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UCI scraps restricted gearing for junior racers

The 2021 Junior men's race at the UCI Road World Championships
The 2021 Junior men's race at the UCI Road World Championships (Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

The long-held tradition of junior gear roll-outs will end in 2023 as the UCI has decided to scrap gearing restrictions for junior races, wiping away the regulations which saw men and women in the junior ranks restricted to a maximum set gear ratio.

Previously, UCI regulation 2.2023 stated that 'the maximum gear ratio authorised is that which gives a distance covered per pedal revolution of 7.93 metres.'

That measurement limited junior riders to gearings such as 51/52x14 or 53x15, but the 17- and 18-year-olds will now be free to select 'adult' gearings such as 53x11.

The restriction had been in place for years – either to protect the muscles and joints of young riders from pushing bigger gearings or to reduce speeds in a peloton full of younger, less experienced riders. 

Both explanations were frequently criticised by those racing at junior level who would still experience high speeds in the peloton, and high torque climbing scenarios.

Before junior races, officials would check the riders' gears using the "rollout method" or "junior rollout", measuring the distance their bike travels backward in a straight line through one full pedal revolution when the bicycle is in its largest gear.

The explanation given for the abolition of junior gears is officially "the limited availability of equipment needed for junior gearing in addition to medical evidence that no longer supports the current restrictions" according to a document sent from the UCI to national federations. Few commercially available bikes would meet the previous gearing requirements without modification that would add extra cost for the riders.

The abolition of the regulation will come into force on January 1, 2023, meaning the road races and time trials at the UCI World Championships in Australia will be the last to feature junior racers on restricted gearings.

In addition to the rule change, the UCI also issued several other updates to the regulations, including adjustments to ease time trial positions and height thresholds.

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