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  1. #1
    Junior Member inMotion's Avatar
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    growing a beard while touring...

    What is everyone's experience with this? Do people you meet along the way treat you differently after substantial growth? I've always wanted to have my appearance not hinder any opportunities, but when I'm done with a month on the tour, I freaking want to look like I've been living in the wilderness for a month! (plus, who likes to shave, really!)

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    Generally, I don't get too different of a reaction -
    But my sister really does.

  3. #3
    Senior Member jurjan's Avatar
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    I try to shave almost as often as at home.
    just like I try to wash every day.
    I've got nothing against people having a beard or a moustache, but I DO think people should TRY and look
    looked after, cared for (showing here that English REALLY isn't my first language).
    I can't imagine WANTING to look like you've been living in the wilderness for a month, when you really haven't, you've been cycling, along roads, MANmade roads.
    My experience with not being able to shave (mostly because of water shortage (and even that is NOT a real problem)) is that most people, first thing they do when they reach 'civilization' is shave.
    but, anyhow, your body, your decision.
    have a nice day,
    Jurjan

  4. #4
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    I try to shave most days while on tour. You know, in the course of regular personal hygiene...
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  5. #5
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    I shave and shower every day when possible to avoid the "homeless on a bike" look. I think that a clean cut appearance makes it easier to approach other people for slight favors such as water bottle fills and use of restrooms. You also get into many more spontaneous conversations when there seems to others that there is little chance of being panhandled. Finally, when caught stealth camping, your claim of necessity is more credible when you look more like you actually have the wherewithall to stay at a motel or campground had one been at hand before it got dark. Etc.

    Also, I frankly find it a little annoying when people gush about how they couldn't tour or how fit I must be etc etc. I try to look as fresh and unaffected as possible by my journey. The downside, of course, is that some women think that any man will have sex with them if shielded by anonymity and they flirt enough. Not taking a shower would take care of alot of this, but it was recently fashionable (but only now catching on in the sticks) to have a couple of days beard growth, so you might have mixed results here.
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 07-31-08 at 03:19 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    I shave and shower every day when possible to avoid the "homeless on a bike" look. I think that a clean cut appearance makes it easier to approach other people for slight favors such as water bottle fills and use of restrooms. You also get into many more spontaneous conversations when there seems to others that there is little chance of being panhandled. Finally, when caught stealth camping, your claim of necessity is more credible when you look more like you actually have the wherewithall to stay at a motel or campground had one been at hand before it got dark. Etc.

    Also, I frankly find it a little annoying when people gush about how they couldn't tour or how fit I must be etc etc. I try to look as fresh and unaffected as possible by my journey. The downside, of course, is that some women think that any man will have sex with them if shielded by anonymity and they flirt enough. Not taking a shower would take care of alot of this, but it was recently fashionable (but only now catching on in the sticks) to have a couple of days beard growth, so you might have mixed results here.
    Unless you are dressed in filthy, stained dungarees and smell to high heaven from 50 metres, and are pushing a crapped-out bike with plastic bags hanging from the handlebars with all your worldy possessions in them... I think the idea that cycle tourists might be mistaken as panhandlers is somewhat paranoid.

    And have you and NilesH been comparing notes on your irresistability to women? Honestly....

    I have had beards on and off over my adult life and generally end up disliking them. They might not required quite as much maintenance as daily shaving, but can become annoying. Plus at my age, I would rather go the clean-cut route than the full greybeard look. I looked at photographs of me when I last had one, and it came off that night.

    Soooo... I shave at least every two days unless there is an impediment to it. .
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Unless you are dressed in filthy, stained dungarees and smell to high heaven from 50 metres, and are pushing a crapped-out bike with plastic bags hanging from the handlebars with all your worldy possessions in them... I think the idea that cycle tourists might be mistaken as panhandlers is somewhat paranoid.
    +1
    I never really understood this concern. People seem to understand that you are on the road and don't expect impeccable grooming. In the US this seems to be especially true in the rural West.

    To answer the original question... On the TA I gave up on shaving early on and don't think it had any impact. Other things are far more important in how you are received. Being open and friendly for one. Taking off your sunglasses and looking people in the eye when you speak to them is very important. It took me just a bit to figure out why people looked at me funny and were distant, then I realized that they were put off by the glasses. After that I took them off and the difference was night and day.

    Both the beard and the frequency of showers seemed to have no substantial effect on how we were received. I have probably told this before, but once I apologized for our odor (we were probably at our rankest) and said I didn't really feel like we belonged indoors at the moment. The lady I was speaking to said, "I think you smell nice." The strange thing is she apparently was quite serious.

    Part of the warmth of our reception may have been the fact that I was traveling with two lovely young women who most assumed were my daughters (one was the other was a friend). A lone male may be received a bit less warmly.

  8. #8
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I look like a bear year-round so there's no change for me. I think the loaded bike, weird suntan, funny clothing and helmet get a LOT more attention.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  9. #9
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Hi,

    after one week the beard is disturbing me and then I shave me or even better go to a barber. In many countries it's cheaper to go to barber instead of using a blade bought in Europe or Amerika.

    The apperance is in genarel important no matter if you are on tour or not.

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  10. #10
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnyW View Post
    Hi,

    after one week the beard is disturbing me and then I shave me or even better go to a barber. In many countries it's cheaper to go to barber instead of using a blade bought in Europe or Amerika.

    The apperance is in genarel important no matter if you are on tour or not.

    Thomas
    I agree. You don't have be in your "Sunday, go to meet'in" cloths, but a proper appearance has no down-sides.

    Sorry Thomas, "Sunday, go to meet'in" is a rural American term for Church attire and formal social gatherings.

  11. #11
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I don't shave on tour. Facial hair is the least of my worries when biking. If someone doesn't like it that's their problem not mine. I haven't shaved for 3-4 weeks at a time and my beard grows fast.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    And have you and NilesH been comparing notes on your irresistability to women? Honestly....
    Just to touch on this important subject. And as a warning to those who might not shave in the hopes of keeping predatory women at bay....I have on more than one occasion had women tell me guys who looked a bit wild and unkempt were super hot to them...sooooo...if you Niles H's problem and have to fight the ladies off on tour just to keep up your mileage - don't count on a lack of bathing or shaving to help you out there....it may just backfire on you...

    Fortunately that has never been a problem for me...the ladies, bears and the puncture fairy generally all leave me alone on tour...
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  12. #12
    Scott n4zou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick L View Post
    I look like a bear year-round so there's no change for me. I think the loaded bike, weird suntan, funny clothing and helmet get a LOT more attention.
    +1
    [SIGPIC]http://www.bikeforums.net/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=57360&dateline=1197386754[/SIGPIC]
    It's easier to pick a Yankee tourist than a bail of cotton.

  13. #13
    Gordon P
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    I often grow a beard when on the road and yes people do treat me differently. I agree with JohnyW that it is relatively cheep to be shaved professionally while in developing world countries and I consider it a luxury and an indulgence to be shaved in a barber’s chair!

  14. #14
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    Shave..what's that???

    Everybody thinks I'm a bum now,no reason to change while on tour.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  15. #15
    Leo
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    Groomed look issue aside...

    I can't help but feel that whiskers will serve as some protection from overexposure to sun, which may result in increased risk of skin cancer. On a tour, you're out there a good part of the day and often not on well shaded tree lined roads. I would have more confidence in the effectiveness of some hair on the face than commercial sun screen lotions.

  16. #16
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    If you don't want to shave, don't shave.

    I don't know if you've noticed this, but plenty of "civilized" people have beards too. What will set you apart is the spandex, helmet, weird bike tan and the mellifluous odor of "All Day Sweat," possibly combined with "All Month Camping."

  17. #17
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Two things.

    1) I find that the straps on my helmet grab stubble and yank it out after several days growth.

    2) If you are worried about how you will look while on tour, start growing your beard a few weeks before you leave so that while on tour you "have a beard" and are not "growing a beard."

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  18. #18
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    If you don't want to shave, don't shave.

    I don't know if you've noticed this, but plenty of "civilized" people have beards too. What will set you apart is the spandex, helmet, weird bike tan and the mellifluous odor of "All Day Sweat," possibly combined with "All Month Camping."
    That's exactly why tour without a helmet and don't wear cycling clothing... When people find my behaviour odd or my person stinky they just blame "...those damn unshaven camping hippies...."....lol...the reputation of cycle tourists remains in tact...
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  19. #19
    Dismember Lou627's Avatar
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    Im not sure if you were joking but I find its best to not look like a cyclist when touring. I feel looking like a racing cyclist (spandex/jerseys/helmet) puts people of somewhat. Im not sure why but I think it makes people in smaller towns think that you think youre better than them. I always try to wear regular shorts, a plain t shirt with sleves cut off, and get those jeans on as soon as possible when you get off the bike. Downplay the value of your gear, even if your riding $4000 worth of crap across the counrty. A beard just adds to the humble image in my opinion. Though im sure the smell doesnt help with anything. I remember thinking every bathroom I went into had the same strange hobo smell. And this is probably the reason that although everwhere that you go you run into beautiful women who are mesmerized by your solo adventures but theyre never the ones that put you up in their houses.

  20. #20
    magnifico! Beelzebutt's Avatar
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    havnt you heard? beards are in.

    besides,, do you think kenny rogers evar had a problem approaching strangers? Michael McDonald?? George Lucas???

    i actually have massive "perfectly groomed" mutton chops and im worried about the naked space above and below my lips filling in with weird stubble during my up and coming month long tour.. its happened before on tour. imagine a shelfing effect of old and new hair that eventually transforms into a strange square beard.
    im bringing my electric razor for this trip. its official.

  21. #21
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lou627 View Post
    Im not sure if you were joking but I find its best to not look like a cyclist when touring. I feel looking like a racing cyclist (spandex/jerseys/helmet) puts people of somewhat.
    I've worn my cyclist's uniform twice this year. I think I'm pretty much over it for anything, but high speed performance riding which I seem to do very little of these days. If you own athletic street clothing [quick dry fabrics and clothing that allows good mobility] there is no downside to it. It's comfortable, dry, warm/cool and you can get off the bike and look like a civilian.

    I was on tour last month and was in the washroom chatting with a touring cyclist who was sporting the full cyclist's uniform [helmet, jersey, bike shorts, bike shoes, sports sunglasses]. I could tell by the way he was talking to me he assumed I was just another tourist off a bus or driving on the Icefields. When we walked out together and I grabbed my bike he was a bit shocked. I just joked.."...I'm undercover..."

    I used to wear all my specialized cycling gear because I thought it was essential and then as I realized it wasn't essential I rationalized that it was more comfortable/better suited to bike riding. As I eventually just stopped wearing it at all I haven't missed it and don't feel at any comfort or performance disadvantage wearing non-cycling specific clothing on tour. In fact I'd say there are many advantages: easier to wash regular underwear and dry it, need fewer clothes as everything is multi-purpose, one pair of shoes that I can run, hike and bike in and as you suggest I can blend right in to the crowd as soon as I get off my bike - which can be an advantage if you aren't in the mood to answer a lot of questions or the vibe where you are touring isn't pro cycling.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  22. #22
    Slowpoach
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    Apparently using moisturizer can make the beard less itchy.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Nycycle's Avatar
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    If I am gone for 4 days, I may leave the razor home, 5 days and the kid shaves every day.
    I shower too, I have a shower weighs less than a gatorade,,, works nice.
    I hate cars,

  24. #24
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    I have a beard anyways, so no different on tour. I just trimmed up a bit when it needed it. I used local barbers when possible, and it looked better than I could ever do it.

    +1 on taking off your sunglasses when talking with people!
    mmmm coffeee!

    email: jfoneg (_"a t symbol thing"_) yahoo (_"period or dot"_) com

  25. #25
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    There is some relevance to the point about sun protection, but sunscreen can take care of that.

    The trouble for me is that by the end of a long tour (months worth), my beard is down to my chest... longer and more dense that the sparseness that passes for hair on my head. It's when it becomes knotted and full of grit after a day in the wind that it becomes really, really tiresome to the point of being painful.

    The spin-off on this thread about cycling attire brings me to the point that more and more I am riding my non-race-road bikes with microfibre, zip-off legged, travel trousers.

    For quite a few years before that, I toured with dark blue microfibre shorts that go almost to the knees, and will likely continue to do so.

    It might be considered a modesty thing, and I am riding more without padded cycling shorts underneath, opting instead for unpadded, skin-ight lycra running shorts. However, the overshorts have pockets and help prevent snags and wear on the lycra underneath.

    It's an evolutionary thing.

    Oh, and while on beards, what about leg beards -- anyone (male or female) shave their legs on tour? I don't.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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