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I Took the Lead and Led the Pack.  That said, did you know pros fill their bikes with Lead?

Every now and again, even though my writing is amateurish at the best of times, I like to pick apart problem writing errors I often come across.  Not necessarily the punctuation issues I so often massacre…  Why concentrate on the 2×4 in my eye.  Ahem.  I digress, this particular item I’ve tortured myself in the past, long ago:

Lead, lead or led.

You can lead an industry.

Conversely, once you’ve fallen from top, you once led the industry.

Not related in the least, lead is a heavy, malleable metal that you would never build a bike frame with, though many pros will use lead tape or lead shot to make their bikes meet UCI weight restrictions.  Seriously.

Thankfully, no lead needed:  100% Unleaded Awesome

The weight limit for a UCI legal bike is 6.8 kg or 14.991 pounds.  Now my bike, at just over 17 pounds (total weight, cages, pedals and computer) has no problem making weight.  On the other hand, you take my bike, throw on a $3,000 set of wheels and tubular tires, upgrade my Shimano 105 components to SRAM Red, add a $300 set of pedals and I’m easily under weight.  Which, where pros are concerned, presents a problem.  In fact, for another $5,000 ($15,000 total) I could have picked up a top of the line Trek Emonda that comes four pounds under UCI weight restrictions.

The rule limiting bike weight to 6.8 kg was introduced in 2000 when composites were still relatively new and there was a fear that manufacturers would throw safety under the proverbial bus to come up with the lightest bike.  First, let’s give the UCI their props for understanding how some industries work.  Two-points boys and girls, nice work.

That’s not the end of this discussion though.  Not by a long lead shot.  Technology moved on without the UCI, to a point where sub-14.5 pound bikes are commonplace at the high-end.  This means pros have to use everything from lead tape to fishing sinkers in their bikes to bring them up to weight.

Now far be it from me to criticize, but an article about the whole crusade to maintain 14.991 pounds explains the UCI’s position well but that position had me slack-jawed:

“The rule 1.3.019 has been introduced and has been created as many other rules of the UCI Technical Regulation by an ergonomist expert in cycling. This specialist, with the advice of other experts, has defined that 6,8Kg is the minimum weight acceptable for a bicycle, for an essential reason that is the manoeuvrability of the bicycle. Of course, technical risks related to composites materials have also been considered, but the primary reason of this rule is the manoeuvrability. We therefore believe that bicycles of 5 Kg (for example) pose significant risks of manoeuvrability.”

There’s more:

“Manoeuvrability is the property of the bicycle has to be driven properly, correctly. We all know that different bicycles offer different performance, particularly in terms of manoeuvrability, and we believe that a bicycle of 5Kg would be very bad even dangerous to manoeuvre, to drive. The weight has a role in manoeuvrability of a bicycle because it mainly brings stability to the bicycle. The UCI is therefore concerned about it because the safety of the riders would be directly affected.”

Okay, got that?  Now this, and you’ll see why my jaw dropped:

“We are aware that technology and materials evolve, and it would be comprehensible to think today that from a technical point of view, this weight limit could be lowered. But we have no assurance that bicycles of 6Kg (for example) are safe. We have in our Equipment Commission an engineer specialist of cycling, who worked for many manufacturers and who have designed several bicycles that are still in the peloton. This engineer expert in composite materials is not completely convinced of the reliability and strength of the bicycles weighing about 6Kg. We know that some bicycles of less than 6,8 Kg are commercialized and that some manufacturers think they are safe. We also have feedbacks from many other manufacturers who don’t think the same thing, and who advise us to leave this 6,8Kg weight limit, because this limit is very accurate and that it prevents an unreasonable race to the minimum weight.”

If you can’t smell the fishy twang in that statement, you need to read that whole mess again…  We know lighter bikes can withstand the rigors of modern-day racing because they already do!  Pros have to use lead in their bikes to make them comply with the weight requirement!  Now, if you want to see rats scurry, let’s start talking about the nature of lead and lead poisoning.  Or better, let’s start talking about the compromises to composite frame integrity due to having a pound of freaking lead shot sloshing around in there.

That last point is the capper for me.  They go to the length of considering the maneuverability of a 6.8 kg bike over a 6 kg bike but they miss the fact that these guys have to ride around with lead shot in their frame and/or handlebar to make weight!  How about the top-heavy nature of having lead sinkers in handlebars?  Certainly that would affect maneuverability, no?

And that’s where I have trouble.  On one hand, I get it.  The rules already state 6.8 kg, it’s simple, we’re all used to it, let’s just keep it there.  On the other hand, having to put a pound or more of lead into a bike to make weight is just seems silly.  

Interesting stuff for sure.

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