Nick Legan explains the UCI’s new bicycle approval process

The UCI rocked the cycling industry in December when it announced that a new bicycle approval process would be implemented on January 1, 2011. The UCI later delayed the program by a month.

The UCI rocked the cycling industry in December when it announced that a new bicycle approval process would be implemented on January 1, 2011. The UCI later delayed the program by a month.

Instead of checks by commissaries at bicycle race venues, manufacturers must now submit technical drawings and then full-scale prototypes of their frames to the UCI. Any bicycle frame in development from November 1, 2010 onward will be subject to the new process. Upon approval from the UCI, each frame must then carry a UCI-approved sticker under the clear coat to be cleared for competition.

It is worth noting that no UCI rules concerning frames or forks have changed, only the process for product approval. Also noteworthy is that all frame and fork models in production in 2010 will remain legal and will not require the UCI sticker.

So what is this process?

The first step for any manufacturer is submission of an application form. Then an OpenTrust account is opened for each manufacturer. OpenTrust is a European information security provider that the UCI is using to keep all information from manufacturers confidential.

Once the application is received, the UCI will give notice of receipt and invoice the manufacturer for the cost of the approval process.

Technical Drawing:
Once the UCI receives the application and pays the UCI’s invoice, the manufacturer has ten months to submit technical drawings. Drawings are sent using OpenTrust. Samples of technical drawings are available on the UCI web site. Drawings for each model size (up to eight) must be submitted.

As consolation for some small builders, the requirements for the simplified process are much less stringent. Fewer drawings are required and they don’t necessarily have to be in a digital format. Sketches and diagrams with precise measurements will be accepted. There is no need to invest in CAD if a builder hasn’t used it in the past.

The UCI guarantees that once drawings are submitted the turnaround time will not exceed 30 days.

Full size prototype or production model:
Once the UCI has approved a manufacturer’s drawings, the manufacturer can then begin production or produce a single prototype for each model size. An example of each model size must then be shipped to the UCI. These samples are then checked against the previously approved technical drawings.

The UCI has enlisted the help of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), an engineering school down the road from UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. The UCI and EPFL will use computerized 3D imaging to verify that the full-size sample meets the dimensions outlined in the technical drawings previously approved.

If the full-size model does not comply with the drawings, the manufacturer has six months to submit a new model. If the manufacturer doesn’t resubmit within the six months, they have to start the approval process over from the beginning.

Assuming the models pass inspection, they are then returned to the manufacturer (at the manufacturer’s cost) with a Control Report that confirms the approval.

The UCI says when prototype samples are submitted, it will need no more than two months to approve the model.

The Sticker:
The final step is no less involved than any that preceded it. The sticker must include the UCI logo, an identification code for the model and the date of the approval.

The placement of the sticker must be approved by the UCI. And once approved, it must be applied at the same time as the manufacturer’s labels and under the clear coat (in order to be “indelible and inseparable from the frame”)

Unfortunately for custom frame painters, only the original manufacturer of the frame model may repaint the frame and reapply the sticker. If anyone else repaints the frame, it immediately loses its approval.

Once a frame is approved, that approval will remain valid in perpetuity, or until the model changes or is discontinued. In either event, the UCI requires that the manufacturer give notification of the change or discontinuation. This is so that the list of approved frames and forks can be updated.

Checks and penalties:
The UCI plans to carry out random tests at road, track and cyclocross events to keep manufacturers on their toes. If a violation is found, the UCI will meet with the manufacturer and possibly withdraw approval for the entire model size range. Fines for misuse of the UCI-approved label can also be assessed, starting at 10,000 CHF but not more than 100,000 CHF.

What does it cost?
The fee for approval varies by frame type and service rendered. For “one-piece” frames, anything using a mold in fabrication, a full procedure approval is necessary. Other frames built using welding, brazing, or gluing are considered “tubular” and only require the simplified approval process. Changes to a model are also available.

For a full procedure approval for up to eight sizes of a given frame and fork model the cost is 12,000 CHF (Swiss francs) plus VAT (value added tax). That’s approximately $12,600 in U.S. currency before tax.

For minor changes to a model size or to add a model size, the cost is 1,400 CHF plus VAT, or $1,465 USD.

For approval under a simplified process, for traditional tube construction frames, the rate is significantly lower at 800 CHF plus VAT ($840 USD) for up to eight sizes.