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Once upon a time about 30 years ago, I started cycling to lose weight. At one point, I got good enough to make it to my parent’s house about two swamps away from my college, which was more than a 70-mile trip. At the time I was a student at Tulane University in New Orleans.
I soon learned that stopping to get water and food wasn’t my biggest problem. I realized after my second trip to my parents’ house that I was in need of protection.
I wasn’t able to connect the dots back then. It was the early 1980s and I was riding my bike through redneck country, wearing tight lycra bicycle shorts. Rednecks driving F-150s thought it would be a good idea to yell “fag” and toss beer bottles at me. Even though a bunch of them would hit me across the back with the bottles, I didn’t even as much as flip them off. Most of these trucks also had gun racks. And those gun racks were being used.
By the time I made my second trip to my hometown of Donaldsonville, Louisiana, I figured it would only be a matter of time before one of these drunk country bumpkins would actually sharpen their aim enough to hit me over the head with a Miller Lite.
I told you that to tell you this. Everything I’ve ever done in or around cycling had a reason. I started wearing lycra shorts because it came with leather chamois pads, which allows you to ride much longer without chafing. I wore cycling-specific shoes because of the stiff bottoms, which makes cycling much more comfortable. And cycling jerseys, whether synthetic or wool, always offered a wicking effect to keep sweat away from the body.
The one thing I do that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, like a lot of cyclists, generally the ones who race, I shave my legs. Talking to cyclists over the years, there’s been no shortage of reasons as to why cyclists shave their legs. One of the bigger reasons is that it’s aerodynamic. The wind tunnel tests have proven over and over again that the power saved by shaving your legs cannot even be measured.
Another big excuse is that when you fall on a bike, road rash will heal quicker if no hair is there to irritate the wound. I say bullshit to both.
There’s only two reasons for anyone to shave their legs. One is because shaved legs can make well-muscled legs look more intimidating, kind of like the statue of David. But probably the best reason I can come with, or anyone else for the matter, is because Fausto Coppi did it. If you have to ask who he is, you’re not ready to shave your legs yet.