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Why do cyclists shave their legs?

Why do cyclists shave their legs?
Cyclist proudly shows of his shaved legs

It's common knowledge that cyclists shave their legs (and arms). But why is it so? Here are some of the more common reasons why a bloke would pick up a razor and jump in the bath with the intention of removing their man hair.



Shaved and aero Tony Martin Time Trials to a World Championship Victory
Shaved and aero Tony Martin Time Trials to a World Championship victory

Five seconds in a 40 km time trial is reason enough for a pro. Everyone is going aero crazy these days — the bikes, the helmets, the skin suits — so there is obviously something in it. With less than a second separating first from second in the Tour de France and World Championships team time trial, perhaps a couple of extra swipes with a razor could have resulted in victory.

So, a good reason for the pros, but the average punter talking about aerodynamic advantage from shaved legs is pretty stupid, really.



Roar Rash

Road rash on cyclist with shaved legs Road rash on cyclist with shaved legs
photo (l): Pete Hawkins photo (r): Chrissie Wellington

I have some experience in this area. I have had some pretty bad road rash on my thighs from sliding along the tarmac. There is the idea that hair grips the road and rips more skin away in a crash than smoothly gliding shaved legs.

I don't know about that, but my road rash was on my upper thigh where I hadn't shaved and, as painful as it was, the real hell was twice daily having to replace bandages that had stuck to the hairs in and around the wound.

Hair is apparently responsible for more dirt in the wound, slowing down healing time and increasing the risk of infection.

All I can say is that nowadays the razor goes further up my legs. Let's put this straight though: I started shaving years before I fell off my bike and had any of these experiences.



Good for Massage

Shaved legs of Martin Elminger (IAM Cycling) are ready for a massage
Shaved legs of Martin Elminger (IAM Cycling) are ready for a massage

Apparently... unfortunately my partner is never up for it and I'll be buggered if I'm going to pay for a massage. To be honest though, I do enjoy giving massages, particularly to the girls, although I don't think that has anything to do with hair (or lack of).



Looks and Vanity

Shaved and un-shaved legs - roadie or MTBer?
Shaved and un-shaved legs - roadie or MTBer?

My calves just don't bulge as much with hair on and I can't see my veins popping. Road cyclists can be pretty vain at times. It is often all about the look, and when it's not about the look it's about looking good. If there ever was a sport where the requirement was perfectly clipped leg hair it would be cycling.

Shaved bulging leg muscles is also good psychological warfare prior to a race. Make 'em think you've done the miles anyway!

One thing I love in the cycling world is the grounding influence of disciplines like mountain biking. Check out the average mountain biker or better yet, look at Jason English; one of the best endurance mountain bikers of the modern era and with the hairiest legs this side of the jungles of Borneo.



Fausto Coppi's shaved legs
Fausto Coppi's shaved legs

Real cyclists shave their legs. It's a tradition, an unspoken fact that to become a real cyclist you must have smooth legs and never stop to eat on a ride. It is what makes us special and is a demonstration of our commitment to the noble act of riding and racing a bicycle.

So why do cyclists shave their legs? Because cyclists shave their legs. Should you? Your call. 'Nuff said.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013, and has been revised for editing and with updated images and links.


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ProfileAuthor: Christian Woodcock
Christian loves riding bikes. He has many years experience working in bike shops and has raced mountain bikes at a high level with success. These days expect to see him climbing and suffering on a road bike, or talking it up on the trails with mates.

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