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UCI decision on road-disc use in the pro peloton to be made soon

Published March 23, 2015

TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN) — Manufacturers and suppliers are eagerly awaiting a soon to be announced decision by the UCI that could sanction the use of disc brakes in the pro peloton.

At a meeting of the World Federation Sporting Goods Industry's Bicycle Committee at the Nangang Convention Center during last week's Taipei Cycle Show, Jeroen Snijders Blok, chairman of  the committee, said a decision is pending.

"It will be less than a month, but more than a day," said Blok, who is also chief operating officer for the Accell Group.

While the industry awaits official confirmation by the UCI, a variety of sources told BRAIN they expect the UCI to make the change official starting in January with the 2016 season.

Blok, without addressing what the UCI decision would be, said once the decision is made, however, the approval process for manufacturers and suppliers would begin immediately.

But there was some pushback at the meeting on any decision that would implement the new rule starting next year — some feel it should begin with the 2017 season.

Thierry Fournier, director general for Look Cycle International, said next year would be too soon for some companies to be ready, particularly smaller manufacturers. Fournier also voiced concern as to how such a decision would impact inventory levels for high-end road bikes.

For some manufacturers, 2016 model-year production forecasts are in and retailers will start receiving orders by early summer, although high-end models usually arrive later in the season. Consumers could put off purchasing a bike while waiting for newer road-disc compatible models to hit the market, Fournier said.

Blok countered saying that the road-disc issue has been under discussion for several years.

"I would think that most manufacturers would have developed their programs already. I don't think you would wait for the UCI before making changes," he said.

Fournier, in a brief interview following the meeting, said Look was ready for any UCI decision that would implement the change for 2016.

"We had a bike upstairs at Eurobike for some to see, but it wasn't shown to the public," he said.

On the other hand, wheel and disc brake component suppliers are ready and hopeful that the UCI would move forward sooner rather than later. An early decision by the UCI to adopt road discs could help spur what has been flagging sales in the road bike category, not only in the U.S. but in European markets as well, other sources said privately.

Several suppliers said the UCI could allow road-discs to be used at two fall events this year as a test. Exact details were vague but sources said the UCI would offer two "tickets" per pro-tour team that would enable the team to use road-discs in the two events if they chose to do so. But no one seemed to know the exact details on how the test would be structured, when and where the events would be held, and how neutral support would be managed given the mix of wheels.

Bill Shook, president of wheel maker American Classic, worries that mixing rim- and disc-brake bikes in pro tour events could create a dangerous situation given the increased stopping power with disc brakes.

"For the pro peloton, it has to be all or nothing. It's like putting two people on the track and giving one of them brakes. As long as nobody has brakes, it's safe," he said while at the show.

Nonetheless, many in the industry applaud the UCI's more proactive support for the industry. There has been a major shift in the UCI's approach under its new president, Brian Cookson.

"There's been a huge change compared to Pat McQuaid," said one meeting attendee.

McQuaid was ousted in September 2013 as UCI's president when Cookson won 24 of the 42 votes cast in the election. McQuaid had held the post since 2005.

Blok pointed out that the UCI now looks to the WFSGI's Bicycle Committee for guidance and that cooperation between the two organizations has made a difference.

"The UCI considers the WFSGI as the organization that speaks for the industry," he said.

Topics associated with this article: Racing & Sponsorship, Taipei Cycle Show

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