Friday, November 17, 2006


Since I was 12 years old, I've been shaving my legs for cycling. I've missed a few years along the way, due to injuries and a short break from cycling after high school. Still, for the better part of 24 years, I've been putting razor to skin at least once a week and very often 2-3 times a week- especially during the racing season.

There was a time when I was a kid and in the early years of my racing carreer when I sincerely believed that I was going to turn pro and be the next LeMond. In fact, when I began shaving my legs in 1982, LeMond had just gotten 2nd at the road World Championships (he won his first World title the next year).

Over the years, I've grown comfortable with the knowledge that I will not ever win the Tour de France or the World Professional road championships. I'm fool enough to still cling to the hope that one day I could maybe win the Masters World Championship on the track... it's still my dream (I just have to outlive all of my competitors).

In the 24 years that I've been shaving my legs, I've answered the "why" question more times than Jack Abramoff handed out checks to Republican Congressmen. That's a lot folks... At my advanced age now, I probably shave my legs as much for the reason that it's just "what I do" as much as any "real" reason.

In the early days of cycling, riders shaved their legs for multiple reasons; one was to allow bandages to stick to the skin better after crashes (which were frequent at the time) and the other was to ease pre and post ride/ race massage (no painful hair pulling). As things modernized and races were won by tenths, then hundredths and now thousandths of seconds, shaving became more popular for aerodynamics. Many riders now even shave their arms- especially for important time trial races.

For those of us who don't have to worry about pre or post race massage or winning or losing big races by narrow margins, shaving is the number one way we identify ourselves as cyclists in this world. Other cyclists know we are "serious" about our sport or our riding because they can see our smooth legs. Granted, we could just be swimmers or triathletes, but the legs look different usually (and they usually have the upper body strength that most cyclists never will). It has really come to be a cycling status symbol more than anything else. It is the badge of seriousness, dedication, passion or belief. Over the years I have known many guys with shaved legs who you'd never ever know rode bikes otherwise. Shaving sets us apart from the unwashed masses of non-cyclists (or those dirty little mountain bikers who don't shave).

Cyclists on group rides without shaved legs are frequently marginalized due to their "Fred" (goober) status. The funny thing there is that I have also known some guys who could kick most pro riders to the curb in a race who had hairy legs. Walk in to a "pro" bike shop with hairy legs and it might take a few hours for a salesperson to acknowledge your presence. Walk in with shaved legs and you might still wait forever, but you have better chances anyway.

I've been shaving my legs for so long now that I don't know if I'll ever be able to stop. Each time I stop for a while, the hair just freaks me out and I feel dirty and gross. And I'm pretty neurotic about the shaving too- I've been known to get pretty upset if I find that I've missed any offending hair after a shave. My wife, bless her amazing heart, is less worried about her legs than I am of mine... which raises some concerns about my mental stability. I'd dare say that I am the one most likely to offer our daughter tips and advice when she begins to shave her legs. (Daddy is already her wardrobe assistant after all.)

So whether you shave your legs or not, enjoy each and every ride you take. I'm gonna keep obsessing about my own shaved legs, but I won't pass judgement on you for having hair or just a little stubble. Either way, you're part of my weird little family and I love you just the same.



Anonymous said...

I now get why you bikers shave...what I don't get is why you guys don't just get your legs waxed. If "smooth" is what you seek then you could go to the salon once every six weeks and have legs that are as smooth as a baby's bottom.

It does hurt, but likely not as much as getting a tattoo. Just a thought.

Jeff Moser said...

I'm one of those dirty mountain bikers who don't shave. Reasons:

My legs are skinny enough already!

Hairy legs act as a first defense against low lying brush.

I fit in better with the local wildlife.

I have a lot of body hair, so shaving only my legs would make me look like a tree.

I'd probably give it a go if I was racing road bikes though...

Lizardo said...

Very well put. When people ask me, why? I usually answer with, do you want to hear what most cyclists will say, or do you want the real reason? The real reason is, it looks good.

Pete LaVerghetta said...

The real, real reason: Chicks dig it.

When I started teaching Spinning classes (at the gym where I work, which was even wierder)the ladies were doing double takes. One said "I'm wearing long workout pants today because I'm too lazy to shave, and look at you..."

Anonymous said...

Well, wax or no wax, I added you to the blogroll, baby!

Yokota Fritz said...

I bet this was motivated by those iheartbikes photos of his hairy legs.

I shave, but I keep a soul patch under my knees.

The chicks tell me they love the look; my wife tells me she hates the stubble.

Anonymous said...

"the number one way we identify ourselves as cyclists in this world."

Since I tend to see things through the lens of branding - this all makes sense to me.

Shaved legs say:

I'm serious not a mere dabbler
I'm competitive looking for any advantage I can find
I belong to the club and community
My difference makes me cool - check me out.

Shaved legs is the mark that brands you as a serious biker - smooth indeed.

Thanks for the post Tim!

T-Guy J said...

Honest opinion on shaving legs...I just can't do it. I have been a serious roadie for half my live (13 years) and I raced for a couple of seasons in college.

I completely understand the logic, and my massuese has even asked me many times why I don't,...and I can't figure out why I don't.

Someday maybe, but right now, ummm, no. And Jeff said it best...shaving legs would make me look like a tree

Anonymous said...

The line about sharing shaving tips with Masidaughter hit home. I've been giving tips on how to shave and what equipment to use/not use to both my mom and wife. I have done everything except waxing and nair (can't stand the smell). Whatever you do, do use an epilady - they hurt and don't work.

Arleigh Jenkins said...

Hey Tim

Shoot me an email when you get a chance. I have searched your site for an email but I can't find it.

Anonymous said...

I shave my legs,but not a biker.I have started getting them lasered and find that to be the best.They look so smooth now

Anonymous said...

There is an article with great home waxing tips. I found it very interesting and now recommend it to everybody to read.