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Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Art of Exercise

I enjoy studying graphic representations of data.  Like this map illustrating 59,036 routes between 3,209 airports on 531 airlines spanning the globe.

Sisu openflights org

Graphic courtesy of

And this chart showing our galaxy’s relative size and position within the known universe.

Sisu Galaxy national geographic com

Graphic courtesy of

The latest graphic to pique my interest is one created by Sisu.

Sisu Logo

Sisu takes your exercise data from Strava or Runkeeper, and turns that data into a print.  Sisu has been around since at least 2014.  Co-founder Peter Roome posted the first blog entry on the Sisu website in May that year.

I found out about Sisu last week, when cycling friends started posting their Sisu prints on Facebook.

There are a few designs to choose from on the Sisu website.  I like their original design that displays all the routes you covered between your chosen start and finish dates.  The plots of each route are sized so all of them fit on one page.  Thus the plots are not to scale.

Below are the routes I rode in 2010, the year I started cycling.  The first four rows show rides within and around Houston, Texas.  The rest of the routes are either loops or out-and-back rides starting from Den Haag, The Netherlands.  I moved from Houston to Den Haag in May 2010.

The rides range from 14.5km / 9mi (row two, far right, which was a short run from my Houston home to Hermann Park and back), to 124.5km / 77mi (row six, third from the left, which was from my Den Haag home to Kinderdijk and back).

Sisu 2010

Graphic courtesy of

Even with only fifty rides in 2010, patterns emerge from the plots.  Most of my Houston rides were with the West End 6:30 group.  We rode a consistent route through the city every Tuesday and Thursday.  Most of those are shown on row three.

Den Haag is just a couple of kilometers from the coast.  You can’t ride very far west before you run into the North Sea.  So a lot of my rides in The Netherlands followed the coastline, either south-west or north- east from Den Haag.

As you lengthen the timeline, the Sisu plots of each route get smaller.  To ensure that, in this case, 885 routes fit on one page.

This print shows my entire Strava ride history.

Sisu 2010 to 170318

Graphic courtesy of

I think this print is a fascinating way to review my cycling history.  It is obvious from the graphic that my Kuala Lumpur friends and I spent an awful lot of time on the KESAS Highway in 2013 and 2014, as shown by all the horizontal, slightly squiggly routes in the middle third of the print.

There was a time when the Bukit Damansara route was popular.  This route Bukit Damansaraappears a dozen times in the centre rows.

Highlights stand out too.

An evening’s ride around the Sepang International Circuit produced this plot Sisu Sepang.  It is not too difficult to find, about two-thirds of the way down the print.

More difficult to pick out is this route, my longest ever ride at 445km / 276.5mi Sisu BRM400.  It is in the fourth row from the bottom.

Of course, what my Facebook friends and I should be doing is paying Sisu for a print.

Sisu Order

Prints come on 300 grams per square meter Matt Photorag stock.  300gsm paper stock is at the higher end of paper thickness.

The print size is 12 inches by 16 inches for US orders, and A3 size (297mm by 420mm) for orders from the rest of the world.  The price for a physical print, or a digital download, are above.

I’m thinking of a present to myself when I hit 60,112km / 37,351mi.  That is 1.5 times around the circumference of the Earth.  Which should be in two months or so.

Does the backward bike throw exist?

Bike Throw Header universalklister blogspot com

Photograph courtesy of

I taught English writing skills in a previous life.  This included how to develop an argument and then choosing specific language to clearly convey that argument.  To this day I am annoyed by the use of imprecise language to describe something.

One particularly irritating example comes from articles about how to transition from pedalling while seated to pedalling while standing.  Cyclists often do this on climbs, as the gradient becomes more steep.  A rider can apply more force to the pedals whilst standing than is possible seated.

These articles invariably state that if done incorrectly, your bike is thrown backwards into the following cyclist.  Phrases like “… consequently your bike is thrown backwards a couple feet into the guy’s front wheel who is following you,” “… sending your bike back 6 inches in a split-second upon standing,” and “… he will push his bike backwards into the following rider’s front wheel” are common.

Everytime I read statements like this, I wonder if the writers realize that they are saying that done incorrectly, standing up to pedal causes the bicycle to reverse direction.  To stop moving forwards and start moving backwards.

It is possible to throw your bike forwards.

Bike Throw Forward tourchaser

Photograph courtesy of

An article by Lennard Zinn in Velonews, titled Technical FAQ:  Physics and the bike throw,  addresses how a forward bike throw works.

Lennard Zinn is a longtime technical writer who currently hosts the popular bike tech Q&A column on He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books.

A few days ago I wrote to Lennard, asking if it was in fact physically possible to throw a bike backwards by standing up in the saddle.  Here is my question to him:

Dear Lennard,
In a post last July, you discussed the physics of the forward bike throw. 

My question is whether it is physically possible to throw a bike backward. One very often reads that when a rider stands out of the saddle, the bike is pushed backward into the trailing rider’s front wheel.

I can imagine that this is possible at very low speeds, i.e. the bike’s forward motion slows to a stop and begins to move backward. But can this happen when a bike is traveling at speed? Does the bike physically go into reverse relative to the ground, or does it just slow down and appear to move backward in the eyes of the rider behind, whose forward speed has not changed?

I offer an analogy. Some people think a skydiver moves upward when his or her parachute opens because videos shot from beside the skydiver show the individual disappearing out of the top of the frame when the parachute opens. This is of course an illusion caused by the deceleration of the skydiver relative to the videographer, whose parachute has not yet been deployed.

If physics show that a bicycle does indeed move backward rather than just slow down, albeit sharply, when a rider stands in the saddle, please explain it to me. If not, I will continue to be peeved at statements like this one (taken verbatim from a leading online cycling site):

“What you need to do is shift up one or two gears (harder) just before standing up. Get on top of that gear and then stand up. This will prevent you from throwing your bike backwards into the guy behind you.”

To my mind, standing up has the same effect as hitting the brakes hard. Your bike slows down rapidly. The following rider crashes into you because they weren’t able to quickly scrub off speed to match your new, slower velocity. You don’t get hit by the rider behind you because your bike is suddenly moving in reverse.
— Johan

I was pleasantly surprised to see that a few days ago, Lennard addressed my question in his latest Velonews post, Technical FAQ:  The backward bike throw.  His response is below:

Dear Johan,
It is as you said; the bike does not move backward relative to the ground, except perhaps at very low speeds. Instead, it moves back relative to the rider in the same way that the bike throw moves the bike forward relative to the rider, and it is analogous to the skydiver example you gave.

For the sake of simplicity, assume that the bike and rider continue to move at constant speed over the instant that the rider stands up. In other words, the center of mass (COM) of the bike and rider move the same speed in the instant just before the rider stands up as in the instant just after he or she stands up. But in standing up, the rider must move forward relative to the bike to get his or her center of mass over or forward of the bottom bracket — and quite a bit forward of the bottom bracket if it’s a steep climb. So, the rider’s COM is moving faster than the COM of the bike and rider together during this split second of standing up in order to get his or her COM ahead of where it would have been if he or she had stayed seated.

If the COM of the bike and rider together is moving at constant velocity during this instant, by Newton’s law of conservation of momentum, the COM of the bike must move back relative to the rider’s COM in order that the COM of both together maintains constant speed. In the case of a modern road racing bike and an adult rider, the bike is much lighter than the rider. In order to keep both sides of the equation balanced, the bike will move backward relative to the COM of the bike and rider much faster than the COM of the rider will move forward relative to the COM of bike and rider.

As you said, Johan, if the rider is rolling along at a speed close to zero when he or she stands up, it is possible for the bike to actually move backward relative to the ground, and if he is stopped, it most certainly will. A trials rider performing stunts at a standstill is a good demonstration of this.

In the case of riding in a paceline, it doesn’t actually matter that the bike does not move backward relative to the ground in order for the rider behind to run into the rider ahead when he or she stands up out of the saddle; all that matters is that the bike has moved backward relative to the rider. Since the COM of the lead bike and rider is moving at the same speed as the rider behind in a paceline, if the lead rider’s bike suddenly decelerates (because standing out of the saddle causes it to suddenly move backward relative to the COM of bike and rider), the following rider can easily crash into the lead rider’s bike if he or she is not paying proper attention and allowing sufficient space.

I guess you’re going to continue to be peeved at online cycling tips like the one you quoted. That tip may have been worded incorrectly, but it did communicate the issue a beginner riding uphill in a paceline should be aware of. Had the last sentence read something more like, “This will prevent your bike from rapidly slowing down right in the path of the guy behind you,” it would have been more accurate. Problem is, the uninitiated, without understanding the explanation above, would assume that meant that the rider was going to be slowing down simply because he or she stood up, rather than that the bike would be slowing down instead. He might not understand why and thus might not appreciate the problem the sentence is attempting to warn him about. The image of throwing the bike backward, however, does communicate the issue to a beginner, even if the bike does not actually go backward relative to the ground. So I think you may want to reconsider being peeved about it; it just might save you someday from some newbie getting out of the saddle right in front of you and your bike running into his.
― Lennard

Lennard answered my question in the caption to the header photograph that accompanies his post:  The backward bike throw does not exist, but standing up on the pedals does slow down a bike momentarily.

I was also pleased to see that Lennard, in true English teacher fashion, offered a better alternative to an example of the imprecise statements that irritate me.

“This will prevent you from throwing your bike backwards into the guy behind you” can be more accurately written as “This will prevent your bike from rapidly slowing down right in the path of the guy behind you.”

Now, as my Biker Chick would note . . . .

Bike Throw Smug Alert quickmeme com

Graphic courtesy of

Bicycle Out, Train Home

I wrote about taking road bicycles onto KTM Komuter trains in Bikes on Trains in Kuala Lumpur.  Since then I have incorporated a train into my ride a few more times.

Once was over the Chinese New Year holiday in early February.  In the last week I’ve done two more bike and train rides.

The KTM Komuter network operates on two lines.  The Port Klang line runs east to west, from Batu Caves to Port Klang.  Batu Caves is less than 15km / 10mi from home, so a train ride from there doesn’t make sense.  Port Klang, at 50km / 31mi away, is further, but not far enough away to make a one-way ride to that station seem worth it.  And the ride to Port Klang through an entirely urban landscape is boring anyway.

The Seremban line runs from Tanjung Malim in the north to Rembau in the south.  Tanjung Malim is about 90km / 56mi from Kuala Lumpur.  Rembau is more than 120km / 75mi from Kuala Lumpur.  Those are reasonable distances to cover during a morning’s ride.  Much of the riding in either direction is through countryside and villages, so the views from the bike are pleasant.


We covered both directions last week.

Train Routes

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS


Five of us did a mid-week ride to Rasa station in the north.  The destination was meant to be the railway station in Kuala Kubu Bharu.  Afternoon plans meant that we had to be on the train by noon.  A series of flat tires in Rawang and Bukit Beruntung slowed us down.  We were at risk of missing the train at Kuala Kubu Bharu.

Rasa Station 4 Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

So we had something to drink in Rasa town, and were in the station with plenty of time to spare.

Rasa Station 1 Evelyn

Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

Rasa Station 2 Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Eight of us rode out on Friday morning, bound for Seremban.  The early challenges were to get over the Ampang Lookout Point and Bukit Hantu climbs.

It was a clear morning, so it was worth stopping halfway up Lookout point for a photograph.  The Twin Towers are just about visible to the left of Liang’s head.

Seremban Lookout Point Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We needed a bit of sustenance after the 200 meters / 650 feet or so up climb to Lookout Point, and before the 259 meters / 820 feet up Bukit Hantu.

Seremban Batu 14 Breakfast Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Coming off the descent of Bukit Hantu, it was nice to see the Semenyih Dam full again after such a long time.

Seremban Tekala Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

25km / 15.5mi later we were in the town of Broga, and desperate for a drink.  It was turning into a hot day.

This caught our attention.

Seremban Broga Drinks Menu Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Waiting for our coconut shakes and pineapple shakes to arrive.

Seremban Broga Evelyn

Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird


Seremban Broga Drinks Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Seremban was 30km / 18.5mi away.  Unlike Wednesday’s ride, we all got there with only one flat tire between us.  Which happened, unfortunately, just seven kilometers from Seremban.  Or to put a positive spin on things, fortunately, because the flat came just after a 150 meter / 490 feet climb.  Which gave everyone the opportunity for a rest.

Seremban Flat Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We got to Seremban in time for food and drinks at the Pasar Besar Seremban, which is the main wet market in the city.  The fresh vegetables, meat and fish are sold on the first floor, and part of the second floor.  The rest of the second floor is occupied by food stalls.

There are ramps leading up to the second floor, so we rode our bicycles right up the the food stalls.

Seremban Market Evelyn

Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

The railway station is a short ride from the market.  Marvin forgot his cycling shoes, but his sandals were a good stand-in.

Seremban Station 4 Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We discovered that Fridays are not the best day to ride the train with our bikes.  There were a lot of people waiting on the platform for the 2.15pm train.  Luckily there was space in the last carriage for us and our bikes.

Seremban Train

More people with luggage got on at each successive station, and before long it was standing room only, with people squeezed in between our bikes.  Friday afternoons must be a popular time for people to start their weekend trips.

Quite a lot of people got off at the Bandar Tasik Selatan station, which is linked to the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, KL’s main long distance bus terminal.   Some people got on at that station too though.  So it wasn’t until the train had passed through KL Sentral station that seats became available again.

Lay and I got off the train at Bank Negara station.  The others in our ride group got off one stop later, at Putra station.

We needed food and drink en route to home from the station.  League of Captains provided the coffee, and Souled Out on Jalan Ampang provided the satay.

We may never go this far to get our bicycles onto train tracks,

Seremban Rail Bike

but we will definitely be on the train with our bikes again and again.