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You are here: Home / Up! Up! Up! / 07 - Racing / Sprint / Flying 200 / Choice of gears

Choice of gears

In the old days it was 'rev, rev, rev'

For many, many years sprinters chose little gears for sprinting, working on the (correct) idea that a little gear is easier to accelerate on and the incomplete idea that sprints are all about acceleration. Modern sprints are faster and longer than old sprints were.  Gone are the days when John Nicholson could ride at a snails pace and be impossible to pass until the last lap when it was on. The rules have changed and modern sprints are long, much longer than in Nicko's day.  Today's elite sprinters are choosing bigger gears and going quicker for longer.  It's not unheard of for elite flying 200's to be ridden on 110" for example.  To push these big gears means enormous strength to get started, so the modern sprinter tends to be a big person.  Shane Perkins, Chris Hoy, Anna Meares and so on are all big.  Big legs, big backsides.  Strong.


The modern flying 200 is also, and this is the counter-intuitive part for the use of bigger gears, starting later.  The flying 200 is not about peak speed, it's about riding the fastest 200 metres you can ride.  You'll need a peak speed in excess of 70km/h to be competitive internationally as an elite male and greater than 65km/h as a female, but it's the overall speed you average over 200 metres that sets your time.


So, how do we choose the right gear?


Firstly, there's no point picking a gear that's so big you can't pass through your peak power range as you accelerate off the bank.  If you can't get up to 145rpm or so (male) or 135rpm (female) by the time you hit your peak cadence you're on too big a gear.  You'll feel this, but a power meter or even a bike computer with memory and the ability to upload with will tell you the story.  Most sprint cyclists have their peak power at around 100rpm, this number does vary but is a good place to start.  You need that peak power to accelerate, so you want to pass through that cadence as you jump down the bank, well before the start of the timed 200 meters.  Old school thought was be at your top speed when you cross the start line, but this does not necessarily mean the fastest flying 200.  If you hit your maximum speed too early, your last 50 will usually be dreadfully slow. It's ok to be still accelerating as you cross the start line.  If in doubt, jump later than you think you should, but jump HARDREALLY HARD.  The time to be a sprinter is now and you must commit 100% to the effort.


Our observation of successful elite sprinters suggests the following occurs :

The first 50m is around 145rpm, then the rider holds around 140rpm for the next hundred and the last 50 is around 135rpm.  This is for a 10.1s flying 200, which is pretty quick. If the entry speed burns too much energy or the gear is too small, the last 50m drops down to around 130rpm and much time is lost.  It's about the average speed.   So, a suggestion for choosing your gear is to work on flying entry lines (entries), working up to a gear that you can get around 145rpm on just after you cross the start line while jumping as late as you can, for a senior male on a big gear (100" or more) jumping from around 100-125 metres is not a bad place to start with a smooth windup leading to the jump point.  It is our recommendation that you do this on the biggest gear you can to minimise fatigue.  It turns out that the most fatiguing thing a sprinter can do is to ride too small a gear[1].  Push the biggest gear you can get on top of and your last 50 meters won't be as slow, and you'll be quicker.  Or at least, give it a try...  Using a flying 100 to predict flying 200 speeds is unwise as the last 50 metres is critical, go the full distance when evaluating this strategy.



It used to be thought that peak power was produced around 130rpm, but this only seems to occur in laboratory testing on ergos that don't realistically model the forces experienced by a track sprint cyclist.  Recent unpublished data suggests this potential for maximum power is much closer to 100 rpm than it is to 130rpm, for males and females.