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Nice and Smooth
All colour © Jake Stangel
Cyril: Hey! Are you really gonna shave your legs?
Dave: Certo! All the Italians do it.
Mike: Ah. Some country. The women don't shave theirs…
— Breaking Away (1979)
The knives are out, well the razors anyway. Spring arrives and with it riders head for the bathroom, reach for the cutters and perform a practice that truly signifies the new season. Leg shaving.
All B+W © Ben Ingham
It’s hard not to see the procedure of leg shaving as a ritual – performed in anticipation of the first ride or race of the year where tights and leg warmers are left in the drawer. The feeling of spinning through the gentle spring air with legs divested of hair and covered only by your freshly laundered socks and bib shorts is something akin to that new pair of wheels or sparkling-clean bike. It promises a reanimation of your legs and the world in which they travel.
A simple if somewhat time-consuming act that is emblematic of six-hour rides in the sun, racing upon contours of countryside, eating the road and conquering mountains. (Or just sitting at the café working those tan lines.)
"If you come upon somebody who's shaved, beware: generally, they go fast, and they're in shape (the out-of-shape racer willingly lets his leg hair grow back)."
– Paul Fournel, Need for the Bike
I’m certain some riders, particularly racers, ‘keep their powder dry’ all year long, ensuring the leg hair never encroaches beyond a few millimetres. But the first ride of the year in bib shorts should be honoured (if your wife lets you) with an act that has a similar ceremonial aspect to that of wrapping bar tape or steeling up for the battle with embrocation (just ensure you don’t do the embro bit straight after your shave).
From time to time we encounter the uninitiated's question, why do you shave your legs? Aerodynamics is the assumed answer for the naïve, whereas a more sophisticated suggestion is that hairless legs ease massage and road rash treatment. But therein lies the real clue – the majority of road riders with sleek legs are not receiving post-race massages at the team hotel. But they wish they were.
Roger De Vlaeminck shaves and relaxes in A Sunday in Hell
Cowboys don’t need spurs or ten-gallon hats, they simply wear them to prove they are the Real McCoy. A tribal symbol that - apart from looking better with shorts (shaved legs not cowboy boots that is) - makes you at least look like you’re part of the pack. Indeed, for those with the misfortune of having a dark carpet of leg hair, shaving is a necessity if they want to be taken seriously in any kind of peloton.
Just like the budding trees and sprouting flowers, your bare legs suddenly appear in the morning like a peacock springing his plumage and the cockerel crowing before most have eaten their cornflakes. So it’s time to get fresh, lather up, break out the sharpest of razors (careful) and shave those finely tuned legs.
[Please note: waxing is for girls.]
Just in case you’re somewhat shy about the ritual of leg shaving, here are our instructions to ensure things go smoothly.
Leg Shaving Instructions:
01. Run a sink of hot water.
02. Soak razor to ensure a clean cut.
03. Mix cream with water to obtain good lather.
04. Massage into legs using circular motion.
05. Always shave against the direction of hair growth.
06. Rinse blade regularly for smooth, aerodynamic finish.
07. Rinse skin with cold water.
08. Pat dry with a clean towel.
09. Apply pre-race superstitions liberally.
10. Roll out into the sunshine.
11. Escape 10 kms from home.
12. Beat friends/ rivals.
13. Repeat frequently.
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