Today, my Twitter feed mentioned that the UCI would begin scanning bicycles to prevent “mechanical doping.” I’m not sure what misguided interpreter hatched the phrase, but it has taken on a whole life of its own, hasn’t it? I’m guessing that “mechanical doping” is meant to denote any piece of equipment that puts force into the pedals OTHER THAN the rider’s legs. But if you open up the idea, if you consider the possible connotations of the phrase, you start thinking about the pros’ current standard equipment.
There was a time when Henri Desgranges, the patron saint of cyclorific suffering, would scoff at the use of multiple gears, when the derailleur qualified as “mechanical doping,” and the standard road race bicycle looked more like a cross between a track bike and a touring machine. That was a quaint time when the illicit use of brandies, schnapps and apertifs passed as illegal performance “enhancement.”
But time stands still for no man. First there were gears. Then there were aero wheels (I’m skipping some steps) and bars. There were cyclocomputers and power meters. We had indexed and now electronic shifting. We had steel and now carbon fiber. Each time the bicycle leaps forward there are those who lament the advantages conferred by new technology and those who celebrate the forward march of progress.
If I’m honest, I’m more of a Luddite than most. I keep in my mind some non-existent vision of pure cycling, where the equipment matters less than the talent and heart of the rider. Call me an idealist. For a guy who goes by the sobriquet Robot, it’s a sort of self-contradictory view point.
What I’d like to talk about on the Group Ride this week is what piece of equipment, if any, on a pro racing bicycle, you would ban. What would you get rid of? Assuming seat tube motors are not currently installed on every other race machine, what do you think is superfluous or even detrimental to the racing? Or do you live in the other camp? Do you think think technology has only benefited the spectacle?