Agreed, there are far more important things that need our attention right now, both around the world and closer to home. However, with the season heating up, and less accessories needed for a ride, the topic of shaving legs is once again upon us. As to the reasons why one would shave, you probably can figure this out for yourself. Nevertheless, let’s revisit the popular explanations:
– Allows for a more pleasant massage
– Assists in healing of wounds
– Ability to slip in and out of bibs with ease
Ok, the last one I added, but this illustrate it’s not always about form, but function too. Here’s a few more that I’ve come across: “A sign of tribal belonging”; “My girlfriend likes it’, and it “Feels great!” How could one argue with that?
What do the keepers say?
If we are to go by their instructions, there is clearly room for everyone. Yet this comes with strict conditions for both groups: those who shave, must do so carefully, and those who don’t shave, must dish out pain on those who do!
North V. South
Being a dynamic sport, I don’t dismiss this as being trivial, or an item that has been put to rest just because one argument sounds more favourable than another. One of the many attractions of cycling has always been its simplicity, as well as its pursuit to learn and innovate. One of the most visible innovations has been the choice to shave ones legs. Traditionally, it has been those who consistantly shave their guns, appealing to those who did not, to do so. Although, more recently those with leg-hair have preempted this discussion. None more vehemently than those present last Sunday, when 3 Baroudeurs from the north, made a pact to never bring a blade to their legs, or for those who have previously practised this tradition, to stop doing so altogether. Why? Well here are their reasons:
– Becauase my hair naturally keeps me warm
– It grows back quicker than my facial stuble (response from a male Baroudeur)
– The rules say I can keep them (leg hair) and I prove every time I can dish out the pain
– My girlfriend says she’ll leave me
People are watching you
Why is this so important? Well besides contributing to the north-south divide, people are watching you. One such person is Tevor Ward of the Guardian Online. Upon observation, Mr. Ward asks: Can shaving your legs offer any advantage for regular male cyclists? Whether we are out on a club ride, race or commute, we are ambassadors to our chosen lifestyle of cycling. There’s also an interesting observation by the panel on QI over on the BBC. The First of the Mohicans Trevor Ward goes on to quote master bike designer Mike Burrows:
“If you’ve got a little bit of hair on your legs it will turbulate [sic] the air so you get a better flow. Now this in itself creates friction, so you don’t want all your leg hairy you just want two thin strips, each about 10mm wide, just before the sides of your legs – though you will look really stupid. You need the turbulent boundary layer – provided by these strips of hair – to get the air around the corner, and you need a smooth layer for it to flow over. But the leg is such a rubbish shape that ideally you want an aerofoil on the back of it.”
Conclusion You don’t have to shave. I may be wrong here, but this isn’t really the issue. The real issue is can we co-exist in a cooperative and tolerant community. Hair or no hair, can cyclists get along with shaved cyclists? Can ‘hairy’ Baroudeurs get along with ‘hairless’ Baroudeurs? As for us ‘southerners’ who continue to honour the shaving tradition, the real challenge posed by Mike Burrows is whether to Mohican, or not to Mohican? Who’s first?