The UCI is continuing its crackdown on non-standard and modified equipment, with a number of common modifications deemed illegal for 2012, including filing off fork dropout safety tabs.
A 63-page UCI document titled, “Check of the equipment and position in competition,” details the changes for 2012, which also includes regulations requiring hydration packs to be worn on the back (rather than the front) beginning April 1, banning shoe covers in track racing as of October 1, and requiring socks to be shorter than the mid-point between the ankle and the knee, effective immediately. According to the UCI, the rules regarding hydration packs are intended to prevent riders from gaining aerodynamic advantage by placing a hydration pack on their stomach. The sock rule is likely intended to prevent the use of compression wear.
Most relevant to professional racing, though, are the rules barring component modification in competition. The document states that all of the following are illegal:
“Modifying the length of the saddle, adapting approved wheels, removing the dropout safety tab, adding tape to handlebars to meet the 3:1 rule, covering holes or screws with tape (except for the valve of disc wheels) or transforming any component of the bicycle.”
The rule barring the removal of fork dropout safety tabs, commonly referred to as “lawyer tabs,” could have a dramatic impact on racing. Professional teams remove these tabs, which are designed to keep the front wheel in the dropouts even if the quick release opens, to enable fast wheel changes. Leaving the tabs on requires most skewers to be unscrewed in order to remove the wheel, adding precious seconds to a wheel change and making it more difficult for a rider to rejoin the peloton.
The UCI has long maintained rules against modifying equipment, but has largely avoided enforcing them. Though the rule clarification is now official, the lawyer tab rule hasn’t been executed yet.
“We have not run into any issues yet with the UCI about lawyer tabs,” BMC head mechanic Ian Sherburne said via an email to VeloNews. “For all the obvious reasons, ours have been always filed off. It will be an interesting race the first time they decide to enforce that rule.”
UCI technical coordinator Julien Carron noted that the rule will be enforced after a transition and education period, wherein teams and their mechanics will have time to bring their bikes into compliance.
“The rule is clear and was created to improve the safety of the riders,” Carron explained. “Moreover, removing the tabs cancels the warranty of the fork in case of crash. The enforcement of this rule will follow after an information and transition period.”
If the rule is enforced this year, team mechanics will have to put new forks on their race bikes that include the stock tabs. To retain fast wheel changes, they may have to resort to redesigned quick releases that open far enough to clear the tabs.