Human beings are almost hilarious when you consider some things they do on mass. Why for example do Australian’s buy Holden and Ford V8’s in such large numbers when all they do with them is mostly go shopping and commuting? They are almost the least efficient means one could devise for doing so, apart from of course a large 4WD or SUV, but that’s a different form of stupidity all together. And as for the long haul inter or intra state, well our speed limits are a maximum of 110 km’s an hour anyway, unless of course you’re deranged enough to live in the Northern Territory. Yet we love to lumber round in cars with badges proudly proclaiming how many unusable kilowatts they make. It’s just as well we have such speed limits, because we couldn’t afford the petrol bill at German autobahn type speeds.
Well cyclists, now they do some pretty weird things. Take shaving ones legs. I’ve never been able to find a rational reason for doing it, yet it’s almost without exception a universal practise amongst cyclists. Bit like Christians and the fish thing, except I don’t recall a period in human history where being a cyclist was a particularly risky business that could result in persecution or arrest.
Ask a leg shaver and they’ll tell you it’s either about going faster or to do with scabs and wounds. Scabs and wounds are supposed to heal faster and with less discomfort. This doesn’t really follow. Modern wound protocol is to cover a wound with a wet dressing and avoid scab formation. Oh, I missed the point did I – it’s easier to clean the wound before applying the dressing. Well maybe sometimes. I mean really how many people who spend all that effort shaving their legs on a regular basis are in serious danger of regularly crashing. Firstly they’d have to regularly ride their bike. Me, on the off chance I crash I’ll take the unlikely risk of an angry medico pissed off I’ve still got body hair! And as for going faster, research shows that you would only save a few seconds over a 40 km time trial. I’m a fairly keen and competitive cyclist, and I’ve never done a 40 k time trial. In fact only a tiny portion of those cyclists who shave would have ever done a time trial of any description.
Another reason given is it’s better when receiving a massage. As we know cyclists are such highly tuned performance athletes they require regular massages to aid with recovery and stiffness, so that they’re ready for the next arduous training session or stage in a race. We’ve all seen photos of the heroes of the Tour getting their rub down. Well that might be a good point if you really are a hero of the Tour who needs regular massages if for nothing else than to relax you after hours in the saddle. Me I’ve never met or ridden with such a person, nor for that matter do I spend hour after hour in the saddle. Everybody I’ve ridden with has a regular job. Boring I know, but hey somebody’s got to bring home the bacon. I’m probably not alone. Apparently 40% of cyclists with a Cycling Australia licence are Masters – that’s over 35 years of age. Now Eric Zable might be over 35, but he’s considered the grand old man of professional cycling. Most of the guys and girls out there punting a bike wouldn’t even know what a Cycling Australian licence was. And if they don’t then they ain’t racing, except perhaps to the coffee shop, but that doesn’t stop them getting out the razor.
So if there’s no plausible articulated reason for the shaving business then there must be other unspoken factors at play. Taking into consideration other elements of cycling fashion I’ve started to come to some conclusions. Plenty of the fellas dressed in their kit wouldn’t look out of place on a float at the Gay and Lesbian Mardigras. That’s not to denigrate anybodies sexuality. But it does help make a point. This shaving legs business has more to do with group identity, fashion and feeling good than scab formation, wound cleaning or going faster. And just like some of the fellas on one of those floats, perhaps we’d all feel better if those cyclists who do it could just come out and say so.