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Jeff Werner

Designer in Vancouver, Canada. Secretary of the 221A Artist Run Centre, member of Fieldwork design collective, and former exhibit designer at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Vancouver Aquarium. Graduate of Emily Carr and University of Victoria, and worked in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Netherlands. Cycling advocate and race on the Garneau Evolution team.

Sports, February 27, 2005 11:52 PM 19 comments

Nary a Hair: Why Cyclists Shave Their Legs

Male cyclists--road racers in particular--have shaved the hair from their legs for decades. The following are the reasons I've heard of, and justified to myself and others, why.

  1. Road Rash: less painful when sliding on pavement during a crash (similar to carpet burn)
  2. Aerodynamics: less wind resistance
  3. Sanitation: hairs hold dirt and debris that can get into wounds; hairs also make changing bandages more difficult
  4. Massage: easier for a masseuse to work muscles
  5. Aesthetics: more muscle definition, smoother and faster look

Some of these are more tounge-in-cheek than others, at least for me. Guess which one is the most important reason.

Also posted this at HeardSaid, a blog for discussing plausible facts and trivia.

19 comments on Nary a Hair: Why Cyclists Shave Their Legs

1. Lisa | February 28, 2005 10:50 PM

The girls like it too... Alistair take note!

2. Rob Barac | March 9, 2005 11:40 AM

I did it.

I liked it.

Better half hated it... said her college days were behind her and liked being with a hairy ape.

3. Héctor A. | April 21, 2005 11:52 AM

The look is a good reason and probably the only one.

Again looking good is what it meters.

If you do triathlons, at least you can say that the marker they use to put your race numbers in you arms and legs does not work unless you are shaved.

4. Alistair | April 24, 2005 6:10 PM

I was just thinking about reasons number 1 and number 3. Maybe we should shave our bums and arms also (I crashed today and took it all on my rear).

I also have to agree with Hector, it's definitely all about the look. I remember one particular cyclist in Victoria who would very carefully line up his shorts with his tan line so as to not damage the integrity of the contrast. This aesthetics reason could be used to justify this cyclist's decision to shave his legs this year (even though his most recent racing shorts are from 1998).

5. Jeff Werner | April 24, 2005 9:34 PM

@Lisa: Usually they like it. Good conversation starter, at least.
@Rob: Funny, my girlfriend doesn't dig it either. Maybe shave legs are just not manly enough for them.
@Héctor: You do triathlons? Oh man...
@Alistair: how hairy is your bum?...actually, forget I asked. Long live 1998!

6. Anonymous | November 6, 2005 2:31 AM

Aerodynamics: less wind resistance.

7. Jeff | August 9, 2006 8:14 PM

Less wind resistance? I imagine that the drag caused by hairy legs is far too negligible to make any real difference. Unless you're Robin Williams.

8. tom | August 19, 2006 3:58 AM

i dont believe this could be a case of aerodynamics, who has that much hair...haha i like that joke about robin williams...anyway i shave mine as i have had a couple of major crashes (one with hairy legs) and the scar is bigger than any of the others, it also took longer to heal and clean as the hair holds the dirt. i think the look is part of it to

9. Aaron | May 10, 2007 3:21 PM

Its all about the definition! Hot girls dig it. Sorry Rob your college sweet heart was ugly.

10. Another Aaron | May 14, 2007 8:01 PM

It just feels cooler and cleaner. Though I can't bring myself to actually shave them - I just pull out the clippers and hack em down to size. I myself have very hairy legs and it all just absorbs the sweat, salt and filth. Showers are quicker - ask anybody who shaves his face after a beard about face washing time. AND it really truely is cooler without all the hair, here in the ultra-humid midwest anyway.

11. Bradley | August 4, 2007 9:16 PM

Many cyclists shave their legs so their hairs dont get caught in the chain. Ouch.

12. Pavio | August 22, 2007 7:36 AM

It's definitely the aesthetics. Haven't yet met a woman who doesn't dig it after the initial shock. But it's also the practicality of it. It makes road rash easier to manage. Don't forget your vitamin E oil!!

13. Uncl J | October 15, 2007 10:33 AM

Here is the deal guys, let Uncle Johnny give you the real deal.
Hacking e’m down would give the same effect. (a) Its all about heat.
Your legs stay cooler thus then burning less energy jaga dagga dag…
(b) Looking cool is an option (good looking carves are mandatory)
(c) Feeling sexy or wanting to for that matter, seeking a reason to shave and are to scared to do so without one. (d) The scar issue is over rated. No one puts in so much effort in for the day they might fall. And if so do you shave your arms to?
Option A is the most common around real cyclists.

14. Bryan | December 16, 2007 5:03 PM

My girlfriend doesn't like it. I could take it or leave it. Earlier this year I gave up shaving completely and now trim my arms and legs with a beard trimmer. Using the middle guard gives them a few day shave look. At a glance, they appear shaven but, if someone wants to look for hair, it's there. As for my face, I remove the guard and trim once every couple of days. She loves the look and it's alot less maintenance than shaving every day like I did in the past.

15. DSP | December 31, 2007 6:51 AM

Put a full race kit and show up to a roadrace without shaving at all. When you look like the biggest fool there you will definatly shave.

16. Noob | February 12, 2008 2:56 AM

I would have said the reason is so you can spot other cyclists when you're not lycra clad....

17. Peppy | February 25, 2008 12:01 AM

@DSP: You don't look like a fool when you do your best and you win the race with your hairy legs.

Though I believe everyone has there reasons.

18. Peter | May 8, 2008 8:32 PM

I was unshaved and crashed. The nurses had a good giggle.I didn't know why, when they bandaged and taped up my road rash. I found out when it was time to pull the tape off. Ouch!

19. kyle | August 19, 2008 1:25 PM

the aerodynamics is a reason but not a good one. the difference between shaved and non shaved legs as far as speed goes is very minimal compared to clothing position on bike and other things. it is mostly for the look and cleaning of wounds

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