Can teams ride prototype bikes in the Tour de France? What are the undisclosed rules of cycling technology in pro road racing?


Part of the fun of watching big bike races like the Tour de France is seeing the latest bikes and equipment used by the pros. Occasionally you’ll be lucky enough to find things that haven’t been released to the general public. So, can riders actually use prototype bikes in cycling’s biggest races like the Tour de France, and what are the rules here?




This isn’t the first time we’ve seen new bikes being used this season, this year we saw riders from the EF Education-EasyPost men’s team riding a new road bike, the Cannondale SuperSix Evo 4.


Mathieu van der Boel was on the updated Canyon Aerod all year, riding it to victory at Paris-Roubaix.

Most recently, AG2R Citroen, Lotto–Dstny and Cofidis were seen on the new bikes at the Critérium du Dauphiné, the main training race for the world’s best before the Tour de France.

> 8 things we learned at Dauphiné 2023

Team Cofidis made an appearance, which we first reported in January. It was officially unveiled in the last couple of weeks as the 795 Blade RS road bike, which has been redesigned to „balance aerodynamics, stiffness and light weight”.

Next up, a new Ridley road bike ridden by Lotto-Dstny broke cover at the Critérium du Dauphiné, which will be unveiled in the next few weeks. It looks like the bike is definitely trying to combine aero and lightweight, as we’ve seen plenty of brands do in recent years. This could be Ridley’s new 'do it all’ road racing bike.

Finally, there’s also imminent the launch of the BMC prototype aero superbike seen at the Dauphine, which we predict will be the latest generation Timemachine road aero bike from the Swiss brand’s range. There’s always a chance it could be an entirely new platform, but we’ll have to wait and see.


The lookin bike was officially launched, but the Ridley and BMC were still prototypes, but not among them. General list of UCI approved frames.

The UCI ProSeries team rides bikes from Israel-premier Tech Factor. Usually it’s the Ostro VAM, but this year’s tour saw a new O2 VAM. We know Factor is releasing a new bike on July 10, 2023, the first Tour de France rest day, so we’re keeping our eyes peeled.

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Why do pro riders use unreleased bikes?

Image © Alex Whitehead, SWpix.com

The world of cycling and the general media rarely pay more attention to bike racing than the opening stages of the Tour de France. As a result, brands that pay riders to use their latest and greatest kit want to use it.

Preferably, use their star ride to win, then the waiting media will sing its praises; But why do we see people riding bikes that no one can afford yet, is this allowed?

Professional teams have partnerships with bike manufacturers that allow them to ride unreleased bikes before they become available to the public. This serves several purposes: one is marketing and advertising, and by riding unreleased bikes, teams generate excitement among cycling enthusiasts, generating publicity when the bikes are eventually released.

> 2023 Tour de France bikes — your definitive guide to what the best pro cycling teams are riding this year


Brands often tell us that they use feedback from teams to help shape the final product. We’ll never know for sure how much of it comes down to marketing, but the breadth and depth of opinions from different riders on World Tour teams can be invaluable because they put those bikes through a hell of a lot of abuse.

This makes sense because the pros accumulate more mileage in a shorter period of time than you or I can, which means that tested equipment is put under a lot of stress very quickly. This enables manufacturers to make necessary improvements before the bikes hit the market. But, you might be thinking, why would the pros want to use a bike that is still in development in the world’s biggest bike race?

These bikes undergo thorough testing before being transported to the world’s biggest stage, including a run out at the Criterium du Dauphiné.

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No brand wants to risk a product that performs well at the Tour de France, even if high-profile technical problems occur at major races. So you can be sure that there is a lot of faith in anything that has ever been done.

The advantage of riding unreleased equipment is that they have the latest technological advances, designs and lightweight materials, all of which can contribute to being more competitive than other teams.

Can prototypes be used in the Tour de France?

If you recall last year’s tour, Bocagar and the UAE team were seen in the Emirates Colnaco Prototipo – the word Prottippo being Italian for 'prototype’. It was later officially launched as the Colnago V4Rs road bike in December 2022.


In short, yes, pros can use prototype bikes and equipment in the Tour de France – but the UCI has introduced new rules and regulations regarding equipment registration for this year’s Tour.

As in previous years, prototypes must comply with all of the UCI’s usual rules. With wheels, for example, regulations must be followed on rim depth and spoke count.

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This is a very detailed process and requires brands to provide the UCI with information on things like the materials used and the manufacturing process. The UCI may then ask for plans, drawings and additional information, and guarantees that everything provided during the approval process will remain confidential.

So while Team Cofitis had to fill out a form earlier in the year to get permission to use its next-generation 795 Blade RS road bike, nosy journalists – or anyone else – have nowhere to go to see that information.

So, what are the actual rules?

The UCI has always had strict rules that ensure all bikes and parts used in competition are available to the public. Article 1.3.006 states that „equipment must be of a type sold to anyone practicing cycling as a sport”.

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> Learn about the new UCI rules

State-of-the-art bikes and equipment often debut at the Tour de France, but the UCI has tightened the rules for using prototypes in the race. Interestingly, this rule will not apply to other road events listed in the 2023 UCI calendar and will only apply to the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes in 2023.

Framesets, wheels, handlebars, time trial bar extensions, clothing and helmets (standard and time trial helmets) must all be registered before the start of each race – June 2 for the Tour de France and June 17 for the Tour de France Femmes – and after first use in competition. Should be available for purchase within 12 months.

> Check out Wout Van Aert’s super-fast Cervelo S5 aero road bike

To ensure that the equipment used by the teams is the same as what they registered, all frames will have an undamaged tag using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which will be scanned at random intervals during the tour.

This new rule aims to promote fair and equal access to equipment in cycling events, and ensure a level playing field for all competitors. Of course, it’s always going to be a bit, but the idea is that it will be kept within limits.

Fortunately for us (or those who can afford the very best bikes and gear used by the pros), we can be sure that sooner or later anything used in the Tour de France will be released to the public. The rules also prevent brands from making anything virtually inaccessible. Products must be available for delivery and „not unreasonably exceed the market value for devices of the same quality,” warn our friends at UCI.

Did you see any other prototypes being used at this year’s Tour de France? Let us know in the comments section below…

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