Did You Know?

Roughly every three days, one person biking or walking is killed by someone driving a car in the Chicago region.

The ins and outs of the “farmer’s blow”

A beautiful fall morning: bright sunshine, crisp temperatures and a swirl of colorful leaves. Perfect weather for bike commuting.

The hot, muggy days that require a full change of clothes are long gone. The invigorating chill is driving you forward with renewed energy when you feel that familiar tickle in your nose.

You press your index finger to a nostril preparing for the move that bicyclists, runners and athletes of all sorts use to clear the mucus from their nasal passages. You give a quick burst of air and…blow snot all over your shoulder.

There's much to romanticize about fall biking, but the practicalities can't be ignored.

In cold weather, our noses run more. Why? Because our schnoz is filled with tiny little blood vessels known as capillaries, which aid in the production of mucus.

These capillaries dilate in cold weather, growing wider, providing more blood flow and therefore more mucus.

As anyone who’s tried it knows, it takes practice to master the “farmer’s blow.” So how do you do it successfully while cycling? Here are a few techniques:

Before we proceed, know that it is perfectly acceptable to simply pull over and do it.

For those of us who prefer “mobile dispersal,” the appropriate trajectory is fundamental, and to this end, there are two basic approaches: over-the-shoulder and under-the-arm.

Which one is right for you?

The more upright posture of a townie or mountain bike usually dictates the over-the-shoulder technique. Leaving one hand on the bars to steer, turn your head over that arm's shoulder and place your finger over the closest nostril, and then let’er rip (picture this: right hand on bars, head turned over right shoulder, left finger on left nostril).

With a road bike, however, the more horizontal body position over the frame gives you less clearance for over-the-shoulder, so it's much easier to lean in for the under-the-arm.

For this maneuver, simply lift up the elbow of the steering arm and drop your head lower, with a finger from your non-steering arm nostril (imagine, if you will: right hand on bars, right elbow up, head down and turned to right, left finger on left nostril).

Hold your line and remember to keep your weight centered while turning your head.

Here are a few more suggestions provided by Active Trans staffers who bike commute year-round:

  • Active Trans Editorial Manager Ted Villaire swears that a well-timed snap of the head right as he lets it fly helps with shoulder clearance.
  • Bike Commuter Challenge and Open Streets Coordinator Kim Werst adds that it's important to queue up enough ammo before pulling the trigger to generate the necessary thrust for your bullet to clear.
  • As would be expected from our education specialist, Jason Jenkins offers an advanced option to under-the-arm technique, called the crossover.” “If I'm blowing snot out my right nostril, I use my right hand to close my left nostril, crossing over the bridge of my nose,” explains Jenkins. “Then I lift my right elbow and launch the snot to the right side of my body, under my right armpit.
  • And Active Trans Finance Director Ben Seligman reminds us to always know which way the wind is blowing. Sage advice.
  • Finally, bike commuter and Active Trans member Liz Farina Markel stresses the importance of alerting riding partners and other cyclists of your intention to fire.