In the year 2000 the UCI declared “Thou shalt not race a bicycle lighter than 6.8 kg…” While I’m a self-confessed weight weenie, and the words “carbon fiber” are a sure way to perk up my ears and evoke a Pavlovian dog response, I also understand the logic behind the UCI’s thinking when they set the minimum bicycle weight rule. Most sports have equipment rules intended to make the sport safer, and many also have rules designed to make the sport more accessible (less expensive). Those were exactly the justifications that the UCI used in 2000 when they imposed the 6.8 kg limit.
6.8 kg is 14.99 lbs, or if you round to the nearest hundredth, it’s 15 lbs. Maybe those French officials are all of the age where they still think in standard English (non-metric) units? Okay, to be fair, 6.8 kg seems like a reasonable number for the year 2000, in terms of the equipment that was available, and the prices for high-end components. Sure there were mass-market, commercially available carbon frames and wheels, but to build a bike less than 6.8 kg meant building a project bike. It generally involved spending twice as much and pushing the borderline of safety. I remember lusting after the ADA/Lightweight wheels ridden by Lance and Jan, and wishing someone would donate $5k to my project bike.
Now jump ahead 10 years and ask yourself what has changed? While racing bikes haven’t quite kept up with Moore’s Law, cycling technology has drastically changed in the past decade. It’s no longer just the top pros who race on carbon wheels — go to any local race and you’ll see 12 year-old kids and 65 year-old masters, on carbon wheels and frames.
At Cycling Technology our typical customer is someone who will never race a UCI sanctioned event, rather he/she is someone who wants to be UCI illegal, and build a sub 6.8 kg rig. What sparked me to write this blog post was a recent bike we built for Kevin Czinger, CEO of Coda Automotive. (Wall Street Journal article on Kevin and Coda Automotive)
Unlike most of our customers, Kevin wanted the stiffest bike possible, and he didn’t care about weight. After Kevin read a Cozy Beehive synopsis of a German magazine’s frame stiffness test, he narrowed his frame choices down to the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX and the Storck Fascenario 0.7. While he initially wanted the Canyon, he ended up going with the Storck because Canyon won’t sell to Americans — go figure. Yes, the Storck is a light frame, but Kevin’s decision was based on stiffness, not weight. As for the rest of the build, there are some light parts on there, but ask any weight weenie and they’ll tell you that these are not particularly light parts. Dura Ace 7900 group, clincher wheels with a PowerTap rear hub, Garmin 705 computer, Dura Ace pedals, EDGE bars, stem and post; the only true weight weenie part on the bike is the AX-Lightness saddle and the AX bottle cages. Of course I couldn’t help but put the bike on the scale, and what do you know? A 2010 bike that was built to be stiff, not light, with everything, including the Garmin 705 computer, the pedals, bottle cages, the PowerTap clincher wheels, is not UCI legal — 14 lbs, 10 oz. And before you go adding up the price of this bike (yes, it’s expensive) remember that you can walk into any good bike shop in the country and buy a bike with clinchers that pushes the UCI limit. And the Tour riders don’t race on clinchers.
Bicycle technology has changed over the past 10 years and it’s time for the UCI to change the minimum weight limit.