UCI to introduce further wheel inspections

As it did with frames and forks in 2011, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is overhauling its wheel ratifying procedure by updating its impact test and introducing an approval sticker.

All new wheels used in UCI massed-start races – apart from the ‘standard’ wheel with at least 16 spokes and a rim no deeper than 2.5cm – will need to pass the world governing body’s own test from January 2014, even if they already conform with international safety standards, and the UCI may charge manufacturers for the privilege.

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UCI technological coordinator Matthieu Mottet explained: “Since the introduction of the existing test and today, we have seen the appearance of new materials for wheels, especially composite. This is why we develop this new procedure. Approved wheels will receive a label. Controls for the commissaires will be easier.”

Wheels on the current approved list will not be retested under the new procedure, the details of which are still being thrashed out.

Until now there has been only one laboratory where wheels could be tested – in Liège, Belgium. This is something a World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry committee, made up of representatives from companies including Mavic, Shimano and Zipp, has fought to change.

Mottet said: “For the new tests we plan to open them to all laboratories which want to be certified but this is a point we need to clarify.”

On the subject of a fee – the UCI charges for frame approval – Mottet said: “It is a bit too early to speak about cost but yes it is possible that the manufacturers pay for the approval.”

Although the UCI has consulted with the industry to help formulate the new test, not everybody is happy. In addition, the prospect of a new test is causing confusion for smaller retailers selling rebranded ‘open mould’ rims.

British company Planet X’s carbon rims are made in Taiwan by Gigantex, whose clients include many of the big brands.

Dave Loughran, Planet X’s founder and director said: “A few years back we were told if the rim was exactly the same rim as approved for another brand it would not need to be tested. I gather the rules have changed. At the moment we are just checking.”

Loughran continued: “As a rule we don’t really agree with paying governing bodies to do a test to give you a nice certificate – it is erring towards profiteering. In my opinion the UCI should be working with the correct authorities to a uniform European standard that involves the true legislative bodies that are in place to enforce those standards.

“Why the UCI cannot work under EU rules and with the CE standards authority seems strange… the end result is that the members and customers will pay.”

This original version of this article appeared in Cycling Weekly magazine September 19 2013 issue