UCI allows disc brakes for cyclo-cross

Institutes new tyre width restrictions with latest rule amendments

Disc brakes now allowed for UCI cyclo-cross competition.

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The UCI has approved disc brakes for competition in the 2010-’11 cyclo-cross race season. The ban was lifted via a newly issued document entitled, ‘Rule Amendments for Title 1,’ which was posted to USA Cycling’s website late Friday morning.

“I didn’t think that one was going to go through with the UCI,” said Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com team director, Stu Thorne. “I had heard about all the changes long ago… the biggest thing for us is the tyre width — but the brake think kind of caught me off guard.”

The same document also newly restricts tires used in UCI regulated competition to 33mm at their widest part and reiterates the ban on spikes and studs.

“It’s a huge bonus for us,” said Thorne. “It means a whole bunch of wheels that we don’t have to bring over to Europe. But at the same time I’m suspect that it’s actually going make it so that Sven Nys shows up with fewer wheels. You’re going to see different compounds, different treads; tyre manufacturers are going to go crazy making different things — course specific, weather dependant — and nothing is going to change. Like I said, Sven is going to show up with 20 sets of wheels, it doesn’t really matter.”

The basis for the rule change is to make the sport more approachable, equipment wise, to juniors. Thorne explained, in Belgium the top juniors believed they needed to mirror the iconic rider’s equipment quiver to be competitive, subsequently building a huge barrier to entry, especially on a developmental level.

Thorne believes that whatever the tyre width regulation does to ease the financial burden on privateers will totally be undone by lifting the ban on disc brakes, at least in the short term.

“I can tell you right now, it’s going to be more costly,” he said. “A set of [TRP] EuroX’s will cost you $100… the cost thing goes right out the window with that one.”

Aside from the added cost when comparing the price of a disc brake to a cantilever brake, the change will likely double the number of bikes in the stables of the sport’s highest profile teams and riders.

From a performance standpoint, however, Thorne is on board.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of them this year,” he said. “But moving forward you will; once product managers figure out how to make a lightweight carbon fork with disc tabs.”

For manufacturers, the race is on. It will be a huge attention grab to be the first to outfit a high-profile professional team with the disc compatible frames, forks, wheels and brakes, especially if they’re used in the spotlight of a national or World Cup race.

“I hope we can do it,” says Thorne. “What I want to see for our option of the four bikes that we have on the truck [for each team rider], is two bikes with disc brakes and two bikes with cantilevers.”

Who got through to the UCI?

An unconfirmed report pins Shimano and LaPierre bicycles as responsible for the change. The two manufacturers reportedly approached the UCI four or five months ago with a disc equipped cyclo-cross bike and a proposal for the rule change.

“My understanding is that they’re the ones that got this to the finish line, so if that’s the case, then good for them and thanks,” said Avid [SRAM] brake system product manager, Paul Kantor. “Obviously we need to be balls to the wall on development. We do have something scheduled for 2013 already, which seems like it’s far away, but it’s really only one cyclo-cross season away.”

When asked if the scheduled project will be hydraulic, Kantor played coy.

“My opinion would be, yeah,” he said. “We obviously have those mechanicals today that work, they have the right cable pull ratios for road levers, but we’d look to make a lighter version of the mechanical as well to keep the price point down. I think the elite level guys, the Fidea guys, are going to want a full hydraulic sealed system.”

“This is super exciting to us,” said Kantor. “Obviously we’re going to want to talk to our brothers at Zipp, they’re going to be happy to see the brake track moved off the rim; lots to discuss.”

Something to think about is what this latest rule means for all bikes. It may be a decade down the road, but you have to imagine that the UCI’s approval for disc brakes in cyclo-cross is a first step for the technology’s approval for road racing.

“You never know what the UCI is going to do,” said Kantor. “I would have to think that if we as an industry execute this well and we can then start to transfer those performance advantages or at least explain them — why you wouldn’t see this evolve onto a ProTour bike.

“I think of every other vehicle in the world that we make faster, at the same time we improve the braking performance,” said Kantor. “You look at times for Tour stages now and on good days those guys are putting up record average speed times, yet we’re not doing anything to [dramatically] improve their braking performance.”

Thorne summed the situation up succinctly.

“Whoever can get their shit together fastest will get the most out of it,” he said.

The full text of the document, regarding equipment changes:

Rule amendments for Title 1

Wheels of the bicycle may vary in diameter between 70 cm maximum and 55 cm minimum, including the tyre. For the cyclo-cross bicycle the width of the tyre (measured between the widest parts) shall not exceed 33 mm and it may not incorporate any form of spike or stud.

For massed start competitions in the disciplines road and cyclo-cross, only wheel designs granted prior approval by the UCI may be used. Wheels shall have at least 12 spokes; spokes can be round, flattened or oval, as far as no dimension of their sections exceeds 10 mm. In order to be granted approval wheels must have passed a rupture test as prescribed by the UCI in a laboratory approved by the UCI. The test results must show that the rupture characteristics obtained are compatible with those resulting from an impact sustained during normal use of the wheel. The following criteria must be fulfilled:

On impact, no element of the wheel may become detached and be expelled outwards.

The rupture must not present any shattered or broken off elements, or any sharp or serrated surfaces that could harm the user, other riders and/or third parties.

The rupture characteristics must not cause the hub to become separated from the rim in such a way that the wheel becomes detached from the forks.

Without prejudice to the tests imposed by the laws, regulations or customs, standard (traditional) wheels are exempted from the rupture test referred to above. A traditional wheel is deemed to be a wheel with at least 16 metal spokes; the spokes may be round, flat or oval, provided that no dimension of their cross sections exceeds 2.4 mm; the section of the rim must not exceed 2.5 cm on each side.

Notwithstanding this article, the choice and use of wheels remains subject to articles 1.3.001 to 1.3.003.

(text modified on 1.01.02; 1.01.03; 1.09.03; 1.01.05; 1.07.10).

Freewheels, multiple gears and brakes are not permitted for use on the track during competition or training. Disc brakes are allowed in cyclo-cross training and competition. For races on the road and cyclo-cross, the use of fixed sprocket is forbidden: a braking system that acts on both wheels is required.

(text modified on 1.09.04; 1.01.05; 1.01.09, 1.07.09; 1.07.10).

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Further information concerning the rule changes can be found at USA Cycling.com. Stay tuned to BikeRadar.com for updates.