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Gearing for scratch/points race?

Old 08-19-18, 09:30 PM
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Divebrian
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Gearing for scratch/points race?

I know the responses are going to vary widely and there is no one magical gear, but what is the range of gear inches I should expect to see in a master's scratch, miss 'n out or points race? I live 5 hours from the closest velodrome and focused on sprinting the last couple of years, but figured I need to expand my horizons a bit so I can get more track time on race weekends and start doing omniums. I know every person/race is going to be different and it will take awhile to get "my" gear range figured out, but I'm trying to figure out a gear that will allow me to hang with the pack for the first race and start to make adjustments from there. I use somewhere in the 100" range for sprinting and don't know if I should go smaller or larger for the mass starts stuff as I haven't done it in awhile.
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Old 08-19-18, 09:39 PM
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No secrets I'm a big gear fan, and I would go slightly bigger. BUT I would also take something slightly smaller or around your 100" sprint gear. For sheets and giggles I started running larger gears for club racing ~ which was my segway into bigger gears. Always a mix of sprint and scratch and handicap racing. Normally I was running 94/96 but for the second half of the season started riding on 105". It did take a couple of weeks for conditioning, but after that I had zero issues with inter race surging and had a bucket load of extra speed for the end. I'd race at least one race on a bigger gear just to see how you go, and then back it off if you don't like it
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Old 08-19-18, 11:02 PM
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Big how long is a piece of string question.

Gear selection depends on many factors: Indoor or outdoor track, if outdoor temps and wind conditions, length of track, size of field, strength of field, particular strength of riders within the field, where in the season in regards to your fitness, personal goals or tactics you want to employ, personal experience, number of years racing, your physiology just to name a few...
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Old 08-19-18, 11:04 PM
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100" range for your flying 200 lap, sprint rounds or both?

Personally when I raced Scratch / points gearing was always below 100". Biggest would be 98" and that was indoors at Masters Nationals with a big field of the strongest Masters. Club racing outdoors at the start of the season with poor fitness and small fields I would be as low as 90"!

Last edited by Dalai; 08-19-18 at 11:11 PM.
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Old 08-20-18, 07:15 AM
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Funny. Somebody just said to me, "You know, you told me I was riding a gear that's too big for mass start races. I went down and everything started locking in to place." I told him, "Go down two more inches. In fact, go down until it's DEFINITELY too light, then go back up an inch or two."

It's really easy to feel crap in a mass start on a too-big gear (especially the smaller the field, which likely means a lower average speed and likely greater variation between average speed and attack speed in the race). Basically, personal factors aside, I'd think about expected field size, average speed, and speed variance (each ranging from low to high) to determine my gearing: low to high corresponds across the board.

Personal factors are, of course, what works for you - and you in the context of the race. If you don't expect to be tested by the field - if you are confident that it will stay together until the end, and that you won't have to work to match accelerations, chase attacks, or close gaps - then larger might work.

But honestly, I hear "100 for a master's scratch race" and my eyebrows go way up. FWIW I race UCI elite races on a 96-98.
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Old 08-20-18, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Dalai View Post
100" range for your flying 200 lap, sprint rounds or both?

Personally when I raced Scratch / points gearing was always below 100". Biggest would be 98" and that was indoors at Masters Nationals with a big field of the strongest Masters. Club racing outdoors at the start of the season with poor fitness and small fields I would be as low as 90"!

100" range, + or - a few inches for flying 200's and sprint rounds......98" at Master Nationals is what I was looking for in terms of mass start gearing. Didn't want to go out for the 1st race in a 92" and be spit out the back after 5 laps and didn't want to put on a 102" and realize I was over geared.....I'm thinking 96" will be a great starting point and then I can adjust up or down accordingly.
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Old 08-20-18, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by queerpunk View Post
Funny. Somebody just said to me, "You know, you told me I was riding a gear that's too big for mass start races. I went down and everything started locking in to place." I told him, "Go down two more inches. In fact, go down until it's DEFINITELY too light, then go back up an inch or two."

It's really easy to feel crap in a mass start on a too-big gear (especially the smaller the field, which likely means a lower average speed and likely greater variation between average speed and attack speed in the race). Basically, personal factors aside, I'd think about expected field size, average speed, and speed variance (each ranging from low to high) to determine my gearing: low to high corresponds across the board.

Personal factors are, of course, what works for you - and you in the context of the race. If you don't expect to be tested by the field - if you are confident that it will stay together until the end, and that you won't have to work to match accelerations, chase attacks, or close gaps - then larger might work.

But honestly, I hear "100 for a master's scratch race" and my eyebrows go way up. FWIW I race UCI elite races on a 96-98.
I understand all of what your saying and understand gearing and the factors that affect it. It's just been awhile since I have raced a mass start event and never at a masters event, I'm just trying to get an "average" of what I should expect to see others on. I have plenty of experience doing mass start stuff, but it's always been at a local level with a field broken into A & B riders.
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Old 08-20-18, 07:45 AM
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Look in the ProTips thread at the top. This was discussed over the last few pages there.
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Old 08-20-18, 09:04 AM
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Just to give you some data points:

Masters Nationals 2016, Indianapolis, 45-49, 333m concrete
Points Race, 5th. Gearing 51x15. Probably fastest out of all the riders in a sprint, but missed the main move.
Scratch Race, 2nd. Gearing 53x15. Gambled on it all staying together, which it did. Had to follow an attack w/ 2 to go, chased 10ft off the back, and had 1 rider come over the top when I launched. In retrospect, 52x15 might have allowed me to respond better.

Masters Nationals 2018, T-Town, 45-49, 333m concrete
Scratch Race, 2nd. Gearing 53x15 equivalent. Break of 5 riders. I was stronger this year -- gearing was fine in a break and also gave me a huge top end. Just out maneuvered.

In the US, the fastest Masters track races are usually the 45-49. Usually the younger and older will be slower. I'll see about changing my gearing when I move up to 50+ next year.

I think Queerpunk's advice is spot on. Bring a bunch of gears and you'll get a good sense by the second race of the evening. However, I can say that when you're not fit, every gear feels "wrong" while if you're going great you can ride well from a greater variety of gears.
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Old 08-20-18, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
I know the responses are going to vary widely and there is no one magical gear, but what is the range of gear inches I should expect to see in a master's scratch, miss 'n out or points race? I live 5 hours from the closest velodrome and focused on sprinting the last couple of years, but figured I need to expand my horizons a bit so I can get more track time on race weekends and start doing omniums. I know every person/race is going to be different and it will take awhile to get "my" gear range figured out, but I'm trying to figure out a gear that will allow me to hang with the pack for the first race and start to make adjustments from there. I use somewhere in the 100" range for sprinting and don't know if I should go smaller or larger for the mass starts stuff as I haven't done it in awhile.
Focus on speed and cadence, not gearing.

Gear ratios simply get your cadence into your personal sweet spot so that you can maintain (or exceed) the pack speeds that you expect in your race.

So, I think a better question might be:

"What average and sprint speeds should I expect in a Masters age [30-40, 40-50, 50-60] mass start racing?"

Then note what cadences your body likes to maintain on your track bike (track bikes are often setup different than road bikes).

From there, you have the two important factors:
- The speeds you need to maintain and max out at during your races.
- The cadence ranges you can hold.

Now you can calculate what gear ratio you need to do so.




Or you can simply assume that you are of similar ability as your opponents (a very good assumption) and ask them what gears they typically ride at the local track. You can always change gears between warmup pacelines and each race depending on how it's going.

Either way, you are good. One solution is more technical than the other.

At this point, gaining experience is your goal. Experience in the races and how to race them. Experience racing other people in particular (you wind up racing the same guys/gals at Nationals every year), and experience with gearing.

You won't nail it the first time. It's a process.

Last edited by carleton; 08-20-18 at 10:20 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-20-18, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
I understand all of what your saying and understand gearing and the factors that affect it. It's just been awhile since I have raced a mass start event and never at a masters event, I'm just trying to get an "average" of what I should expect to see others on. I have plenty of experience doing mass start stuff, but it's always been at a local level with a field broken into A & B riders.
Gotcha, yeah, of course you know gearing - it sounds like you're wondering what to expect from the field and the speed so that you can make a gearing decision.
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Old 08-20-18, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by queerpunk View Post
Gotcha, yeah, of course you know gearing - it sounds like you're wondering what to expect from the field and the speed so that you can make a gearing decision.

Exactly....I trained exclusively for the sprints at last year and this years Masters Nats and training for the sprints in Worlds this year. Making the 10 1/2 drive up to Rock Hill this Friday for the Saturday sprint tournament, but figured since I'm arriving on Friday, might as well arrive a few hours earlier and participate in the 4 mass start races they have Friday night (scratch, tempo, elimination and points). Just trying to make the most out of it and not have the 1st race be a disappointing gear learning experience......I know my gearing will probably be off by a couple of inches and I can deal with that, just trying to get in the ball park so I can hang in the 1st race and get a baseline and make adjustments from there. Fitness and track time is my main goal and being spit out the back by lap 5 doesn't do me any good, especially since I only get to the velodrome once every couple of months.
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Old 08-20-18, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
Focus on speed and cadence, not gearing.

Gear ratios simply get your cadence into your personal sweet spot so that you can maintain (or exceed) the pack speeds that you expect in your race.

So, I think a better question might be:

"What average and sprint speeds should I expect in a Masters age [30-40, 40-50, 50-60] mass start racing?"

Then note what cadences your body likes to maintain on your track bike (track bikes are often setup different than road bikes).

From there, you have the two important factors:
- The speeds you need to maintain and max out at during your races.
- The cadence ranges you can hold.

Now you can calculate what gear ratio you need to do so.




Or you can simply assume that you are of similar ability as your opponents (a very good assumption) and ask them what gears they typically ride at the local track. You can always change gears between warmup pacelines and each race depending on how it's going.

Either way, you are good. One solution is more technical than the other.

At this point, gaining experience is your goal. Experience in the races and how to race them. Experience racing other people in particular (you wind up racing the same guys/gals at Nationals every year), and experience with gearing.

You won't nail it the first time. It's a process.

How did I know that you would respond with some overly complicated response that didn't really answer the question posed? Must be the engineer in you...... All I simply wanted to know was what gear ratios/inches would one expect to see at a masters scratch/points race.

As my mother used to say....I just asked the time, not how to build the clock.
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Old 08-20-18, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
How did I know that you would respond with some overly complicated response that didn't really answer the question posed? Must be the engineer in you...... All I simply wanted to know was what gear ratios/inches would one expect to see at a masters scratch/points race.

As my mother used to say....I just asked the time, not how to build the clock.
lol you hit the nail on the head

But, I thought I threw in a simple solution at the end: Ask the locals (specifically: your competition) what they are riding and equip the same then adjust as needed.
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Old 08-20-18, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
Exactly....I trained exclusively for the sprints at last year and this years Masters Nats and training for the sprints in Worlds this year. Making the 10 1/2 drive up to Rock Hill this Friday for the Saturday sprint tournament, but figured since I'm arriving on Friday, might as well arrive a few hours earlier and participate in the 4 mass start races they have Friday night (scratch, tempo, elimination and points). Just trying to make the most out of it and not have the 1st race be a disappointing gear learning experience......I know my gearing will probably be off by a couple of inches and I can deal with that, just trying to get in the ball park so I can hang in the 1st race and get a baseline and make adjustments from there. Fitness and track time is my main goal and being spit out the back by lap 5 doesn't do me any good, especially since I only get to the velodrome once every couple of months.
Be sure to say hello to Tobukog and me. (At least I think he will be there on Friday. I'll be there on Saturday. I may watch on Friday, but I don't feel like doing the omnium too.) You're in the 50+ group?

And for Rock Hill, go 92 or 94.
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Old 08-20-18, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Look in the ProTips thread at the top. This was discussed over the last few pages there.
Funny you should mention that thread.....every once in awhile I start to read that thread and then can't take the infighting/argueing/ borderline insults, so I just leave it. I know there is good information in there, but it's so tough to actually get to it sometimes for all the other BS that I just prefer to ask a simple question outside of that thread and move on. Are you going to Worlds? If you do, come over and say hello.....love to chat with you. Sorry if I seemed short or unfriendly when you introduced yourself at Nationals, had a lot running through my mind and wasn't expecting an introduction. Won't have the cart at Worlds. but I will have the Koga so you can recognize me.
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Old 08-20-18, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
lol you hit the nail on the head

But, I thought I threw in a simple solution at the end: Ask the locals (specifically: your competition) what they are riding and equip the same then adjust as needed.
Since I'm 10 1/2 hours away, there are no locals to me......this was my way of asking
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Old 08-20-18, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
Since I'm 10 1/2 hours away, there are no locals to me......this was my way of asking
[sigh] When you arrive on site at the track. Those are the locals to whom I refer
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Old 08-20-18, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Be sure to say hello to Tobukog and me. (At least I think he will be there on Friday. I'll be there on Saturday. I may watch on Friday, but I don't feel like doing the omnium too.) You're in the 50+ group?

And for Rock Hill, go 92 or 94.

Yes, I'm in the 50+ group (makes me sound so old).....and I'll have the cart with me at Rock Hill Introduce yourself again, I'll look forward to it......
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Old 08-20-18, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
Exactly....I trained exclusively for the sprints at last year and this years Masters Nats and training for the sprints in Worlds this year. Making the 10 1/2 drive up to Rock Hill this Friday for the Saturday sprint tournament, but figured since I'm arriving on Friday, might as well arrive a few hours earlier and participate in the 4 mass start races they have Friday night (scratch, tempo, elimination and points). Just trying to make the most out of it and not have the 1st race be a disappointing gear learning experience......I know my gearing will probably be off by a couple of inches and I can deal with that, just trying to get in the ball park so I can hang in the 1st race and get a baseline and make adjustments from there. Fitness and track time is my main goal and being spit out the back by lap 5 doesn't do me any good, especially since I only get to the velodrome once every couple of months.
Well, if they combine the fields like last year, I'd err on the big side. A word of warning: last year when they combined the fields they picked COMPLETELY separately for the omnium. Which meant that as a Master if I placed 3rd overall in the race and a rival placed 10th -- I was credited with a 1st and my rival with 2nd. No one knew that we were being scored that way until the final points race when I was told that what I thought was a massive lead was actually just 6 points.
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Old 08-20-18, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
[sigh] When you arrive on site at the track. Those are the locals to whom I refer

Understand, but it takes a little of the angst away when you have a long drive, then have to register/check in and get ready for racing if I already have that question out of the way. I'll ask around before race time to confirm my gearing choice and the plan may go out the window, but at least it will be one less thing to worry about. On the other hand, in sprinting, you rarely ever get a truthful answer (if any answer at all) when asking a competitor what gear they are using....many times I have asked someone what gear they used and if they won, their answer was "the right one"....if they lost, either "too big" or "not big enough".
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Old 08-20-18, 01:19 PM
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If you're 50+ I'm pretty sure you'll get your own race. Have fun! I'll probably be there too -- come by and say hi!

And from observation (i.e., talking out of my ass) of the Master 50+ races at Rock Hill, I think you'll be fine with the 92-94 that topflight pro mentioned. The wind also tends to be stronger right before the races start, which sometimes makes a gear feel too heavy for me, and then usually dies down as we start.

Last edited by tobukog; 08-20-18 at 01:31 PM.
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Old 08-20-18, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Divebrian View Post
Understand, but it takes a little of the angst away when you have a long drive, then have to register/check in and get ready for racing if I already have that question out of the way. I'll ask around before race time to confirm my gearing choice and the plan may go out the window, but at least it will be one less thing to worry about. On the other hand, in sprinting, you rarely ever get a truthful answer (if any answer at all) when asking a competitor what gear they are using....many times I have asked someone what gear they used and if they won, their answer was "the right one"....if they lost, either "too big" or "not big enough".
The diplomatic way to ask is, "What kinds of gears are people using for [scratch, f200, match sprints, points races, etc..] around here?"

If you aren't sure, it's easier and "safer" to go with the norm than it is to gamble on the perfectly high or low gear.

Personally, I really think you'll be able to feel it out in your warmup on your race gear.

It's not uncommon for a racer to do a standard warmup on an 81" then put on their race gear for the organized paceline. (that paceline will give you a feel for the pack speeds). Then come off and go up or down a tooth based on that information gained.

Also, the first race will give you more info.

Rest assured that it's not an exact science.

Once at elite nationals, a road pro was asking around for bigger chainrings or smaller cogs than he brought with him because the pack speeds in the qualifying heats and early racing were faster than what he was accustomed to at home. It was a "game time decision". He went on to win the points race that year.

The same will happen even in local weekly racing.

Be prepared to throw out the script and do what your legs say do.
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Old 08-20-18, 03:28 PM
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One other option not at all mentioned is to go and do some Strava stalking. Lots of riders upload data to there, so you could get a feel for speeds and cadences if they have the right sensors. Just be aware that if their speed comes via GPS on a track that the speed will show lower than it actually is due to the turns
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Old 08-20-18, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by brawlo View Post
One other option not at all mentioned is to go and do some Strava stalking. Lots of riders upload data to there, so you could get a feel for speeds and cadences if they have the right sensors. Just be aware that if their speed comes via GPS on a track that the speed will show lower than it actually is due to the turns

Interesting....I know the amount will vary with speed, but at sprint speeds on a 250m track, how much different is the displayed GPS speed vs actual?
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