Friday, March 12, 2010

Leg Shaving

A few posts ago there was a picture of Lance "Killing Machine" Armstrong's calves and upon which he commented by saying that his unshaved legs were proof that he wasn't taking cycling too seriously yet. I think that is the best reason to offer as to why cyclists do shave our legs; it's because we take cycling seriously.

I have heard and read lots of reasons for shaving your legs. My favorite is when people talk about aerodynamics. If you are shaving your legs for aerodynamics, I also hope you are taking these similarly useful steps to improve your cycling performance:
  • Shaving off your eyebrows to smooth airflow over your face.
  • Either plugging your nostrils or never opening your mouth - your choice.
  • Shaving the bumps off of the tread of your tire to help with both aero and rotational mass.
  • Being careful to get just enough grease on your bike to keep the chain and wheels moving, but not so much to add to the weight or rotational mass.
  • Sanding the paint or clear-coat off of your frame, but only very smoothly.
  • Lowering your head whenever you exhale so you don't create negative forces against your motion.
  • Wearing latex gloves over your hands or shaving down your knuckle hair and uber-trimming your nails for airflow on the leading edge.
I think you get the point. Aerodynamics is NOT a good reason to shave your legs.

One really good reason to shave your legs is to aid with the massage process. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to a single cyclist that I personally know, unless self-massage counts. And no, I'm not following that up with more commentary.

So, for the average cyclist who races but doesn't have a soigneur (Here is an odd note - I spelled that word correctly without spellcheck, which means I devote too much of brain to this sport. I may need an intervention), what is the reason to shave your legs?

In complete honesty, I think there are three reasons. First, if you fall, and for most racers it is a question of "when" you fall, it does help with the wound cleaning, bandaging and healing process. Road rash on a shaved leg is indeed better than on a hairy one. Second, it helps with cleanliness. It is much easier to wipe off your legs, spray them with a water bottle or whatever, when they are shaved. Hairy legs do a better job of holding onto sweat, dirt and grit (please take note Mo'Nique). And for any rider who knows what chamois cheese is, you know that staying clean is a good idea. And lastly, and this may be a bit of blasphemy, it is stylish.

Now, I know that most guys are very hesitant to do anything that is considered "stylish", but the truth is that we could wear technical t-shirts to race in, but we wear jerseys with pockets. I'm not saying the jersey doesn't have a useful purpose, but there are rides we could do without pockets and we still wear jerseys. Heck, there have been thousands of words spilled across the internet about Armstrong's penchant for dark socks or longer socks. This is purely a style question (or almost purely), so let's not pretend that style is not a part of cycling.

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