On the 1st January 2011 the ‘Approved by UCI’ sticker scheme came in to effect. Currently affecting road, track and cyclocross frames and forks, this is a compliance scheme to approve frames and soon components and clothing that meet UCI standards to then be used in UCI races. Promoted by the UCI as a ‘streamline’ of the existing system it is designed to “make peace” with the frame manufacturers so that equipment would not be rejected on the start line, saving manufacturers development costs.

To be approved, a specialist body within in the UCI will have to be sent technical drawings for each model, following this they will then require actual frames in every size for testing (only 8 sizes of frame will be approved per approval). This will be at a cost of $14,405 per frame (or model and only eight sizes).  The rule currently affects road, track and cyclocross frames and forks which have been in development since 1st November 2010, but it might reasonably be expected to roll out to MTB and BMX in due course.  The UCI have indicated they expect to certify components and frames as well.

This UCI compliance will be an additional requirement on top of the extremely rigorous testing which already takes place like the CEN test.  What’s more, the sticker will have to be on a pre-approved part of the frame, applied by the original manufacturer only.  Should you wish to respray the frame (quite common on pro-teams for example) only the original manufacturer may do this.

The more detailed announcement of the scheme has led to widespread condemnation of the scheme for its potential impact on many smaller bike manufacturers.  It is anticipated UCI Approval will hit the smaller manufacturer hard.  The addition of a $14,405 development cost to every model of frame (and limited to 8 sizes per model) is a massive increase to any bike manufacturer’s overheads apart perhaps from the big three and the prospect of this being rolled out to include components, wheels and clothing seems preposterous to many.

Perhaps one of the most worrying and ill-defined elements is the phrase:

From this date, all new frames and forks used by licence holders in road, track and cyclo-cross events must be approved on the basis of this Protocol.

Does this mean that anyone racing in a British Cycling approved third cat race (run under the regulations of the UCI) would have to be on an approved bike, with approved componentry and approved clothing?

The rules currently only affect road, track and cyclocross with a particular emphasis on aero frames.  However with the UCI already outlining plans for it to encompass componentry and clothing, how long until this scheme incorporates a wider range of disciplines including mountain biking, where small to medium sized manufacturers make up a considerable portion of the professional field.  The effects of a similar scheme could be devastating to a sport dominated by small to medium sized companies who cannot absorb such increases.  It seems hard to see how this can do anything other than aid the consolidation of larger brands, making it more expensive for manufacturers and riders alike to ride the bike of their choice.

A meeting of manufacturers and the UCI is taking place this week, we certainly will be watching with interest to see how this develops.  The subject of creating an alternative governing body has already been raised, with so many potentially set to lose so much, it has to be a very real possibility.

For more information from the UCI regarding the rules please check their site here.

For industry reactions take a look at the Bike Biz report here.

What do you think?  Can you see a world where frames made by the likes of Colnago are not allowed to be used in UCI sanctioned races?




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