Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Since one of my first big bike crashes in 1994, I have shaved my legs every week, usually on Thursday before racing on the weekend. I started riding seriously in 1989, but resisted shaving my legs until the crash at the Tuesday Night Training Race. I continued to shave my legs throughout my deployment to Iraq in 2009. I rode 5,100 miles on Camp Adder, Iraq, so it made sense to keep removing my leg hair.
So why do bicycle racers and most serious cyclists shave their legs?
In 1994 I crashed at 25mph on a rough road surface. I had deep cuts on my right side from my shoulder to my ankle. The worst was almost two square feet of shredded skin on my right thigh. Inside all of those cuts was the shaggy hair from my hirsute legs. I cleaned and disinfected my injuries, but within a few days, the big red mess on my right thigh was oozing green.
My doctor, General Internal Medicine, rotates many residence through the practice. That day I had a young, fit doctor doing a month-long family practice residency. He took a lot of care cleaning my many injuries. He prescribed antibiotics, then he leaned back, folded his arms and said, "You're the first healthy person I treated in three weeks."
I thought this was funny. I was bandages from ankle to shoulder. This fit young doctor, like others I had met and have met since, got into family practice to care for communities. But a quick scan of the waiting room anytime I am in the office says most of the practice is geriatric, bad lifestyle, or both. He seemed ready to switch his specialty to sports medicine or surgery.
And speaking of treating injuries, my oldest daughter, Lauren, was 5 years old at the time and very happy to help me change bandages every day. She was clearly disappointed when I finally healed up. Lauren did her first race that year and from age 8 to 10 was part of a kids race series. She was around so many bicycle racers as a kid she thought men with leg hair looked weird when she played sports in middle and high school.
After 22 years, I can't quite imagine having leg hair again. I still race, so I still shave.