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Obree-style homebrew machines to be banned

Proposed regulations could mean time trial riders will only be able to race using bikes and components available online and in shops.

The agenda for the annual meeting of the national governing body of cycling time trials (CTT) was published last Monday sparking debate over suggested amendments to the rules.

One particularly controversial section says: “machines, frames and components must be commercially available through normal retail outlets (shops, internet, etc) and be unmodified except that the normal requirements of frame and component size are permitted.”

Chopped aero bars, home-made wheels and trimmed seat posts have all been items which riders have raised as widely adopted, but potentially illegal components.

The second heavily questioned amendment is to edit an existing regulation 14 (h) to say: “The use of recumbent machines, protective shields, fairings or other means of reducing air resistance or intended to reduce air resistance whether commercially available or not shall be prohibited.”

These changes come soon after heated debate over the creative efforts of Nik Bowdler (pedalrevoloution.co.uk) who modified his bike to win the National 12-hour time trial in August this year. 

Bowdler’s winning bike had a large nose cone, and a bottle carrier loaded on the back which was argued to have broken regulation 14(h). Bowdler still stands as the official winner of the event, but the new amendment appears to directly thwart such efforts at improving a bike’s aerodynamics.

There was strong reaction against Bowdler’s bike from a number of racers, including an official complaint from eventual CTT British Best All-Rounder (BBAR) competition winner, Adam Topham.  

Topham told us: “It seems likely [this amendment] is a reaction to Bowdler’s bike. Probably the intention is to ensure riders don't achieve an advantage not available to other riders and therefore an unfair advantage.”

He added: “Extreme alterations to reduce drag are clearly against the spirit and threaten the integrity of what is supposed to be a predominantly athletic competition.”

However, he added: “As to whether it resolves the issue, I'd suggest it’s a valiant attempt but doesn't prevent someone from setting up a website and offering their contraptions for sale at unattractive prices.”

National Secretary (legal and corporate) of the CTT, Nick Sharpe told us: “We are trying to create a level playing field with the minimum amount of regulations. Time trialling is an amateur sport and we don’t want to enforce staunch regulations like the UCI.”

He added in relation to amendments to 14 (h): “We are just trying to make the sport safer for everybody.”

The new amendments have been greeted with criticism. This rule would outlaw innovation from riders who attempted to follow in the footsteps of cyclists such as Gareme Obree, who created his hour record breaking bike using washing machine parts.

Bryce Dyer is a time trialist and product design lecturer who specialises in design and ethical use of technology in sport. Responding to the question of the amendments supporting fair racing on the timetriallingforum.co.uk he said: “With respect to technology in sport there is no such thing as a 'level playing field'... it cannot exist outside of 'one design' sports such as some sailing classes.”

With some riders able to spend upwards of £5k on their race winning bike, whilst others make do with lesser machines, cycling time trials are far from ‘one design’ events and it’s arguable that the field will never be flat.

Dyer has made modifications to his own bike, but said: “I don't think it would be policed any better than any other rule they have as the CTT relies on us to police ourselves which is about as robust as asking Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich to look after cycling’s anti-doping policy.”

The rule itself could be interpreted to ban all old-fashioned or out-of-manufacture kit, as cycling journalist and multiple time trial champion Michael Hutchinson tweeted: “CTT rule proposal taken literally would also appear to ban anything no longer available at retail – obsolete manufacturers, old models.”

In response to this, Sharpe said: “We have to adopt a common sense view. This is a motion to be discussed at the annual meeting. If someone wants to add terms regarding previously available components this would be discussed.”

Sponsored riders racing on demo kit provided by suppliers could also fall foul of this rule if taken literally.

The amendments will be discussed on Sunday December 1st, and two thirds of the membership must vote in favour for these to pass.


Unlikely to be affected by the new CTT regulations (CC licensed image by camknows/Flickr)

45 comments

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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If it is about man and not machine, surely the only fair decision for the CTT is to clearly state that only 531c frames, steel forks, down tube shifters, and box section rims are acceptable.

Anything else is pandering to those who have more money and obviously disadvantages those with limited finance?

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CarlosFerreiro [106 posts] 2 years ago
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I had an email discussion with some other people about what form a clarified rule might take but, at least for me, I couldn't get a clear picture in my own mind about what could be allowed that would be relatively fair to all, safe, and still cover old monocoque frames etc. For me personally I'd like to have all the tinkering allowed, but when you start to look at regulations that you would be able to enforce, it all gets difficult.
The easiest way for the CTT in the future would be to apply the UCI rules for equipment (if not necessarily position) but that takes you down a different path. Anything else seems heavily compromised in one way or another.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Seems a shame to outlaw the "men in sheds" who have been making left-field oddball stuff for decades, and yet allow those able to afford £10k TT bikes and all the other aero kit.

Where will the next generations of Obrees and Burrows come from?

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Simmo72 [603 posts] 2 years ago
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Why stop there. Why not introduce a handicap system. fat, rich people challenging the physics of lycra skin suits on their top end bikes will be downgrading to a 531 dawes galaxy in no time.

Stupid

People aren't hurt or killed on time trials because of their kit, its poor riding, poor driving and holding events on roads that are overloaded with traffic.

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leqin [169 posts] 2 years ago
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Does this mean they are going to allow people to ride on different size frames - with a different groupset - with a different saddle - with different tyres - wearing a different helmet - different clothes and shoes.

How on earth can that be fair - everybody - EVERY BODY - should have to ride the same bike and wear the same clothes and helmet and shoes and only that way will it be fair because then and only then will it really be man or woman against machine.

Or you can get lost and stop acting like a bunch of petty bureaucrats determined to spoil everybody's fun and allow people to innovate rather than die like the dodo.

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Charles_Hunter [149 posts] 2 years ago
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I note there isn't a picture of the bike in question, I think it is this one, correct me if I am wrong please.

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181821

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181809

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antonio [1120 posts] 2 years ago
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Surely Bowdler's bike would have to be wind tunnel tested against another 'aero TT bike' to quantify advantage gained. Bowdler's huge gears also means half the pedal rate of many testers, surely another aero advantage!

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Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
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Would a Boris bike comply...are they commercially available to all..doubt it.

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William Black [193 posts] 2 years ago
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http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181809

Do those three water bottles look suspiciously like a rocket powered propulsion system?

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kie7077 [874 posts] 2 years ago
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14h sucks, I'd like to fairings or likewise reducing the drag from brakes. Banning anything you cant buy in the shops seems fair until you consider the pro's are riding £10k+ bikes, perhaps they should put a price limit on some or all race bikes and leave time trial out of the build a bike rules.

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Peter B [6 posts] 2 years ago
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This hampers the garden shed tinkerer whilst doing nothing to address wealthier riders being able to buy an advantage. Isn't the UCI doing enough to hinder innovation without this nonsense?

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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There was a point, as a family man, where I simply could not compete anymore with riders who were able to afford equipment that created a substantial advantage, but I accepted it with good grace.

But if "vintage" bikes were banned, given that most time triallists are the wrong side of 40, it could sound the death knell for this peculiarly British branch of our beloved sport.

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monty dog [456 posts] 2 years ago
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I except CTT may be trying to protect themselves from those "shed men" who make / modify parts that might fail catastrophically in an event with serious results e.g. takes-out another competitor who then takes out a suit against CTT.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 2 years ago
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It seems like any attempts to enforce such a rule would be rather complicated and pretty discretionary

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SpooksTheHorse [27 posts] 2 years ago
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what is going on with his bars/bar?

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181809

I don't know about the aero rules but there should definitely be rules banning bikes this ugly.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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monty dog wrote:

I except CTT may be trying to protect themselves from those "shed men" who make / modify parts that might fail catastrophically in an event with serious results e.g. takes-out another competitor who then takes out a suit against CTT.

I agree. Some of the riders you see in old pics, with drilled components, must have been barking.

But then again, parts from yesteryear were generally over engineered, compared to modern components, where weight and aerondynamics seem to now take precident over long term reliability. Modern chains sometimes snap under load, a single spoke breakage can now cause a catastrophic failure of the whole wheel, a pothole can cause fork blades to actually separate from the main fork column, and the whole issue of carbon component service life is still a bit of a grey area.

And there must be loads of riders out there, riding 2nd hand carbon stuff, who cannot be entirely sure that what they're riding on hasn't been compromised by the original owner.

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Krd51 [28 posts] 2 years ago
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Most roads is this country are over loaded! So let's just ban cycling!!

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Krd51 [28 posts] 2 years ago
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Most roads is this country are over loaded! So let's just ban cycling!!

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Krd51 [28 posts] 2 years ago
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Most roads is this country are over loaded! So let's just ban cycling!!

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Al__S [1018 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

“With respect to technology in sport there is no such thing as a 'level playing field'... it cannot exist outside of 'one design' sports such as some sailing classes.”

 24
Best laugh I've had all day.

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glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

Modern chains sometimes snap under load

You're forgetting we run 11 sprockets on the back now, in the same space as 6 or even less in years gone by.

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evo111 [20 posts] 2 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

Seems a shame to outlaw the "men in sheds" who have been making left-field oddball stuff for decades, and yet allow those able to afford £10k TT bikes and all the other aero kit.

Where will the next generations of Obrees and Burrows come from?

I'm at the innovation is good end of this debate, for sure there needs to be some limits but for me they should be quite broad - certainly no independent motors!

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Michelle Arthurs [1 post] 2 years ago
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Charles_Hunter wrote:

I note there isn't a picture of the bike in question, I think it is this one, correct me if I am wrong please.

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181821

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181809

Entirely correct- that is the bike in question!
Michelle

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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The one thing I'm still surprised (but happy about) they still done require a rider to wear a helmet and leave that up to the rider.

I'm getting pissed of with their stance on recumbents lately though, I have been trying to find some TT's to do next year, but no-one will let me in because they run on CTT rules

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PhilRuss [385 posts] 2 years ago
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Yes, that's a Lemonade Jetpack behind Bowdler's saddle. Vibration shakes the additive (carbon dioxide), which is forced out, er, behind, with an amusing hissing sound, guaranteed to shave 0.5 of a millisecond off yer time over 100 miles. Not much, but hey, every little helps!
P.R.

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JonD [398 posts] 2 years ago
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The hpv fraternity have managed to come up with a scheme of classifications for different configurations within circuit races. Dunno why it should be so hard for the CTT.
ISTR there was a proposal to allow 'bents in TTs - more from the point of allowing former upright competitors to still compete - I guess that's gone nowhere ?

Simply adding an open class for 'anything goes' - within safety arguments (ie no streamliners) would be better than the current state of affairs, I'd have thought. You'd probably get more people interested in hpvs too...we're not all sandal-wearing beer-bellied beardie-weirdies...some of us don't wear sandals or have beer bellies  3

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mooleur [537 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

The one thing I'm still surprised (but happy about) they still done require a rider to wear a helmet and leave that up to the rider.

I'm getting pissed of with their stance on recumbents lately though, I have been trying to find some TT's to do next year, but no-one will let me in because they run on CTT rules

^^ I remember you mentioning that on twitter it really sucks!! Half the time people's stance seems to be "why don't you just go to the human powered vehicle meets" but that doesn't seem fair. Cycling is cycling and should be available and accessible to all who wish to take it up.

It would be a real shame to see the wholesome, old school atmosphere of the CTT go down the pan in lieu of policy changes, it's already sh1t that folks get denied races based on what are often unavoidable or completely fair modifications.

While some of them are pretty respectable in the case of making it a fair sport (why should a super rich dude who's trained half as much get a better result than someone who's worked their arse off both on their body and bike?) - BUT I think they need to be very careful as to how this is going to be enforced.

CTT has a lot of responsibility as the main body for TT's here, either they want to be recognised as a more professional racing body like BC OR they just want to make sure folks don't take the piss.

There's always an element of give & take. I really hope they don't screw it up.

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mooleur [537 posts] 2 years ago
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^^ half of that post didn't make sense. Too much caffeine.

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ficklewhippet [71 posts] 2 years ago
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Al__S wrote:
Quote:

“With respect to technology in sport there is no such thing as a 'level playing field'... it cannot exist outside of 'one design' sports such as some sailing classes.”

 24
Best laugh I've had all day.

Why?

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ficklewhippet [71 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Neil753 wrote:

There was a point, as a family man, where I simply could not compete anymore with riders who were able to afford equipment that created a substantial advantage, but I accepted it with good grace.

But if "vintage" bikes were banned, given that most time triallists are the wrong side of 40, it could sound the death knell for this peculiarly British branch of our beloved sport.

Don't see why personally. A TT bike can be built up pretty economically if you know where to look:- some good frames are available if you're not a fashion victim. Plenty of 2nd hand kit available as people with the cash (and there are plenty) off-load and/or trade up.

Neil753 wrote:
monty dog wrote:

I except CTT may be trying to protect themselves from those "shed men" who make / modify parts that might fail catastrophically in an event with serious results e.g. takes-out another competitor who then takes out a suit against CTT.

I agree. Some of the riders you see in old pics, with drilled components, must have been barking.

But then again, parts from yesteryear were generally over engineered, compared to modern components, where weight and aerondynamics seem to now take precident over long term reliability. Modern chains sometimes snap under load, a single spoke breakage can now cause a catastrophic failure of the whole wheel, a pothole can cause fork blades to actually separate from the main fork column, and the whole issue of carbon component service life is still a bit of a grey area.

And there must be loads of riders out there, riding 2nd hand carbon stuff, who cannot be entirely sure that what they're riding on hasn't been compromised by the original owner.

Catastrophic wheel failures if 1 spoke goes? Unlikely. The trend of reducing spoke counts has generally led to stronger rims. Manufacturers have to meet or exceed certain safety criteria.

And your comment about 2nd hand carbon stuff is equally applicable to steel or ali.

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