It’s time to finally tackle one the most often asked cycling question since Al Gore invented the Internet (Google it, you’ll be shocked at all the results)… Why do male cyclists shave their legs?
It’s perplexing to many why men already wearing tight shorts would want to look stranger by shaving their legs. Some believe it has something to do with aerodynamics, while others mention they do it as a protective measure to help treat road rash after a crash, but the truth of the matter is it is done for tradition and vanity more than anything else.
That’s not to say some of the other reasons are not valid. For example, road rash is much easier to treat and recover from if the skin surface is smooth and devoid of hair. If you ever end up in the hospital to get your hairy road rash cleaned out, chances are a tired, unsympathetic nurse will bust out what feels like a wire brush to scrub your wounds. So in this case, shaving your legs is like wearing a helmet – you hope you don’t need it, but it’s there just in case.
On the other hand, shaving to reduce aerodynamic drag is just plain bunk. Sure Swimmers benefit greatly from shaving pretty much everything, as hair definitely causes hydrodynamic drag (as high as 2% in some studies), but the aerodynamic drag from hair while cycling is completely negligible. After all, if it was important, wouldn’t cyclists shave their arms, faces, heads, etc…
The truth behind this age old question is that it is simply done for tradition, as well as a little vanity.
It all started many years ago when cycling stages in the Tour and Giro were much longer (in excess of 180 miles) requiring serious massage therapy at the end of each day in order to have the leg muscles relaxed and ready to go again the next morning. It is neither comfortable for the cyclist or the masseuse to be massaging hairy legs, so some brave sole broke out a razor and set a trend which continues to this day. Each new generation of young competitive cyclists naturally adopts the habits of those they aspire to be, so having shaved legs has become de rigueur to be perceived as a “serious cyclist.” The more serious you become about your cycling, the more shaving your legs becomes a way of fitting in with your cycling peers.
But perhaps of even more importance is that it is simply more attractive. To many people, shaved legs simply look better than hairy ones. Just ask a woman to wear a dress or shorts without previously shaving her legs. You’re sure to get a resounding no! Tanned, muscular and lean legs are enhanced by smooth skin. After all, that’s the same reason weightlifters shave their body hair — to look better when they’re strutting around stage. And anybody who has followed pro cycling knows there is no shortage of preening in the peloton.
So next time you see a male cyclist powering down the road with legs smoother than your wife’s, just remember that he’s following over 100 years of tradition, which is probably longer than ladies have been shaving their legs.
Now before anyone asks, I still wear my man fur proudly as I have not shaved my legs. Yes, I do get razzed by other cyclists, but being that I tend to ride solo, vanity has not overridden my tradition of keeping a razor far away from my legs. I’ll probably succumb to the razor when I begin to enter some competitive rides, but until that day, this wookie does ride a bike!
Here are today’s numbers…
Started: Apr 20, 2011 7:57:12 AM
Ride Time: 1:49:54
Stopped Time: 29:35
Distance: 30.12 miles
Average Speed: 16.44 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 23.95 miles/h
Ascent: 102 feet
Descent: 102 feet