Why do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?
American women began to shave their legs and armpits after an ad for sleeveless dresses appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1915, but no one seems able to link any such event to the advent of male cyclists putting straight edge blade to leg. If asked, a cyclist is likely to name one of myriad reasons floating around the cycling community for wanting to shave their legs, but some of the most common are listed below.
Road Rash: The claim here is that when a cyclist crashes and must remove the road grit and debris from a leg, the hair impedes the process and pulls at the skin when the blood dries and forms a scab. Also, hair makes bandage removal a wee bit more painful, and some insist the threat of infection is decreased on a hairless leg. However, naysayers dispute the validity of this claim, questioning the exclusion of the arm in the shaving process. They argue that arms are just as likely to incur road rash, yet arm hair remains untouched. Why shave their legs but not their arms?
Aerodynamics: Less hair, more speed? Consensus on this one is of a less scientific and more psychological benefit. Removing a few hairs is unlikely to truly give an aerodynamic edge to a cyclist, but the psychological “placebo” effect may very well have an impact. Being hairless feels freeing to some and the more unencumbered and free a cyclist feels, the faster the body is likely to respond.
Vanity: Long hours on a bike produces taut, well defined muscles. Hair covers up the definition that many cyclists want to show off. Even if a cyclist isn’t into showing off the assets to others, it’s still appealing to have a visual reminder of the long hours of toil upon the bike seat, so this is right near the top of the list for reasons cyclists shave their legs.
Tradition: This is likely the most valid and widely spread reason a cyclist would want to shave their legs. Despite the fact that no one seems to know exactly when or why the tradition started, it’s still embraced by the cycling community and a smooth leg tags a biker as a “real” cyclist. Keeping legs hairless is a commitment, and when riding with a group of cyclists, it’s not generally appealing to be the one guy in the group who doesn’t go that extra step.
Instead of just conjecture, here's actual evidence from wind tunnel testing. Shaving legs saves 50 to 80 seconds over 40km (about 25 miles). That's huge. People spend hundreds to thousands of dollars or months of training to save that much time.
Actually good cyclists don't crash very often or get road rash that often. So I personally don't accept that as a reason to shave legs.
I think it's just about preference. Some male cyclist like how it feels and it makes them feel that they are faster and that they are a pro. Functionally, shaving doesn't do anything for cycling. It's completely about the cyclists, not the sport.
My fellow women cyclists, on the other hand, shave because they have always shaven, regardless of whether they cycle or not. So they feel that it is not feminine or even sanitary to not shave while cycling. So their reasons for shaving are not entirely the same, although I have heard women cyclists say they do it for the ease of cleaning scabs or road rash as well.
My friend is a cyclist but he is not a professional. He doesn't shave his legs and he says many of his cyclist friends don't either. When he starts cycling more professionally though, he plans to shave his legs as well.
I think that part of the reason is that the top cyclists in the world are shaving their legs and anyone who wants to be professional or who is, feels like they need to do it as well.
I heard that all professionals shave their legs. I can't imagine that anyone would be able to resist shaving their legs among hundreds of other professional cyclists who have. If I were one, I would want to fit in, become part of the team, become a real professional cyclist. I think this is why cyclists shave their legs.
Cyclists have a lot of reasons for shaving their legs. Some of the other justifications I've heard are for protection against ticks and other insects while riding, because most cyclist get regular massages and feel the massage works better with shaved legs and also because it's easier to apply sunscreen that way.
But I think these are not the main reason for it. I agree with the article that the actual reason is for looks. Cyclists have some amazing leg muscles and they feel that it's a shame for the world not to see them due to leg hair. I agree with them!
Some cyclists also say that it feels better and easier to ride with shaven legs and that seems like a real valid reason too.
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