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February 22, 2011
As cyclists, almost all of us shave our legs. Why? Whenever this question comes up from non-cyclists we all know the unwritten code: Easier for massage, cleaning and healing of road rash, it saves 5 seconds over a 40km TT, so the hair doesn’t get caught when you’re riding in the BIG RING, etc.
We all know none of this is true however. Let’s be honest. What good reason would weekend warriors like us have to shave our legs? Because it’s PRO, that’s why. It’s all about your dedication and commitment to the sport. Shaved legs are the trademark of a serious cyclist.
No one ever taught me how to shave my legs. I remember the first time I ever did it. I had just been bumped up to Cat 3 and this was the next big step towards making it to Cat 2. One hour and three razors later I got all the fur off. When finished I was bleeding at the ankles and knees and my legs were puffy and pale. Had I made the right decision? What are the guys in the hockey dressing room gonna say? This didn’t make me look pro at all…
I felt naked at first. It was the strangest feeling. After the swelling subsided and I got a bit of color from the sun I started to enjoy the sensation. There was the sheen of muscles and veins that I never knew existed. That was the defining point of feeling like a true cyclists. I was hooked.
During the Tour Down Under I was introduced to Sean Yates (Team SKY Director Sportif and British cycling legend). We had a good chat and as usual the conversation turned to, “Hey…I got a good tip for you…”. Yates got right onto the topic of shaving. He swore by shaving in the bathtub under the water if you’ve got a lot of hair to deal with. This way the hair doesn’t get clogged up in the blades. Also, use a women’s razor. They’re made for the legs, not the face.
It’s a frightening thought thinking of Yatesy sitting in the bathtub by the candlelight whilst shaving his legs with a pink razor, but I can see the logic in it.
I have no idea how Yates (left) gets all the hair off around those veins without slicing one of them open. Can you tell that Andy (right) just shaved his hairy legs that morning by how swollen they are?
There are benefits to not shaving the legs however. First of all, you’re given much more room in the peloton. No one wants to go anywhere near a guy with hairy legs. Also, your wife won’t complain about you feeling like a porcupine in bed after a few days of growth. I also found that it’s a great form of protest. I once refused to shave my legs for a whole winter until our team owner bought us some desperately needed new kit. As soon as I began to look like a gorilla, the new kit was promptly delivered.
Pro cyclists haven’t always had clean shaven legs. I struggle to think of someone these days who is brave enough to go against the grain (I suspect Dave Zabriskie would give it a go), but Johan Capiot won the 1991 Paris-Tours with hairy legs. Legend has it that Michael Wilson (the first Aussie to win a Giro and Vuelta stage) was a hairy beast of a man back in the day as well.
My favorite hairy cyclist? Belov…without a doubt. Legend.