Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why the UCI is Holding Us Back

I spend a ridiculous (and probably detrimental) amount of time surfing the web. Put it this way, if I'm not training, I'm eating, sleeping or on my computer. As most of you tri pundits know, since 2011, Aussies Aboard's Youtube channel has been posting full recaps of the Ironman World Championship. I was watching the 2011 recap and saw TJ Tollakson's bike. It was curious, rather reminiscent of the old monocoque Zipp 2001 bikes produced in the late 90s. So I googled the brand, Dimond and found that it is indeed based upon the design. Additionally, TJ used to race on a Zipp 2001.

Notice any other oddities? You should. His handlebars are at an obscene angle, almost straight up.

Apparently, TJ also used a combination of shin guards and athletic cups to make those arm rests.

I found it rather interesting that TJ was able to make all this himself. But it also makes me wonder, why the UCI is restricting this sort of innovation? Yes, it supposedly levels the playing field, and possibly makes it safer, since all the TT bikes are produced within these restrictions (must have a seat tube, 3:1 ratio, etc.) but really, I would love to see what the industry could produce. If TJ's Zipp was produced in the 90s, and is as fast as claimed, think of how fast bikes today would be.

For reference, here's my bike. Almost UCI compliant, except for the handlebar mounted hydration and the fact that the saddle nose is not 55mm behind the BB.

Allow me to point out the flaws in this bike compared to TJ's 2011 rig (he now races on a Dimond, which are slated for full scale production this summer). The seat tube adds significant drag, particularly at wide yaw angles. The standard pads only cover my elbows, so most of my weight is concentrated on one point, TJ's would be more evenly distributed across his arm if only he would level out his bars. Speaking of which, having his arms at the high of an angle blocks wind from contacting a major point of aerodynamic drag, his chest, making him significantly faster in a headwind.

If the UCI would relax regulations, my guess is that we would see significantly faster bikes. Graeme Obree's hour record still stands, and his bike was later outlawed. Look at the Specialized Shiv Tri. It defies the UCI to make a tri specific bike and it's a proven bike in Kona (Crowie won in 2011 aboard one). It seems a shame to waste all that innovative power of the industry.

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