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New regulations: UCI sets friction limits for World Tour bikes

  • By Wiley Fritz
  • Published Apr. 1, 2011
  • Updated Apr. 2, 2011 at 6:32 AM EDT

The UCI announced Thursday that all race equipment incorporating bearings or bushings within its design will be subject to UCI approval prior to use within the World Tour. Lesser races will remain unaffected.

UCI officials will also be checking bearing friction at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

The approval program is based on a brand new UCI regulation, Article 1.3.025, which states, “no bearing or bushing to be used within the World Tour shall have a coefficient of friction of less than .005µ.”

.005µ is a frequently referenced figure for the minimal friction seen within a steel-on-steel bearing system. The approval program, therefore, seems aimed at the elimination of both full ceramic and steel-ceramic hybrid bearing sets.

The new statue will be enforced for the first time at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

When asked how the UCI plans on enforcing Article 1.3.025 on-site, UCI Technical Director Lou Ditte explained that a few relatively simple coast-down type tests will be performed.

“For the bottom bracket, for example, we will take the chain off and then give it a good spin,” he explained. “If it goes more than four or five rotations, we know we have a problem and will investigate further.

Starting May 1, the UCI will require manufacturers to submit any hub, headset, bottom bracket, pedal, or derailleur pulley they wish to see used at the highest levels of the sport. Components currently on the market are not being grandfathered in; everything currently being used must be approved in the next 30 days.

According to the UCI, technicians will test individual components under ideal conditions to make sure they don’t fall under the .005µ mark. Any bearing that fails will be disallowed in competition. Equipment that passes will receive a tiny UCI Approved sticker, much like the frame approval program.

Ceramic bearing manufacturers and World Tour teams are calling foul, accusing the UCI of unfair and apparently random creation and implementation of its own rules. Teams wonder how they can be expected to remove all ceramic and hybrid bearings within team bikes prior to the Tour of Flanders, only two days away.

“It’s just ridiculous. It’s stupid,” said one team mechanic, who wished to remain anonymous, for fear of incurring extra inspections from the UCI. “I have half a mind just to stick some thick grease in our ceramics so they pass the checks Sunday morning. If you see a lot of bike changes in the first few miles, now you know why.”

Despite the onslaught of negative energy, the UCI is holding its ground, painting the issue as one vital to keeping the sport tied to its roots.

“We were quite worried by the stories of Fabian Cancellara’s advanced bearing system,” Ditte said. “This man’s bearings should not be allowed to skew race results in his favor.

“It should be the man, not his balls, that decides the outcome,” Ditte stated emphatically.

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