Smoother, Faster, Stronger: Why do Cyclists Shave their Legs?



From footwear to fancy helmets, aerodynamics flows throughout good cycling design. But when it comes to shaving off our leg hair in the name of speed, it seems we’re not all on the same track.

Within professional cycling communities, smooth legs are the complete consideration; at once an insignia of the distance travelled by a rich sporting heritage and emblematic of the individual’s unswerving dedication to excellence on the road ahead.

Beyond tradition, Olympic gold medallist and Tour de France veteran, Chris Boardman champions the very real role played by smooth skin in reducing drag and shaving crucial seconds off a time-trial.

But as far as the casual cyclist is concerned, it’s surely all a case of fashion before function, isn’t it? Well, it’s hard to deny the practical benefits of reaching for the razor and hygiene is as good a reason as any – cuts and scratches picked up on the road are far quicker cleaned when not clogged up with a mesh of hair, mud and blood. And all those little bugs that dance up from the track to dine on your flesh are far easier to get rid of if you’ve got skin that wipes like lino.

On the other hand, getting muddy and dirty is surely a guilty pleasure of big-kid mountain bikers. But for the hairier biker, the sobering grubbiness of not shaving comes to life you have to drive home in a newly acquired pair of wattle and daub trousers. Then for those who use surgical tape to shore up shaky knee joints, shaved legs will come as a stroke of genius when it comes to peeling the tape off pain-free.

The preening peddlers amongst you are leading cycling’s metro-sexual revolution. Why keep those muscle tones hidden beneath layers of leg rug as you pulse away into the sunset? Besides, hairy legs play havoc with having a leg massage.

It’s brought confessions – oh yes. Apparently, the feeling of a hill-top breeze over silky shins isn’t entirely disagreeable. Further still – whisper it – shaved legs and fresh bed linen are a pleasure that women have been keeping a secret for far too long.

Where will all this end? Eyelash extensions to maximise eye flutter as you zip along? Sequined cycling vests to answer the glittering dew of the roadside grass? Perhaps not, but cycling’s trend-peloton is gathering speed. Shaved legs might be as practically useful as go-faster stripes on a car, but if looking good means feeling good, then what’s not to love?

Image Credit: minuvtcr under Creative Commons

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