WE'RE ENCOURAGING THE GOVERNING BODIES OF CYCLING SPORTS - STARTING WITH USA TRIATHALON - TO END THE BAN ON ATHLETES WHO RIDE RECUMBENT BIKES.
When all safe, unfaired bicycles - including recumbent bicycles - are allowed to compete side-by-side with traditional frames, global participation in cycling and all of its competitive outlets will increase. Ending the ban will also spur innovation in bicycle design and technology and ultimately, get more people cycling. That’s a big, positive outcome for all, if you ask us.
Join us by learning more about this issue below then consider reaching out to your local USAT representative to ask that the ban on athletes who ride recumbent bicycles be lifted.
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT
TO END THE BAN ON ATHLETES
WHO RIDE RECUMBENT BICYCLES AND TRICYCLES
Ending the ban on recumbent athletes will not only get more people riding, it will keep more people riding safely and comfortably. Traditional bike risks and pain statistics that force many cyclists to give up the sport include:
High risk of head-first impact injury: Traditional bicycles place the rider's center of gravity well above the axle of the front wheel, and the rider's head in a forward position, riders are subject to a high risk of toppling head-first under common road hazard conditions. These accidents frequently cause serious injuries to the head, neck, and shoulders— and even death.
High incidence of musculoskeletal pain: A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that 85% of standard bike riders had some form of musculoskeletal pain, with 49% reporting neck pain and 30% reporting back pain.
Significantly increased risk of erectile dysfunction: Avid male cyclists are at a significantly increased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), and avid female cyclists have significantly decreased genital sensation. An analysis of 21 published reports on cycling and ED concluded that more than 3 hours of bicycling per week was an independent relative risk factor of 1.72 for moderate to severe ED. Researchers in Germany found 19% of cyclists who had a weekly training distance of more than 400 km (248 miles) complained of erectile dysfunction.
Many traditional frame cyclists believe their bikes look the way they do because the design is proven to be the best, or the safest or the fastest. Unfortunately, that is not true. Traditional frames look the way they do because of the UCI's 1934 decision to establish strict standards for bicycle geometry, effectively banning recumbent bicycles. That decision was controversial at the time and only passed by a close vote of 58 to 46 among UCI delegates. The UCI's rules and regulations have shaped those of US and international cycling sports governing bodies including USA Triathlon, USA Cycling and the International Olympic Committee. Paul Rousseau, the UCI Commissioner at the time of the vote, voiced his opposition to the ban on recumbents, stating that the UCI's purpose was "not to define the bicycle, but to regulate races and prohibit add-on aerodynamic aids." Even today, The UCI states one of its major goals is to: "Enable innovation and continued advances in technology". The best way to do that is to once again allow innovation and competition in frame geometry.
Let's encourage the UCI and USA Triathlon to lift the ban and share the race, allowing athletes who race standard and non-standard bicycles to compete side-by-side.
We are joined in this campaign by our associates in the recumbent bicycle and tricycle industry, recumbent bicycle enthusiasts, and everyone who shares the dream of making the world a better place by getting more people to cycle every day.
We also applaud these recumbent-friendly organizations:
OF THE BAN ON RECUMBENT BICYCLES
Prior to 1934, recumbent bicycles were considered just another bicycle design. They'd been around since at least 1895. By 1914, they were popular enough that Peugeot, a major bicycle manufacturer, produced a recumbent model. In the 50 years preceding 1934, bicycles had undergone dramatic changes in design. Bicycle races not only proved which riders were the best at racing, but which bicycle design had the best chance of winning. The era of rapid bicycle design evolution was about to end. The trouble began when Charles Mochet designed and built a radically sleek recumbent bicycle that allowed Francis Faure, a "mediocre" cyclist, to outrace Europe's best.
On July 7, 1933, Faure set the one-hour world record. The UCI, the majority of whose delegates came from France, Italy, and Germany, spent months pondering whether to accept the new record or strike it down. Several of the UCI's sponsors were manufacturers of the standard "safety" bike which was extremely popular at that time. No doubt this fact influenced the final decision which was released on April 1, 1934. After a close vote (58 to 46) the UCI decided not only to strip Faure of his medals, but also to impose strict uniform bicycle design standards—the position of the bottom bracket relative to the saddle, front axle, rear axle, etc. in order to prevent Faure, or anyone, from ever again racing a recumbent bike in a UCI competition. It's worth noting that Paul Rousseau, the UCI Commissioner from France in 1934, voiced his opposition to the ban on recumbents, stating that the UCI's purpose was not to define the bicycle, but to regulate races and prohibit add-on aerodynamic aids.
This 1934 decree crippled the budding recumbent bicycle industry and continues, even today, to thwart the development of alternate frame designs by artificially limiting the potential recumbent bicycle market. The post-1934 UCI, rather than encouraging innovative changes to the bicycle frame, expressly prohibited any significant changes. Perhaps even worse, it helped forge an indelible image in the mind of the public regarding what a bicycle should look like.
ERGONOMICS AND THE REBIRTH OF THE RECUMBENT
Recumbents, after scores of lost years, began a slow re-birth in the 1970's and 1980's as more cyclists were interested in not only speed, but comfort and safety. Ergonomics, the concept of designing equipment to optimize both performance and human well-being, did not exist in 1934. The term was first proposed for use in 1949 by Professor Hugh Murrell at a meeting of the British Admiralty. The first professional society dedicated to promoting ergonomics was not formed in the U.S. until 1957. The bicycle has had to compete with the automobile as a transportation option. Unfortunately for the bicycle, the basic frame of the bicycle was designed in the pre-ergonomic era, and that design is forbidden to change by the UCI. The automobile industry is under no such restrictions, and constantly improving ergonomics has been an integral part of what makes cars so comfortable, safe, and popular. Most Americans perceive bicycles as toys, rather than as a serious alternative transportation modality. Would that perception be different today if the UCI, in 1934, had decided to allow all bicycles to compete on the highest level?
The UCI-defined racing bicycle sets the standard for what almost all competitive cyclists and triathletes are permitted to ride. Organizations such as USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, Inc., have adopted UCI standards, sometimes with slight modifications, but almost always preventing recumbents from competing against "standard" bikes. What would be the harm in allowing recumbents to compete? The UMCA (Ultramarathon Cycling Association) has proven that recumbent and standard bikes can compete safely, even in mass-start and drafting events.
Let's start to change this by calling on the USAT to end the ban and open USAT events to athletes who ride all types of safe bicycles and tricycles. This would support the USAT's vision to provide the resources for all in the triathlon community to reach their full potential. It might even dramatically increase participation in their events, something that would be good for the USAT, for public health, and for the planet.