I was sixty miles into the Brian Head Epic 100, and I was blind. Or, more specifically, there was so much dust in the air that I may as well have been blind â€” all I could see was a light brown fog.
I was riding a downhill stretch on (yes, dusty) doubletrack, taking it as fast as I could, which was not particularly fast, since I could not see more than fifteen feet ahead of me. I was squinting, blinking fast, trying (and failing) to keep the dirt out of my eyes. I could feel the grit caked on and between my teeth. For the millionth time that day, I cleared my throat and spat over my right shoulder.
And hit the guy passing me on right on the neck.
â€œDude!â€ He shouted.
â€œOh, dude. Sorry,â€ I replied. I had not seen him.
â€œItâ€™s OK, dude,â€ he said, generously, and continued on ahead. I was dumbfounded at his kindness, for by all rights he should have punched me in the face. Dust clouds or no, I had broken the First Law of Spitting: know what/whoâ€™s behind you.
Why Do We Spit?
When biking â€” mountain or road â€” youâ€™re going to need to spit, and often. The reasons are myriad. To clear the sports drink taste out of your mouth. To get the fly out. To clear your windpipe. To get rid of the gunk thatâ€™s constantly draining from your nose into your mouth when youâ€™re biking. (Note to whatever gland it is that makes mucus: I donâ€™t really want or need that stuff in such great quantities. Please feel free to cut production by about 90%. Thank you.)
Also, you spit to look tough and to mark your territory.
How to Spit
Unfortunately, just because everyone needs to spit while biking doesnâ€™t mean everyoneâ€™s good at it. I am an excellent spitter, however, and can offer some advice.
- Assess the spit. High viscosity or low? Is it going to hold together or is it frothy? These are ugly questions, but you must consider them in order to spit properly.
- Assess your surroundings. Are you alone or riding in a group? If in a group, are you in front of anyone?
- Aim. How you aim depends on what you learned in steps 1 and 2. If youâ€™ve got a high viscosity payload and nobodyâ€™s near, youâ€™re clear for a high-arc spit. Low viscosity and / or people nearby? Point it at the ground, buster.
- Fire. You spit with a â€œToo!â€ mouth motion, meaning you do not start the spit with your mouth closed. If you are spitting with a â€œPoo!â€ mouth motion, you are in serious danger of dribbling on yourself, sounding ridiculous, and â€” worst of all â€” breaking the spit up into a fine mist. And thatâ€™s just gross. Spitting Etiquette
As important as knowing how to spit is knowing when to spit. As you spit, please keep the following in mind
- Move Over: If youâ€™re in a paceline, you are required to move out of the line.
- Mind the Headwind: If thereâ€™s someone behind you and you spit to the side, you stand a good chance of hitting the person to the side. Bonus Tip: No wind is the same as a headwind, if you happen to be riding your bike forward.
- Careful of Shrapnel: As all experienced spitters know, even the most cohesive payload may have some incidental spray. So even if you have high confidence in your spit, donâ€™t go for distance unless you are alone.
Clearing the Nose
Dust and mucus conspire and congeal, clogging your nose as you ride. This is unfortunate, because consensus among cyclists is that itâ€™s better to be able to breathe than not.
The solution is simple. Use a finger to close off one nostril, then blow out through the other with all your might.
When doing this, however please observe all the above rules, plus this important additional one: For the love of all that is good in the world, please do not do it anywhere near me. I have ridden with people (by which I mean â€œa certain personâ€) who think they are far enough in front that they are OK to clear their noses. They are not. That nose-clearing blast creates a mucus cloud, which is only slightly heavier than air. It drifts and hovers, right in the way of the following riders. The result? Everyone (by which I mean â€œmeâ€) behind the nose-blower gets treated to a mucus mist in the face, after which they go into paroxysms of revulsion.
Personal note: I, unfortunately, am completely unable to clear my nose in this manner, for I have teeny-tiny nasal passages. Any time I have tried to do the nose-blow, my eyeballs pop out. This is inconvenient.