The eternal question: Why do cyclists shave their legs? If you have ever raced a bike you will inevitably be hit with this query at some stage. There’s a range of stock answers that can be given, most of which are bullshit.
• Does it make you more aerodynamic? Only marginally. So marginal in-fact that you’d probably get more benefit saving your energy not doing it.
• Does it help with patching up road rash after a crash? Maybe, but if you are crashing that often that you need to consider this you have bigger issues. Plus any road-rash I’ve got has been on my hip or my arse and I haven’t gone as far as to start shaving my arse. The technique required to do so safely is way past my skillset.
• Does it help with post-race massage? It might but soigneurs are few and far between at A4 races and I’m more likely to be handed a child to feed than a massage when I get home.
• Does it just look and feel better? Absolutely.
It’s all about the look. If you can’t be fast at least look fast and if you are already fast why not look good too?
You can’t be lining up at the start with legs like you’ve just rolled out of a cave. Fair enough, if it’s early in the year and there’s a case to be made for some added insulation hidden beneath leg-warmers but now the weather has improved it’s strictly “Suns Out-Guns Out”. Legs must be clean shaven to ensure any tan lines developed are razor sharp.
If only the nonsense stopped there. The bike too must be gleaming on the start-line, frame flawless and chain glistening in the sun. Just imagine the shame of rolling up to race with that tiny piece of dirt under your downtube that you just couldn’t be arsed to wipe off the night before. They’ll all be talking about you. I’m sure there’s a lab somewhere that will tell you any excess dirt is sure to drag you backwards with the slightest breeze and that it’s extra weight you don’t need on climbs! If it’s picked up as part of the race however this doesn’t apply, it then counts as a badge of honour. Remember; “Mucky faces win races”.
Of course, there’s the matter of kit and accessories. The legs and the bike are really the icing on the cake and should only be addressed once the basic kit is sorted. It takes time to evolve from a MAMIL who’s picking up his gear with the weekly shopping from a German discount store. When the arse has fallen out of your ninth pair of Lidl’s finest maybe you will want to upgrade to something a bit more classy. “Buy Shite, Buy Twice” as a friend once told me.
Club Kit is something you don’t have much of a choice about, it can be hit and miss. Some get lucky with an age old tried and tested kit. My sympathy goes out to those pedalling around like a billboard with the names of any club members who run a business on there. “This armpit is proudly sponsored by Office Furniture”. It can however always be improved. Like my wife always says, ‘the accessories are everything’. The basics: Shoes, Gloves and Helmet all to match club colours. Then there’s the issue of the appropriate fit. Jerseys should be tight, seamless and aero to the point that a good feed could make it look too small. A word of warning around skinsuits: These are only to be worn in cases where optimum race-weight has been achieved. There are very few who like the lycra look and even fewer who are fond of the bulging lycra look (let’s leave something to the imagination!).
On a warm summers day all the above can align perfectly to give that feeling of being a shit-cool fast fucker. The first race of summer signalled a return to short sleeves, no arm-warmers, no overshoes and an opportunity to start putting tan lines on my sunlight starved legs. Normally a good 20 minute warm-up is followed by a dramatic 10-15 minutes freeze-down as you shiver to keep warm waiting for the off. On Sunday after the warm-up I was stripping off my base-layer to keep cool. The heat was savage. After a long cold winter, finally conditions were race-perfect.
The plan of action was to hang in there and take it easy on my lungs after being out of action. This plan went out the window quickly as the race organisers decided to throw in a KOM prize on the first lap. I had no intention of going for it but the increase in pace was enough to get me worried about blowing out the back. My easy day was no longer the armchair ride I had hoped for. On the next lap to keep things lively they threw in a sprint prime. Caught between going for it and acting like I didn’t care I managed to exhaust myself for 30th. I’m still hanging in there so I move up as far as I can you never know what might happen. There’s the usual kick to the last corner. I go into it in a decent spot but it’s 2km on a dual carriageway to the finish and I’m just about fully cooked. I finish well back in the bunch, no points this week but I did pick up the first light tan-lines of the season. Looking good!