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Dear UCI - It's time to update the bike number plate

By Larry Theobald

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Plato's dialogue Phaedo is available as in both audiobook & Kindle eBook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

Larry Theobald, a long-time friend and formerly of CycleItalia still keeps his interesting blog updated. Click here to check it out.

Here, he give his thoughts about an essential part of bike racing, the bike number plate.

Am I the only one annoyed by the haphazard way the number plates are mounted on road racing bikes these days? The plate itself hasn’t changed much in shape, but how it’s mounted certainly has, and not for the better.

Back in the day the number was attached to the front of the bike, a roughly square plate with a corner cut off at roughly the angle of the bicycle’s downtube. This neatly fit under the top tube against the headtube and was easily visible. Some frame builders even brazed a tiny tab to attach the plate so various strings, wires or zip-ties could be eliminated. These numbers were ALWAYS horizontal for easy reading,

Bernard Hinault

Bernard Hinault in the 1981 Tour de France with a number plate the way they used to be.

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Fast forward to modern molded frames without a defined shape up near the headtube and what do you do? Eventually the solution was to attach the number plate to the seat post or a tiny bracket attached to the rear brake, but when those calipers were replaced with a hydraulic one down on the chain stay, seat post mounting became universal.

2021 Tour de France

Here's picture by Sirotti from the final stage of the 2021 Tour de France showing how number plates are done today.


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What’s wrong with this, you ask? Nobody seems to know the correct way to mount ‘em these days. The shape of the plate is pretty much the same so the corner-cut ends up on the front, on the back, or worse, the thing is attached vertically, making the number much harder to decipher.

Bike number plate

The solution.

Zio Lorenzo has a simple solution – change the shape of the number plate. Cut the front side at an angle of around 75 degrees so it can be parallel to the seat post in the same way the old cut was designed to follow the angle of the down tube. They can be mounted using the same schemes as the teams use now but the angle makes it pretty obvious how the thing should be positioned – HORIZONTALLY.

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