Tour de France 2020

The French federation has its own bike tech rules for the Tour de France

This year’s edition of the Tour de France isn’t sanctioned by the UCI, so VeloNews readers have been curious whether the UCI's somewhat-infamous tech rules still apply. You’ll remember that before last year’s race, official rule clarifications led to frantic refinement of time trial bikes as teams readied them for the London prologue. That controversy centered on the use of the ‘praying landis’ position and whether or not a rider’s forearms touched his aero extensions. Race and stage favorites did modify their positions before stepping up to the start chute of the race.

Yes, the minimum weight limit still applies

By Matt Pacocha

A CSC mechanic makes final adjustments on Carlos Sastre’s bike the day before last year’s prologue

Photo: Matt Pacocha

This year’s edition of the Tour de France isn’t sanctioned by the UCI, so VeloNews readers have been curious whether the UCI’s somewhat-infamous tech rules still apply.

You’ll remember that before last year’s race, official rule clarifications led to frantic refinement of time trial bikes as teams readied them for the London prologue. That controversy centered on the use of the ‘praying landis’ position and whether or not a rider’s forearms touched his aero extensions. Race and stage favorites did modify their positions before stepping up to the start chute of the race.

In general, the French federation’s rules in effect at the Tour this year are modeled on — or simply copied from — the UCI rules. Nevertheless, time trial position is an area open to a lot of official interpretation, and it will be interesting to see if the French federation interprets or enforces the rules differently than the UCI.

But readers — intrigued by the idea of pros floating up hills on 12-pound bikes — have been most curious about whether the UCI’s 6.8-kilogram weight limit would be in effect this year.

Well, even if riders could ride a 12-pound bike, they probably wouldn’t because of inferior performance, but that’s a whole separate story.

In any case, Chapter 3 of the 2008 Tour’s Race Regulation Guide — which spans 14 pages — clearly states in French (mine is poor, I might add) that the weight of the bicycle cannot be less than 6.8 kilograms. It further clarifies that this weight must be achieved without the addition of detachable parts. This means computers and water bottles, but also weights that are taped on and could be removed after the start of the stage.

More on the time trial position

A UCI official checks a rider’s bike at the 2008 Tour de Georgia

Photo: Matt Pacocha

The most controversial rule on time trial bikes involves the distance from the center of the bottom bracket spindle to the tips of the aero extensions. To be legal, this length must measure 75cm or less. Large riders can get an extra 5 centimeters, but they must register for it.

Aero extensions also may not be tilted up more than 30 degrees above horizontal.

Another rule, which applies to road and time trial bikes, requires the saddle’s tip to sit at least 5cm behind the bottom bracket spindle.

There are also rules on everything from the width and height of the bike’s frame tubes to handlebar width.

Almost comically, there is a rule regarding the propulsion of the bikes. Article 7-9 states that a bicycle must be propelled with a rider’s legs and no sort of electric assistance can be used.

Whether you believe it or not, this is an actual rule written into the French and UCI rule books. It makes you wonder if someone tried to sneak a little engine onboard and was caught, or if the commissars decided to include it on their own, to head off any such villainy.

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