Why The Don Shaves: Vanity, Bike Crashes And Peer Pressure

Donovan van Gelder time trial bike shaved legs

It’s all in the definition, my boy. Donovan churns the usual monster gear

Public confession: I have been removing the hair from my legs for more than half my life now.

I have always hoped that my body would just give up and the hair would stop growing but alas, at least once a week I find myself bending my aging body into positions that I fear it may not bounce back from.

All to achieve the silky smooth shave that my brand of razor promises me.

In fact, I shaved my legs before I began shaving my face.

Now I understand the questions in 1986, when I stripped down to my PT shorts at school after my first shearing but I am surprised that in 2013 I still get asked why cyclists shave their legs. Let me list the reasons in order of importance:

  1. It shows off the definition of your pins really well
  2. 
Everyone else does it
  3. 
It makes massage easier
  4. Crash wounds heal quicker

For me, my initial reason for shaving was because cyclists did it. I wasn’t sure why but they did, so I needed to. There was no muscle-definition in my 15-year-old twigs that removing the hair would have made more visible and impressive. In fact, the biggest part of my leg as a whole was my kneecap. I do however remember the moment, as I strolled passed a reflective surface wearing my Polly-shorts, when I first saw the beginnings of a distinct line separating my quadriceps from my hamstring. Ah, what a moment!

I digress…

My folks were certainly not going to fork out any cash for their teenage son to get rubbed up by some hot masseuse and I hadn’t yet had any major unplanned dismounts at speed that would have brought me to the realisation that hair would infect the wounds. So yes… my only reason was that I followed the crowd and decided that smooth legs were what I needed to gain some credibility in the cycling fraternity. Remembering here that I got into cycling as a fledgling triathlete.

cycling injuries shaving shaved legs

Donovan recovering from the inevitable crash and resulting roasties aka road rash

Mistake number one… I decided that waxing was the best way to handle this, who knows why? I probably read it in one of my Mom’s lady magazines. Returning from the pharmacy with my little brown bag containing some form of cold wax concoction that could have been used to extract cold-war secrets from the most hardened Soviet spy, I enlisted help from my dad. That was mistake number two…

He proceeded to smear this sticky gloop onto my skinny limbs with what looked like an ice-lolly stick before patting on small squares of the gauze-like material that accompanied the goo. Then bracing himself, he yanked! I think this day provided another first… it was also the first time I swore in front of my father. Fortunately, I don’t think he noticed because the hilarity that my agony caused distracted him from my expletives.

He gave it a few more tries, I was still fifteen and hadn’t yet broken the habit of doing what my father told me, but eventually my Mom, my grandparents and all neighbours within a two hundred metre radius of our house couldn’t handle my distressing screams anymore. So I escaped my dad’s demented attempts to skin me and washed off the remaining wax, probably having to use paint thinners, and proceeded to complete the job with a razor. I haven’t looked back.

Well, except for this one other time…

Speed ahead to about 1993… I had now been shaving my legs for eight years, I’d finished school, done my national service and had won a couple of triathlons, duathlons and even bike races. I had even developed a bit of definition in the pistons. So I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself. I also had a twice-weekly massage with a sports masseuse who had a room adjoining a pharmacy in a busy shopping mall.

Mondays and Fridays were my regular slots. The day after a race and two days before. To ensure I was sleek and smooth for race day, I used to shave on a Saturday. So the Friday rub was a bit abrasive to say the least. My masseuse also did, you guessed it, waxing and she convinced me that hot wax was way less painful than my earlier DIY effort and it would last much longer than shaving and thus save her precious hands on Fridays.

Being in my early twenties I was very susceptible to female persuasion. I’m not anymore of course! So I agreed.

Well! I have run out of skill at over 60km/h and slid across tarmac with nothing but gaudy coloured lycra to protect me and that has hurt less than what I experienced on that massage table! Fortunately I managed to maintain some semblance of masculine-pride and held my tongue but I think I left her massage bench in the shape of a cello after squeezing it so hard in order to suppress my girly screams.

So back to shaving for me. Something I fear I will be doing for the rest of my days.

by Donovan van Gelder
The Don has been swimming, cycling and running since the days of stove-pipe jeans, luminous shirts and Flock of Seagulls hairdos. He likes to think that not only has he been around this multisport block countless times, but that he contributed to it being built – and therefore refuses to get off it until he is good and ready. Visit him at cybercoach.co.za

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