(Warning: graphic pictures are included in this post)
I fell off my bike: wiped out; body slammed the pavement, slid across the bitumen. Cycling on one of the oft-ridden stretches of road on the periphery of the city, I swerved on to the edge where the gravel and pavement blend: a trompe l'oeil. The road appeared to be flat and solid but covered with fine gravel. When my front tire touched the grit, I realized (not soon enough) that there was a ridge and the fine gravel was deep, so down I went. I was not going fast, and I was not seriously injured. I did receive fine road rashes on my leg and arm, and good blue bruises on my left shoulder and hip.I am not seeking empathy dear reader, no no, no. All will be mended soon, thank you. My little injury has me wondering, however, not about what I did wrong, nor what I did inadvertently right, but rather, what preemptive measures I could have taken (aside from paying attention) to lessen the injuries. Cyclists know they are going to eventually fall off their bikes, just as cowboys know they will someday get bucked off their horses. Falling off is a scenario we chose not to dwell upon when we are in the saddle.
Looking at my injuries (a Kodak moment compliments of Val), I was struck not by the blood, and not recalling the pain, but wondering about my hairy legs. Could having smooth shaved legs diminish the road rash? To shave or not to shave, that is the question. Whether the hair removed from the epidermis reduces the road rub and speeds up recovery? Of course, shaving one’s legs is a long established tradition in the road cycling world as is wearing a hat and chaps to a rodeo cowboy--accoutrements of the trade, signifiers of affiliation.
I can find no reason to have hirsute free extremities. Of course, if I were getting a massage, hairless legs would probably have its advantages. And this, no doubt, is one of the justifications pros use to prune back the fur. I cannot ride fast enough to be concern with aerodynamics. Infections: well, most of the hair gets ripped off in the crash anyways (perhaps, a well-supplied first aid kit is the only proactive measure available). Aesthetics: hmm, I guess some may admire shaved legs just as a cowboy admires the soundness of a horse’s legs—strong and sculpted. I am resolved, however, by comments posted on an internet forum addressing this topic: “Shave the cat. Doing that would be more useful than shaving your legs. It sheds; you don’t.”