UCI Technical Regulations update: Socks, helmets and hydration packs all come under scrutiny

Governing body clamps down on bike design, kit and clothing that can afford competitive advantage

by Simon_MacMichael   March 21, 2012  

Pinarello Dogma 2012 UCI sticker.jpg

Helmet covers like the one worn by Mark Cavendish when winning the road world championship, and shoe covers, as worn by most international track cyclists, are to be banned as world cycle racing’s governing body, the UCI, looks to tighten up equipment regulations, "limit the impact of equipment on performance", and to make sure the race victory goes to the best rider not the best machine.

The UCI is also looking to tighten up its procedures in order to prevent riders gaining a competitive advantage through their position on the bike as well as various kit they use, particularly when it comes to aerodynamic properties.

The main changes outlined in a presentation called Check of the equipment and position in competition, attached at the end of this article are:

  • Detachable helmet covers, as sported by Mark Cavendish on his way to winning the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen last year, are outlawed. The UCI really doesn't like the aggregation of marginal gains. Although helmet covers are now banned, helmets without any holes in them aren't.
  • If a rider uses a Camelbak or similar hydration equipment it must be worn on the back, not the chest. Frank Schleck wore one on his chest when riding the time trial to finish 12th and win the overall title in last year’s Critérium International and there is a limit to how much liquid they can contain - 0.5L.
  • Socks must be no higher than the mid-point between the ankle and the knee. That's not a sartorial judgment on Bradley Wiggins’ calf-length black socks, but it's designed to ban the use of compression socks (thankfully our road.cc socks comply by a fair old margin, so you're safe to keep buying those - ed). All other compression clothing is forbidden too - so compression base layers and compression leg warmers, which are made by quite a lot of brands, are out. We're not sure at what point normal leg warmers become compression leg warmers, though.
  • As of January 2013, integrated water bottles will be banned and bikes will only be allowed to have water bottles fitted to the seat and down tubes. O,h and water bottles will have to conform to UCI rules on size and shape too. This is all to prevent the gaining of an aerodynamic advantage. No word yet on whether water bottles will in future have to carry a UCI approved sticker for the appropriate fee… for the good of the sport naturellement and all leading stakeholders starting with the guys in blazers. That is surely only a matter of time.
  • A number of rules banning use of modified equipment in competition, the most eye-catching of which is a ban on teams filing off ‘lawyer lips’ ( or 'lawyer tabs') on fork dropouts - to be phased in, along with a programme of (re)education for team mechanics. Filing them off makes for faster wheel changes, the extra bit of the dropout being there to hold on to your wheel even if the quick-release comes undone. As teams will still need to make fast wheel changes, some sort of technical solution will have to be found - the most obvious of which is to come up with a quick release skewer that opens wide enough to clear the retaining tabs on the dropout. We'd imagine the the UCI would want to approve that, of course.
  • From 1 October, the use of shoe covers will be prohibited during events on covered tracks. The UCI want to limit the use of shoe covers to keeping your feet warm rather than for gaining an aerodynamic advantage. 
  • The UCI have reiterated that, "All shoes that are given an aerodynamic shape by means of a non-essential addition, whether to the heel or the front of the shoe, will be prohibited." So, Bont's Crono shoes, for example, still won't be permitted despite the Australian brand's challenges to the UCI. The main plank of Bont's argument was that the UCI's banning of their shoes was invalid because the rules were not enforced consistently. It seems like the UCI are attempting to tackle that accusation head on.

     
  • The UCI have also said, "It is prohibited to modify the equipment used in competition in relation to the products supplied by the manufacturer, for obvious safety reasons." That modification extends to covering holes or screws with tape (except for disc wheel valves). So, if there's a cable hole in the frame that is unused, riders aren't allowed to put a strip of insulating tape over the top, which is common practice at the moment, without UCI approval.
  •  
  • The UCI also indicate that they're going to check the arm positions of time trial riders to ensure that the forearms are horizontal, parallel to the ground, for the entire race. Race officials will check this with the rider's hands on the highest point of the aero bar extensions. Currently, you'll see many riders with their forearms pointing slightly upwards or, less frequently, down... but that's going to end.
     
  • Interestingly, the document does mention the most famous UCI rule of all, the minimum bike weight limit of 6.8kg. It says, "The UCI receives a lot of complaints about the safety of carbon frames, forks and handlebars that break immediately in a crash. This limit could be removed only when it will be possible to prove that each part of the bicycle complies with specific and adapted safety standards for the competition." Apparently, this is work in progress. It does bring to mind UCI President Pat McQuaid's remarks last year about potentially "unsafe" high-level frames being churned out in China for "$30 or $40 apiece" so don't expect a change in the weight limit any time soon.
     
  • In order to detect hidden motors, "Controls will be made with a device measuring the eventual presence of magnetic induction inside the frame." A distinctive signal will show the presence of a motor. "In case of doubt, the confirmation will be made with the aid or and industrial endoscope". Are hidden motors a major concern in cycling? Really? Admittedly, we had all that stuff about Cancellara having a motor fitted to his bike a couple of years ago but it turned out he was just strong... which is what anyone with a grain of intelligence knew to begin with.

So, those are some of the key equipment checks mentioned in the document. The UCI says that the idea of the checks is to improve fairness and safety. The idea is to limit the impact of the equipment on the performance and ensure that the race victory goes to the best rider, not the best machine. They also say that enforcing these rules helps preserve the culture and image of the bicycle.

Will these equipment and position checks achieve those goals? And are all of those goals what we're after anyway? Isn't technical evolution and innovation part of the interest and excitement of bike racing, and don't they lead to better bikes for those of us who don't race? We'd be interested in your comments.

AttachmentSize
UCI check of the equipment and position in competition, March 2012.pdf4.25 MB

29 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"Industrial endoscope".

That's all.

posted by Mat Brett [1906 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 14:42

1 Like

i'm wit them on the socks thing

posted by VecchioJo [753 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 14:57

6 Likes

* Checks calendar * Nope, not April 1st for another week yet.

posted by pixelmix [24 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 14:59

6 Likes

FOR SALE:
a number of items I no longer have use for:

long socks
black insulation tape
slim water bottle - no good for drinking, but fills a hole
tubular shaft drive motor
cling film - helmet sized width
V- profile camelchest

offers..

Smile

spindoctore's picture

posted by spindoctore [49 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 15:12

5 Likes

Disc brakes anyone?

posted by Super Domestique [1626 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 15:30

4 Likes

"As teams will still need to make fast wheel changes, some sort of technical solution will have to be found - the most obvious of which is to come up with a quick release skewer that opens wide enough to clear the retaining tabs on the dropout."

Of course, the less expensive Trek production models already use a special 'quick release' where you open the q.r. lever and simultaneously pull apart two spring-loaded flanges so that the wheel drops out of the fork. From experience, I've found it quite difficult with just two hands but that might be me. Anyhoo... they interestingly don't use these on their posh road bikes as they're a) obviously heavier and b) look clunky. I find it hard to believe that even if Shimano's finest minds applied themselves to making a refined version of those 'double sprung' skewers, the pro riders and mechanics would go for something inevitably heavier. But then they may have to.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 15:42

4 Likes

Shoot me, but I think its alright that UCI clamps down a little bit on the technology front of cycling.

You see what happened in F1 teams were allowed to do pretty much anything they wanted.

However McQauids comment on how carbon frames are made proves that he doesen't have a clue how carbon frames are made.. Makes the engineer in me squirm.

However there is a company patenting a production technique that may very well mean that carbonfibre components will be able to be "churned" out in a factory, so within 5 years I think it is going to be more commonplace in normal cars, bikes etc.

Maybe then, bikes will weight a couple of kg Tongue

seabass89's picture

posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 15:56

3 Likes

seabass89 wrote:
Shoot me, but I think its alright that UCI clamps down a little bit on the technology front of cycling.

You see what happened in F1 teams were allowed to do pretty much anything they wanted.

I am with you on that.

posted by Super Domestique [1626 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 16:20

6 Likes

seabass89 wrote:
Shoot me, but I think its alright that UCI clamps down a little bit on the technology front of cycling.

You see what happened in F1 teams were allowed to do pretty much anything they wanted.

All competitive sports need to have rules and someone to enforce them, and that means most governing bodies are pretty unpopular cos they're the guys telling people what they can and can't do. No one has a problem with that. But the UCI certainly do some odd stuff. Looking for hidden motors with an industrial endoscope?!? There's a long history of cheating in cycling but what is this, Wacky Races?

posted by Mat Brett [1906 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 16:51

9 Likes

There're lots of bans, restrictions and limits here: anything in the doc to encourage innovation, creativity or technological endeavour?

PS I don't think these are all bad: lawyer lips bringing a particular smile to my face. But the water bottle thingy.....eh?

posted by dlp [51 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 16:53

5 Likes

I do not race so Woow hoo some cheap kit hitting the shelves soon! Do you think they could ban all Garmin 500 & 800 having some riders knowing where their going is a distinct unathletic advantage after all.

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 17:15

7 Likes

Track cycling - yes
Road cycling - I want to see advancement of bikes.

posted by mowatb [20 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 17:22

2 Likes

Well, I do agree with UCI on this one. They need a set of rules to govern these things but leave the most important things (frames, tires, gears) available for the evolution. I don't really know what gain does Schleck has with his camelback on his chest or taping unused cable holes, anyway it should be regulated for the fairness sake

posted by DofeDome [23 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 18:00

6 Likes

They could have done us all a favour AND solved the QR problem by mandating the use of proper over-centre cam QRs.

These slightly reduce the tension in the skewer in the last few degrees of the lever movement, so that the tension has to increase before the skewer can come loose. This is how good QRs work, such as Shimano's and Campagnolo's. There is therefore no need for lawyer lips as it's physically impossible for a fully-closed QR to come loose.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1132 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 18:39

4 Likes

The sheer lack of logic appalls me. Lawyers lips FFS! why are they needed except to keep lawyers happy.
the idiots ban all these little things but allow lycra! crakcers as they banned it for downhilling!

posted by mattsccm [271 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 21:31

5 Likes

So glad that The League International exists outside of this clipboard and blazer world and is not under the control of the inept and corrupt UCI and allows many races to take place with a minimum of officialdum

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [227 posts]
22nd March 2012 - 22:03

4 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
They could have done us all a favour AND solved the QR problem by mandating the use of proper over-centre cam QRs.

These slightly reduce the tension in the skewer in the last few degrees of the lever movement, so that the tension has to increase before the skewer can come loose. This is how good QRs work, such as Shimano's and Campagnolo's. There is therefore no need for lawyer lips as it's physically impossible for a fully-closed QR to come loose.

You're dead right, John, but it's not going to happen. The lawyers cannot control what piece-of-shit QR gets put on the cheapest supermarket bikes to keep the price low nor can they mandate how people use them correctly even if everyone was compelled to use correctly-designed QRs. So we now have the lowest-common-denominator solution applied to top-level equipment and the best trained and motivated mechanics imaginable. The teams must be seething.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 0:22

2 Likes

Do you think that the UCI suffer with ADD?
Not allowed to tape over unused holes!?? Have they ever ridden with the whistle that this causes?
The skewer thing, pathetic! Roubaix will be hilarious with the unwinding & winding up req'd, a puncture anywhere on the route will be enough to lose the race, does this also stop us moving to a 'bolt-thru' system like QR15??
They would be better to stop all of this aero frame stuff, that the manufacturers like to sell us, as the gains that they claim are huge!!!

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [193 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 6:12

4 Likes

Feeling good to be in triathlon right now... I can race in suspenders, with a back to front helmet with whatever crap attached to it (so long it's not going to fall off), on a P5 or a shiv (not uci legal at all!!) with compression all over, with my arms pointed wherever I want and with all the stuff I want taped over my aero enhanced and not 3:1compliant frame!
Motors are however, prohibited too Big Grin Big Grin

Anyhow, yes, *some* regulations are needed, but that's getting ridiculous.
Ban earpieces, ban 15 support cars per rider, track drugs and get back to proper racing! And lt them fight over a tap to fill in bottles in-race!

They're pro teams, so having a mechanical advantage is anyways going to be part of the equation. They're all on a machine after all, so just prevent the use of recumbent bikes with fairings and watch the innovation happen!

ekynoxe's picture

posted by ekynoxe [41 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 7:24

1 Like

I get the idea of preventing the whole race scene from becoming 'richest wins', but come on. Taping over cable holes? Hidden motors? FFS

What about sticking blu-tack in the cable holes?

Actually, being serious, what about a short length of cable with a stop-end to prevent it slipping inside the frame? Whaddaya know, we've got a chargeable version of the (free) masking tape solution.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3329 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 11:04

3 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
They could have done us all a favour AND solved the QR problem by mandating the use of proper over-centre cam QRs.

These slightly reduce the tension in the skewer in the last few degrees of the lever movement, so that the tension has to increase before the skewer can come loose. This is how good QRs work, such as Shimano's and Campagnolo's. There is therefore no need for lawyer lips as it's physically impossible for a fully-closed QR to come loose.

I have to ask, THE John Stevenson?

As in two wheels good / early mbuk fame?

posted by Super Domestique [1626 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 13:28

5 Likes

What's with the banning of compression clothing, particularly baselayers ? How can they justify that one ? I happened to pick up a Skins catalogue at my local sports shop, principally to buy compression clothing for hockey and noticed them promoting Skins baselayers and compression clothing with Tony Martin and other (former) HTC riders - better bin those catalogues ASAP.
Suggestion for further UCI enhancements/banning ... OUTLAW any healthy foods and ensure everyone trains solely on Macdonalds - at least you can be assured of comparable foodstuffs ALL over the world.
UCI = Uni(n)formed Cycling Idiots (perhaps - don't want to be sued).

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [210 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 13:58

3 Likes

Quite agree, we don't want riders getting an advantage by being all aerodynamic, that's just not sporting. And as for quick wheel changes, how dare they? I suggest they make the riders fit huge weights to their bikes too, and fix their own bikes even as far as making them pump the bellows on the furnace in the forge. And perhaps they should ban them from eating for 48 hours before a race.

Andy

posted by jazzdude [60 posts]
23rd March 2012 - 20:59

4 Likes

"However there is a company patenting a production technique that may very well mean that carbonfibre components will be able to be "churned" out in a factory, so within 5 years I think it is going to be more commonplace in normal cars, bikes etc."

...I understand that there is a company attempting to patent bicycle frame production using compression molding of carbon fiber from "bulk molding material" (BMC) or "sheet molding material" (SMC) fiber reinforced plastics (FRP). However this is not new, unique or patentable.

In fact this is how all "forged composite" components are made, and how every day plastic housings and parts are made, and how mass produced carbon fiber car body panels are made.

This method will allow mass production of bicycle frames from FRP, but the performance will not be even close to directionally laid up fibers. It will have application in mass produced bikes and especially e-bikes and scooters for example...and it is not a new concept, thus good luck to that company working on such a patent...

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
24th March 2012 - 3:03

4 Likes

They must be smokin' some strong $*** at the UCI technical commission!
Thank god for the rule on compression clothing - the closest thing to dork-dom ever invented, particularly as there is no actual evidence to prove it works apart from gullible folks who swathe themselves in the stuff!

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [369 posts]
24th March 2012 - 9:04

4 Likes

mattsccm wrote:
The sheer lack of logic appalls me. Lawyers lips FFS! why are they needed except to keep lawyers happy...

I feel lawyers would actually be happier without 'Lawyers Lips' - more opportunity to bring an action.

posted by DAG on a bike [49 posts]
24th March 2012 - 10:23

2 Likes

So those holes in the frame are not for retaining spent chewing gum..? They may ban chewing gum just in case it ends there I guess. lol

If I was only half as good as I am in my own mind.

posted by JulesW [27 posts]
25th March 2012 - 2:02

4 Likes

are they trying to force teams and riders away?? Does McQuaid have a secret investment in the World Series Cycling?? What is the point of advancement in technology if it cant be used in races to its full potential? Apparently the best racing equipment money can buy is only available for sportive and casual riders...

posted by williamtenison [32 posts]
25th March 2012 - 18:14

3 Likes

"the most obvious of which is to come up with a quick release skewer that opens wide enough to clear the retaining tabs on the dropout"

Um, no, because that's in essence what the lawyers lips are there to prevent ... there would be no functional difference in that case between a normal QR incorrectly / inadequately tightened on a fork with no lips, and an undone skewer on forks with lips, if the "open width" of the skewer allows removal of the wheel without a separate, unscrewing operation ...

Just don't get me started on the whole UCI regulation thing - if you want to see some comments about it, take a look at my "PimpMyToolbox" blog (google it if interested ...)- it is, whatever Mr McQ may say, a money-making machine for the UCI which has nothing to do with any other objective that the UCI might have.

The engineer who looks after this at UCI, Mr. Carron, is not from the cycle industry (though I can see why that might be a good thing - no hidden agenda) & up until his appointment by the UCI had zero experience of cycle engineering matters, and Pat McQ knows less, it would seem.

When dear old uncle Pat was racing (as an example) "Lawyers Lips" were unknown ... but I don't recall seeing a great rash of riders face-planting as front QRs were left undone!

There *were* rules about racing in South Africa then, but best not to mention the words Mum for Men, Sean Kelly, Olympics or David Walsh here though, in case Mr McQ sues me ... worth a Google though Smile

This week I have mostly been riding a Mondiale in Deda V107 with Campagnolo Super Record 11 ...

posted by velotech_cycling [75 posts]
26th March 2012 - 0:28

3 Likes