Last week I was moving along smartly behind another rider I was using to set a pace. We were clipping along at between 18 and 20 miles per hour. Suddenly, something smacked the roof of my mouth. I felt a chitinous object in the back of my throat about the size of a bean. Instantaneously I hacked and spit it out. As it came out the only thing that I could verify for you is that it was black and that I was able to confirm the size as it accelerated toward the ground.
The roof of my mouth was throbbing with pain. I wondered whether or not to declare an emergency, but decided to wait while monitoring for some other side effect such as swelling from a sting. After all, it could have been a bee or a wasp.
Later in the evening, the symptoms evolved into something like a sore throat. That night I had some issue with breathing because the back of my throat was swollen. The symptoms persisted the next day, although it was getting progressively better.
There is a need, I thought, for bug protection for bicycle riders. Research on the Internet uncovered mixed results, as it often does. One solution that I found is a screen to cover your face, similar to the protection worn by fencers. That is something that I do not want to be seen wearing. A bandanna is also in that category. I had visions of a small mask to fit over the mouth with a screen to keep the bugs out. I must have been channeling Hannibal Lecter.
Other sage advice from the Internet included, “Keep your mouth shut”. That’s a problem if you are forced to mouth-breathe due to allergies or exertion. Another person suggested you will “learn your lesson” if you happen to suck in a bee or wasp.
I happen to have a theory about that to ease your fears, although not scientifically founded or proven. Some bugs are less likely to run into your face because they can sense the slightly increased pressure in front of you. Flies have that ability. They can sense the slight increase in pressure as your hand or the swatter approaches and escape just in time. Bees, wasps, and flies are maneuverable and they can get out of the way to save themselves, unlike a beetle lumbering through the air.
Today I “got back on that horse” and rode my usual 25 mile training run. I must admit that I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. There were a couple of clouds of gnats that I rode through, but no more bean-sized suicidal beetles. The farther I rode I realized that there was no problem to solve. I’ll swallow a few gnats, but another collision with a black bean is unlikely.