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The Noob’s Guide to Expelling Phlegm During a Club Ride: Spitting Into the Wind


The idea for this post came from Titanium Henry yesterday when he commented that this should indeed be my next post…  That “I’m the man” song is playing in the background right now.  I’m that good.  Now that I’ve dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back…

Cycling, not riding a bike, cycling (AKA really working at it) causes most people to build up phlegm.  It’s just one of those ugly things that nobody wants to discuss because it’s just a little bit freaking gnarly.  That said, cycling with a decent amount of speed will cause one’s nose to run and a fair amount of thicker phlegm to build up in the mouth from time to time and if you’re going to keep breathing deeply enough to supply oxygen to your blood to keep your muscles working, you have to get rid of it.  Now, because I go to ridiculous lengths to “figure cycling out”, I’ve actually spent some time cataloging How Spit Works so I could pass the info along in a post just like this one.  That’s how much I care folks.  Writing about phlegm for the greater good.  Hang on, I’m a little weepy…  Let me get a tissue…

Okay, I’m back.  Now, spitting at 10 mph is no big deal.  I think.  I’ve only ever ridden that slow with my 8 and 11 year-old daughters – and now that the elder has a road bike, she’s a 15 mph’er.  In fact, at the Tour de Crim, even the 8 year-old on a mountain bike caught up to the back of the pack…  A pack that had a 10 minute head start.  Folks, we’re a fast family.  Don’t hate us for being fast, that’s just how we roll.  Now, at slower speeds, you just pull over to the side of the road, assess which way the wind is blowing and let ‘er fly with the wind helping to carry that loogie away from the body/bike.

Now, ladies, being the forward thinking guy I am, I’m here to help you too…  My wife is “hock-a-loogie challenged”.  She tried lobbing a greenie out the window of my moving vehicle once.  She had about a 3″ arc on it and it ended up smearing down the rear passenger window, all the way to the back tail light.  I was not pleased.  This lack of trajectory, especially from a bike is simply unacceptable:  You’ve gotta get a little power behind that loogie or it’s just going to dribble down your chin.  Practice with watermelon seeds if you must.  You’ll need about 6′ or 2 meters with a watermelon seed.  Do that, and you’re good.  That’s how you hock a loogie with power.

The Wind…

Loosing the phlegm at speed is necessary if we’re going to keep the airways open and stay with the group (and the draft).  Ya just gotta do it.  Now, first assess the wind…  From the left and front, you need a full 90 degree turn of the head to the right and let it fly, while a tailwind from the left only requires a 45 degree turn as the wind will carry the loogie away from you.  A headwind from the right, you turn to the left…  A direct head or tailwind?  Pick a side, any side.  Easy enough, right?

Well what happens if you’re in a group, 20 cyclists deep in a double pace line and you end up with a mouthful of snot and spit?  You’re right in the middle of the pack and you’ve gotta loose a loogie, now?  Don’t panic folks, it’s gonna be okay!  There are two ways to handle this and it depends on which way the wind’s coming from.  We always do double pace lines (two rows) so I’ll go from that perspective as single pace lines are much easier, just signal your intention to exit from the pace line by pointing, pull toward the side or middle of the road (in the utter absence of traffic in both directions of course), and spit, with the wind.  Echelons are a little trickier by the way, so be extra careful there.  For the double pace line, if you have a headwind, tailwind or a crosswind that hits the other line of cyclists first, simply signal out of the pace line by pointing, pull to the side or center of the road (again, in the utter absence of traffic in either direction – I cannot stress this enough for pulling to the center of the road) and spit when you’re clear of everyone, then signal back into the pace line in the spot you just vacated and work your way slowly back in.  If, however, the wind is hitting your line first (you’re in the left pace line and the wind is coming from your left), because you’ll have to spit toward the line next to you, either spit into the wind and down (but only if it’s a gentle breeze – less than 10 mph) or signal out of the group and fade to the back of the group where you can spit where you please…  Just make sure you have enough gas in the tank to get back on.  The most important part of this whole process is signaling your intention to those around you in the pace line so you don’t hock a loogie on or crash into them.  Always think of the group first, lest you end up in a bloody heap on the ground because you caught somebody’s wheel on the exit and endo’d (crash, end over end:  to endo).  Also, should you screw up and spit on somebody else, know this; the only way to be excommunicated from a cycling group quicker is to do one of two things:

1.  Pee your shorts in the middle of the pack so it splashes all over everyone behind you.

2.  Cause a crash because you just had to bring the Time Trial bike and you were in the middle of the group in the aero bars so you ran into someone because you couldn’t get to the brakes fast enough.

If you care little enough about everyone else to do either of those two three things, the members of said group would have to be stupid to not pick up on your lack of “give a $#!+” – and if that’s the case, you’ve probably been pissed on too.

Oh, one last thing…  The nose.  The first thing to know about a clogged nose is that in a crosswind, the nostril opposite the wind, plugs.  Don’t take my word for it, next time you’re out and your nose starts running, remember this post…  If the wind is from the left, the right nostril runs the most.  Anyway, this little tidbit of knowledge is invaluable because you’re only going to have to blow snot out of the nostril downwind!  Yeah!  Now, you want to be going 20 mph at a minimum unless you’ve got a decent headwind.  Also, if you’ve got a tailwind and you’re traveling slower than the wind itself, do not attempt what I’m about to describe as you’ll end up with snot all over you.  Also, this should only ever be done at the back of the pack in a club ride!  Only at the back.  To clear a nostril, make sure you’re on the hoods or in the drops.  You want the wind to be whipping around you.  Say the wind is from your left.  With your left forefinger, plug your left nostril, roll the top of your head to the left and bend your neck slightly so your right nostril is over and above your right shoulder…  And blow.  The wind whipping around your body will catch the snot and arc it around you.  It’s that simple.  It’ll take a little faith and some practice so you might want to learn the exact head placement in an old jersey, on a solo ride…  You want to be a pro at this before you try it in your Rapha kit in the presence of other people, lest you end up with snot all over your shoulder.

Finally to wrap this up, we should look at the “into the wind” part…  Dude, if you’re dumb enough to spit into a strong wind, why not save yourself the screwing around and spit directly onto your jersey.  Suffice it to say, there’s just some $#!+ you cannot do.

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2 Comments

  1. Sheree says:

    I’m in the same camp as you’re wife. I’d better get practising with watermelon seeds.

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