Track-Stand Boy and the Lost Art of Bicycle Shaving

Shaving by Bicycle

Track-Stand Boy (TSB) appeared one day as I waited for the light to change at San Tomas. As he drifted past me he tossed out a "nice bike" before assuming the position immediately in front of me. I'll admit my first thought was a profane... "WTF"

The light changed and TSB broke from the gate so hard I thought momentarily I was moving backwards. I clipped in and rolled out as he quickly pulled away. A bigger man would have taken a deep breath and smiled, but with race radio crackling in my inner ear, I took the bait, stood on the pedals and put the hammer down for ten seconds to reel TSB back in. The gap shrunk giving me a chance to size up the competition. Strike one, helmet mirror; strike two, woolly legs, strike three... the man oozed arrogance.

We reached the next light and TSB rolled between cars on the starting grid with a sense of entitlement as impressive as it was annoying. Three feet directly in front of the cars he canted the front wheel and stood, motionless on the bike. Pole position again waiting for the flag to drop.

This is how it went, light after light for miles. TSB never touched the ground and I stayed three or four bikes lengths back in his rear view mirror. Eventually I zigged when he zagged and our routes separated but I hadn't seen the last of him. Two miles later I glanced over my shoulder and there he was pulling in behind me. One last red light before home... Race Street (of course) I stop and put my foot down. TSB freewheels by to perch nervously half a bike length into the intersection waiting for green.

Now I'm smiling and I don't bother chasing as he peels away only to veer right at the next block... and he's gone.

Shaving by Bicycle

So what does any of this have to do with shaving. I'll explain. Last week we crossed paths again as he turned left from a sidestreet in front of me. I'm sure he recognized me, the bike and/or the Rapha kit. Try as he might (and I'm sure he was trying) he couldn't shake me, so instead each light became a circus demonstration of one hand track stands, while the free hand adjusted his shorts, helmet, bike, checked his cell. Frankly his balance is uncanny. He and the bike are as still as if he was locked into a trainer.

This is where my mind started to wander and I figured if he'd had a razor handy he'd have proceeded to shave for effect. In the interests of cycling research I decided to give bicycle shaving a try today. Pretty smooth, no nicks or cuts. Maybe the next time I run across TSB I'll offer him a can of shaving gel as a worthy prop for his prodigious track standing talents. His call whether he shaves his face or those unsightly legs.

If this catches on, remember you saw it here first. I only wish I'd talked Cole and Ryan into giving it a try on the Rapha Tour of California ride. Grizzly Adams never wore Rapha.

17 Responses to Track-Stand Boy and the Lost Art of Bicycle Shaving

  1. chr15 tree says:

    Great post! I love the pictures, as always.

    Kudos for the one handed shaving trackstand especially on a free-wheel, I assume no trick photography or mirrors were used :)

    Unfortunately despite the trend at the mo the only fixies we get to see round here are the old boys out with the Wednesday Wobblers pub run… I always race then at teh lights, it makes me feel good.



    • Hey Chris,

      I’ve not got TSB’s mad skills. That track stand of mine can be measured in milliseconds. I’m sure TSB could fish from his bicycle.

  2. Neil Pedoe says:

    Thank you. You’ve inspired me to launch a new series of male grooming based cycling challenges in our UK road cycling magazine, Cycling Plus.

    Head clipping, toe clipping, ear waxing…

    and I wonder if you could strap an ironing board to the bars…

    All the best, Neil Pedoe, Deputy Editor, Cycling Plus

    • You’re definitely on to something Neil. Why should drivers be the only ones multi-tasking? I’ll bet an ironing board could be rigged as an outrigger making for a very stable ride… I think we’ve just discovered a real reason for Tandems to exist.

  3. BR says:

    Track stands on the street are actually quite easy to perform on a fixed gear bike so don’t think that this guy has super powers. I’ll be impressed if he can do that on a 45 degree velodrome during a match sprint. Ask him that next time you see him. He did a classic trackie road training move – stall and sprint. Matched Sprints usually come down to a 2 lap final where position is the advantage. Whomever can hold their stand the longest will end up in 2nd position before the final blast. You should see tandem track stands – OY! Trackies are a whole other breed. I did spot a kid riding his brakeless fixed bike this morning. Full gel wave in the hair, XS t-shirt, studded belt, 6″ cuffs on the ladies jeans, etc. Those kids are hilarious.

    • TSB is not on a fixed gear, which is why, reluctantly, I’m so impressed. He just pins it, no rocking, no front wheel movement light, after light, after light.

  4. BR says:

    M – I wish that I was a fly on the wall of one of your neighbors. “Look dear, he’s finally lost it” “He is getting ready for work in the driveway – on his bike” “Get the camera”

  5. BR says:

    Oh that’s a different trick on a freewheeled bike. He stabilizes the bike by resting the seat against a thigh. You will notice that the bike leans to one side with no sunlight under the seat. Just ask him for the time of day and he’ll fall. Ask him if can kill a bee in his helmet at 30MPH in a descent? I bet that he can’t convince his wife that buying Rapha actually saves money in the longterm. See – these are the skills of an elite cyclist.

  6. Scott says:

    I learnt to track stand on a free wheel. I need a slight gradient in the road though, otherwise my track stands last 10 seconds. Do US roads slope from the centre line to the gutter? So water can run off? If so, he turns his wheel into the slope. Pressure on the pedals pushes the bike up the slope while the gradient of the slope applies the opposite force – trying to make the bike roll backwards. If he’s been doing it long enough he’ll know exactly how much pressure you need to be motionless.

    This is especially so if he knows how long the lights take to change.

    Where you talk about him rolling 3 feet past the intersection, he is probably rolling to where the gradient is better for the purposes of track standing. On my regular ride some of the roads aren’t sloped appropriately; but a small imperfection in the road surface can be enough to give your bike the momentum to want to roll backwards.

    If he truly is freewheel track standing on perfectly flat road without any movement whatsoever. He is unreal.

  7. Scott,

    TSB doesn’t seem particularly picky about where he sets up. He just has it dialed. When he rolled three feet into the intersection that was only because I was standing on the spot he should have stopped at ;-)

  8. BR says:

    …and on the shaving topic? The last 2-3 minutes of consciousness prior to my surgery was with a nurse that shaved me from neck to knees. Was it her technique? The quality of the shaver? Or the pipeline of super meds that impressed me so much?

  9. ahahaha this post is awesome!

    i’m still working on my (nonexistent) trackstand, and though as a girl i won’t be shaving my face, maybe i can work towards the leg-over-handlebars-skid-stop-while-i-shave-my-legs?

    • kaiko,

      The skid is not required, the shaving legs while riding would be no small feat. Your hats are fantastic. Can I commission a Velodramatic hat?


  10. hey michael,

    “velodramatic” that’s…12 letters?

    i’m super behind in fixing/making hats but i love a challenge. factoring in school and finals, it’ll take a few months but i’ll def let you know!


  11. kurt says:

    I am a new viewer of your site. Excellent photography and the pros are noteworthy. I enjoy your description of your rides as I find myself riding with internal narrative on my rides as well. There is nothing quite like the connection with the world gained by a daily bicycle commute or the odd but seemingly natural connection to strangers found on a Sunday morning group ride.

    The piece on TSB is my favorite for it’s connection with the male psyche. I just love the fact you could not contain your need to compete and the genuine expression of the emotion of the moment.

    Your new shaving hobby is as interesting as it is dangerous. I think it may be time to up the anty a bit and introduce a straight razor to the mix. I will send you one from our collection should you have interest. I am not sure how you will handle the strop while on your ride but….

    Anyway, I would like to hear more of your TSB experiences. You know, Chronicles of TSB or Adventures of…, no, no how about 30 days chasing TSB.

    It is good to hear your riding buddy Brendan has returned to the road in good condition. Positive thoughts in his direction.

    Good luck on your chase and keep informing us on all things Velodramatic.



    • Hi Kurt,

      We try to cloak it with civility but you don’t have to scratch very deep to find our primitive nature waiting for the slightest pretense to cut loose. Strangely I haven’t crossed paths with TSB in weeks (having said that it will likely happen tonight). You may enjoy this earlier Velodramatic post… The Softer side of Cycling. I love the ideas for the recurring TSB series, and will pass on the good wishes to Brendan.