Them’s the brakes: how to deal with swallowing a fly

Our beginner's blog explains what to do when insects attack

Our beginner's blog on the various methods of dealing with swallowing a fly

Over the summer I’ve been riding to work and back on my new shiny road bike. Mostly it’s a joy, and a great way of keeping my fitness up and getting some quiet time.


When the weather is good, riding to work is the best possible start to the day (unless something bad happens such as running into a yapping dog who makes a play for your trouser leg, or catching a bug in your gob – advice on this below). That’s not so much the case when it’s tipping it down. In fact, I tend to give the bike miss on those occassions and get the train instead, wimping out due to an old wound.

A round trip of 35 miles is a little much for the legs on a daily basis, because I’m currently recovering from an injury. That’s another reason why I’ve really found a joy in cycling – it’s easier on the limbs than physical team sports such as foot-breaking football or rib-smashing rugby.

I’ve learned a few things recently – some from the riding buddies I’ve developed this summer, and some from the taunts of my road-racing brother, who gleefully laughed at me for still having the reflectors on my lightweight road bike after just a few weeks.

Well, it depends what your aims are, doesn’t it? Beating your bro over a few up and down miles – maybe the weight lost and few seconds gained by ditching the reflectors might make a valuable difference. Being safe in the dark – that’s a case for reflectors. I’ve generally been cycling in nice weather and during daylight hours, so I’ve dispensed with the reflectors, and will reattach them if I commute in the dark.

How to deal with swallowing insects

Another thing I’ve experienced while cycling over the summer, is something that must have afflicted every cyclist at some time or another: how to deal with swallowing a fly as you’re galloping along.

Do you try to hack it up? Swallow it? Wait to see if it dislodges itself so you can spit it out? Hopefully if you catch a fly it’ll go straight down, rather than bouncing off your tonsils like a pinball, leaving you wretching and coughing like I was on a recent ride to work. Them’s the breaks, indeed.

Advice from various BikeRadar team members includes:

  • Don’t chew
  • Wash it down with some liquid, preferably something with a strong taste such as an energy drink
  • Spit as soon as you can
  • Swallow as soon as you can – you don’t want it bumping around back there
  • Hack up as much as possible
  • First fly swallowed of the year – it’s spring.

And, assuming you’re not wearing sunglasses or are cleaning them while riding, it’s better to get one in the throat than in the eye, right? Ever had to try to scrape one out the corner of your eye while cycling one-handed? You did? Bet you were left feeling pretty sore for a good while afterwards.


My advice: take it in the throat, spit once with good volume, and cycle on feeling pretty fly.