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I understand why cyclists shave their legs. I shave my legs. But as of recently have felt kind of funny that my legs are smooth and my arms are hairy. Is there a reason why we don't shave our arms too? Or are you supposed to shave both?

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The answers to the related question bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/44/… do not give a clear reason why shaving is necessary, so if you have a great reason, perhaps you could consider adding it there. :) –  amcnabb Oct 9 '12 at 19:48
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The only reason I have heard for shaving your legs that made sense to me is that it facilitates getting a massage. unless you are getting regular massages, you probably don't need to shave your legs. Reading the following article it seems like this is the real reason a lot of pro level cyclists shave. (bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/…) –  Kibbee Oct 9 '12 at 19:50
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The other, more legitimate, reason is that hairless legs are much easier to clean and bandage and heal after after an accident. And when cycling, accidents are a question of when, not if. You could shave your arms if you wanted to, but road rash on your arms is less common than legs. –  tpg2114 Oct 9 '12 at 20:01
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I think it's more important to shave your butt. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 9 '12 at 22:15
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

For cycling, there are only a few reasons to shave:

  1. Massage - feels better without all the hair tugging.
  2. Taping/bandaging - In the event of a crash, taping and bandaging is easier without hair. Additionally, wounds in general are cleaner when incurred without hair.
  3. Vanity - Hair tends to cast shadows and blur the edges of well defined muscle.
  4. Cooling - Hair is an insulator, so especially hairy individuals will shave for the cooling effect.

There are some sports where shaving is done for performance purposes (chiefly swimming), but anyone that tells you that in cycling is fooling themselves. My personal experience is that crash scars heal better and are less visible when shaved, but that may be an individual thing.

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Anyone who has gotten road rash thanks their lucky stars that they shaved. Having hair and dirt scrubbed out of a wound is horrible as is a hairy scab while it heals. Additionally, a lot of cyclists use embrocation throughout the year for both weather protection and pre warmup/race massage of muscles. Application to hairy legs is both gross and less than functionally ideal. Cleaning it off is additionally a harder chore with leg hair. –  Tha Riddla Oct 9 '12 at 21:00
    
Fitting lycra comfortably is also a good reason to be cleanly shaven (both arms and legs). It actually gets quite uncomfortable otherwise. –  WTHarper Oct 10 '12 at 13:51
    
I disagree with your cooling argument.. I believe that hair increases surface area for your sweat and therefore makes your body more efficient at cooling off.. especially when the air is moving through the hair. Same way a heat sink works on a computer.. –  John Hunt Oct 10 '12 at 16:01
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@JohnHunt Actually, when you are hot and sweating, the hair muscles relax to keep the hair as flat as possible to aid the evaporation of sweat. when you are cold, the hairs raise to help trap air. So no hair is a benefit when warm, and a detractor when it's cold. –  JohnP Oct 11 '12 at 5:16
    
Interesting, but doesn't answer the question regarding arms. –  JamesBradbury May 13 '13 at 14:14
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That's quite strange thing to "understand".

There's absolutely no bicycle-specific requirements to shave anything. Most people involved with sports (any sports) will do some shaving from time to time for various reasons. One of the leading reasons for shaving is the simple fact that a layer of body hair present under a layer of clothing significantly impairs ventilation and cooling. Because of that people involved with sports might prefer to shave the covered parts of their body. I'd say that for people living is hot/warm climate and practicing strenuous sport activities shaving the upper body is a must for this reason alone.

Also, having a layer of hair under modern sport clothing might also look bad from the aesthetic point of view simply because long body hair often tens to poke through the fabric and become visible on the outside, creating a weird "hairy jersey" effect (applies both to jerseys and tight shorts, in case of cycling).

As for shaving any body parts not covered by clothing... there's no real reason to do that, at least for ventilation/cooling purposes.

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