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

  • I just hate seeing hair overlapping spandex. There's just something wrong there.
    – BC-
    Aug 25, 2010 at 20:45
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    I shaved my legs well before I became a cyclist, now I know I have an excuse ;)
    – gnarf
    Aug 25, 2010 at 23:28
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    I retagged the question because 'shaving' probably won't be used that often. :)
    – milesmeow
    Aug 26, 2010 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 Aug 26, 2010 at 12:24

12 Answers 12


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!

  • 51
    We both neglected to mention the crucial reason: it makes us feel pretty. :P
    – Scott
    Aug 25, 2010 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. Aug 25, 2010 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, 2010 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. Aug 25, 2010 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, 2010 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, 2011 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. Aug 25, 2010 at 20:40

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.


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.


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


In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, recent wind tunnel testing performed by Specialized has shown that shaved legs will save about 50 to 82 seconds over a 40km TT...certainly not an inconsequential amount.

Turns out the oft-cited study from 1987 that many use to say that leg hair doesn't affect aerodynamics was performed in a miniature wind tunnel using a fake leg with or without hair glued onto it. Hardly comprehensive, but only recently challenged.

Interestingly, shaving your arms could save about 19 seconds over 40k, while shaving the beard will only save about 1 second.


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).


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.


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.


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.)


Cyclists shave their legs for three reasons: 1. To avoid any insect clings in their feet hair 2. Get a better massage 3. For a cool feel during the ride

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