Like many sports that originated in Europe, cycling is not very popular with Americans. The activity, like soccer and cricket, are seen as easier and less masculine sports than activities like baseball and football. But anyone whos seen the Tour de France for themselves know this is far from the fact. The truth is that professional cycling is one of the hardest endurance sports and requires a certain individual to reach the competitive level. However, the reality that most pro cyclists shave their legs and arms doesnt lend any credence to the debate.
As a new spectator of this sport, Ive begun to question the legitimate need for these athletes to shave their legs. Or perhaps more relevantly, I wonder if pros are doing it should recreational cyclist also? To answer that question, lets look at some of the claimed advantages of shaving ones extremities.
The main reason cyclists shave is its benefits in the healing process of road rash, a patch of skin taken off from a crash. When theres no hair on your legs, its noticeably easier to clean the wound. Also, there is little possibility of hair getting trapped in the wound as it dries.
Having a smooth surface allows for easier application of Kinesio Tex Tape, or elastic therapeutic tape, which helps treat injuries.
While shaving your legs does reduce the amount of body drag, the gain is so small as to be almost nonexistent. With the advent of skinsuits that actually produce less drag than human skin, the only advantage here is physiological. Thinking youre just a little bit faster than your opponent can have a significant impact on where you finish.
Shaved legs make it easier for masseurs to glide over the muscles, especially when the deeper muscles get worked on. (You dont want hair to get ripped out during what is supposed to be a pleasant experience.)
__________________ You might be a cyclist if....
Your bike is worth more than your car.
You put more miles on your bike than your car.
Weather forecasts can be broken down into 2 categories: good biking weather, bad biking weather.
Honey, it's just a bicycle. and i REALLY need it to excercise, and to ride it to work.(hehe)
Someday when I grow up I will probably lose interest in toys with wheels, but until then..
At the Tuesday night bike group ride, I felt like Sasquatch around everyone. At first I was admiring the ladies' smooth, lean legs, then I noticed that the guys' legs were devoid of hair. All of them were like that.
I read somewhere that there are a couple of fashion faux pas related to bicycling...legs must be smoothly shaved, and never, ever get caught wearing a Camelbak while riding on a road bike.
Problem is, I am part Irish, so I have very light skin, and my reddish brown leg hair actually gives me some color. If I shave it off, I might cause some folks to crash after being blinded by a couple of lightsabres flashing.
I can always put some of that instant tan lotion on to make my legs orange.
Here's what some famous riders said and fact vs fiction.
It Improves Your Aerodynamics On The Bike
The Theory: In this age of seamless skinsuits, aero frames, dimpled helmets, and ultralight deep-rim carbon wheels, it's senseless to ignore the slight but real advantage of having bare legs.
(To wit, a 1987 study conducted by Chester Kyle for this magazine concluded that the aerodynamic improvement is roughly 0.6 percent, which could result in a savings of around 5 seconds in a 40km time trial ridden at 37kph.)
The Reality: "It [the actual benefit] depends upon how hairy you are. I mean, look at the skinsuits of today. They fit really well, there are no seams, no grippers. So if all that makes a difference, then a lot of hair on your legs could slow you down." —RadioShack pro Levi Leipheimer
"Maybe at the most elite level of time-trialing. On a mountain bike: no way, not a bit." —Multitime U.S. national mountain bike champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
"In terms of actual aerodynamics [not much]. But I know that if I ever looked down while I was on the bike and saw hairy legs I immediately felt slower." —Tour de France stage winner Davis Phinney
It Improves The Benefits And Pleasure Of Massage
The Theory: Getting your hair pulled during massage hurts. A lot.
The Reality: "It's why I shave. It would hurt too much if I didn't." —Leipheimer
"You need more oil if you have a lot of hair. You don't want to feel like an oiled pig." —Giro d'Italia winner Andy Hampsten
"Absolutely. It's the number one reason I shave. I can't imagine the pain of getting a full massage with hairy legs. I also think some of best massage techniques don't involve much oil, so that makes having no hair even more important." —Horgan-Kobelski
"It probably feels better shaved, but on a deeper muscular level there's no difference. You can accomplish the exact same thing shaved or unshaved. I work on cyclists all year-round and even the pros go hairy in the winter." —Certified massage therapist Chris Grauch
"I bet it's nicer for the person giving the massage. Would you want to touch hairy legs?"—Multitime U.S. national cyclocross champion Todd Wells
It Makes Wound Care Easier And More Effective
The Theory: Cleaning and caring for road rash is simpler and yields speedier healing when there's no leg hair present to impede the removal of dirt and grime, host bacteria, or complicate bandage changes.
The Reality: "I always thought crashing was the biggest reason. When you slide out on your bike, you take out big swaths of skin. Hair just collects dirt and is no fun to bandage." —Phinney
"It also allows kinesio tape to stick better, which lots of cyclists are using these days." —Horgan-Kobelski
It Just Looks Better—And That Makes You Faster
The Theory: Every cut and line of toned muscles pop when not obscured by a thicket of hair, and the snazzier you look the sharper you ride.
The Reality: "Absolutely. In your mind, having shaved legs makes you feel faster. I always shave before a time trial. You feel the wind flowing over your legs." —RadioShack pro Chris Horner
Women Like Smooth-Legged Men
The Theory: Really, we just think our spouses and partners have been humoring us all this time.
The Reality: Even when [my husband] Jeremy [Horgan-Kobelski] stops racing I want him to keep shaving. I think it's hot. But I'm a racer, too. The majority of the female population probably disagrees." —Pro mountain biker Heather Irmiger
The Theory: Losing the leg pelt is a sign that you're committed to living your life with the noble aim of honoring what it means to be a true racing cyclist--plus, showing up hairy to a serious group ride is akin to wearing shorts to church.
The Reality: "Tradition is why everyone shaves the first time. If you're a bike racer, that's just what you do." —Horner
"Leg shaving is an expression of being a cyclist." —Horgan-Kobelski
"It always just seemed stupid to me." —Multitime Leadville Trail 100 winner Dave Wiens
"It was the fashion when I raced. It's the fashion now. Real bike riders shave their legs."—Phinney