Why do cyclists shave their legs? Is it because of wind resistance?
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:
- To prevent infection when crashing.
- To pull off bandages more painlessly after dressing a wound.
- 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)