Top 5 Reasons Cyclists Shave Their Legs

, , | UltraRob | Wednesday, May 9th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

As a male cyclist, I’ve been shaving my legs for nearly 20 years. In the winter, I don’t take the time to shave. Nearly every winter, I decide leg shaving is too much bother and that I’m not going to shave when spring rolls around. Every year though it hasn’t taken many warm days of riding before I can’t wait to shave the thick hair off my legs.

This year I haven’t shaved yet. I haven’t had a chance to ride much and we haven’t had many days warm enough for riding in shorts. The few warm days I’ve ridden have made me ready to shave my legs.

Over the years, I’ve been asked many times why male cyclist shave their legs. A lot of people think it’s because of aerodynamics. Although shaving helps swimmers, I’ve read it makes very little difference if any in speed for cyclists.

Here are what I think are the top 5 reasons to shave.

Crashes

If you crash, it’s easier to clean up the road rash and doesn’t hurt as much taking off bandages. I say at least for mountain biking, if you never crash you aren’t riding fast enough or riding technical enough trails. Even if you just ride on the road, if you ride enough you’re bound to go down.

Tradition

Road cyclists have been shaving their legs for decades. If you you show up for a serious group ride with unshaven legs, other riders will shun you. Nobody will want to be riding close to you. They will think you aren’t experienced riding in a pack. This means you’ll likely cause a crash. Even mountain bikers should be using group road rides for training. Pro mountain bikers spend about 70% of their time training on the road.

Psychological Advantage

I generally end up shaving my legs about the time I start getting fast on the bike. Having my legs shaved makes me feel even faster. Other riders I know have said the same thing. Thinking you’re faster can make the difference between being dropped or dropping someone else.

It Feels Better

I’ve found that when it’s warm and I haven’t shaved my legs, I get more bugs hanging out and biting me. I also don’t like the feel of the wind on my hairy legs when descending at 50 mph. After a mountain bike race with mud bogs and and stream crossings, it’s no fun standing in the parking lot with only a little water and trying to clean mud off hairy legs.

Massages

I don’t get massages very often but they certainly help with recovery. I’ve been told massage therapists can give smooth legs a better massage. I do know getting a massage with shaved legs feels better.

Are there any other reasons for cyclists to shave their legs that should have made the top 5? Or are there reasons for cyclists not to shave? Ready to show you’re a cyclist but have questions about shaving, go here.

I’ve thought about writing about leg shaving a couple times over the last year but I finally took the time to do it because of a group writing project at ProBlogger. I’m don’t expect to make my living blogging any time soon. I know what my writing abilities are or rather my lack of writing abilities. There’s a reason I develop software instead. I like ProBlogger for technical information such as how search engines work and how web traffic is driven by some of the new social websites.

Here are some other posts from the group writing project that are fitness and health related. Actually most of them have to do with weight loss. I’ve totally fallen off the wagon with losing weight for the B7 Challenge with all the stress at work. I haven’t even done my 3 mile time trial that should have been done last week.

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35 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons Cyclists Shave Their Legs”

  1. stronglifts says:

    Hey thanks for the link share!

  2. Hi Rob!

    Thanks very much to linking to my post re: the top 5 reasons to “start your weight loss program today”.

    Beyond that though, I found your post very interesting. You also mentioned at the end of your post that you think your writing skills leave something to be desired, however I do not think you are such a terrible writer.

    What a unique topic to write on, and one that I never really thought about until now. Thanks for sharing that inside info!

    All the best,

    JoLynn

  3. tantowi says:

    Talking about shave,
    Female thing that drive man mad is using his last blade to shave her legs.

  4. UltraRob says:

    JoLynn, I don’t think my writing skills are terrible. I go out into the wilderness and see amazing sights and then I just can’t write what I see and feel. Other people can take something pretty common and write about it in such a way as to make it seem like something amazing. That’s what I was meaning. I’m just another average writer but I do things other people wouldn’t even consider doing.

  5. Martin Muehl says:

    Reason #1 for me is that it just looks better. The muscles appear to be more defined, and as a triathlete I can’t imagine unshaven legs fo myself…

  6. Anonymous says:

    shaved legs on bikers are pretty cool but mentioning any other reason than “less dirt in wounds” is definitely totally g*y.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I shave my legs because it makes the pantyhose feel better :)

  8. meepmop says:

    i think the most important and so far overlooked reason for shaving leg hair is: so that it doesnt get caught in your chain. think about it!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I can tell you from a fluid mechanics point of view that shaving your legs will do quite the opposite to your speed… The hair actually does quite a nice job at reducing drag compared to a smooth surface. So it’s nice if you FEEL fast, but it’s not aero :) .

  10. The Captain says:

    But where whould you stop? I’m quite a hairy guy so it starts at my toes and finishes just below my neck. I personally love the feel of the wind in my hair (particularly since there is no longer any on my head!).

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s also because the good riders do it. It’s a status thing. You loose respect as a rider if you don’t have shaved legs. I believe the Psychological Advantage works both ways. You want to psych someone out? Try sprint past them with hairy legs :-P

  12. Anonymous says:

    Okay, here is a different perspective coming from a woman. I HATE it when my husband shaves his legs! To me, it’s not manly in the least bit. When I walk into our bathroom and see him in the tub with his foot up on the side of the tub and he’s shaving his legs like I do (in fact he uses MY razor!) it is just wrong! It’s repulsive to me. I’ve had people (including my own father) as me if my husband is g*y!! (not that I have anything against g*y people!) I think it’s a shame that other riders judge your riding capabilities on whether you have hair on your legs or not. My husband used to race and he’s a very strong rider and usually blows those stuck up roadies right out off the road! They look at him in shock because they would have never guessed he could ride that well with hairy legs. I know that my husband doesn’t shave his legs anymore for one reason and one reason only. His wife! But that’s the best reason I can think of. :-)
    I still think his legs look awesome and muscular. And besides, with hair on, you can’t see the scars.

  13. Anonymous says:

    “with hair on, you can’t see the scars.”

    Don’t tell him that or he’ll be off shaving in a second.

    Scars are considered cool.

  14. BJ says:

    I think reason #2, tradition, is pathetic: “If you you show up for a serious group ride with unshaven legs, other riders will shun you.” Must roadies act like teenagers shunning people that don’t conform? I have tried shaving, but gave it up. It’s time consuming, my skin hates it, and my wife hates it. I figure if you don’t like me and my hairy legs then I don’t like you and your juvenile judgment of me.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I wish more women would think men shaving legs are gay. First reason is that women won’t be finding excuses not to shave their own unless their bf/husbands also do the same. It is pointless and degrading to demand men to shave their legs because the women themselves shave their legs. I know some feminist wannabe women who insisted that if they shave, the men should too, and added that “it is only fair” bullshit. IT IS NOT FAIR AND IT IS NOT THE SAME!

  16. Anonymous says:

    So why don’t all other athletes shave their bodies to get better massages? Lame reason to justify something unnecessary.

  17. RockDweller says:

    Not a single one of these is a good reason.

    Crashes- The reason that humans have body hair is because it offers an evolutionary advantage over being hairless in terms of skin protection and warmth.

    Tradition – First, if I was “shunned” by a group of cyclists for having hair on my legs, I would find a new group to ride with, as these people are obviously douche bags of the highest order. Secondly, shaving your legs, wearing a wet lyrcra, nut-hugging Team Discovery uniform and riding a $3k bike doesn’t make you a good rider. I love when I blow past these guys on my 1980 Peugeot wearing Vans and jeans.

    Psychological Advantage – Thinking your fast is not the same as being fast. Even if there was an aero advantage, which is still sketch at best, we are talking mere microseconds. Instead of spending 30 minutes shaving your legs, most of us would be far better served spending that time doing some hill sprints.

    It Feels Better – Strictly subjective. It feels good for about 12 hours, but unless you do it every day, stubbly legs feel gross.

    Massages – Again, this is strictly anecdotal nonsense. If your massage therapist cannot penetrate 0.1 millimeters of leg hair, he/she is probably not licensed in anything other than bullsh*t.

    The biggest reason to NOT do it: It makes you look like an elitist asshat, not a “real” cyclist, whatever the hell that is.nagge

  18. CycleFreak says:

    @Brandon: I shave my legs off to annoy people who try to categorize me as an 'elitist asshat' even though I am not. ;-)

    If you are going to judge someone based on whether or not their legs are shaven, you are the asshat. Not the person that chooses to (or not) shave their legs.

    Allow me offer a rebuttal to your vitriolic comments:

    1. Skin protection from leg-hair is virtually non-existent. In summer, the last thing I want is "extra warmth". Also, sweat evaporates more easily and road grime & bugs don't stick to me.

    2. You don't get irony or sarcasm do you?

    3. Sports psychology has shown again and again that your perception is very important as it relates to performance.

    4. It does feel better to me. You say it's subjective, but then follow that with with the statement that 'subbly legs feel gross'. That is only your opinion then, yes?

    5. Massage therapists can use far less oil on shaved legs vs. non-shaved. Hair adds friction which adds heat.

    To the anonymous poster before you: non-cycling athletes don't shave their bodies for better massages because the other parts of the body (typically) are not covered with nearly as much hair as legs.

    Duh. BTW, swimmers shave their entire bodies and wear even less tight-fitting Lycra than cyclists. I suppose they are all a bunch of homos too, eh?

    A cyclist is a cyclist. Must we be divisive within our own community?

  19. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of nonsens… pretending that shaving legs matters and giving opinions of others as basis for supporting evidence.
    Go shave your balls. Perhaps it will boost your performance when you beat them egs.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I couldn't help but laugh when reading these 'reasons'. They're all nonsense. I'll admit, I shaved my legs once when I raced in college. And after realizing that it did absolutely nothing to help me physically, I said 'screw this'. From then on, I might have been the only hairy rider in the pack, but after dropping a majority of these foofy roadies, I didn't need to explain my reasons for not shaving. I see this all the time with local road bikers – a slicked down moron on a $5k top-end bike, carrying the cockiness and attitude like he's a pro. But put in motion, you couldn't tell him from my 90 year old grandma on a beach cruiser. I had a first-hand account when I moved to town a few years back. I heard about a group road ride through one of the bike clubs that I figured I'd try out. Of course I was the only one with hair on my legs, in a group of 20 middle-aged 240lbs riders. One of these guys even had the nerve to point out the fact that I didn't shave, and asked if I've ever ridden in a pace line before. Fool, I'll drop your a*s on a bike, Joose in-hand.

    Fight the FOof

    • CTheB says:

      Congratulations on beating a bunch of middle-aged, overweight riders, having a big head and being a bigot. It’s always heartening to see people like you. Yes, there are some people who’ll judge others by the way they look, as you demonstrated yourself with your prejudice against cyclists who shave their legs, implying they’re all gay. Since you expect not to have to explain yourself for choosing not to shave your legs, how about you extend the same courtesy to those who choose to do it?

  21. Anonymous says:

    @brandon – sure, go ahead and blow by me in your jeans and vans…anyone can throw in a speed burst…people do it to me all the time, and then i pass them by miles later when they've burned out. so let's see how you're doing at mile 120, eh? and there's a reason we ride the $9K bikes with the tiny seats and wear the skintight lycra: it's the right equipment (lasts longer) and the right uniform for the task at hand.

  22. Anonymous says:

    As a mtn bike racer and a ultramarathoner, I started to shave my legs years ago, partly because of riding, but also for running. I can not speak for every guy but I found that when running for 5-10 hours or more my legs chaffed far less without hair and the difference in temperature on your legs with and without hair is amazing. When you are running in the heat of the summer your legs feel far better and your muscles fatigue slower when not dealing with the heat.

    Any one who thinks that cuts do not heal quicker without hair has obviously not gotten off the couch long enough to cut themselves very badly. I have had many crashes on my mountain bike and some running technical trails and all have healed much faster without hair. Not to mention they are much easier to clean and bandage up without hair, especially when you are 2-3 hours from the trailhead and you have a mess of blood and dirt on the injury.

    As far as the gay comments go- grow up.

    My wife likes my legs shaved, and we each have our own razor. To each their own opinion- imagine that.

    And by the way, there is not one of you out there that could keep up with me much less pass me, so keep dreaming.

  23. I love it that the guys shave their legs (at first I did not but I came around!)… it makes the peloton more pleasing to the eye from the inside, as well as enhances other off the bike activities. It's sexy!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Im fairly new to the shaved-legs game, but I can attest to one more thing beyond your 5 reasons.

    I've been riding the trainer several times a week over the winter. As a typical hairy guy, I have body hair… ahem… in other places too. I use a trimmer rather than a razor, and have found that it really helps to keep this other body hair short too for
    less irritation.

  25. [...] weeks the top 3 things that have brought people to this blog have been people wanting to know why cyclists shave their legs, directions to the Manitou Incline and endurance [...]

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  27. IntelliGent says:

    I respect the fact that all of you enjoy cycling. Alas, you are forgetting an important fact. You are not professionals.

    As a professional messenger, I ride for ~9 hours a day. All of you Foosy roadies, and weekend kit warriors can shove your creepy fetishes into other, shaved parts of your bodies. Do you really think that your wives really enjoy the fact that your cohorts gaze approvingly upon your peleton-credifying shave?

    I, for one, believe that it is a fool that changes their body to ‘fit in.’ You suburbanites and fetishists are no better than the urban hipsters which are the subject of your ridicule. The guy in vans will smoke your lazy ass. He will stop somewhere to chat with a friend/get a beer. Then you will pass him as he’s getting to another destination. All that time he’s on some POS SS/FG conversion that cost all of $200.

    It is not the bicycle, clothes, or bodily-aesthetics that make a great cyclist. A great cyclist is built upon a strong body, and strong mental fortitude. That is why we messengers can ride 20,000 miles/year, 5 days a week, in any weather, while carrying hundred pound loads and irreplaceable documents. Trust me when I say, ‘Shaving your legs, does not make you a better rider.’

    Much luck,
    ~Someone with real-world experience.

  28. anonymous says:

    Skip the other reasons, I just like the way it feels. Good enough reason for me. Does that make me gay? No, I have no desire whatsoever to be with another man. Isn’t that the definition?

  29. MAG says:

    I think its revealing how similar the anti-shaving are to each other, They all accuse “roadies” who shave as elitist because of the real dilemma that occurs when riding in a group or paceline with a cyclist who you have no idea about. Personally I will ride ahead of, behind, beside any cyclist ( hairy legs or shaved) as long as they don’t slam the breaks, collide with my wheel etc… To pretend that concern for the groups safety is elitist is eitheir saying something about your lack of experience or inability to empathize. I guess if that point is settled it just becomes something about insecurity about masculinity. That’s ok some people get it worse in life. Kettle calling the pot black!

  30. KDog says:

    From somewhat trans-sexual interest, I trimmed my leg hair with an electric razor so it’s thin and short but not extremely feminine. I reckon it does feel a lot cooler, and certainly looks sleeker, but then I’m pretty hairy and I live in Australia. I would say that it does make a lot of sense for a keen cyclist and it does look sleeker, since you look more like a lithe woman, which is of course a sexy image. There is definitely a somewhat gay side going on…not homosexual but certainly Narcissistic. Bike messengers for example, seem very effeminite and sissified people considering they choose that as a job and that this also involves wearing a giant handbag (motorbike couriers on 1980s muscle bikes would be bad-ass versions by comparison). Cycling is a fairly delicate, femme-orientated sport in its concept. This isn’t a put-down (I love cycling) just what I believe to be true. A shaved-lycra boy going into a rural pub ‘apres-velo’ will just be seen as a sissified nancy; shaved, clean, tight-lycra 60kilo figures are the cyclists’ subcultural touche to this and it’s why they are so often seen en masse.

  31. [...] Top 5 Reasons Cyclists Shave Their Legs by UltraRob [...]

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