UCI plans to extend sticker program to wheels

So far 96 models have been approved, and 43 more are currently being examined

The UCI plans to extend their frame sticker program to wheels, according to a press release issued on Thursday.

The release is largely dedicated to detailing the successes of the current frame and fork sticker program, noting that 57 manufacturers have joined up, including all the sponsors supplying WorldTour riders. So far 96 models have been approved, and 43 more are currently being examined.

More interesting, though, is the last line: “To reinforce the approval procedure, the UCI is preparing to extend the label to cover other bike components, starting with the security of wheels.”

In an interview with last summer, UCI Technical Coordinator Julien Carron made it clear that the sticker program would not be limited to just frames and forks, and would eventually grow to encompass most cycling equipment, and possibly even clothing. That process of expansion appears to have begun with the announcement of the intention to expand to a wheel approval program.

Unlike frames and forks, the wheel testing will likely be limited to checks for safety. The dimensional rules that apply to frames and forks do not apply to rims, so checking for legality under the current rulebook is just a matter of counting spokes and breaking out a ruler.

The UCI already performs safety tests on “non-standard wheels,” defined by Article 1.3.018 as any wheel with a rim taller than 2.5cm, fewer than 16 spokes, spokes wider than 2.4mm or any combination therein. Oddly enough, this testing covers virtually every wheel used by professional teams outside of the cobbled classics, so the entire WorldTour is already riding on “UCI Approved” wheelsets.

The current test, though, is nothing more than two caveman-simple destruction assessments. First, a wheel is held at its axle and smashed with a 100kg sled travelling at 10km/hour, as if a rider ran into a brick wall at full speed. Then, with a new wheel in place, comes the “pothole” test, where force is applied half way between the axle and the road, just like running into a pothole.

The UCI does not look for wheels to stay completely round. Destruction is expected. The wheel must simply remain whole — it can collapse in on itself, but all pieces must remain intact without any components shooting off to the sides. The test examines how the wheel failed and whether that failure would pose any danger to other riders. As long as it fails in a similar manner to a “standard” wheel, it passes, regardless of the actual strength of the wheel.

In the same interview last summer, Carron hinted that as new sticker programs are rolled out they will bring with them more sophisticated safety testing. It seems likely that the wheel sticker program will be the first to see this update.