Technical FAQ: Vintage time trial equipment

What are the rules for a 'Cannibal' time trial?

Dear Lennard,
I am interested in competing in time trials whose rules are classified as “Cannibal,” meaning that the equipment is the traditional non-aero stuff that riders used before the mid-1980s. Basically, the rules prevent you from using discs, aero’ bars, deep section rims and all the fancy do-dads that people now think is essential.

Are there any accepted norms for this type of event, frames, wheels, etc?

Dear David,
The “Cannibal” rules would be what I’ve often heard called the “Merckx” rules (Eddy Merckx was known as “The Cannibal” during his racing days, due to his endless desire to win and figuratively consume other riders along the way).

Since you won’t find this in the UCI rulebook, I think it is up to individual race promoters.

For example, here in Boulder, Clark Sheehan puts on a time trial series that has a “Merckx Class.” The understanding is generally that it should be on a bike like Merckx would have ridden, much as the new UCI rules on the world hour record on the track are meant to ensure that new records will be directly comparable to what Merckx did when setting his hour record that held up until Francesco Moser notched it up using disc wheels, cowhorn bars and short head tube.

I guess you could approach it with the question “What would Eddy do?” at the back of your mind when choosing your equipment.

Despite the general restrictions, I’m certain that Clark won’t force you to wear a wool jersey and shorts. The idea is to eliminate aero’ bikes, aero’ handlebars, aero’ wheels and aero’ helmets. I imagine a skinsuit might get you kicked out of the Merckx class.

While disc or deep-section wheels would be disallowed, low-profile rims with a V-section will probably pass. And a carbon frame and STI or Ergopower levers and bib shorts are probably okay, too. You’ll already have to wear an ANSI-approved helmet, which Merckx did not. The idea is to just use a standard road setup, like you would use in a mass-start road race, except with the lowest-profile wheels you have in your garage.