Just about every serious cyclist has been asked at some point, why do cyclist shave their legs? This question comes up all the time, from hanging around the water cooler at the office to a first date. The idea of a guy shaving their legs just seems to perplex people plus it is an easy conversation starter that generally leads to a fun discussion. Yet many bike riders don’t actually know the reason shaving your legs is a cycling thing.
- Road Rash – This is far and away the biggest reason why serious racers shave their legs. In racing crashes happen and cleaning grit out of road rash without any hair tangled in there is unpleasant enough. Anyone that has scrubbed grit out of a hairy leg wound will become a devout leg shaver. However, most enthusiast riders go years between major crashes so this really isn’t a justifiable reason why a lot of people shave their legs.
- Massage – Getting a deep tissue massage with hairy legs sucks. It pulls on your hair and the oily hairy legs are a mess after. Professional riders get massages multiple times a week and most amateur racers, if they can afford it, have massages a few times a month. Massage helps with recovery and avoiding injury. However, like road rash most enthusiast cyclists do not get massages frequent enough to justify shaving their grizzly sticks.
- Aesthetics – Looking “Pro” – Honestly this is why I think most recreational cyclist shave their legs. They see guys on TV at the Tour and the racers at their local crit, everyone looks fast and everyone has shaved legs for the two reason above. For a cyclist that doesn’t race having shaved legs shows a level of commitment to the sport, gives a level of credibility with other riders, and makes you look a little more pro.
- Aerodynamics – The first three reasons are definitely the most common ones. Aerodynamics is a bit of a stretch and some aerodynamically optimal level of stubble likely exists that is the most aerodynamic, because a textured surface is generally more aerodynamic than a smooth one. But if you have legs like Chewbacca then trimming that forest will definitely lower your drag coefficient.
- How it feels – Bike racing is often not conducive to enduring relationships. You travel a lot, usually with a bunch of guys, and while it is tons of fun you’re not spending much time meeting potential partners. When you are sleeping alone on an air mattress at host housing rubbing shaved legs together can be nice… Joking. Kinda…
Other reasons do exist. Comment below with your reason for shaving or not shaving your legs.
Craig Richey is a multiple time Canadian National team member, representing Canada at mountain bike World Cups and cyclocross World Championships. Craig has also experienced all of the five reasons for shaving his legs.