Thread: Big Gears
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Old 06-26-17, 10:11 PM
Brian Ratliff
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Bikes: Three road bikes. Two track bikes.

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Big gears are clearly better for sprinting. Roadies have been using huge gears forever in their sprints. All the good sprinters these days are using big gears in their races. I've converted. It's better as long as you have the strength to get the gears accelerated.

The way I view it is similar to chess history. Back in the day (Bobby Fischer's era and before), when chess was more intuitive, reactive and less pre-calculated, the gambit opening was a very popular style of play. It was exciting, it led to positions that were difficult to calculate, and a lot of good chess players won all the time using gambits by out calculating their opponents over the board and forcing their opponents into mistakes.

Now? Almost no chess game at a high level uses a gambit opening because they are all unsound and people have studied how to deal with them. Play the King's Gambit at the high level now and your opponent has had the first 15 moves memorized from the time he was 12 and you will lose. Pre-calculation has won the day and truly sound opening are the only openings played.

The days of 90" gears were from a time when training and racing was intuitive and reactive, and acceleration was used as the be-all and end-all of sprinting. Understand that the well coached individuals of that era were all taught that small gears were the gears to use and the game was at an equilibrium. Small gears racing against small gears works just fine and a top level racer isn't going to sacrifice a full season on the vague notion that big gears might just work better. Even racers of moderate talent such as myself, it's hard to just jump on an untested idea knowing that you'll have to dedicate a lot of work to get the new system to work for you. The sport of track racing, and sprinting especially, is well known for being very conservative. How long exactly did it take before cleated pedals were finally out? There was still one rider in the 2012 Olympics using slotted cleats and straps.

It's not that nobody used big gears, but the ones who used big gears were outside the main talent pool. It wasn't until Marty Nothstein, who rode something like a "big gear" (a whole 94 inches), and then later with converted kilo riders like Chris Hoy and Theo Bos, that people started experimenting with and having success with bigger gears. Power meters probably helped in that conversion too.

Curiously enough, if you watch some of the high level racing, you'll see guys like Jason Kenny and Denis Dimitrov starting to adopt "small gear" tactics against bigger geared opponents, but instead of racing an 88 or 90" gear and launching from 15mph at 190m, they are doing it launching from 30 or 35mph in a 110" gear starting from 300m.
Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
"If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 06-26-17 at 10:18 PM.
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