by Scott Martin
Noted bicycling expert Abigail Van Buren once wrote in her Dear Abby newspaper column that cyclists shave their legs so they won’t get hair caught in the chain.
Now, I always defer to Abby on sneaky spouses, meddling in-laws and anybody else who needs to Wake up and smell the coffee! But here I think she might’ve been sniffing something besides espresso.
So why do cyclists shave? Should you? Let’s examine the pros and cons.
Pro: The Crash
You’ll wish you’d shaved when some ER intern who hasn’t slept in 29 hours starts wire-brushing Route 66 out of your gams. Believe me, extracting gravel from flesh is worse with hundreds of tiny, dirty, grasping hairs in the way.
Con: The Hassle
It’s tough enough brushing your teeth and combing your hair every day. Do we really need one more item on the personal-grooming agenda?
Pro: The Rub
If you get massages — and you’re a sore, lactic-acidy fool if you don’t — you need bare legs. Why? Massage oil + hair = Superfund cleanup site.
Con: The Look
You’re wearing shorts at the family picnic when soused Uncle Sal the Teamster wonders aloud why (a) you shave your legs, and (b) any grownup with a driver’s license rides a bike in the first place. Go ahead, you explain. I’ll be over by the potato salad.
Pro: The Other Look
Shaved legs make your muscles appear bigger. Other riders think you’re serious. Maybe they won’t attack you on Vomit Pass. If they do, you’ll glance at your bulging quads, get inspired and hang on.
Con: The Con
You and your hairy legs show up for a group ride. Somebody snickers. On Vomit Pass, you attack. The snobs are too stunned to respond. You break away, leg hairs waving goodbye in the breeze.
Scott Martin has been writing about cycling for more than 15 years. He worked as an editor for Bicycling magazine for 10 of them and wrote the “Scott’s Spin” column for RBR from which this is republished. He has also covered cycling for several national magazines.