Singletrack Magazine Issue 122: Jason Miles

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Jason Miles

Mind Your Manners

Jason thinks we might be letting ourselves go when we get on a bike.

I wrote in my last column that I believe we have too many rules and that cycling should have fewer of them. Or no rules at all. However, at the weekend I was reminded that we do need some. Maybe ‘rules’ is the wrong word? ‘Basic manners’ might be better. Or even ‘not being a minger’… 

What reminded me of the need for some rules? Well, I was about halfway through a race, climbing a steep slope for about the tenth time and sucking in air from a neighbouring county. Getting great big lungfuls of fresh, country air I was. On my right, another rider was attempting to overtake. That’s fine – the guy was going well, and it was a clean enough move. 

Once he was slightly in front, though, and his saddle was roughly level with my face, he farted into my mouth. 

Honestly, it was one of the most disgusting things that’s ever happened to me during a bike race, if not ever. Thinking about it, I can’t ever recall anyone farting into my face before, so it probably was the most revolting thing that someone else has inflicted on me. I could almost chew on the cloud of vaporised poo that I imagined was now permeating every nook and cranny of the inside of my head. Suddenly wishing that I didn’t have any taste buds, I felt a bit sick. I’m sure there are places where you can go and pay good money for someone to ‘drop an airburst’ into your face, but I can tell you now that I wouldn’t be interested even if it was offered with a huge discount.

There was another rider on my left at the time and he almost fell off when he also caught a taste of the noxious arsecloud. “He needs a f***ing slap,” he uttered. I tended to agree, but instead I just shouted, “You dirty bastard!” to the flatulent rider, who was now riding away from the pair of us. Admittedly this was ill-mannered of me, but I think the circumstances warranted the outburst. “Oops, sorry!” came the reply from Captain Methane. 

Now, I can accept that in the heat of battle one might put all one’s effort into riding up the hill and may have to sacrifice some control over one’s sphincter, but surely if there are others in the vicinity (particularly in the vicinity of your bum) one should behave as one would in a lift, and keep it in until it’s safe to let it rip? Perhaps some folk have just not been brought up properly, but ‘dragged up’ as my gran would have said.  

It’s an episode that’s taken a few days to come to terms with. While I can appreciate it’s slightly uncomfortable reading (you’re not eating your tea are you? Sorry!), I do feel somewhat violated and couldn’t articulate any of it much less directly. I also started to think about the apparent disconnect between the habits of normally civilised people in regular situations as opposed to the behaviour that they exhibit while riding a bicycle.

Snot Rockets. Would anyone press a finger against one nostril and fire a massive bogey out of the other in, let’s say, a supermarket? How about while hanging out some washing in the garden? Or having a nice cuppa with your nan? You wouldn’t. But then it’s apparently OK to proudly distribute snot, sometimes across a wide area, and perhaps onto someone else (yes this has happened to me as well) while riding a bike. Why not just snot into your glove and then flick it downwards? Don’t wear gloves? No problem! Just wear gloves! Whatever. Firing it out of your face is unacceptable.

By far the worst Bad Hygiene Inflicted on Innocent People incident in a bike race has to be the time when a friend (honestly, this didn’t happen to me) was charging along a road with a dozen or so other riders. There was a long, narrow section of singletrack in a couple of miles’ time, so everyone was keen to reach that bit first, or at least before the slower riders in the chasing pack reached it. But someone near the front needed a wee… 

Now, let’s go back to the supermarket and imagine that you need a wee. The place is a bit busy and you’re in a rush. You’d just go to the toilet and queue up later, or you’d hold it in for a bit longer. You wouldn’t join the checkout queue and then spray piss everywhere just because you were in a rush would you? 

Apparently the rider near the front who needed a wee rolled up one leg of his cycling shorts, just enough so that the ‘boy popped out of the barracks’ so to speak. He then emptied his bladder, spraying several of the other riders in the group with his pee. Do that in Asda and you’re probably looking at a lifetime ban, possibly police involvement and a likely appearance in the local paper. 

If you’re riding your bike and there are other people around, it’s worth remembering that your bodily fluids, mucus and gases are probably best kept away from others. Just pretend you’re doing the weekly shop, and your good manners – which count everywhere – will invariably follow.

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