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UCI Moves to Adjust Racing with Equipment Bans out of Safety and Aesthetics Concerns

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is taking significant steps to address safety and aesthetic concerns in professional road cycling, particularly focusing on equipment regulations. In a recent announcement, the UCI disclosed plans to conduct an extensive review of regulations governing the design and usage of time trial helmets, alongside concerns surrounding the use of hookless rims and tubeless tyres.

Starting with time trial helmets, the UCI’s decision comes in response to the escalating trend among professional teams and equipment manufacturers towards developing equipment with radical designs aimed at enhancing performance. The UCI has scrutinised various helmet models, including the Specialized TT5 helmet, ultimately deeming the infamous head sock component as “non-essential” under article 1.3.033 of the UCI Regulations. Consequently, the head sock integrated into the TT5 helmet will be prohibited from use in events on the UCI International Calendar, effective from April 2, 2024. Teams like Quick Step, Bora and SD Worx have all raced with this helmet.

Headsock Time Trial Helmet Bora
The head sock time trial helmet, the fabric part of which will be banned from April 2024

Moreover, the UCI has expressed concerns about the direction of time trial helmet design, emphasising performance over the primary function of ensuring rider safety. Helmets such as the Giro Sport Design helmet used by Team Visma|Lease a Bike at the Tirreno-Adriatico prologue, along with others like the Rudy Project Windgream HL 85 and Poc Tempor helmets, have raised significant issues regarding their design and potential safety implications. As a result, the UCI has committed to reviewing its rules regarding helmet design and usage in competition to establish a clearer framework aligned with safety objectives.

Hookless rims caused this issue for Thomas de Gendt
(Photo Credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

In parallel, the UCI is urgently addressing concerns surrounding the use of hookless rims and tubeless tyres, following a series of incidents in professional road cycling. These measures are in line with the UCI’s commitment to prioritising rider safety. Recent incidents, such as Thomas De Gendt’s crash during stage 5 of the UAE Tour, have highlighted potential compatibility issues between hookless rim technology and tubeless tyres. The UCI’s decision to study this matter underscores its dedication to swift action in safeguarding rider welfare.

The UCI says its response to these equipment-related challenges reflects its collaborative approach, working closely with stakeholders and equipment manufacturers to ensure appropriate measures are implemented both in the short and long term. The review process will involve evaluating compatibility guidelines and conducting thorough investigations to address concerns effectively. Cynics will say the UCI has reacted to the social media condemnation of the new helmet’s design.

While the exact scope of the UCI’s review remains to be determined, its commitment to promoting rider safety remains unwavering. As professional cycling continues to evolve, the UCI’s proactive stance on equipment regulations underscores its dedication to preserving the integrity and safety of the sport.