Friday, November 12, 2004

Bike Weight Limits

The current minimum weight for a road bike, according to the UCI, is around 15 lbs. What was once a virtually impossible weight to achieve can now be purchased at your local bike shop. It isn't cheap, but it's there for the taking. Bike manufacturers have been increasing the pressure on the UCI to reduce the weight minimum. This was the topic of an interesting article over on cyclingnews.

I have a split view on the subject. As someone that loves technology, I love seeing manufacturers continue to push the bounds of cycling technology. It's also why I love Formula 1. They push technology to absolute extreme. However, as a racer I appreciate the fact that money can buy speed, and there is only so much money I can invest in this hobby. I believe amateur racers should be on a level playing field, both physically (through the category system) and financially.

When I raced radio controlled cars as a kid there were two classes, stock and modified. Racers in the stock class all used the same, inexpensive motor. You weren't allowed to tamper with it in any way. Modified class racers, on the other hand, could buy any type of motor they wanted and tweak it in any way they wanted -- a much more expensive proposition. Both classes had great competition, which is ultimately what matters.

There are similar types of people in bike racing, but no stock and modified classes. This is most visible at amateur time trials. Equipment can make such a difference in a time trial that money literally can buy speed. If a guy rolls to the start line with a time trial frame, aero wheel package, and full apparel package and I show up with my standard road kit, he will toast me if we are of the same physical ability. Even worse, he might be able to beat me even if I'm in better shape! Is it fair that he wins because he is willing and capable of spending more money?

So what can be done? At amateur levels, I believe regulations need to be put in place to limit financial differences. Time trials should be conducted on the same bike you ride in a road race. Perhaps the only addition would be a set of aero bars. Nothing else, keep it cheap and simple. As for bike limits, I propose increasing the weight minimum to 16 or 17 lbs for amateur races. A person should be able to go into a bike shop, spend a reasonable amount of money and have a bike that is every bit as competitive as the top guys in the peloton.

As for the pros, drop the weight limit. Manufacturers will continue to push techology and keep things interesting. Amateur riders could still purchase they latest ultra light bike, but would just have to add weight for competition.


At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree more. i'll be out there in the time trials next season with my regular road bike, no aero bars and a bit of anger. -md


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