How UCI Crisis Hits Bike Industry
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – Apart from the question whether and to what extend the Lance Armstrong affair will impact road race bike sales; there’s another aspect of ‘Lancegate’ to take into account. How will a possible demise of the International Cycling Union (UCI) affect the bike industry?
Yesterday’s packed press conference, where UCI President Pat McQuaid’s condemned Lance Armstrong as a cheat that triggered, in his words: “The biggest crisis cycling has ever faced,” didn’t stop the worldwide decline in support of the international cycling union. In fact the call for McQuaid to resign is getting stronger and is even coming from UCI members like the Dutch Road Race Union (KNWU). In the Dutch press KNWU chairman Marcel Wintels even questioned the UCI membership of his Union.
Consequences of collapse
Could all this lead to a UCI collapse? And what consequences could such a collapse bring for the bike industry which since mid 2010 worked on establishing stronger ties with the UCI?
WFSGI’s Bicycle Steering Group
On July 7, 2010 Shimano, Accell Group, Trek, SRAM, Specialized, Cycling Sports Group, Advanced Sports, Cervelo, Ridley, Scott and FSA joined the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) in order to establish the global representation on all levels (Sport, Trade, Social and Environmental issues) and for the WFSGI to be the voice of the bicycle industry towards the UCI. Since then a Bicycle Steering Group was formed from which a Technical Committee was established for relations with the UCI on rules and regulations.
The WFSGI Technical Committee and the UCI have formulated a number of rules and regulations. The bicycle industry is keenly focused on them as the UCI dictats, done wrong, can have huge financial implications for manufacturers. Just ask Specialized: its Shiv time trial frame was banned by the UCI, leaving models unsold in bike shops.
Currently an innovations committee meets regularly to discuss whether to allow technical innovations submitted by manufacturers. Disc brakes for road bikes could be allowed by this committee soon.
Complex and open-to-interpretation rules
In 2011 the UCI’s homologation program was created for frames and forks. The all-important stickers – i.e. frame decals – certify that frames and forks are compliant with the UCI’s technical guidelines. The complex and open-to-interpretation rules on the weights and diameters and shapes of bicycle frames were first codified in the 1996 Lugano Charter, with technical regulations spelling out the charter’s concepts completed by 2000.
On-the-starting-line rule confusion
These rules have been policed poorly over the years with some UCI commissaries banning certain bikes in some races, and other commissaries allowing the same bikes in other races. Manufacturers have produced costly frame and component innovations only for the UCI to forbid them. To prevent such on-the-starting-line rule confusion, the UCI consulted a select group of bicycle manufacturers to create the homologation program. Next to the program for frames and forks the UCI also stipulated homologation rules for wheels as well as for rider’s apparel.
How the UCI crisis will develop, depends on its members like the Dutch KNWU. Will they go for a new international union focused in particular on road racing? Will President Pat McQuaid eventually be forced to resign? What will all this mean for UCI’s authority? Fact is that a UCI’s diminished authority brings a void for the bike industry which could prove costly.