New Junior Gear Restrictions – 1 year on…

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Coaching, Opinion
Tags: , ,

Last year, not long after the introduction of the new bigger gearing for under-17 riders I wrote a post that strongly argued against this move (New Under 17 Rollout – the strong get stronger…).  A year on, I’m interested to hear how people think it’s going?  While it is obviously too early to determine what effect it might have for those stepping up to the under-19s (and Junior Worlds which we again dominated with kids who grew up on the old gearing!), we can look at the effect it is having on the results and the style of racing in the under-17 fields.

I sat in the stands at the recent Melbourne-leg of the NJTS with a highly regarded track endurance rider and now coach.  Some of his comments were interesting.  What he observed, at the NJTS at least, is that physically stronger riders are winning in the under-17s.  Riders who can get on top of the new big gear.  And what this coach noticed was that these riders were making all sorts of mistakes in racing, but because of their strength, they could simply put the hammer down and make up for their mistakes.

We don't need to spin… we've got the power!

We don’t need to spin… we’ve got the power!

So are the changes breeding a crop of young riders who are losing the skills of racing – especially bunch racing – using tactics, riding position, making good decisions, because they have the strength to just win from any position?  This wasn’t just evident in the finals but in the heats – almost to a heat in the keirin, the sprint and the venue blaster, the biggest, strongest kid won!

Keen to hear what other parents/coaches/riders think of the change and how its working so far?

  1. stephen says:

    This being true, it is also important to consider the future development of the cyclists. If U17 riders are restricted to be racing on an 82″ gear up until U19 where they are allowed to ride open gears the development and transition into elite and seniors will take many more years. Getting juniors onto slightly bigger gears gives them the opportunity to be able to transfer some of there strength and power across there cycling career meaning that they won’t have to develop a new riding style and skill set every time they move up a grade. Furthermore the argument could be made in the opposite direction, ‘if juniors are restricted to smaller gears, the kids who can spin will win’. On the previous gear restrictions for U17 (82″) most tactics were renderd useless as the kids would spin out before any major tactical moves could be made, and therefore not developing there tactical sense on the bike. Again these smaller gears would impede on there transition into the higher age groups.

  2. Carl Brewer says:

    What we’re seeing now, at least in sprint, is that revvers and mashers (who still have to spin 140+rpm, it’s not like they’re grinding away) are more even and more tactical racing is the result – as Stephen points out, on 82″ most sprints were just drag races as there’s no real tactical play that can happen at very high rpm, you can’t go over-speed on tiny gears where you can (if your coaches teach it or you’re smart enough to work it out for yourself) use space and run at riders on bigger gears. I suggest that we get better race skill development (in sprint, at least) with the use of 90″, we certainly did last year when I brought 3 J17’s through it and they are reaping the rewards of that development this summer.

    It’s interesting that J17’s make tactical mistakes (oh, really?!) but get away with it because for some reason they’re faster – Is this a new phenomena? Absolutely not. I know of plenty of big, strong kids that won on 82″ and 77″, they also win on 90″, despite tactical gumbyness.

  3. Courtney Field says:

    Hey, I found that the jump from under 17’s to under 19’s become a lot easier. I didn’t have the struggle of having to jump to much higher gears, which was a shock for me because I prefer spinning! Iv still kept very high leg cadence. I think changing the gear restriction has made the transition from under 17’s to under 19’s so much better.

  4. Breed em big says:

    So the stronger kids now have an advantage on the track with bigger gears?? Maybe we should have all road races on circuits with no hills because it gives an advantage to the more enduro type of built kid !!!!! The great thing about cycling is that one size does not generally fit all facets of racing, and as for the skill level. maybe you might find they will improve now they are more competitive, not having to rely on cadence alone.

  5. cycdad says:

    Well seems like a lot of support out there for the introduction of the big gear from the sprinting fraternity. Wonder how the parents of the less strong kids feel? Keen to hear your thoughts…

  6. Henry says:

    Hi CyclingDad
    I agree with all the arguments from your first blog and that it was a bad move to increase the gear size for under-17s… I also agree with the effect it is having on the current pattern of racing. I have a bottom-age rider who is quite slight and while he was good enough to go to Track Nationals as a top-age 15, he is now having a hell of a time competing on this new gear. He said to me the other day that was no longer enjoying track and thinks he’ll stop doing it to just concentrate on racing crits and preparing for the road season. It is just too big a jump for all but the strongest kids. One of the benefits of junior gearing was it provided a level playing field and even racing, not giving the physically developed kids too much of an advantage and teaching them how to race tactically. CA has just gone and destroyed this and mark my words – our dominance of Junior Worlds will end in a couple of years – especially in the bunch racing events. Looks like the sprint mafia has got its way at the expense of the majority. They’ve lost my son to track – probably for good…

  7. Lachlan says:

    I am an U17 from the Gold Coast and personally I like having the bigger gears. The bigger gear makes it easier for me to race the club races in which I get help from older riders with regards to tactics. I know last year up here the junior racing was a bit boring with most kids believing they are sprinters the race would crawl along and then have a sprint. As I am not the best sprinter my option is usually to try and split the group or make a break. On the smaller gears I dont think it would be possible to establish a break or get rid of riders. The bigger gears I realise are not as easy to push for smaller guys so I know up here there are kids in U17’s using 84’s or around that and they are spinning away with the wins. Using a smaller gear you just have to be a bit more thoughtful about sprint timing and positioning. In conclusion I enjoy the bigger gears.

  8. Swuzz says:

    Perhaps we need to move J15 to 6.5 and J13 to 6.0?
    If first year J11 can manage 5.5 I’m sure second year J13 can go to 6.0.
    They’d all then have an easier transition to J17 and beyond.

  9. Ic4u2 says:

    It seems as though a lot of emphasis is placed on winning at junior level rather than developing junior riders into successful senior riders. It doesn’t matter how big or small an athlete is in juniors, a coach who is interested in developing juniors will work with them, teaching them skills and tailoring a program suited to their age and body size. A career coach, one who has ambitions to coach at the highest level, may be only interested in the fastest kids of the day. These coaches need results more than the kids as it looks great on their resume.
    My point being, a coach should be able to advise a junior of what gearing will be best suited to the rider. Just because 7 metres is available, it doesn’t mean that it has to be used. I have seen riders spend a season frustrated with their results all because their coach told them to ride 7 metres.
    Step back and look at the bigger picture, do you want your kids to be superstars at a junior level, or do you want them to be successful at a senior level? We can all see that there are athletes that develop much sooner than others, the same as some kids at school with better reading and writing ability. By the time they finish school, or stop growing, things have evened out.
    Sorry to read that Henry’s son may give up track. I always tell my kids that so long as you have tried your hardest in a race then it doesn’t matter where you finish. If you truly believe this, then there is no pressure to beat that kid or be beaten by that one, you can enjoy the racing by not having any unnecessary pressure.

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