Monday, February 9, 2009

Air Hanky Panky

Today's post is kind of a nasty subject, which ordinarily means that it has lots of opportunities for humor. But it's also kind of a serious subject, because it's one of those cycling things that people do not talk about, and they should. But Randoboy does not shy away from unsavoriness ... unsavority ... gross stuff. So here goes.

Between the cold outside and the cold inside -- my head, that is -- I've been exploring the science of snot rocketry lately. It's not a sweet science ... it's often a little salty, truth be told. Or did I just share too much?

Anyway, if you ride anywhere that it's cold you will eventually be forced to avail yourself of the "air hanky." Sinuses become aggravated and seek to slough away the irritant and/or keep the mucous membranes moist, so that the nose "runs."

Really, I can't go into much more physiological detail than this. If you have never had this happen, just go read someone else's blog.

So, the nose is running and you have three choices:
  • Short, hard inhalations that attempt to bring the mucous back into your rapid-filling sinuses (works about as well as Hoover Dam does for the Colorado River)
  • Dripping sinuses, which can be cloaked via a good balaclava (which will eventually become a very soggy balaclava)
  • Blow your nose
You could excuse yourself, pull over to the side of the road, pull out a monogrammed silk handkerchief, and daintily blow your nose. And maybe you have friends that will stop, or at least soft-pedal for you, while you do this.

Most of us in the real world, however, use this techique:
  1. Signal and pull out of the paceline (unless you're at the back). You do this to avoid spattering the poor schmuck behind you. Not that you care about the poor schmuck behind you, but snot paybacks are a real bitch. European racers talk about "flicking" a rider, which means to insult him or her. This kind of "flick" is a whole new level.
  2. NOTE: Be very careful to pull way out of line if there is a recumbent in your paceline. They're really low to the ground, and tend to catch more snot rockets than other riders.

  3. Move one hand towards the center of the handlebar, and put the other hand over the nostril on the corresponding side.
  4. Lean slighly over, to aim the un-blocked nostril under your armpit.
  5. Exhale forcefully to launch the snot rocket.
  6. Quickly repeat steps 2-4 with the other nostril.
  7. Get back on or into the paceline.
Sounds easy? Sometimes it is.

Sometimes, however, nothing comes out. Usually this is when your nose is running, but not enough to get good shot volume. This is referred to as "Failure to Launch."

More common is the "Crash Landing." This is what happens when you fire the missle, but it hits your leg, arm, or jacket instead of the pavement. This is why we wear cycling gloves.

Other times, you don't get one nostril quite closed, or something else happens to totally screw things up. This is an "Aborted Takeoff." Just as with real rockets, this usually has nasty consequences. For astronauts, it almost always means a 21-gun salute at Arlington -- for you, it just means a faceful of snot.

You can take care of that faceful of snot however you want. It's why I wear long-sleeved wool during the winter.

Or did I just share too much again?


  1. Sinus protocol? Good points!

  2. Been there, done that. Funny stuff!

  3. How are you supposed to signal? Do you yell "I have to blow my nose"?

    I like the thing about Crash Landings.

  4. You didn't mention "snot contrails" like with jets, only with strings of snot going to the crash landing. Gross.

  5. By the way, tandem stokers have nowhere to go when their captain fires a snot rocket . . . The best you can hope for is a clean takeoff that clears the bike and stoker.

    Voice of experience,