sit on the edge of the bath, hot as you dare.
shaving; calming, reverential, tradition.
a cosset and a gentle pamper towards the leg, a visual MOT, a chance to glide over a history of scars, little postcards of pain.
a bit of love.
a quiet ceremony; dim bathroom light, a soft radio only punctuated by the splosh splosh splosh of a razor being rinsed of leg filings in soapy water. some strokes are firm broad swathes across thick slabs of muscle, others delicate negotiations around tricky bits, a knowledge gained over time of the bumps, folds, gullies and ridges that require special attention, the places that can easily harvest that sudden sharp bleedy nick, the gentle care needed round the most recent wound.
the knowing where to stop.
a smooth ballet of necessary grace and specific movement; turning the leg a special way to present a flat surface to the blade, the contra-posto pose to get a perfect sweep across the back of the knee, and the twist and then pull of skin to mow under the patella, the stretch and turn of the foot to clear round the achilles and the relaxing of the calf muscle to get deep in the scallop. measured and elegant, a hasty and choppy hand only ends in angry skin and the watery delta of blood. but worse, far far worse than the sloppy shaving cut is the a patch of missed hair, only discovered later with the curse of a job poorly done and the hushed quick scurry back to the bathroom for a corrective trim, tightening the skin with a determined hand so the blade bites where it previously skimmed. stupid mistake, bodge job, tutting to self, not paying attention.
a tiled-shelf world where the leg razor is sharper than the face razor, the legs get the investment and the face gets a rushed scrape every once in a while through the hand-smeared clear window in a steamed-up mirror.
others will query the reasons why and contest the archaic process and put forward waxing, or burning creams or angry tearing depilatory machines, but it's obvious they'll never understand either the how or the why. necessary for any number of massaging and gravel-rash easing excuses, and the most deeply important yet least admitted, it's the strutting sign of being a Real Cyclist, and for all it's ego-fluffing heightening of muscle tone and start-line intimidation.
that is why.
and a trip every week to buy bath cleaner.
(first printed in The Outcast)
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.