I’ve told you about my dork disk and I’ve confessed to my irrational insistence on using a kick stand. I believe the time is right for me to share yet another aspect of my cycling nerdiness which immediately points me out to serious cyclists as not being one of them.
I don’t shave my legs.
There, I said it. Actually I wrote it, but you get my drift. Although I aspire to become as good a cyclist as I possibly can be, I doggedly refuse to remove the hair from my legs. This only adds to the list of reasons why I will not be invited to the coolest cycling parties or elected president of the local cycling club. Serious riders will shun me in group rides due to the obvious telegraph of my inexperience. Knowing looks are exchanged amongst others as a way of warning. Conversations are cut short and social distancing increases. Such is my existence.
Anyone who is not seriously into cycling must be wondering what I am going on about. It may surprise you to learn that even though only 0.0008% of the male population of North America shaves their legs (a scientific fact which I choose not to source), the vast majority of cool male cyclists are sporting the look.
And they have their reasons.
The most common given rationale is the supposedly nasty problem of cleaning out dirt, stones, and other road debris from the “road rashes” caused in falls. That seems like a rather specious reason, if you ask me (and I realize that none of you have). There are any number of professions and hobbies where nasty injuries occur to lower extremities (firemen, soldiers, and porta-potty repairmen come to mind) but leg-shaving isn’t part of the culture in any of them. Further, the cyclists who are mortified at the prospect of leg hair getting into injuries seem ambivalent about the issue of arm hair. Cool cyclists do not shave their arms and thus expose the silliness of this reason. Check and mate.
Another reason for leg hairlessness is that it supposedly makes you faster. If true, it must be only by milliseconds. If you find yourself on an oval track wearing a skin-tight suit with a futuristic helmet, I just might agree with this logic. Otherwise, I will simply forfeit the .01 seconds/mile and move on with my life.
Massages are supposed to feel better without hair. Cyclists often get massages, I am told. They are reportedly helpful. I wouldn’t know because I have managed to pass 46 years on this Earth without getting one or seeing one. I will stipulate that massages are therapeutic and aid in recovery after a long ride. Maybe, just maybe, the absence of hair makes the massage feel even better. It is difficult for me to imagine a day when massages will be central to my biking existence. Perhaps one day they will be and perhaps then I will consider the joyous effect of getting one without hair on my legs. And perhaps I’ll win the lottery and buy a cottage on the moon. It could happen is all I’m saying, but until then I remain unimpressed with this rationale.
Having explored these reasons, I am left with only one remaining purpose for shaving legs. It is whispered in cycling forums and the more courageous people openly state what is surely the most significant reason for this tradition: vanity. Cyclists work very hard on their conditioning and they want to show off the results of their hard work. This is difficult to do with copious amounts of leg hair obstructing their gorgeous and shapely leg curves. Thus they shave their legs to show themselves off to fellow cyclists. By brazenly breaking a cultural taboo, a male cyclist identifies himself to others as a serious practitioner of the hobby. Other cyclists can then begin to judge for themselves JUST how serious he is through the studious observation of his muscle tone.
As for me, I choose to remain hairy. I willingly flaunt cycling cultural norms and thereby routinely risk the daunting prospect of having hair in my scabs (should I ever actually get a scab from cycling – still waiting for that one after 1,200 miles) and all the while traveling microseconds slower than I might otherwise. Should I suddenly have the opportunity and the urge to partake in a massage, I willingly accept the fact that said massage may be less fulfilling that it might otherwise have been on bald legs.
And if you’re checking out the muscles on my legs, I can only hope the presence of hair encourages you to cease and desist in this activity immediately!