The great cycling debate. Should you shave your legs?
In this issue:
1. To Shave or Not to Shave, That’s the Question
2. Today’s quick tip
If you’ve been around road cycling for a while you will have noticed that many of the more experienced and enthusiastic riders shave their legs. In fact it wasn’t long after I started road cycling before I was told that if I wanted to be a serious cyclist I had to have shaved legs.
Not a simple task for me as my legs are quite hairy, and I’m sure the removal would have to be practised over and over, very regularly. I’m also told that, depending how you do it, it isn’t quite so pleasant.
If you’ve been cycling for a while you’ve probably noticed the same thing, and if you haven’t just have a look at the legs of some of the more seasoned riders in your bunch.
When I started hearing about the debate around “to shave or not to shave” my immediate thought was that it must make you go faster if you shave your legs. All that fuzz, as in my case, must slow you down. I suppose it must catch the wind when you’re riding fast, and increase the drag.
But it seemed a little unlikely to me, after all how can a little hair on your legs slow you up?
So today I wanted to dispel the myth that if you’re a “real” cyclist you need to shave your legs. After all what is a “real” cyclist anyway.
Lets look to see if there are any good reasons the shaving your legs.
1. Does it make you go faster?
To some extent it does, but the extent is very small. A study was conducted in 1987 for Bicycling magazine to see whether or not shaving your legs made you go faster. The conclusion was that it did, but very little. In fact the result was that the improvement in aerodynamic efficiency was just over half a percent, and that if you were involved in a 40 kilometre time trial riding at 37 the whole way you’d save around 5 seconds.
How many of us can ride that far that fast? Amongst the over 40 cyclists that I know there’s very few, I certainly can’t. But if you’re so serious about your cycling that 5 seconds in a time trial is important to you then certainly why not?
How about the rest of us?
2. It’s for that post ride massage
It’s said that it is much more pleasant getting a massage with smooth legs, and to some extent that’s true. Of course it all depends on how much hair you had to begin with, but if you were extremely hairy, and get your legs massaged regularly, then maybe it’s worth trying.
But I’ve never had my legs massaged, amongst the older riders I know I can’t think of anyone who has regular leg massages.
3. It’s for when you come off the bike.
Some say that when you hit the road having hairy legs increases the friction and increases the injury, and that all that hair gathers in the injury, increases the risk of infection and makes it harder for the doctors to patch you up.
A friend of mine came off a little while ago, with hairy legs, and he’s healed just fine. Maybe it would have been quicker if he’d been shaved, but who knows?
4. So what is it?
I think the most likely reason that the best cyclists shave their legs is that it’s what you’re supposed to do. The men like to think that makes them look more attractive for the women, and that women expect “real cyclists” to have shaved legs.
In the end, to me, I think it comes down to fashion. It’s about looking good.
Do you shave your legs? Despite being told over and over that I should be if I want to be a “real” cyclist I still don’t.
Today’s quick tip.
If you really do want to shave your legs, and you’re very hairy, use clippers to remove the majority of it before you start.
And a friend of mine swears that doing it in the shower is the way to go