Since 2000, professional race bikes have not been allowed to weigh less than 6.8kg (15.99lb), a minimum weight rule introduced by the UCI to ensure the safety of cycling equipment, at a time of huge technological change in the sport.
In an interview with Cyclingtips, the UCI’s technical manager Mark Barfield says that the minimum weight rule is currently being analysed with a view to potentially altering it to reflect the current technology in road race bikes.
“It is going to change, it won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen unless we take the industry with us,” says Barfield.
“We know at the UCI that it’s a rule that best represents the past. There’s a desire to change this. Firstly, it’s a relic of the past. Secondly, it doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t do what it was set out to achieve.”
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The UCI introduced the minimum weight limit on safety grounds, to ensure the manufacturers, at a point when carbon fibre was in its infancy, didn’t push the limits of weight to the point that failures might have been a regular occurrence.
A lot has happened in 15 years, however, and today it’s possible to walk into any decent bike shop and buy a top-end race bike is lighter than 6.8kg, and therefore not UCI legal. That means the slightly bizarre situation where cycling fans can ride around on bikes lighter than the one Chris Froome used to win the Tour de France.
Professional racers regularly race bikes lighter than 6.8kg. Mechanics get around this by fitting lead weights or heavier components to bikes just to ensure they hit the minimum weight. So already bikes exist that are lighter than 6.8kg, which makes the ruling look redundant.
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To be fair to the UCI, the weight limit probably served a useful purpose during the early days of carbon fibre manufacturing, but it does appear to be outdated in this modern age of advanced race bikes. Could the UCI be set to lower the weight limit, or might it scrap it completely?
“For some manufacturers it provides some reassurance. They think that they can build aero bikes, that they can add electronic gearing or they can do whatever they like around the bike and it’ll still be 6.8kg. It is going to change, it won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen unless we take the industry with us,” adds Barfield.
“Now, 6.8kg doesn’t make a bike that is safe. 10kg doesn’t mean a bike is safe, nor does 5kg make a bike unsafe. There is a project planned to alter this."
Could the UCI then be set to scrap the 6.8kg ruling completely, or simply relax the rule? Would dropping the weight limit open the floodgates for an arms race as manufacturers compete to produce the lightest possible race bike, so is having a weight limit a good thing for the sport and industry, even if it’s revised to a lower limit?
When this might happen we don’t know, but we’ve contacted the UCI for further clarification.
Do you think the weight limit should be removed, lowered or do you think it's fine as it is?
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