Cycling | 3 comments
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Shorn! Do you shave your legs?? Then read this…
Bicycle racers ride in a pack, forming a group with a very distinct style and unmistakable presence.
Fit, muscular, tan, marbled legs, and skin-tight lycra crying out in color combinations that make you want to run for cover. Neon-yellow, powder blue, florescent-pink, purple-fade-to-red, and everything in between; all at once. The rule is, “No rules.” Racers wear gray helmets, pink and green sunglasses, fire-engine-red jerseys sprayed with canary-yellow logos, black shorts that shriek the sponsor’s name in brilliant white lettering, leopard-striped socks, and shoes that casually combine white, blue, red, and lime-green. They sit on top of bicycles colored the same orange that invariably assaults us during road construction season. Each team has a mind of its own-calling it a mind is a bit of a stretch, or maybe dramatic license. It’s more like unfocused chaos. When teams combine in a racing pack, the result is a gruesome, high-tech, multicolored, rolling nightmare.
This horde of hard core “riding is better than sex” bicycle racers, proudly flaunt their psychedelic independence. Their deceitful display of individuality is only a facade. A common bond sneaks in, slithers about, and slyly rears its scaly head. Each and every rider has hairless legs! I’ve often wondered, “Why don’t bike racers have hair on their legs? Is it Mother Nature?” Not hardly, try “Mother BIC”-these guys shave their legs. What in the world could possibly possess a grown man to shave his legs? Well, I think I can shed a little first hand light on this question.
I’ve spent the last couple of years maturing as a bike racer. I measure my development in three stages; these stages correspond closely to my thoughts about leg hair. When I first started racing, I realized bicycle racers shave their legs. In my head I heard, “No hair! What the ####? Shave my legs? Never! Not in this lifetime.” As these “hairless wonders” regularly rode my tail into the asphalt and thrashed me at the races, my perspective shifted. I started thinking, “Maybe cutting off the leg hair cuts down on wind resistance, makes you lighter, or improves aerodynamics. It somehow makes these guys go faster. Shave my legs? Well, probably not.” Eventually, I was strong enough to ride as an equal. My tune changed, “Shave my legs? Seems reasonable. But, how do I explain it to my friends, the kind that don’t race bicycles?”
Shaved legs are a symbol of the bicycle-racing cult. We come up with all kinds of ways to rationalize it. “Saves three seconds in a forty kilometer time trial,” and “Makes road-rash easy to clean when you crash.” Like three seconds matter when you’re beaten by ten minutes, or planning ahead for road-rash (lost skin) and broken bones is a sign of intelligence. In reality, racers shave their legs as a badge of courage, a rite of passage, and membership in an elite club. Also, there are a couple of ladies out there who find it sexy.
The fateful day arrives. I am totally, fully, completely, almost committed to shaving my legs. I enlist the help of a trusted sidekick, my wife Jackie. Over the years, hair has seized a large portion of my body. At least I don’t have hair on my teeth-yet! The soft, black, tangled, hair wildly circles up my legs like vines smothering the branches of a stately, hundred-year-old, Louisiana, pecan tree. Jackie fires up the electric shears, then strips the first layer of hair off my legs. I feel a gentle tugging on my skin as the hair fights to stay rooted. The shears expose bright tracks of skin that contrast absolutely with the surrounding fields of brown. The shrill buzz of the clippers vibrates and echoes through our minds, like a crazed swarm of bees bouncing around inside our heads. I think ahead to Monday (at work) and my peers innocently asking “Whadya do over the weekend?” And my response “Oh, went to a movie, did a little training, worked some in the yard, spent time with the kids. Oh yea, one other thing, me and the wife got out the old razor and whacked all the hair right off a my legs. Had a hell of a time.” I force the knot in my throat back to my stomach and tell that inner voice to shut up. The buzzing persists until that last hair topples. Then, we stand in utter silence and peruse the damage: piles of dark curly hair lay at my feet like lifeless leaves severed from a limb in late October.
Next, Jackie lathers my long legs starting at my bent, crooked toes and works her way up to mid thigh (covering about four feet of legs with half a can of shaving cream). Despite the lather’s piercing, poignant, menthol aroma, our long-slow-deep breaths embrace the invading scent. We decide the razor should rest in the hands of experience-hers. The remaining stubble is no match for her, laughing and giggling, she cuts it away with long, smooth, sure, razor strokes. Jackie instructs me on the ins and outs of shaving, with comments like, “Be careful shaving round those ankle bones and behind the knee, cut one of those veins or tendons, you’ll end up bleedin to death” and, “You have such pretty legs, you should wear a dress.” Such useful information. Maybe I can discuss leg-shaving techniques with my boss at work; that golf ball in my throat instantly reappears.
Afterward, shaving complete, we admire our handiwork. My hard, glassy, sleek, polished legs shimmer in the light; the hair banished from the throne it held for decades. Prickles, tickles, shivers, quivers, and tingles scamper wildly across my newly shorn skin. Buried sensation’s emerge and invigorate my restless legs; they tremble within. Rite of passage complete, I join that elite group of bike racers with smooth, hairless legs.
The racing season winds down, the year ends, the hair grows back, I sit quietly, and ponder. Shaving my legs is a complete and total act of non-conformity; however, I did it to gain acceptance. Non-conforming deeds in order to conform. Go figure. I often do things just to be different, so yielding to an unwritten law of bicycle racing is a bit out of character and slightly absurd. Nevertheless, if you see me next summer, you will find me wearing outlandish, multicolored lycra; pedaling with shaved, silky, smooth legs; and sporting a smile. Why? We only get to make one trip through life, so we might as well enjoy anything that curls our mouths into sly, impish, little grins. It just plain feels good!
Tags: Coaching staff