Quinn Simmons believes UCI is overlooking bigger safety issues amid new lever regulations

American rider points to 'the dangerous finishes and the dangerous courses that organisers get away with that causes the crashes'

Clock08:10, Tuesday 16th January 2024
Quinn Simmons at the start of stage 1 of the Tour Down Under

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Quinn Simmons at the start of stage 1 of the Tour Down Under

Quinn Simmons (Lidl-Trek) doesn’t believe that the UCI’s new regulations targeting inward angled brake levers “will change so much”, with the American highlighting more pressing safety concerns such as “the dangerous finishes and the dangerous courses that organisers get away with”.

The American is currently racing at the Tour Down Under where the UCI was spotted measuring lever angles for the first time amid its clampdown on the set-up. This clampdown includes new regulations for 2024 and 2025, although cycling’s governing body hasn’t yet confirmed what the maximum allowed lever angle will be. According to CyclingWeekly, the tool used to measure levers at the race allows for a maximum of 10-degrees inward rotation, although they have also seen a document with plans for a tool that limits this to around four or five degrees.

Turned-in levers, which became popular after the UCI banned the similarly popular ‘puppy paw’ position in 2021, sees riders angle their hoods inwards. This puts a rider in a narrow position that reduces their frontal area, leading to a more aerodynamic position, although some riders have gone to extremes by combining narrow bars with extremely angled levers.

This trend towards more extreme angles has raised safety concerns as it makes it hard for a rider to access the brake levers. Riders' association (CPA) president Adam Hansen has also pointed to research from lever manufacturers which indicates that an incline of 10-15 degrees causes added stress to a bar and can lead to cracking.

All of these concerns have led to the UCI's new regulations but Simmons believes there are other common causes of crashes that need more pressing attention.

“First of all, I’m very for anything that increases safety,” Simmons said. “It’s ridiculous how dangerous our sport is and I think it’s actually over the limit, just the sport in general. It’s too dangerous and we need to change things. I think something like this, it’s not really the place that will change so much. It’s the dangerous finishes and the dangerous courses that organisers get away with that causes the crashes. Also, riders doing stupid stuff," he told GCN at the Tour Down Under.

“It will have changed no safety at all now that my levers are three centimetres out, it just makes it more uncomfortable for me. But in the end it’s the new rule and we have to play along by the rules of our sport.”

Having regularly adopted the position throughout his pro career, Simmons is one of the riders who will be impacted by the new changes. However, the new regulations won’t completely prevent riders from positioning their levers at an angle, instead restricting the angle they can use. This will prevent extreme positions, something Simmons supports, but the American believes that the UCI should use a common-sense approach when applying the new rules.

“At least now, the super extreme ones will be gone. I just hope that if you’re one-degree off or something they don’t start doing something stupid. If they just enforce the really crazy ones then it’s OK.”

Whilst the new regulations have drawn criticism from some quarters, there is also lots of support for the changes in the pro peloton. George Bennett (Israel-Premier Tech) believes that the UCI was correct to step in, pointing to previous incidents in the peloton.

“I think it’s a good rule. I think it was getting more and more and more extreme,” Bennett explained. “You started seeing guys riding with one little pinkie wrapped around the bars and you can’t react if someone brakes in front of you.

“I saw last year, as a good example, in this race [Tour Down Under], first stage, where there was a crash and a guy came in like five seconds later and clipped them all from behind because he couldn’t get to his brakes because they were basically pointing inwards.

“If no one’s allowed to do it, we’re all at the same advantage and it’s just safe for everyone.”

Bennett’s thoughts were echoed by Robert Gesink (Visma-Lease a Bike), although the experienced Dutchman, who is set to retire at the end of the season, was sceptical about the current tool being used to measure lever angles at the race.

“I think in general it’s a good decision because we saw some quite extreme settings,” he said. “Obviously, those things are designed to be able to brake and control your bike and if it leads to less safe situations then it’s a good thing that there are measures being put.

“Now we saw the first times of those measurements being done. I’m not sure if that’s a finalised way of measuring yet, it looked quite clumsy with a plastic tool that left quite some range still. But definitely it’s a good first step to check it.”

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