Is it time to lower the UCI minimum bike weight limit?

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.

10 thoughts on “Is it time to lower the UCI minimum bike weight limit?

  1. My Cervelo P3 carbon road bike is about 20 lbs. My Cervelo P3 carbon track bike is over 8 kg, around 18 lbs.

    Dura-Ace is pretty expensive stuff. My P3s have cheap and/or strong, not light components because I know that weight hardly matters compared to aerodynamics, and I have zero tolerance for stuff that breaks.

    Do strong, hard core racers ride heavier machines? Some bike components, specifically most off-the-shelf handlebars, are underbuilt time bombs. Steel there adds 2 lbs to the bike’s weight.

  2. The weight is too low. The expense of a competitive bike puts people out of the sport at the amateur level.

  3. ” Michael O”
    Not true….training and genetics and sheer determination are what wins bike races, NOT the bike. I build light bikes because I like the technology and the challenge but the day I ever think that they make a REAL difference on the race results is the day that I’m either making excuses for myself or I just didn’t do enough training.
    I have raceable (non uci) bikes ranging from 4.5kg to 6.6kg and there is only tining differences between the lightest and heaviest even on steep climbs. Yes the 4.5kg bike is my bike of choice for long hard climbs but “having a good day” Vs having a “dog day” will influence the climb times 10X more than the mass of the bike. This is my honest opinion. Good training AND NUTRITION AND WATCHING YOUR OWN WEIGHT will make a much much bigger difference. I will always continue to build light bikes simply because I love how they ride and feel, not because of their “race advantage”.

  4. The weight is too low. The expense of a competitive bike puts people out of the sport at the amateur level. I have raceable (non uci) bikes ranging from 4.5kg to 6.6kg and there is only tining differences between the lightest and heaviest even on steep climbs. Yes the 4.5kg bike is my bike of choice for long hard climbs but “having a good day” Vs having a “dog day” will influence the climb times 10X more than the mass of the bike. This is my honest opinion.

  5. Hello,

    I have the chance to be on both sides of the fence, working for a Pro Tour Team (and have two full on ex tour bikes) and personally racing in triathlon where we don’t give a hoot about the UCI rules.

    Except for some uphill TT specials, I have yet to see a bike, in race trim, that is close to the 6.8 limit. I would say most Protour bikes on “normal” riders are in the 7.5 to 8kg range. Bikes have to survive Protour racing and being flung into trucks… In a peleton, you hit potholes at 50kmH plus a lot, you jump kerbs, rocks thrown up by other bikes, cars and TV motorbikes. And riders crash way more than what you see on TV… So seat post, bars, stems etc are alloy. And I won’t comment on rumours that manufacturers add a few layers in the moulds.

    What I find funny is people making “race bikes” that end up being lighter and way more expensive than what the pros are really riding. But a man has got to have a hobby, but don’t expect a bike like that to survive more than one Classic race.

    In triathlon (non drafting), where the UCI does not matter, and we can do what we want; bikes are again above the limit. Mostly because you tend to favour aero over weight. But I have yet to see a pro race on a sub 6.8kg bike even in races where there is a lot of climbing.

    But I find the UCI rules don’t promote safety. This rule was to stop an escalation in bike weigh loss in a era when this cost a lot. This rule should be amended to add minimal weight on major components: frame, wheels and fork/steering (ex frame 900gr). But they probably won’t do it until somebody dies after their frame explodes at over 100kmH during a descent on a Grand Tour on TV.

    But these rules should ONLY concern races that are UCI, if you want to do a or a cyclosportive, local races, etc, that are done at far lower speeds, more open peletons etc, and your pleasure is enhanced by doing it on a 5kg bike, then you should not have anybody telling you you can’t.

  6. There is no sensible reason to lower the UCI limit. It’s should be obvious that the rider’s weight and fitness will have the most effect on performance. I’ve built plenty of quality road bikes and currently ride a 7.5 kg rig built up a year ago. I love it, it was fun to build, and it rides great but in all honestly it’s no better than my 8.5 kg DeRosa Planet, and not much better than my vanilla 10 kg training bike. Getting my 7.5 kg bike any lighter would have needed a lot more money and/or compromised the bike in some other way (durability, reliability, comfort). If you want to be faster, lose some of your fat and get out and train hard.

  7. Could some on e please advise me what is the leagle UCI weight for Track and Track pursuit bikes. i am compeating in the Australian Masters Track championship’s in April this year, so i need to know the correct weight mesuments.
    Thank you,
    Reg Ridley.

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