AIGLE, Switzerland (BRAIN) — The uneasy relationship between the industry and cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, has improved, just a bit, over the course of 2013. But members of an industry committee that meets with the UCI say there are signs UCI's new president and management team will eventually allow much better relations.
In a move the industry viewed as positive, the UCI in early December told wheel makers it would delay implementation of new tests for wheels to be ridden in international road races.
After a contentious worldwide campaign, long-time British cycling official Brian Cookson was elected president of the UCI in September. He replaces Irishman Pat McQuaid and has promised to reform the UCI, which has been accused of cronyism, ineffective anti-doping policies and worse.
While Cookson’s highest initial priorities relate to doping and re-organizing the structure of professional road cycling, he also has promised a more transparent UCI and has indicated he is open to a more cooperative relationship with the bike industry.
"I want to see a UCI whose culture and way of doing things is defined by openness, transparency, and a commitment to more collegiate decision-making. We need to work for the good of cycling globally, and not protect vested interests," Cookson said in a manifesto that was central to his campaign.
Robbert De Kock, Secretary General of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry, has met with some of Cookson’s new staff and expects to meet Cookson at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia. De Kock said he likes what he’s heard from the new administration so far.
“It’s clear to me the new management is open to new industry technologies and to technological changes that will bring cycling further. It’s been a positive approach, and now we will see how this all works out. We want to be seeing, rather than just hearing about a new approach,” De Kock told BRAIN in a recent interview.
The WFSGI’s bike committee has 24 members and represents bike makers’ concerns to the UCI and International Olympic Committee. Nearly all major bike and component brands have joined the WFSGI, with the exception of Trek, which let its membership lapse at the end of 2012. Since the WFSGI formed its bike committee two years ago, it has scored several successes — most notably in lobbying the IOC to allow more liberal use of manufacturer’s logos on bikes used in the London Olympics.
Wheel committee making slow progress
The WFSGI’s wheel committee — likely the WFSGI’s most active bike group — has made some slow progress this year. At a public meeting at the Taipei trade show last March, committee members said the UCI’s tests for carbon road wheels were expensive, time consuming, poorly designed, subjective and generally, in the words of one wheel maker, "Complete and utter nonsense." The wheel certification test can be performed at just one lab, in Liège, Belgium.
The UCI began requiring the tests because of concerns about the safety of the new generation of carbon wheels. The UCI maintains a list of wheels certified to have met the standards, and wheel companies can put a “UCI-approved” sticker on the wheels. Although few consumers compete in events that require UCI-approved wheels, the wheels’ use by pro racers is an invaluable marketing tool.
In Taipei, group members said they were proposing that the UCI abandon its own testing protocols and instead use the standard wheel tests published by CEN and ISO. Wheel committee members met with UCI representatives several times in 2013, but at year’s end the same UCI test protocol remains in place.
On the bright side, the committee was successful in lobbying the UCI to delay implementing new wheel tests, which would have included tests of braking performance in wet and dry conditions, a crosswind stability test, a fatigue test, and a maximum tire pressure test, among others.
"I think we are making pretty good headway,” said wheel committee vice chairman Paul Lew, the director of technology and innovation for Utah-based wheel maker Reynolds Cycling.
Lew said the UCI’s Dec. 9 announcement that it would delay the new tests was “a small victory for us.”
In another sign that the WFSGI is more confident of the UCI’s willingness to listen to, and work with, the bike industry, the organization recently formed a road disc brake committee, whose objective is to work with the UCI to eventually allow disc brakes in UCI sanctioned road races. Discs currently are allowed only in mountain bike and cyclocross competition.
The wheel committee’s next meeting is at the Taipei International Cycle Show in Taiwan in March, 2014.