I guess I should thank the distracted woman in a black SUV and that unexpected U-Turn yesterday morning for giving me the perfect intro for this piece. That close shave was dangerous, but not all close shaves are bad.
Months back I wrote a humorous piece entitled Track-Stand Boy and the Lost Art of Bicycling Shaving. Track-Stand Boy mysteriously disappeared shortly after it was published and I never did have the necessary balance to pursue shaving on my bike. Happily that didn't stop Velodramatic regular Kurt Cornell from offering to send Juli and I a selection of products from his company, The Art of Shaving. I should note that I didn't take Kurt up on his offer to provide me with one of their beautiful straight razors. I've got a pretty steady hand, but I figure you've got to be at least a cat1 to wield that kind of blade.
We can all agree the exercise of shaving can be a dull routine. Something we do each morning shortly before, or just after we pry open both eyes. Grab a can of gel and scrape off the stubble with as little blood loss as possible. There's got to be a better way.
Well there is and the two extra minutes I'm spending each morning have turned that routine into an invigorating day starter. Perfect preparation for the bike ride that follows.
The Art of Shaving is a blend of old world tradition and new age skin care; not unlike a classic steel frame built up with the latest gruppo, the end result is a fantastic ride. The basic system is quite simple: prepare your face for the shave; enjoy the lather; shave with a sharp blade; moisturize. If there's a secret its in the formulations... high-quality botanical ingredients and essential oils and beyond that it's about taking the time to get a harmonious result.
I take an extra minute to soak my face with warm water, not the two splash dash of old, but a good, gentle soak. I follow that with an application of Pre-Shave Oil. This is as important as chain lube is to your drive train, it sets your beard up and prepares the face to be shaved without irritation or razor burn. I apply a dime size drop of oil to my fingertips and rub it into my face and neck. I'm using the hypoallergenic unscented oil for sensitive skin but there are also lavender (normal to sensitive skin), lemon (normal to oily skin) and sandalwood (normal to dry skin) formulations. A little goes a long way and you want a thin layer protecting your skin beneath the lather that follows.
The next step is the fun part, and if you're as old as I am you can probably remember your dad using a shaving brush and soap long before aerosol gels and foams appeared. This is another right-of-passage tradition that's almost been lost. A badger hair shaving brush is as classic as a Brooks saddle. Hold the brush under a little warm water, swirl it a couple of times in the jar of Cream Shave (again a little goes a long way) and then apply it to your beard. Don't rush this step just enjoy working up a warm, thick lather. How you do that is as individual as painting: swirl, stroke, dab, brush whatever. The more you work it in, the better the shave is going to feel.
I don't know about you but I'm happy with three blades on my Gillette razor, and that's where I'll stay until they stop making them. I get the feeling that they'll eventually join Campy at 11... we'll see. I've taken The Art of Shaving advice to heart and started changing my blades more regularly (every two weeks). I definitely notice the difference. A new blade glides cleanly over my skin, cuts through lather and beard over that thin film of Pre-Shave Oil, smoothly and without irritation. To quote Al Pacino's Colonel Frank Slade "Ooh, Mama"
Rinse off any remaining soap with a little more warm water and finish the shave by applying a small amount of After-Shave Balm. Formulated with grapeseed extract, shea butter and vitamin C, it's dessert for your skin.
Total elapsed time is no more than five minutes start to finish and that includes twenty seconds to rinse out and fan the shaving brush so it's ready for duty the next morning. I owe Kurt a big thanks for helping me to rediscover the art of shaving and some great products.
Back to that other close shave. The woman definitely saw me. I was unmistakably visible wearing my red Rapha Lightweight Softshell Jacket over the new ¾ bibs with red flashes. She just didn't care, it was up to me to stop in a hurry. Maybe I'll have to get that straight razor after all, I'm sure it would do a wonderful job on tires.