Has the UCI really changed?

April 4, 2017/ Jim Parker

Cycling for all or cycling for some?


The UCI must end the ban on athletes who ride recumbent bikes, if they are sincere about their new Cycling for All Manifesto.

We applaud the UCI’s new strategy statement: “to ensure that elite cycling acts as a catalyst to inspire even greater mass participation, and get many more people using bikes as part of their everyday lives.”

But we have to ask, do they really mean it? Or is this another slick PR campaign designed to improve their public image after all the scandals?

The UCI sets the rules that are used for highly influential elite bicycle racing. Other organizations, such a USA Cycling and USA Triathlon base their rules on the UCI rules, which ban recumbents from almost all competition, sometime making exceptions for people with disabilities. If the UCI wants to see more people riding bikes, they need to embrace alternate bicycle designs that make bicycles faster, safer and more comfortable for everyone. The UCI recumbent ban dates back to 1934, an ugly milestone in bikeism for which the UCI should seek redemption. If they apply the principles in their new Manifesto, redemption, and massively increased participation in cycling, may be achieved.

Let’s talk about the practical aspects of what the ban has done and why it’s kept a lot of people away from the sport and the non-sporting use of bicycles. A strong case can be made that recumbent bicycles are safer, healthier and more comfortable than traditional bicycles.

Serious Accidents

The high center of gravity of riders on UCI-approved standard bicycles, combined with the head-forward position, frequently results in serious injury to the head, neck, and shoulder region during sudden deceleration events. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cycling accidents were the cause of 86,000 head injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2009, more than football and baseball, combined. While head injuries are possible among recumbent cyclists, they will hit feet-first in a frontal collision, and it’s nearly impossible to make a recumbent bike flip forward in an “end-over” due to the rider’s weight being positioned farther behind and lower relative to the front axle. Cyclists racing standard bikes in the tuck position develop neck fatigue which leads to head-drop, especially when they are trying to maintain the most aerodynamic posture. This may cause delays in responding to road hazards, and has led to serious injuries and deaths.

Aches and Pains

Musculoskeletal pain is very common among standard cyclists. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Medicine found that musculoskeletal pain is very common among standard bicyclists, especially over the age of 40. Recumbent bikes alleviate or reduce each of these complaints. Musculoskeletal pain is a major cause of why people stop riding bicycles as they get older. Cycling use should dramatically increase as we get older, not decrease.

Pelvic/Genital Injuries

Saddle injuries occur because traditional bikes place weight directly over the delicate nerves and arteries in the perineum. Peer-reviewed medical journals have documented significantly increased risks of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men and genital numbness in women who ride standard bikes. Three hours per week on a standard bike increases a man’s risk of ED by a factor of 1.7. For comparison, smokers have a 1.5x increased risk of having a stroke compared to non-smokers.

What about racing dynamics?

Some traditionalists will argue that standard bikes and recumbent bikes can’t “mix” safely in a race. Those of us who have raced in the few events where recumbents and standard bikes are allowed to race together know that this is bunk. If anything, it seems that standard bikes can’t mix safely with other standard bikes. Serious injuries and massive pile-up crashes are common in UCI cycling. It’s no wonder the sport of cycling is still very small relative to what it could be.

What about “Fairness”?

Some critics of allowing recumbents into the sport fret about fairness. If this is a concern, then simply allow them to have a separate division, but let them compete in the events. People will come to learn that recumbents are fast, safe, and fun. Some people who would not have otherwise decided to begin cycling, will see the advantages of the recumbent and the will fulfill the UCI’s new Manifesto.

Over the years, other changes to the geometry of the bicycle have been allowed as technology improves. Why not take the view that recumbent bikes are a technological breakthrough?

Let’s get this conversation started with the UCI so they’ll end the ban on athletes who ride recumbent bikes. Twitter is a great platform – here are some Tweets you can try out if you like them!

Log in to Twitter and Reply to @Cycling


#cyclingforall? End the ban on athletes riding recumbent bikes, grow cycling, make the world a better place. #endbikeism

We @Cruzbike support your mission. @Cycling is for everyone. #CyclingForAll #endbikeism

#Cyclingforall. (Recumbents not included.) #endbikeism

@cycling #cyclingforall – recumbents included this time? #endbikeism

@cycling #cyclingforall – small, laid back, and comfortable as always.

@cycling #cyclingforall – “all” is a little word with big impact – How bout people who ride recumbents?#endbikeism

Or share this blog post. We’re optimistic! Let’s encourage the UCI to #endbikeism.

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