Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On Shaving Legs

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss some issues about cyclists. First, they are extremely sensitive about their name – cyclist – as opposed to biker. This likely stems from the latter’s preference for leather instead of lycra. Which brings up another issue: spandex. Cyclists wear this for several reasons, such as aerodynamics, reduction of that annoying flapping while doing some awesome descent, and also the opportunity to show off the physique attained while doing some hideous climbing. Which brings up another, larger point. One that almost everyone asks a male setting out on a cycling trip. The shaven leg. Below is a brief discussion of the pros and cons of shaving the lower extremity, which we discussed on our short trip from Buckeye to Phoenix, before our presentation to the University of Arizona Medical School about global health. Fourth year medical education at its finest, right here. But enough about medicine; back to the legs.

Reasons Cyclists Shave Their Legs

1. Road rash – this is allegedly the real reason people shave their legs when cycling. The shaven leg is much easier to debride, or scrub gravel out of forcefully with a stiff plastic brush, than the hairy leg. Thankfully we have not had a crash resulting in road rash yet, but Katie Kidwell did have an excellent dismount from her bike at a stop light that day in Phoenix. She didn't even remove her feet from her bike as she lighted on the ground - all those years of gymnastics paid off!

2. Improved aerodynamics – lets be honest, this is pure B.S. The cyclist may feel they are faster without leg hair, but there is no way that cyclists, especially at our level, will have a gain in performance due to a lack of hair; if anything, you may miss the feel of wind in the leg hair making you aware of your pace, and paradoxically feel slower due to the newly naked skin.

3. Solidarity – this is a very important reason. Several of the male riders had already shaved their legs for aesthetic or other reasons, and the shaven ranks swelled by a few in the first few days, as Tim Mitchell joined in with his razor. The sense of brotherhood and team is an important part of why people shave their legs for cycling.

4. All the girls were doing it – past tense. The less said about this the better.

5. Sunblock – since we are riding for several hours each day, sunblock is an important part of your morning ritual, unless your name is Maggie Rosen. Leg hair, especially thick leg hair, can greatly complicate and lengthen this maneuver. A shaven leg is much easier to apply sunblock to than a hairy one.

6. Insect Rights – believe it or not, every day after a ride I have to dig at least three bugs out of my leg hair. This is somehow more disgusting to me than the bugs swallowed while riding or the bugs that you wipe off your face. Without leg hair, the bug would slide right over the leg, continuing to live. At least until it met an unshaven leg. Or a windshield.

7. The calves – you know you want to see them. A shaven leg just puts them on display that much better.

Reasons Cyclists Should Not Shave Legs

1. Time – from a base state of hairiness, it takes about 45 minutes to shave a leg. One. Singular. This is a serious time commitment.

2. Razorburn. Ouch.

3. Folliculitis/ingrown hairs -> necrotizing fasciitis -> sepsis/amputations -> death. No one wants to be a case report.

4. Razorburn. Hurts even worse the second day.

5. Sunburn - according to Travis Grace, M.D* hair acts as a natural sunblock: “I mean, your scalp doesn’t burn unless you shave your head.” Sounds scientific to me.

6. Awkwardness – the positioning required to shave, say, the popliteal space behind your knee or the back of the thigh properly requires a PhD in yoga. And may make you feel like you need to have a confession.

7. The itching – it does not stop.

What, then, is the reasonable cyclist to do, given these facts? The answer seems clear enough to me. Shave one leg, and let the other go.

*pending satisfactory completion of the Ride For World Health

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Life Recently, or, The Ride For World Health

As some of you may already know, I am currently riding my bicycle across the country with a group called Ride For World Health. We are a group of mostly medical students who are riding our bicycles across the country to try and raise money and awareness for some global health issues. And I have been lax in my reporting thus far; we have completed about 55% of our ride now. I’ll try to briefly catch you all up to date on our adventures. Imagine some Doogie Howser, M.D.ish music playing as I’ll try to sum up the one or two items I learned that day of the ride.

3/27 - Do you know how long it takes to drive from Columbus to San Diego? I do. And it might be reducible to 36 hours, but it is a very, very, very long time. (Columbus, OH to San Diego, CA)

4/1 - 56 miles the first day, with 6600 feet of climbing thrown in for fun. Not my idea of fun, and I don’t think most peoples, either, but allegedly a person exists somewhere who finds that fun. (San Diego to Lake Morena, CA)

4/2 - Riding down a 6% grade could be fun – heck, it should be fun. But it is not when on I-8. (Lake Morena to El Centro, CA).

4/3 - Even if you fastidiously apply sunscreen twice a day over all of your skin, your lips will still sunburn. And blister. Also, flocks of red-winged blackbirds outside dairy farms create memories that last lifetimes. (El Centro, CA to Yuma, AZ). Oh, and those neat stateline “Welcome to Our State” are actually really difficult to find.

4/4 – Riding in groups is fun. (Yuma to Dateland AZ).

our pace line in the AZ desert

4/5 – The Ohio State University is going to take over the world. The town was named by proud alums back in the day – true story! (Dateland to Buckeye, AZ)

4/6 – Short, fun ride that led into our first Global Health Day. (Buckeye to Phoenix)

4/7- And if you ride to DQ after a long ride, you will hit your first “century” ride, where you cover more than 100 miles on your bike in one day. (Phoenix to Picacho Peak State Park, AZ).

Me after my first century ride.

Picacho Peak is pretty awesome

4/8 - Waking up early to hike a peak makes even a short 43 mile ride pretty long. Especially when there is a stiff headwind. Still worth it, though. (Picacho Peak to Tucson, AZ)

4/9 – Having a day off, even if it starts out with ornery custodians, is glorious. (Tucson AZ)

4/10 – New rootbeers in the middle of the day make any day better! (Tucson to Wilcox AZ)

Captain Eli's Rootbeer - really good, fully flavored and fairly sweet - 8/10

4/11 – Lordsburg is a horrible, horrible place. Also, I have a very different scale as to what is spicy, according to one Katie Kidwell. (Tucson to Lordsburg, NM)

4/12 – It’s a good thing there are signs to mark where the continental divide lies out in the desert. (Lordsburg to Deming, NM)

The continental divide

4/13 – I really love small-town America. (Deming to Las Cruces, NM)

4/14 - The whole group rode together for much of the day. And I finally found a state border sign! (Las Cruces, NM to El Paso,TX)

4/15 –White Sands National Monument is the prettiest bombing range I have ever seen in my life. (El Paso, TX)

4/16 – 4/21 – If you wake up 15 minutes before your flight leaves to Cancun, you can get there earlier than scheduled. I'll have a different post about this some other time. Maybe. (Cancun, Mexico for AMSSM conference

4/22 – Did you know Methodist churches have roller skating rinks in them? And bowling alleys?(Abilene, TX to Ranger, TX)

4/23 –The first 50 miles of this 107 mile day were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. We had a nice wind, and the Texas wildflower bloom is really something everyone should see sometime in their life. (Ranger to Ft Worth TX)

4/24 – Ft Worth is a really fun town when spent with 20 of your friends.

4/25 – Horrible headwinds for the first thirty miles are totally redeemed by tailwinds for the next fifty, when you can average 30mph and end it with a dip in a private lake. (Ft Worth to Greenville, TX)

4/26 – The church ladies in Greenville and Paris are amazing. Really amazing. (Greenville to Paris, TX)

Some people struggle with directions

That's it for now. I'll try to be better in the future with reporting on the ride. It has been a really, really ridiculous amount of fun. I doubt I will ever have a better trip in my life, honestly, but it has also been a ton of work.

Also, if you want to follow some more faithful chroniclers of the ride, here are some of my friends' blogs:

The official blog is written by a different rider each day:

Tim Mitchell -

Maggie Rosen -

Libby Huffman -

Justin Harper -

Chris D'Ardenne -

Adam Koon -

Andy Nyberg -