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Why do cyclists shave their legs? Is it because of wind resistance?

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I shaved my legs well before I became a cyclist, now I know I have an excuse ;) –  gnarf Aug 25 '10 at 23:28
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I retagged the question because 'shaving' probably won't be used that often. :) –  milesmeow Aug 26 '10 at 4:28
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Actually, I can come up with a number of interesting, ehum "relevant" shaving questions. Razor/depilation/waxing, frequency, etc –  Johan Dahlin Aug 26 '10 at 12:24
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Please be sure to accept the best answer once the question has been thoroughly discussed. =] –  Dustin Aug 30 '10 at 15:43

11 Answers 11

up vote 41 down vote accepted

Cyclists shaving their legs is more tradition than anything else--there is a whole industry around creams, soaps, and salves. However, I'll defer to Sheldon Brown's explanation for a few acceptable reasons why they do it:

  1. To prevent infection when crashing.
  2. To pull off bandages more painlessly after dressing a wound.
  3. To get a massage of the legs without hair pulling.

One reason I've often heard is 'To be more streamlined in the wind'--but I don't believe it!

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We both neglected to mention the crucial reason: it makes us feel pretty. :P –  Scottie Aug 25 '10 at 20:16
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Yeah, the answer must include prettiness :) Yeah, wind resistance is not the reason, but many beginners seem to thing so. –  Johan Dahlin Aug 25 '10 at 20:19
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I used to think air resistance didn't matter shaved legs vs no, but after watching that Discovery Channel Tour de France special(s) where they demonstrated how even clothing seam placement has effect on drag - I'm curious to see what effect leg hair really has on aero. –  kkeilman Aug 25 '10 at 20:58
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I started because of cleaning/crashing when I raced x-country. I continue because my wife thinks it's sexy and my cycling legs look hot. Really for all but the top riders on the Tour wind resistance is just what people say to justify it to themselves and others. I think you might go faster b/c you can see muscle definition and the placebo effect kicks in but that's it for mortals. –  curtismchale Aug 25 '10 at 22:41
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I can't find the source right now, but allegedly there were studies that showed that you get the least wind resistance if you shave your legs not completely, but leave stripes of hair in strategic places. I'm not making this up, I keep hearing it from veteran cycling commentators every now and then. –  RegDwight Sep 3 '10 at 0:12

It's the best way to show off the hard work you've put into developing all those muscles :)

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Hard work? More like all that fun. I know, who says work can't be fun... –  Kibbee Jul 28 '11 at 1:31

I've never seen a noticeable difference in wind resistance whenever I've shaved my legs for cycling, though I was never competitive to the point of measuring time in hundredths of a second.

I have found, from painful personal experience, that road rash from a crash heals much more nicely on shaved skin than hairy legs, mostly because bandages and tape become much easier to remove!

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I imagine it's easier to clean the rocks and gravel out of the wound without leg hair in the way, matting up the wound. –  Jared Harley Aug 25 '10 at 20:40
    
Also true, Jared. –  Scottie Aug 25 '10 at 20:45

So you can get razor sharp tan lines. Pesky hair can result in migrating shorts which leads to blurring of the tan line.

And really ... if you are going to look foolish, you might as well just jump RIGHT in.

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Aesthetical reasons trump all else. Hairy limbs peeking out of tight lycra just look nasty. Contemplate attached picture to see what looks better, Astarloa's legs or arms?alt text

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I agree with Dustin's answer as the putative reasons usually cited, but I think at some level, it's a mark of the tribe.

Guys figure "if I shave my legs, other cyclists (and even some non-cyclists) will recognize me as a fellow cyclist." If being a cyclist is an important part of your identity, that'll be important to you. It is kind of cool to be able to pick someone out and strike up a conversation about cycling just based on their weird tan lines and/or shaven legs.

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I just hate seeing hair overlapping spandex. There's just something wrong there.

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One reason not yet mentioned is that in summer your legs feel cooler. But I think the No. 1 reason is psychological - it looks good and all the fast guys do it (sorry ladies, the shaving legs things for girls is so not an issue).

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There are two additional things that haven't been mentioned yet.

First, road rash is actually made worse by hairy legs. We all know that when you hit the pavement it acts like sandpaper scraping a layer off your skin. However, if you have hairy legs the hairs get pulled out by the root as well. This makes the road rash deeper where your skin actually comes into contact with the ground as well as making the surface area of the wound larger because of hairs that get pulled out around the actual contact area.

And second, while road rash isn't as much of a concern for mountain biking, there's an additional advantage there too. It's easier to wash the crud off after a ride. You can just hose your legs off out of your water bottle and watch the dirt come off in rivers.

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Common, Am I the only one whose thigh hairs gets pulled while cycling. Or when cycling on jeans(I know its horrible thing), the ups and downs of hair is just kills me. Thats the reason I shave.

To be pretty, when I am cycling, no way. I am cycling, not modeling for the cycles. (Sorry, guys if I have offended you.)

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Allegedly, shaved legs make it much easier to apply and remove embrocation, increases it effectiveness, and eliminates the "bugs crawling on skin" feeling when hairs pop back into position.

FYI: embrocation is an ointment used to heat muscles & joints on chilly days.

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