A recent cry has gone up amongst bicycle manufacturers in regards to a proposal by the Union Cycliste Internationale that would require all examples of time trial bicycles and road bicycles used by Pro Tour teams to be inspected prior to use and those receiving the passing grade would have a sticker applied to the frame. This would then allow race officials to quickly inspect machines at start lines and supposedly weed out cheaters. This then would supposedly make all manufacturers even in terms of aerodynamics specifically, although other parameters might also be affected.
In a recent article posted to the U.K. site, "Bike Biz", written by editor Carlton Reid, Masi's head honch, Tim Jackson claims it will drive smaller brands not only out of racing, but out of business. When figures of upwards of U.S.D. $14,000 per bicycle model to have the proper sticker applied are mentioned, it seems not too far fetched a proposition. But, why should we as mountain bikers even care?
Well, as of right now, maybe we don't, but perhaps, we should. The reports claim that the certification process will expand to clothing, helmets, and other components. This will, if enacted, cause major price increases for manufacturers. The price increases will have to be absorbed by someone, and you know who that usually is, right?
Then if the professional ranks are subjected to, what will in the end be, "spec bikes", clothing and whatever else, innovations will be snuffed out. This will also affect mountain biking. If companies are forced to conform on the road side, and spend more money, it would make sense that the certification money would come out of R&D budgets, since you would be less inclined to innovate anyway. Less R&D on the road side, more expensive certification costs would equal less for mountain bikers.
And this assumes that the UCI never goes after Pro mountain biking with the same zealous fervor. If they do, it may not be out of the question that 29"er wheels get banned. In fact, I am willing to bet that would be one of the first things on the chopping block.
All this focus on "cheating" in terms of hardware, and still you would have cheating in the biological realm. In fact, I bet that the UCI's move to level the playing field on the bicycle side will make doping more attractive, not less, especially at the highest levels.
In the end, it seems to be nothing more than a power/money grab on the part of the UCI. It will unnecessarily burden cycling teams, manufacturers, consumers, and most assuredly will put people out of business. The meager benefits to racing will be far outweighed by the negatives, that much is very clear.
Time for a revolution? I think so....especially if the UCI is really coming.