I was surprised a few days ago to see the familiar shape of my friend Bernard ahead of me on the road. 
It was a dreary Thursday 
afternoon, and since Bernard is currently – and to his great distress – working for the sort of employer who expresses a distinct preference for his staff actually turning up to work, he’s rarely awheel during daylight hours midweek.
“What’s up?” I said as I drew level. “Fired again, eh?” This wasn’t jocular. It was a highly likely explanation, and I was being an unfeeling bastard.

“I’m off sick,” said Bernard. “And yet here you are.” “I’m too ill to work. Just not too ill to ride.”
For Bernard, there’s a 
comfortable gap between these two concepts. It helps that his hypochondria is at its most acute before 9am. He once phoned in sick before breakfast with 
suspected skin cancer, but still managed 100 miles in time for a late lunch after the cancerous lumps fell off.

It turned out they’d just been surprisingly adhesive pet food chunks that his cat had left in the bed the night before. “Maybe you’re right,” I said. “After all, with minor upper-
respiratory-tract infections it’s possible that a few gentle 
exercise can actually help clear the sinuses.”

“So you once told me,” said Bernard, accusingly.

“I suppose you’ve taken that idea and developed it to the conclusion that if a little gentle exercise might help a bit, three hours of zone-three with zone-five efforts on the hills might help that little bit more, then?”

Not such a good idea
I was being sarcastic, but in truth I was a little worried about him. He was panting, sweating profusely and rolling from side to side, and obviously these signs did provide some reassurance that everything was as it should be.

But his normally bright-red complexion was waxy and pale, and despite all the signs of effort, he was, even by his own 
standards of snail-pacery, going quite phenomenally slowly.

The traditional advice for people contemplating exercising with an infection is ‘Don’t’. The traditional advice for compulsive exercisers is ‘Only do it if the symptoms are entirely above the neck, and even then don’t do very much’. I reminded Bernard of this.

“That’s all very well,” he said, “but it’s very hard to know where the bottom of your neck is.”
For clarity, I pointed mine out.

“But it must go down further than that,” he said. “It must have some sort of roots, like a tree. As long as it comes down to about here,” he indicated a point 
marginally above where I 
suppose his belly button must be (although Bernard’s belly button isn’t the kind of anatomical detail I like to think about for long). “Then I’m fine,” he coughed, rather pathetically.

I desperately wanted to give him a helping push – I mock Bernard on a pretty regular basis, but he’s a friend. And that should count for something. More to the point, he’s got a lot of my kit in his garage, and if he died I’d be bloody lucky to get any of it back. But I even more desperately didn’t want to touch him in case I accidentally caught whatever ghastly infection he had.

I’m not a doctor of medicine. I’m a doctor of law, which under the circumstances was just as well, because it occurred to me that my failure to physically 
wrestle Bernard off his bike and sit on him while I called a taxi to take him home might conceivably attract some form of liability. It was a long shot, but still, one doesn’t like to take chances.

So I left him there, and rode on. Later, as I headed home, I called by his house. He wasn’t there. But I discovered that his garage was unlocked. I retrieved as much of my stuff as I could carry.

Dear Doc,
Your piece last week about putting on a rain jacket reminded me of an incident some 50 or 60 years ago when a group of us were riding through East London. One of our number, Olly, decided to remove his long-sleeved jersey.

He was a good bike handler and had no difficulty, with hands off, in pulling it over his head and tying the arms around his middle. He had just completed this potentially 
dangerous manoeuvre when a policeman on a motorbike came up alongside him. “What are the handlebars for?” he asked. “To put the brake levers on,” said Olly. The Law was not pleased.
Jim Boston (via email)

How too.. Blow your nose
I think that we can assume that the basic principles of nose blowing are 
something most 
people are abreast of, and hopefully have been for some time.

While riding a bike there are some extra considerations. The critical factors in the hanky-less ‘freestyle’ blow are the 
specific orientation 
of the nose, and the timing of the launch.

First, do not look behind you first. If there’s anyone there, well, he knew the risks when he got on your wheel. The exception is if you’re piloting a tandem, when it’s only polite to offer some kind of subtle warning, though it has to be said that there’s not much your partner 
can do about it unless they are simply greased lightning 
with a rain cape.

Aerodynamics is very important to cyclists. Consider carefully the effects 
of a crosswind. Only people with lungs capable of track-pump style pressure can blow their nose into the wind without 
getting their jersey covered in snot.

It’s key to achieve a clean separation. Nothing makes you look more like a 
novice than a long fluttering streamer of snot that stretches several bike-lengths behind you. If this happens, do not attempt to solve the problem with your hand, because then you’ll just have a long streamer of snot 
joining your hand to your nose as if you’re four-year-old.

Finally, remember that the cyclists’ nose-blow is not acceptable in polite society. If you blow your nose in your parents’ kitchen sink with a noise like a ball bearing hitting a tin bath, your mother
 will feel like a very serious failure.

This article was first published in the December 5 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

  • KateK

    Always enjoy your columns Dr Hutch, and admire the patience and courage of your devoted friend Bernard.
    Every year I hope I’m going to be better at snot snorting and every year I pedal around looking like a giant snail lives in my garage. The worst is the Novice Double Whammy where you are simultaneously blinded by upward snot from one inexpertly covered nostril and at the same time your shoulder and arm get festooned on the other side because you’ve misjudged the wind direction. Mind you, in this weather, it just gets blasted off by hail and wind. Or that’s what I tell myself.