Thursday, March 11, 2010
Specialized Transition: Too Fast for the UCI
Three years ago, the company introduced its time trial/triathlon bike, the Transition, and it has appeared with great success in the pro peleton and under triathletes. Of course, for people with access to even more funding or support, it has been supplanted by the Shiv, ridden by Alberto Contador at the Tour de France last year and by Fabian Cancellara in his dazzling ride for gold at the World Championships in Switzerland. However, the first clouds on the horizon appeared when UCI officials made threatening noises about time trial bikes at last year’s Tour of California, and the storm broke with the banning of the Shiv at UCI-sanctioned events in February.
I was nonplussed to see this morning, in our daily local triathlete e-newsletter, no fewer than three not-inexpensive Transitions offered for sale by some of the fastest time trial riders in Ottawa. It turns out that the Transition has been banned as well and although triathletes can ride them, the Ontario Cycling Association will enforce UCI regulations in provincial events. This means that these athletes, who have invested a great deal in buying and setting up their bikes, are pretty much out of luck. The only way to make them legal for time trials would be to saw off the fins that fair-in the area between the head tube and the down tube. The governing body in the United States, the USCF, will allow Transitions to be used by Masters group cyclists, probably because a lot of people own them.
I believe that bike racing should be about the athlete and not the equipment but decisions like this impede the progress of technology, not to mention that for three years the bikes have been fine. The reshaping of tubes to take advantage of aeerodynamics is a minor change but an apparently effective one. The UCI is concerned that bike technology will advance beyond the reach of all but the elite. It is certainly much cheaper to engineer some fins into a tube than to use a disc wheel, for example, but the UCI allows other elements (the disc, aerobars, shoe covers, really goofy helmets) that clearly only have an aero function.
Although I suspect I still will not catch the fast guys in Ottawa unless they ride mountain bikes in the time trials, I feel sympathy for them. I notice that on Specialized’s website, there is no mention of the UCI/Transition problem anywhere, so buyer beware.