With road racing season "kicking into gear" (I hope everyone appreciated that) I've had lots of parents asking me about junior rollouts and junior gearing. First, these two phrases are directly related. Second, you need to know that they only apply to USA Cycling events, not USA Triathlon, which means if your young athlete only plans to race triathlons this season, you do not need to worry about this.
Note: At most Texas races, they will actually perform rollout before the race begins. The distance for rollout at junior races here in Texas is 26' or 7.93 meters.
Also here to explain Junior Gearing is USA Cycling and friends:
USA Cycling's explanation for Junior Gearing: "The main purpose of junior gear restrictions is to help the young rider develop a good pedal cadence and to avoid injury. Junior gear restrictions also level the playing field for developing juniors who may be at a disadvantage against rivals who possess physical advantages such as height and power."
Why don't we require junior gearing in Playtri, or triathlon in general? This is a source of some debate. I have two primary reasons why I don't feel junior gearing is necessary for my athletes specifically:
1. I strongly believe that proper coaching on cadence and utilizing a cadence computer (why I am such a stickler about this for our Gold 2 and up teams, for those who didn't know) are the best way to teach cadence and proper use of gearing. I don't feel that equipment is a solution for lack of good coaching, and a newer athlete could still be "mashing" (pushing too hard at a low cadence) even on junior gears.
2. Disadvantages due to growth? Gearing does not fix this. Also, this is life. Physical development and sport development are both processes, and sometimes you're going to be on the "winning" side, and sometimes not. However, if you're teaching younger athletes that it isn't all about the podium, then I feel like this is a moot point. It's hard to accept, but I think ultimately it pushes athletes to value process over podiums, and that's a win in my book.
So, we "block out" or "lockout" gears (adjust set limit screws on the rear derailleur to prevent access to the smallest/hardest gears) when we go to USA Cycling events so that we can comply with the rollouts there.
This is a handy chart that tells you how many gears to block on a young athlete's bike based on their gear ration (please note, really a 50T front ring will probably need the 14T rear cog blocked as well, even though it doesn't appear that way in the following chart):
Just a reminder - once you've locked out your gears, you need to remember to unlock them, too! I suggest parents and athletes learn to do this simple procedure themselves to avoid the hassle of relying on a mechanic for such a quick fix.
Have questions? Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great Thursday!