Spitting Image

Copybook under the arm technique. Photo: José Sandoval/Velorazzi

When I was but a young Velominatus, my poor mother was often horrified/embarrassed/disgusted by my typical boy’s habit of sucking back the mucous from the back of my throat and swallowing it… yes, I know, now you’re disgusted too. Taking me to seek a cure from the good Dr Edwards, he let her down somewhat with his prognosis that what I was doing was actually a good thing to clear the sinuses, yet suggested that swallowing was actually better replaced by spitting the gunk out. I claimed a moral victory over mum, as much as an eight year old can over their much wiser matriarch. And so I went through my youth and adolescence into my adult years reinforced with the belief that the guttural snorting and consequent ejection of my snot rockets was in fact something to be proud of and even healthy. Not that I flaunted it, but whenever a girlfriend, mate or colleauge would roll their eyes and declare what a pig I was, I could confidently refute their assertions with the endorsement of the good doctor. I really should have had him write me out a disclaimer note to produce on cue and validate my excuse, and pinned it to the nearest wall with a sticky green exclamation mark.

Of course, it’s not the kind of habit that one just practices whenever the need arises, and carefully timed and stealthily executed ejections became the order of the day. But whenever I got on my bike, the need to clear the passages became more evident and necessary, compounded by the deep breathing and extra work the lungs and throat were required to undertake. Riding a bike and spitting seem to go together like fucking and orgasms (I’m speaking for myself here, but you get my drift). It’s a ritual that is inherent in the ranks from the recreational rider through to the pros. But even among my riding peers, there are always those who share my mother’s view that I’m nothing more than a snot riddled pig and that I should just put up with the discomfort of limited oxygen transportation and the inconvenience of a throat/nose full of lung butter.

So through necessity I’ve been forced to develop over the years a series of methods and moves designed to lessen the impact on my fellow Velominati, and still allow me to keep operating efficiently. Here are some of my top snot tips for the mucously challenged Velominatus.

  • Pick your moment: You don’t want to be cruising through the CBD at lunch hour and fire a mucous missile into a throng of suits and ties and their hot PAs/mistresses. Wait until there is a clear area with little foot traffic, and eject accordingly.
  • Aim carefully: Direct your snot scud towards the traffic side, not the sidewalk. No-one, myself included, wants to step in someone else’s golly, so if it hits the tarmac it will soon be run over by a car or washed into the gutter in the next downpour.
  • Warn your compadrés: If you are riding in the bunch and need to clear the decks, let your cohorts know that you are about to eject the pus pilot.
  • Swing out: After checking behind for your riding buddies and approaching traffic, deviate from the paceline a touch and let ‘er rip. This way the riders behind won’t have to sully their Vittorias with your tread tacks.
  • Aim low: One of the best techniques I’ve developed is the under the arm trajectory; leaving your hands on the bars, tilt your head down between your road-side arm and torso, and let fly directly at the road. This way you are not firing into the air, risking a breeze picking up the projectile and blowing any errant offspray back towards the following riders.
  • Rapid fire: Put some oomph into the ejection, keeping the green globule in a solid mass so it hits the road with a thud. It’s a rather strangely satisfying sound when you get it just right!
  • The Bushman’s Hanky: For clearing the nose. This can be a whole different ball game, and more care is often required when the hooter is in need of clearance. Place a finger over one nostril and really give a quick, forceful blow through the other. This should be done in conjunction with the swing out and while aiming low (see lead photo). Do both nostrils on the same side of your body, so as not to be firing into following riders on both sides of you.
  • Tidy up: After you’re done getting the cavities cleared, use your glove or sleeve to remove any excess that might have clung on. There’s nothing worse than looking over at the rider next to you and seeing a green soldier hanging from their hooter, or dribble flapping in the wind from their chin. It’s enough to make you barf, and that’s a fate even worse than having someone else’s snot stuck to your fi’zi:ks.

Just don’t let my mum see you.

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84 Replies to “Spitting Image”

  1. Great topic Brett!
    Geez, I’ve had my fair share of snot hitting my bars/cables in bunch rides. It’s a skill that should be mastered either alone or at the back of a group so you can consistently blow snot out between your bar tip and TDC pedal stroke rather than spreading that crap over others.
    Mind you hate the ‘hangers’ that the wind helps to have it end up on your biceps! Ewww!

  2. Interesting topic, and some good advice. However, I think your Mum would probably prefer to be known as a matriarch than a patriarch.

  3. Chapeau Bretto. If there was ever any doubt that that you were not an Australian, there’s a page full of it. That article is F**ken gross and awesome at the same time.

  4. Haven’t tried the underarm Farmer’s Hankie I usually go over the shoulder, will give it a go next ride.

  5. @Oli

    Interesting topic, and some good advice. However, I think your Mum would probably prefer to be known as a matriarch than a patriarch.

    yup.

    This was an important skill to learn. I’m a nasally fuck and with all the dust and wind around these parts it doesn’t take much effort to get the juices flowing.

  6. This topic is near and dear to my heart. I’ve never been able to breathe through my nose very well – especially through the left nostril. I can “let ‘er rip” with the right nostril, and I’ve been following the above guidelines for years now.

    It’s when the left blow hole gets into the mix that things get sticky – pun intended. I’ve always thought that I could hold the Guiness record for most snot generated by an individual. There is always something going on with my nostrils. So much so that I’m very self conscience about it. Except when riding. I figure I got better things to worry about, like holding the wheel in front of me, than whether or not the schnozzola is tidy. But back to how I deal with the left nostril. Pinching off the right one and giving a quick blow does nothing more than make my eyes bulge a little and my ears pop. Yet I can feel the load of mucus in there so what I have to do depends on which gloves I have on. If it is cold and I’m wearing full fingered gloves I sort of “milk” the nose pinching near the top and pulling down to force whatever is in there out and onto my gloved fingers and then a casual flick of the wrist. Splat – viola! If I’m wearing fingerless gloves or sans gloves I take the pinkiy and the the nostril a sort of thrust up and scoop out action and another flick of the wrist. I liken these exercises to that of a veteran pitcher on the mound as he unconsciencely goes through a ritual of motions before each pitch. There is definitely an “art” to it.

  7. When an extra sticky misfire occurs (clinging) and thusly lands on your shoulder, just let it dry there. Not even a look.

  8. I’m firmly in the “interesting” topic as opposed to the “great” topic group.

    I am a frequent nostril clearer on the bike, but almost never spit. Don’t see the need. I guess it’s that lack of baseball playing.

    Anyway, good rules on how/where/when to clear. I always make sure not to hit any mates when I do need to clear my nose. Nothing as annoying as a guy who spits or snorts wherever he wants. Also riding behind heavy sweaters is gross, with their sweat flying back at you. Yuck.

    And in the photo looks to be a cross race & the dude has white or at least light bar tape. I think there needs to be a Rule on this. Dirty tape looks decidedly unPRO. Unless you have someone cleaning your bike, you are a rep for a tape company, or you can be bothered to constantly clean it, I say no white tape on cross bikes. Nothing like seeing an 8-months-from-peaking dude line up with disgusting tape. I think Frank will have some more to say on this topic after he dips his toes into some racing this fall.

  9. Excellent! From the more cerebral homage of the hour record essay to the grit of the ever present snot rocket.

  10. @Ron
    I gladly have white tape on my Stevens Super Prestige. The saddle is white too, of course. It cane be a bitch to clean, BUT, it is the price I pay…

    White makes me look faster…

    Oh, Brett, like peeing, snot discharge is an art! Chapeau on this little primer!

  11. i’m more of an “over the shoulder” guy, and i’m also more of a “dammit, i just blew snot all over my shoulder” kinda guy. i will try the under the arm method. luckily i’m an ambi-blower, i can launch a snot rocket either side, so i got that going for me.

  12. in tandem with the above, ‘interesting’ topic…Brett, I’ll sing along

    as it is something only our fellow brethren would discuss, seeking perfection in all things cycling, we even consider how to blow the proper ‘snot rocket’

    I personally was taught this by a good friend (RIP bro) who was a generation older, a hell of a TT’r and held PRO records here in our neck of the woods, and on one cool day, it was 30* F, and he asked if I would ride? Sure! So we did, and he even taught me what gloves to wear, how to blow R, then L, and how to forewarn the poor wheelsucking bastard as to be ‘congenial’. He was a great rider, and friend and passed suddenly from the scene as many of us will, but his was with at least some panache, skiing, which he equally loved.

    Long live the snot rocket, and may she be blown with the best of us

  13. As rule i always pull to the traffic side of the bunch and fire nostrel cannon. After years of trying i have still to master the double rocket only able to clear each nostril in turn

    Must try harder

  14. Underarm for spit, over shoulder for snot. If you get caught by some, don’t panic – its organic.

  15. @Oli

    Interesting topic, and some good advice. However, I think your Mum would probably prefer to be known as a matriarch than a patriarch.

    Oops… sorry mum. For everything.

  16. Funny and instructive, Brett. Amazing the number of names you have for nasal effluvia.

  17. Coming from an MTB background, I never seemed to have a problem with this, but was always aware of my road riding mates and their cries of “Snotting!” before swinging out and letting fly with both barrels. However, since switching to skinny tyres I seem to have become the snottiest man alive, frequently having to clear tubes 1 & 2 (underarm, 1 to each side) to stand a chance of continued respiration. This, like so many Velominati articles has given me ways to live a better life, and means that when I go out in the rain tomorrow, I won’t just be trying to channel the V, I’ll be attempting to master clearing both sides of my cavernous schnozzola on one side. How to look Pro indeed…

  18. The VMH lurks here. While I point her to articles that I feel she’d be interested in, this won’t be one of them. Howeverhaving some manners in the group when it comes to such things does need to be discussed.
    I’ll pen an article about how to take a leak while riding, without getting off your bike, or stopping.

  19. @Fausto
    I’m a mountain biker too, and I was going to mention the off-road techniques but slipped my mind (late night posting and the edit function was doing weird stuff).

    So, for MTB;

    *It’s not a good idea to be taking your hands off the bars in most situations, so waiting for a climb to do the Bushman’s Hanky is wise.
    *Turning the head while barrelling down a singletrack is also detrimental to one’s ability to stay on trail; spit straight ahead or slightly to the side.
    *Try not to spit onto trailside foliage, a hanger can transfer itself onto the next rider along.

  20. @snoov
    Key is to synchronize with your pedal stroke so as not to enmucus your Sidis.

    @mcsqueak
    *rimshot.* Corny but no less funny for it!

    @brett

    @Oli

    Interesting topic, and some good advice. However, I think your Mum would probably prefer to be known as a matriarch than a patriarch.

    Oops… sorry mum. For everything.

    If it hadn’t been @Oli with the correction I would have persisted in viewing the “mistake” as some sort of bizarre Kiwi humour.

  21. @Cyclops
    You should go see an otolaryngologist – seriously. Might make you faster and might not cost as much as a wheel upgrade.

  22. @Dan_R

    @Ron
    like peeing, snot discharge is an art! Chapeau on this little primer!

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Peeing is not an art it is something for which you stop, get off the bike and do in off the road. Any hint that it’s an art is step one on the slippery slope of validating peeing on the bike, which is one step closer to Marcusing (Being a triathlete that hides in plain sight among roadies). And dear Merckx we shouldn’t need an article explaining how to take a leak.

  23. @scaler911

    The I’ll pen an article about how to take a leak while riding, without getting off your bike, or stopping.

    Gaaaaah!

    I can do that right now.

    One put on tri shorts.

    Put on wetsuit.

    Piss in wetsuit while swimming, ignore the fact that urine will damage your suit. Ignore the fact that it stinks.

    Enter transition. Run around looking for your bike for quarter of an hour.

    Find bike you just spent several thousand dollars on. Get on, start riding then piss all over it.

    Realise that the reason why there’s a no drafting rule in tris is to avoid riding through other people’s whizz.

    Get off bike. Start running. Realise you may as well go for the trifecta, since you seem to be doing things in threes. Effectively wet yourself in public.

    Finish race. Go hang out with a bunch of other people who’ve just done the same thing like it’s completely normal and nothing has happened.

    Stop off at the bike shop on the way home. Count your blessing yo don’t end up beaten and on tossed onto the street, which is what would happen to a hobo that had pissed himself if he wandered into the store. Spend $300 on tubular tires.

    We are Velominati, not animals.

  24. @minion
    I should make it very clear that whilst I have wet myself in public (otherwise known as doing a long course triathlon) I have not done so since 1999. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do so again – either when racing or just in general day to day life. And by the way, staying hydrated whilst engaged in such exercise does not only aid performance – it also prevents one pissing toxic waste in the form of dehydrated brown urine of over your shoes and bike. Believe me – not easy to clean off.

    Minion, whilst you are not funny, your comment about animals did remind me of this.

    And you missed out one step above.
    On finding your bike,
    i) put on your bike shoes and then run a few hundred metres next to your bike, ruining your cleats in the process; or
    ii) run next to bike in bare feet all the way to transition exit and then spend the next 2 kms pedalling spasmodically in bare feet whilst steering haphazardly. Crashing optional.

    You cant even hang shit on triathletes properly. You are a sorry excuse for a cyclist.

  25. @Marcus

    Course not, I’ve never done one of those stupid, 498th place gets a fucking medal, get your photo on a cereal box, hero in your own jockstraps mass drownings dressed up as a sporting event. You, on the other hand are handily providing insight into something most people in their right mind avoid the same way they’d avoid sexual contact with large African animals, or trying to get on Frank’s bike.

  26. Thanks for this Brett. Just when the site looks to be ascending the intellectual ladder with bikelove and l’Heure philosophy, you bring it all back to base.

    But I can totally relate to Boardman when I need to blow a snot rocket.

    You must ask yourself two questions:
    i) Is the snot well bonded enough to avoid a spray disaster?
    and
    ii) Will it release clean and straight so as to miss my thigh and arm?

    And the answer to both must be “maybe”.

  27. I have never ejected anything into other than a crisply laundered handkerchief. I am a cyclist, but I am primarily a gentleman. Although some eastern cultures would regard even that action as akin to wiping one’s arse and keeping the tissue to throw away later. Isn’t diversity a wonderful thing?

  28. Seems my poor mother’s long suffering is continuing. I just got back from a mtb ride and was greeted with this email, which she asked to pass on to the community:

    “Good grief, the things one’s offspring remember and then feel compelled to write about.

    I am holding my breath as I read this and trying not to gag. You must take after your Dad because I was berating him for doing the same thing yesterday as he worked on laying the brick paving.

    The best part of this article, for me, was that it gave me an insight into what you remember from your long ago childhood. (Sorry, had to get back at you somehow.)

    Even Patriarch is probably preferable to Minister for War.

    What really worries me is how many Velominati enjoyed this article.”

  29. Well written and amusing at the same time. Yet, it’s still a subject that needs to be explained to some people. Unfortunately for me, I cannot do the nose bit on the same side of the body. My neck just isn’t that flexible. *shrug*

  30. @minion
    No matter what the discussion, somehow you have the ability to remove all logic from it. I am stupider for having known you (albeit only via this site).

  31. @Harminator

    Thanks for this Brett. Just when the site looks to be ascending the intellectual ladder with bikelove and l’Heure philosophy, you bring it all back to base.

    Spot on.

    Anyone have mucus strong enough to bond tubulars to a rim? Sorry, had to ask.

  32. @Nate

    If it hadn’t been @Oli with the correction I would have persisted in viewing the “mistake” as some sort of bizarre Kiwi humour.

    I’m an Aussie. Get it right.

  33. @Monty

    I too use kleenex while riding. I’ve never been able to get snot rockets to work right. So I either have to hack it up and spit, or I blow my nose while stopped.

    And WTF is it about riding that seems to make you produce 200x more snot than usual? Hate it.

  34. The pissing thing has always interested me and I assume they get it all over themselves, I can’t work out any way that they can’t! Perhaps they have long hoses. Any advise to the contrary appreciated but I think I will continue with stopping.

    The Mrs Daccordi was 2 years into her cycling career before I taught her the Bushmans blow, now I just need to get her to warn me it’s coming when I am drafting.

  35. @mcsqueak
    I can fire from my right nostril, no problem. Always under the shoulder. But I have a wicked deviated septum, so my left nostril doesn’t really work. When suffering from the lasting effects of a cold, I carry a blue, cotton, paisley bandana in my left jersey pocket. This lets me blow out of my left nostril with no worries of wearing a bucket of snot on my jersey.

    I’m glad I could get that off my chest. I feel so much better now.

  36. Ah yes. The snot rocket.
    I’m a both barrels over the left shoulder kinda guy. For some reason the urge rarely strikes when I’m riding in a paceline. Whatever.
    Three anecdotes.
    1. The year that I started racing, I was spectating with the father of one of my teammates. The race was for one of our more accomplished riders a few categories up. At one point during the race as the pack went by, a snot rocket was launched by said teammate directly onto father. He took it extraordinarily well.
    2. Memories of a photo of Sean Kelly in Winning circa late 80’s during one of the filthy weather spring classics. Clear as day, was the most massive snot blob on his leg, obviously from the rider in front. Kelly was so hard that a) he didn’t notice, or b) he didn’t give a shit.
    3. Of late I’ve been racing dirt crits here in Melbourne. Short course mountain bike races of about 50mins duration at night. As we have to use lights, it is quite amazing to see what sort of stuff hangs in the air as your’e barreling down the singletrack. Long story short, the rider in front launched a snot rocket whose trajectory would be considered acceptable, but the high powered LED’s highlighted the cloud of microscopic mucus and other such goo that I had little choice but to ride through. My first thought was to be grateful for wearing my glasses, and my second thought was, whatever, just keep going.

  37. @Nate

    @Harminator

    Thanks for this Brett. Just when the site looks to be ascending the intellectual ladder with bikelove and l’Heure philosophy, you bring it all back to base.

    Spot on.

    Anyone have mucus strong enough to bond tubulars to a rim? Sorry, had to ask.

    What do you think tubular glue is? Nothing but someone else’s @Marcus

    @minion
    No matter what the discussion, somehow you have the ability to remove all logic from it. I am stupider for having known you (albeit only via this site).

    Everyone you know will thank me later.

  38. Oops sorry that was a formatting error I thought I’d deleted the comment about tubular Glue. I wasn’t inferring what it looks like.

    Frank, Bretto can you delete that one please?

  39. Snot rocketeers might heed the advice of Astronautics Magazine (Issue 38, 1937).

    “A good rule for rocket experimenters to follow is this: always assume that it will explode.”

    Having suffered the collateral damage of ballistic mucus – both self-launched and neighbour-launched – I long ago decided it was not an art to master, and one best left to exiled Nazi scientists and Russian dog-killers.

    Also I tend to have a fairly constant run, in colder weather, which would not have the coherency to be ejected effectively.

    My technique is the snot flick, using thumb and forefinger to squeeze rapidly down the nose and then flicking away at the end. It stays together and can be flicked fairly accurately with practice, avoiding any spray or unhappy landings.

  40. @minion

    @scaler911

    The I’ll pen an article about how to take a leak while riding, without getting off your bike, or stopping.

    Gaaaaah!

    I can do that right now.

    One put on tri shorts.

    Put on wetsuit.

    Piss in wetsuit while swimming, ignore the fact that urine will damage your suit. Ignore the fact that it stinks.

    Enter transition. Run around looking for your bike for quarter of an hour.

    Find bike you just spent several thousand dollars on. Get on, start riding then piss all over it.

    Realise that the reason why there’s a no drafting rule in tris is to avoid riding through other people’s whizz.

    Get off bike. Start running. Realise you may as well go for the trifecta, since you seem to be doing things in threes. Effectively wet yourself in public.

    Finish race. Go hang out with a bunch of other people who’ve just done the same thing like it’s completely normal and nothing has happened.

    Stop off at the bike shop on the way home. Count your blessing yo don’t end up beaten and on tossed onto the street, which is what would happen to a hobo that had pissed himself if he wandered into the store. Spend $300 on tubular tires.

    We are Velominati, not animals.

    +1 – my agony is somewhat abated by that

  41. My late father – a man who never owned a car and cycled (very slowly) everywhere was an expert on mobile bodily functions. His masterpiece was a sneeze that ejected his false teeth sufficiently far in front to allow him to run them over. Remarkably he managed to effect an emergency repair and they served him well for many more years – his pride in them often extended to removing them at the dinner table and giving them a good old clean. Happy days.

  42. @Pete F

    @the Engine
    Wobble to the right during snot rocket? Clear sign for unbalanced core strength. Work needed here…

    Could be – I suspect that core strength issues may be at the root of my back problem. I’ll use the leftward snot bias as evidence in my talk with the physio.

  43. @brett. I suspect this article was just an excuse to show off your impressive collection of mucous-related euphamisms.

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