There are many things about the sport and pastime of cycling that baffle and beguile the average non-ride (or 'normal' as they might be known). The desire to travel 100 miles sitting on a small piece of plastic draws wide eyed stares and the penchant/obsession for very tight fitting lycra understandably horrifies many. Tell a non-cyclist that you spent more than the cost of their car on 'one of your bikes' and see how they react! But possibly the most beguiling question for non cyclists (and let's be honest, quite a lot of cyclists) is 'why do cyclists shave their legs?'
Well...being the intrepid investigative journalist that I am, I've decided to get to the bottom of this murky and much misunderstood topic... by shaving my own legs!
Shaving my legs has never really occurred to me in the past. Not only have I never felt the need (explored in more detail below), but as a (former) rugby playing cyclist, it would've been tough to walk on the pitch with shiny, silky smooth pins (it didn't help that they are milk white and skinny AF either!) Add to that the fact that I'm too lazy to shave my face, let alone my legs, and you can understand why there are a distinct lack of male razors at DW towers.
Known reasons to shave one's legs:
As the practise of male cyclist's shaving their legs has been going on for some time now (Coppi was one of the first, apparently*), it's reasonable to believe that the original reasons are well intentioned and based in fact. However, as with many things in cycling, time and a healthy dose of BS have corrupted those original reasons into whatever nonsense fits the speaker at the time. I'm particularly thinking about a conversation I once overheard on the benefits of shaving vs waxing between a group from a certain London cycling club in Richmond Park.
With the above in mind, by 2017 the reasons for shaving are too many and to ridiculous to list fully here (please comment below with the best you've heard). There are however are a couple that seem to have been accepted as gospel:
If you believe DW resident cycling geek Oli Crosby, shaving saves you 8 seconds an hour. This is great news if you're contesting a time trial or track race, where split seconds are the difference between winning and 4th. If however, your cycling activities consist of a 3 hour ride each Sunday, 45 minutes of which are spent in a cafe, those 24 seconds aren't really doing you a lot of good, are they? To return to Coppi quickly - he may have been the first to shave in pursuit of marginal gains, but he also smoked cigars before races, so you have to wonder how much he actually gained from his smooth legs....
Post Ride Massage:
Pro cyclists claim that a 'hairy post ride rub down' (as attractive a mental image as that is) is much more painful than a bald one (equally disturbing image). This may be true, however never having had a post ride rub down, hairy or bald (sorry), I can't really say. Ask a shaved weekend warrior the reasons for his perfect pins and massage will be a likely reason. Ask him about how many massages he's had this year, and you might get an embarrassed mumble in reply about being to busy. Again, for pros and racers, this reason stacks up - however if this is you reason for shaving, you might actually want to get a massage every once in awhile!
Faster, Cleaner Healing of Road Rash:
Whether pro or not, crashes aren't a laughing matter (no matter how hard I try), and we wouldn't wish a spill on anyone. Obviously the more you ride and your proximity to other fast moving riders (i.e. racing) the more likely you are to crash. However accidents do happen, and road rash isn't nice at all (I hope you never find out). Hair growing into cuts can infect the wound, be really painful and frankly disgusting to look at. I'll give you this one, smoothed skinned ones, a genuine reason for shaving your legs.
If I've scientifically and categorically proved above that shaving your legs has no benefit to the amateur cyclist except in crash scenarios (and I think we can all agree that I have), why then do so many people still do it? In my opinion, and many other people's for that matter, it's simply the age old playground desire to 'belong'. A very human desire, and one that is incredibly powerful. Remember being at school, and wanting the same shoes as your friends? (It was Kickers in my day - anyone else?) or being on the football team and ensuring you had the 'right' boots?
That never goes away, and turning up to a cycling cafe/club ride and being the only one who's 'au natural' can be enough to send many to the razor. You might hear that shaving your legs makes you a 'proper cyclist' (whatever that means) - as if riding a bike doesn't make you one. However wanting to fit in as as much of a reason as any of the above, and why many cyclists won't just admit that as their primary reason is another blog post for another day!
As much as I joke (and I am mostly joking), one of the things we try to instil in everyone who comes cycling with Dirty Wknd is to do what feels comfortable for you. If you want to cycle in trainers, do it. Would rather wear baggies (mountain bike shorts) than lycra, don't worry about it. It doesn't make you any less of a 'cyclist', no matter what anyone else says. Likewise, if you want to shave your legs, then do that too. Just be open and honest about it. Do it because you want to, not because you're planning to get a massage sometime in 2018 and don't want it to hurt!
As previously mentioned - zero razors in Dirty Wknd HQ. Whilst the thought of using my housemates very comfortable looking Gillette Venus razor did briefly cross my mind, I ventured out and bought some razors and shaving foam. The first razor purchase since 2011, FYI, and my lack of knowledge became very apparent as I remembered quickly what cheap razors do to human skin! After a quick google of 'how to shave your legs' brought up a very useful GCN video (what would we do without them?) I was ready to go. How hard can it be?
Very, is the answer to that seemingly innocuous questions. If I take anything away from this experience, other than stubbly legs, it will be a new found respect for the female beauty regime. When I had finished, after about an hour, I felt like calling all my ex girlfriends and apologising for all the times I got angry about how long they took to get ready. It certainly was eye opening. Chapeau ladies (and if anyone can tell me how the hell your reach the back of the knee I'd be very grateful!)
If reading this has bizarrely made you want to shave your legs, and I would recommend it if only to see what your wife/girlfriend has to go through regularly, then see some of my dos and don'ts below:
- Use clippers to trim the hair first - it just clogs up the razors otherwise
- Get decent shaving foam - for that silky smooth feel ;)
- Use the bath/shower - the mess is horrendous
- Tell people - don't try and hide it
- Use your housemate/girlfriend/wife's razor - it's just weird
- Buy cheap razors - the cuts are many and painful
- Put aftershave on your legs - little bit fetishist
- Go out without suncream on - they're paler than you think under that forest!
Post Shave Reaction:
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally finish. Emotions are mixed to say the least. I immediately thinking about what my Dad is going to say when I tell him (and tell him I shall), whilst at the same time thinking about which pair of shorts I'm going to wear to the pub to show off my shiny pins! If you're wondering, I went with a nice blue pair (very now), and my Dad was thrilled!
Another immediate reaction is the realisation of just how white my legs are. If you see me on a ride in the next few weeks, please wear sunglasses! I have always been pale - but this is next level. Frozen chicken is the closest image I can ask you to conjure (I will stop asking you to conjure horrible images soon, I promise).
Tune In Next Week For the Results:
As you can tell, my view on shaving your legs is fairly negative (most of what I say is in jest I promise), however I am putting my prejudices aside to try it out. I am willing to be proven wrong and, if after a few weeks riding 'shorn', I suddenly feel like a 'proper cyclist', I will eat my terribly funny words, and relish it too (whilst shaving my legs, probably). If you ride with me in the coming weeks or see me out and about, please feel free to poke fun, ask questions or have a stroke. On second thoughts, maybe not the last one.
I will report back on this very unscientific experiment in a follow up blog post in a few weeks time- will I get faster? Will I get a massage (probably not)? Or, will I finally start to feel like a 'proper cyclist'?? Tune in next week to find out....