I shave my legs. It feels good to finally say that in public. I might act coy about the fact that I shave my legs these days but truthfully I cannot imagine going out for cycle and looking down to see hair these days.
It was not always thus. For the better part of five years of cycling I had not given much thought to the need to shave my legs. As an avid reader of cycling forums, I knew that it was probably the most pressing issue facing any amateur cyclist but for me it just seemed a step too far. That combined with a totally irrational fear that it might not grow back after shaving meant that I was propelled by hairy legs.
If you dip into the forum’s even just briefly you will see a variety of reasons to shave your legs being offered. From aerodynamics to massagability (how is that not a word?) with everything in between. Given that most amateur cyclists don’t have a dedicated soigneur to massage them after a tough ride (a role my partner refuses to entertain) the massage reason can be dismissed immediately. So what of aerodynamics? I think that actual science has rubbished that claim.
I have even heard people claim that shaved legs make it easier to clean a post-crash wound and whilst this might actually be true, it does make you wonder about the bike handling skills of the average weekend cyclist if this is even an issue.
I have always hated shaving my beard and have always been lazy about it. Nowadays I just trim it into a fashionable (objectively speaking) beard that is easy to maintain such is my disinterest in shaving my face. I would say it was the best thing about working offshore on an oil rig for three days; there was no pressure to look professional and so the beard could be left to grow naturally. Having said all that, there was always something nagging me to shave my legs and it was inevitable that I would one day succumb.
We had booked a family holiday to Port du Pollenca in Mallorca along with my parents and my sister. It is a place we used to go to as children for our summer holidays and so holds something of a special place in my heart. Since those holidays many years ago, the island has transformed itself into something of a cyclists paradise and at the start of May the ratio of road bikes to people is fairly even and all the bars have bike racks outside them. I was determined to indulge in some cycling on this trip and everything about the atmosphere of the place was being channelled into thoughts of shaving my legs.
The night before my first cycle on the island (an experience I blog about here) I was in the bathroom and decided to take my beard trimmer to the hair on my legs. I knew that all it would take was one stroke and then there could be no turning back. It turns out there is a reason why females don’t shave with beard trimmers as after a while my legs resembled two hen-pecked chickens rather than the toned, sculptured and rock solid pins I had always imagined lurked below all that hair.
My partner laughed. First at the mere fact that I had tried to shave my legs and then at the actual attempt itself.
So to rectify it she borrowed my sister’s razor and take it upon herself to give me a masterclass in leg shaving. Picture the scene; a balmy night on a balcony looking out the mountains I would be cycling in the next day, leg up on the balcony wall and partner diligently shaving my legs. Some people would pay good money for such a service.
As the remaining hair was removed I could see a transformation right in front of my eyes. I could finally visualise the training that I had been doing with the hair no longer obscuring the defining edges of the leg muscles.
I have talked before about some of the reason others may shave their legs but the very basic fact for me was that I liked the look of it. We might never have the power-to-weight ratio of the pros nor the same VO2 max but by shaving our legs we are inching just that bit closer to looking like one. It is vain, no doubt, but cycling is a very aesthetic sport and this is surely part of the aesthetics.
Since then, I have never really looked back and continue to shave my legs on a regular basis. In fact the other day I had planned to go out on my bike but then realised that I had not shaved my legs in a while and felt ashamed. So instead of abandoning the ride I just wore my leg warmers for the duration even though the weather didn’t really call for them. Is this a sign that I may have a problem?
It is basically a marker to everyone else out on the road cycling that you are serious and that it is more than just a sport but a big part of your lifestyle.
I shave my legs while keeping an eye on my son during bath time. No doubt to his young, impressionable mind this is just a normal part of being an adult. No doubt we are going to have some tricky conversations when he is older.