Posted by: emilybybike | December 29, 2010

The Art of the Snot Rocket

When the temperatures start to drop, we all know that your nose inevitably starts to drip. I don’t know if it’s in part due to the fact that I broke my nose playing football and never had it properly fixed back in college (apparently it was a “straight” break…but that’s another story), but when it gets much below 60 out, I am plagued by the stuffed-up, sniffly nose. Yuck. And the one way to at least temporarily get rid of the sniffing and runny nose, is to launch a few good snot rockets.

But most cyclists, commuters, road cyclists and mountain bikers combined, will have to admit, that the stuffed up nose, and its solution (the snot rocket) are an unavoidable side-aspect of cold weather riding. Admit it, because I’m fairly sure you can apply the same principle my college SCUBA-Club advisor applied to the concept of using the ocean as a bathroom while diving – there are two types of cyclists: 1) Those that blow snot rockets; and 2) Those that lie about it.

Now if you’re curious what a “snot rocket” is, well, the short of it is, if your nose is running and you’re doing something active outside, it’s a way to clear your nose without using a tissue. At least that’s the most “P-C” definition of one I can think of off-hand. A more in-depth analysis, would be that when riding or running, or performing any athletic activity outside in winter that causes your nose to run (i.e. fills with snot), you turn your head to the side, plug one nostril with preferably your thumb and the blow out your nose with gusto, clearing your nose of snot.

This sounds relatively simple, however, snot rockets can easily go awry, producing rather undesirable results, and while a good snot-rocket will surely improve riding and breathing comfort, a bad snot-rocket can prove disastrous.  So here are a few hints to keep your nose clear and yourself free from snot-rocket embarrassment:

  1. Timing – You have to wait until you get the right amount of stuff in your noses, or else it won’t fly. Too little and you end up making a mess on your glove and in the vicinity of your nose, too much and it gets really messy, where you risk not getting it all out, leaving you with a trail that can easily attack glasses, jackets or what have you. So don’t be over-zealous, but also don’t wait until your nose starts dripping to clear the passages.
  2. The Head Turn – Turning your head is imperative. If you don’t, you’re going to make a mess on yourself. My general rule is that if you need to clear the right nostril, turn your head as safely far right as you can, and if you have to clear the left, turn to the left.
  3. Secure a Proper Seal – You want to be sure to completely cover the nostril you’re not clearing, this helps in two ways as it: a) Increases the force of air coming out of the clogged nostril and thus clearing the snot with more efficiently and b) Prevents you from accidentally clearing the wrong nostril all over your glove.
  4. Wind Check – Take some advice from Jim Croce – You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind. Enough said.
  5. Commit to It – Once decided and begun on the process, you can’t back down, a partial effort may result in the rocket getting on jacket, pants or sunglasses.
  6. Be Courteous – Check your surroundings before you fire – we’ve all been on group rides and seen “that” guy fire at the worst possible time and then is avoided by several bike lengths for the remainder of the ride.

So there you have it a few hints to keep you breathing freely and free of embarrassment during your winter rides. Feel free to offer any other hints that may be helpful!


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