on this one – get some momentum behind the process until not taking part becomes untenable – what is notable is that none of the biggest manufacturers have as yet appeared on the list. It will be interesting to see whether if the UCI can make this procedure stick whether the projects finances evolve upwards.

The UCI plan to extend the scheme eventually to cover all other equipment, including clothing.

To check the list of approved frames, which will be updated as and when new models are approved, go to www.uci.ch 

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.