Wednesday, 10 February 2010

My gear is bigger than your gear!


I’m having a bit of a chuckle at a pissing contest on the BV forums, between some boys regarding the size of the gear they rode at the weekend at the Club Teams and ABOC sprint series competitions. I call them boys because they are really comparing the size of their marbles (conkers mainly, so they are saying).

I am chuckling because I used to get asked a lot by some of my fellow competitors the same question: what gear are you riding? I learnt to reply with 104. But it doesn’t matter what gear I am riding, because I am a different rider to you, with a different physiology, temperament and riding style. And even if you and I ride the same gear, it doesn’t mean the outcome will be the same, because racing is more than gear size. It’s also about being strategic, thoughtful and opportunistic.  

A better question to ask is not what gear someone is riding, but how their legs, lungs, heart and brain are feeling. But maybe the gear size question is just code for that much more detailed question? If you know someone usually rides Y gear and today they are riding Z gear, something’s up. But don’t ask the gear size question to get a feel for what you should be riding. You should already know. And if you don’t, then you are experimenting to find out, which is nothing to be hung up about.

But there is more to the gear size story than just this, of course. Going fast  is about leg speed and strength (=power). Ideally gearing should match your “preferred” leg speed. And one of the best ways to get faster, is to improve your leg speed. I’ve learnt the hard way, speed doesn’t just come from “getting stronger” and being able to push out bigger and bigger gears. It's the common coach/athlete war chant: I/You need to get stronger! Sure pushing bigger and bigger gears will (eventually) make you stronger, but not necessarily faster. One of the quickest ways to kill speed is strength work: hill climbing, big gear efforts, squatting big weights. It’s a balancing act. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and over time, the cake comes out baked, iced and ready to eat. Focus too much  for too long on any one aspect, and you end up being good at that one thing, but not a balanced, complete bike racer.

So, what gear are you racing on today? But please, don't tell me, tell them. I'm not really innerested, unless we are teams sprinting/pursuiting in the same team ;-)

11 comments:

TheDJ said...

Lawrenza, you've hit the nail on the head! Too many clowns out there, listening to idiots and believing they can overcome their poor pedalling and other deficiencies by strapping on a big gear - but they still go slow.

Lawrence said...

I think it's more than that TheDJ. I think a lot of coaches see us Gen Xers entering the sport now, lacking some basics like pedalling, and rather than spending the time addressing it, slap on a big gear, and say "You need to be stronger!!", which is only partly correct. Strength is necessary, but so is leg speed.

Lawrence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lawrence said...

I should clarify that the cry for more strength had an unspoken understanding underpinning it of more strength = faster/racing success. ie strength was the only requirement for winning.

Buttsy said...

There are also people like me that have no basic idea about gears and so ask a couple of people to get a ballpark idea.......I havent ridden my track bike for about three months so the gear on it is just rusting away......

Lawrence said...

That's what training is for Judith :-)

Bleve said...

I see you're taking an interest in the SSS, given that you're reading the thread on it. Maybe we'll see you at round 5?

Lawrence said...

Hi Bleve, thanks for visiting.

Yep, I read the BV thread on the SSS, as it was sent through to me. That being said, I was there on Sunday to watch, and hang out with a couple of friends. It looks like a good afternoon out at the track.

Unfortunately I can't make the next one in March, not sure of the date in April (is there one in April?). But the seed is planted.... :-)

Penny said...

Very interesting post, Lawrence - especially as I've been following the aboc SSS thread on the BV forum that you mention.
And yes - I'm guilty of asking the question too, mainly out of interest. I know what *my* body is capable of pushing at the moment, so change between junior (81 gi) and senior (86.4 gi) gearing depending on what I'm doing.
The jump between 81 and 86.4 gi is bigger than I expected (16 -> 15T at the back) ... given on the road we change by 1T at the back all the time! ... so time for some chain rings to go with my cog selection!

Bring on Rounds 5 (7 March) and Round 6 (4 April) of the sprint series.

Nonie said...

I've been wondering when/if someone would respond to the pissing contest! I had a few laughs about it. Gear selection is personal and dependent on your own strengths. My brother is astounded at the gears I ride, but when he was racing everyone (esp. girls) used smaller gears. It might take me a while to get back to the gearing I was riding before my stack! Oh well, training is good for something!

Lawrence said...

You got it Nonie! Keep enjoying that ergo girl! It'll stand you in good stead for when you pin on a number again :-)