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Coaches Blog

UCI Controversies of 2024

It's spring, which means it's time for the ProTour teams to roll out new gear--and for the UCI to get mad about stuff. This season's two biggest topics so far are "The Helmet" and hookless rims.


Photo courtesy of Team Visma-LeaseABike

You might as well start with "The Helmet." Although four different helmets share the same look and general tech, the Giro Aerohead 2.0 is getting all the attention. Even people with zero interest in cycling have seen Aerohead 2.0; after all, it took over social media for a few days.


I feel I should make it known that I am not impartial when discussing "The Helmet." I LOVE IT. In fact, there are few things I wouldn't do to get my hands on one. The new crop of aero helmets is excellent. Mixing Aerodynamics with the required safety components. These helmets embody function over fashion, and that is great.


As of today (3/25/24), the new aero helmets are within the UCI's rules. However, as anyone who has followed road cycling for any appreciable amount of time knows, the UCI does not like innovative thinking. Just ask Graham Obree. Also, the UCI has not had an issue with the past few iterations of POC's aero helmets.


Will the new aero helmets be outlawed? Only time will tell. The silver lining is that most things that get banned by the UCI find a home in non-draft-legal Triathlons. Triathlon is really the home for misfit toys in the world of cycling.


The other "controversy" in cycling right now is the Hookless rim. Unlike "The Helmet," I am entirely opposed to the hookless rim in road cycling, and I am not an adopter of it in mountain biking. The hookless rim is a throwback to early bicycle technology that I never expected to see come back.


For a bit of history on rims, here you go:

Original bicycle/velocipede rims had a concave surface on which a solid rubber tire sat. The only thing keeping the tire on the rim was the friction between the rubber on the concave surface.


Next came the tubular tire, which used the same concave rim with a pneumatic tire that was glued to the rim. The tubular tire consisted of a rubber tread attached to a flexible casing (typically cotton or silk) with an inner tube to hold air sewn into the casing. So, instead of having a solid tire on the rim, you could have an air-filled tire, significantly improving the ride. However, having an inner tube sewn into the casing glued to the rim is very inconvenient if you get a flat.


The fix for this problem was to create a tire that does not have an inner tube sewn in. This was accomplished by covering the tire casing in rubber and adding parallel sidewalls to the edge of the rim. The friction of the rubber casing against the sidewall of the rim provided enough grip to hold an inner tube inside the tire, and the clincher tire was born.


The only problem was that if there was too much pressure in the inner tube, the tire would blow off the rim since friction was the only thing holding it on. This problem was fixed by adding a hook to the top of the sidewall of the rim and a bead at the end of the tire's casing. Now the tire had something catch onto, nearly eliminating the issue of high pressure. The hook rim clincher was the standard of bikes for decades.


www.carbonbikekits.com (Hook/Hookless/Tubular)

Then, downhill mountain bikers realized they would get fewer pinch flats using a hookless rim since they run their tires at such low pressures (18-30 psi). Now hookless rims are returning to road cycling, and the "high pressure" blowoff issue is still around.


I will admit that hookless rims work on downhill bikes. Pinch flats are an issue under 30 psi, and the hook is the main culprit of the pinch. Anything over 30 psi makes me nervous with a hookless rim.


I have seen and ridden blowoffs; it is not fun. You can usually safely slow down and stop when you get a puncture flat. A blowoff is an instant loss of traction and the potential of the tire getting tangled in the bike.


I am for banning hookless rims in road cycling.



 

Coach Adam Sczech is an IRONMAN University Certified Coach, USAT Level I Certified Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and VFS Master Bike Fitter based out of the Western Slope of Colorado. Adam has years of experience coaching beginners, juniors, elites, and clubs as well as a year focusing specifically on special needs athletes. Adam's expertise with bike fitting is extensive with over 15 years and 8,000 fits for athletes that include two world record holders, a national champion, several IRONMAN Pro/Age Groups winners, and an ITU winner. He has completed several full and half Ironman races, and numerous Olympic and Sprint races.


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