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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

FSA K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost

Posted on
Seatpost In Action

Graphic courtesy of Road Bike Review

I have written a few posts about my Alchemy Eros.  Starting with A Bicycle for the Cognoscenti Adventure, followed by My New Best Bike:  the Alchemy Eros, and 4,000 km / 2,500 mi Update:  Alchemy Eros.

A common theme in the two later posts is that the trade-off for a stiff and sharp handling titanium frame is a ride that is sometimes jarring.  I have owned, and still own in the form of a Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti / Carbon, Ti bicycles that are more comfortable.

I lived with the tradeoff between frame stiffness and comfort until I read an online article in VeloNews titled Getting the Most From Your Post.  First published in June 2012, the article is somewhat dated, but still relevant.  The article attempted to determine the role the seatpost plays in rider comfort.

In its typically thorough fashion, VeloNews set out to answer this question by testing 14 seatposts of different materials, setback and design philosophy. At Boulder’s Microbac accredited test laboratory, they measured vibration damping over small bumps with an accelerometer, and they measured linear deflection (flex) under body weight in two dimensions.

The winner was the FSA K-Force Light SB (Setback).  VeloNews judged the FSA seatpost to be the best choice for long road rides.   The FSA seatpost has excellent vibration damping, which makes it noticeably more comfortable, especially on long rides, dirt roads, or concrete or asphalt with lots of small cracks and expansion joints.

The seatpost that came with my Eros is the Ritchey Comp Carbon.

Ritchey Carbon Comp

Photograph courtesy of Ritchey

This seatpost was not one of those tested, but three other Ritchey seatposts, the WCS Carbon SB, the WCS Aluminium SB, and the WCS Carbon Straight, are among those in the Velonews review.  The Ritchey seatposts came in sixth, tenth and last respectively.

The Comp Carbon sits at the lower end of Ritchey’s seatpost offerings.  I thus assume that it would score even lower than its siblings on the VeloNews test.

Eager to soften the ride of the Alchemy Eros, I bought an FSA K-Force Light.

FSA K-Force Light

Photograph courtesy of Full Speed Ahead

I have the version with the same 25mm of setback that my Ritchey Comp Carbon has.  For purely aesthetic reasons I opted for the black and grey graphics rather than the red and white.

VeloNews had discovered that a setback post will give you greater pedaling efficiency and more high-frequency vibration damping.  My usual routes don’t have big bumps, where the greater flex of a straight seatpost is an advantage.

I have ridden 370km / 230mi on the FSA K-Light.  The ride quality of my Eros has noticeably improved.  Even with 10psi more air pressure in each tire.  There is much more vibration damping now.  My Eros rides much more like I would expect a Ti frame to ride.  So my qualitative impression so far matches the quantitative findings at VeloNews.

I have a 240km / 149mi ride, split over two days, this weekend.  I am looking forward to a more comfortable long-distance ride than I have had before on the Alchemy Eros.

Cognoscenti Day 1

Cognoscenti Boulder Downtown

Day 1 of my Cognoscenti adventure started with Karl Maier, one of the founders of Cognoscenti, picking me up from the Airbnb house where I was staying in Denver, and transporting my bike and I to the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder.  My home for the next six days.

Andrew Knowles, the other founder of Cognoscenti, met us in the lobby of the hotel, where I was given my rain bag, stuffed with goodies.  Bottles, Townie Syndicate tire levers and tools, Skratch Labs hydration and nutrition products, chamois cream, sun block, moisturizer, waterproof pouch, cap, and some bedtime reading.  Note the name tag.  A nice touch.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Goodies

Cognoscenti provided everything I needed to ride, apart from a bicycle, shoes and helmet.  We all received a pair of Panache Cyclewear bibshorts and a jersey.  Cognoscenti styled.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

I had a few minutes to check in to my room and change into riding gear before heading out to the back patio of the hotel to meet the other participants and the Cognoscenti support crew.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

We took over the grassy area along the back wall nearest the road.  That is where I was reunited with my bike, now sporting a name label on the top tube.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Bike Rack

Unsurprisingly, I had come from the furthest away.   Richard and his wife had flown in from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Matt and his wife had driven from Eu Claire, Wisconsin.  Brothers Scott and Steve had driven together from Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.  And Mindy and Pam had come from just up the road in Aspen, Colorado.

Our professional guest cyclist for the day was Sarah Lukas, who rides for the Amy D. Foundation team.  Having one or more current or ex-professional riders with us on every ride was both a highlight and a challenge.  A highlight because to a person they were always willing to chat, and to provide a pull.  A challenge because they made real the gulf in cycling ability between we mortals and the professional peloton.

We were also joined each day by at least one editor from VeloNews.  Names familiar to me from the VeloNews website appeared before me in the flesh:  Chris Case (Managing Editor), Spencer Powlison ( Editor), Brad Kaminski ( Photography Editor), Dan Cavallari (Technology Editor), and Neal Rodgers (Editor at Large).

While the cast of professional riders and VeloNews editors changed daily, the Cognoscenti guides were a constant.  The full support we received all week was thanks to Jon Robichaud, Russ Folger, Tristan Brown and Patrick Walker.  These guys meant it when they said they would provide full support.  Our bikes were washed and tuned after each ride.  When we took our bikes off the rack to start a ride, bottles full of Skratch Labs hydration were already in the cages.  A support van and at least one other vehicle were always nearby.  Fresh chilled bottles were always available.  As was an endless supply of those now famous Skratch Labs rice cakes and cookie bars.

Fully prepped, we headed out on what was described as an “acclimatization spin.”  A 57.5km / 36mi ride along the flats of Boulder County to St. Vrain Road and back.  There was about 475m / 1,560ft of climbing.  Which was a lot for me, but as I was to discover, was just a hint of what was to come.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Route

The ride was relatively fast for me.  Which signalled trouble, because I could already see that my new friends were all stronger riders than I was.  I was struggling with the lower air pressure and oxygen levels.  Boulder is 1,655m / 5,430ft above sea level.  Which translates to 17% less oxygen by volume than is available at sea level.

It was also hot at 32.8°C / 91.0°F.  With a 24kph / 15mph westerly wind.  Not the time to have only an apple and three coffees in the fuel tank.

Despite my panting in the hot and dry air, I did enjoy the ride.  Especially the gravel sections.  Riding unpaved roads like those was new to me.  It took a while to get comfortable riding on the loose surface.  Oddly enough I felt more comfortable on the rutted sections, which felt like the cobbles of South Holland and Belgium.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Dirt Road 1

The last 6km / 3.5mi were along the Boulder Creek bike path.  Where I was at last able to catch my breath.

Photograph courtesy of Dan Hugo

Photograph courtesy of Dan Hugo

We were greeted back at the St. Julien by slices of iced and salted watermelon, and iced towels to drape over the backs of our necks.  Our bikes were taken from us to be washed.  We were given mesh bags for our used kit, which would be laundered overnight.  See what I mean about first-class support?

We had an hour or so to shower and freshen up before meeting in the St. Julien lobby for a drink with our pro rider and VeloNews guests.  Then we walked the short distance to PMG for dinner.

Cognoscenti believes that Boulder is one of the best intersections of cycling and food and wine in the world.  We had just had some fabulous cycling, and PMG did not disappoint on the food front.  Shared plates of fried eggplant, crostini with English peas and ricotta, Tuscan kale salad, Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and bagna cauda, tortellini with butter and sage, swordfish, and roast chicken came one after the other out of the kitchen.  Luckily I still had room for the chocolate pot de crème and fresh peaches for dessert.

Cognoscenti Day 1 PMG Food

Bring on Day 2.

The Cognoscenti Adventure

Cognoscenti Logo

Ever since my riding buddy Keat embarked on Silk Route 2014 with Tour d’Afrique, I have been taken with the idea of a cycling vacation. Perhaps not as long as Keat’s Shanghai to Istanbul ride. And perhaps with accommodation a bit less spartan than a tent. I do like my comfort.

I came across Rapha Travel. Their rides take in some spectacular countryside, but I wondered if the riding might be a little harder than I would like.

Trek Travel is another well established cycling vacation provider. Trek appears to cater to a wider spectrum of rider types.

Some ex-professional bike racers have gone into the cycling vacation business.  Andy Hampsten, the 1988 Giro d’Italia winner, founded Cinghiale Cycling Tours, which offers cycling experiences in Italy.  There are of course a host of other cycling tour companies to choose from.

The cycling vacation idea got pushed to the back of my mind as work and other distractions took precedence. Instead I took the occasional cycling weekend trip to participate in century rides in Ipoh, Kota Bahru and Manjung.

Then in June 2015 I saw a short article about a cycling vacation in the online edition of VeloNews. It was titled “Climb All Day, Eat All Night, and Get Up Close and Personal With the Pros.”

I watched the embedded video about Cognoscenti and I took the bait. I clicked through to the Cognoscenti website and read the details for their “Tours for the cycling and food aficionado.” Including the following description for all six of the Cognoscenti trips for 2015:

  • Luxury accommodations at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa – Mountain View Room
  • Professionally led, fully supported rides with pro-cyclists as guides and coaches
  • Gourmet dinners, including beer & wine at the best restaurants in Boulder
  • All breakfasts & lunches
  • Education sessions with Boulder sports luminaries
  • Professional Trainer led stretching and core building sessions
  • Access to daily massage therapy
  • Support vehicle for each ride staffed by a pro bike mechanic
  • Fresh gourmet on bike nutrition supplied by Cured & Skratch Labs
  • Custom bib shorts, jersey & socks by Panache Cyclewear
  • Custom Cognoscenti Rain Bag, t-shirt & cap
  • Professional photographer providing photographs of your experience

The unique elements of the trip I was interested in was the opportunity to ride with the editors of VeloNews and Velo Magazine, to visit the start of Stage 6 and to watch a portion of Stage 7 of the USA Pro Challenge.

I was hooked! Especially as the August 21st to 26th dates worked for me.

There was one more thing to do before sending in my reservation and booking flights. Find out if Alchemy Bicycle Company could build me a new bicycle in time for the Cognoscenti ride.

The answer is in my next post.

Photograph courtesy of Cognoscenti

Photograph courtesy of Cognoscenti