Gear Restrictions – What/Why/How

Recently at the Circuit Race leg of the Club Championships, we gear checked all riders. The check we use is to measure the gear that a youth rider is using on their bike, and make sure that this is compliant with the British Cycling rules on Gear Restrictions. As a club that prides itself in the exceptional child welfare and protection provision that meets British Cycling requirements, we make gear checking an integral part of what we do.

Often, when a new bike is purchased, the range of gears available is likely to include a gear that is unsuitable for your child to use. Because children’s muscles and bones grow at different rates through their development, pushing a gear that is too hard can stretch ligaments too soon and may cause problems in later life. Also, as riders are learning skills that include how to use gears effectively, they may stay in too high a gear for too long. This results in a double whammy of potential injury.

This doesn’t mean that bike retailers are unscrupulous purveyors of injury and doom, it’s just that children’s bikes have to cater for a wide range of riders (at best) or are just providing scaled down adult bikes with no thought about gearing (at worst).

Does this mean that the bike you buy is useless? Not at all. In most cases, the gearing system contains adjustment screws that can limit which gears can be used. By adjusting the limiters, the harder gears can be blocked off for your child’s age and then re-opened as your child grows older.

Gear limitation also provides the following advantages for your child’s development:

  • Your child learns to “spin” the pedals rather than “push” them. If you think back to school day physics, power is the result of force applied to pedals multiplied by the number of pedal revolutions. By learning to use a higher number of pedal revolutions with less force to generate speed is the most efficient way for the rider to generate power.
  • The competitive field is levelled.

If you would like more information about gear ranges and adjustment, ask the sign-on team for some excellent printouts that explain the process, or download a copy of this document here. Do also visit the British Cycling Insight Zone page on gears to understand more on this process.

Alternatively, the mechanics would be more than happy to demonstrate and explain the process, and can even offer advice on how to source the most suitable equipment for your child.