Friday, June 20, 2008
Why do cyclists shave their legs? The only explanation you will ever need
It’s hotter’n hell, 90 degrees (32 C.) and we are going out for the evening. My wife is wearing long pants.
“Aren’t you going to be hot?” I ask. “Why don’t you wear a dress or shorts?”
“I can’t, I haven’t shaved my legs.”
End of questioning, no further explanation needed.
My lovely wife doesn’t want to be the only one in a roomful of ladies with silky smooth legs, while she is sporting stubble. Even though I would have to get down on my knees with a magnifying glass to find a tiny emerging follicle.
This is exactly the same reason why cyclists shave their legs, No one wants to go out on a group ride and be the only wooly mammoth in the pack.
Even if I am riding alone, I still shave my legs; I never know who I might meet on the road. Shaved legs simply look better on a cyclist. Some call it vanity, frankly I find that an affront to my pride.
I started racing in 1952 and that’s when I started shaving my legs. The European professional riders shaved their legs because they were riding the big stage races like the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
Stages were long back then, sometimes in excess of 180 miles. (289.6 km.) They needed some serious massage therapy at the end of each day in order to have the leg muscles supple and relaxed ready to go again the next morning. It is neither comfortable for the cyclist or the masseuse to be massaging hairy legs.
The long, smooth legs in the picture at the top belonged to “Il Campionissimo” Fausto Coppi. I was no different from any other cyclist of the 1950s; we all wanted to emulate the great professional riders of that era. So we shaved our legs.
Shaved legs are faster; it is psychological. Like polishing the engine on a hot rod car; you can’t see inside the engine but you polish the outside. The cyclist is the “engine” of his bike; you can’t see the heart or the lungs inside, but by making the legs smooth and clean so you see every vein, sinew, and muscle, it is a definite psychological boost.
Professional cyclists today shave their legs for the same reason as their predecessors, and road cyclists of all levels, from amateur racers to weekend warriors follow suit. End of story, there should be no further explanation needed.
Fellow cyclists understand, but non-cyclists question this practice. We come up with all kinds of creative reasons for shaving our legs. We pretend that it is in case we fall and get road rash.
Sure with hair free legs it is easier to clean and dress wounds, but that is not why we shave our legs. A lady known only to me as “Jan” commented on a recent post. “If you fall and get road rash on your legs, wouldn’t you also scrape up your arms?” Good point, cyclists rarely shave their arms. (That would be weird.)
If someone asks me, “Why do you shave your legs?” I answer simply, “It’s traditional.” That is the only answer I need. No one questions it or doubts my word. After all, if something is traditional, who am I to break with tradition?
Professional racing cyclists have been shaving their legs for at least 100 years, that’s probably longer than ladies have been shaving their legs. So the practice definitely qualifies as a tradition.
Think of it like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain; when someone asks, “Why would you run down the street in front of a herd of stampeding bulls?”
“Oh well, that explains it. No further explanation needed.”
Or, “Why are you taking that dead pine tree into your house at Christmas.”
You see how it works; it doesn’t matter how bizarre or irrational the act, just say, “It’s traditional,” and it is immediately accepted.
It is so easy. No more excuses, no more lies about road rash or guilt feelings over vanity. The answer is, “It’s traditional.”
No further explanation is needed.
Posted by Dave Moulton at 6/20/2008 06:27:00 AM