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If you’re a keen amateur cyclist, you’re probably willing to try every trick in the book to improve your cycling performance. Perhaps you emulate your professional cycling idol by riding the same make of bike, following the same training regime and wearing the same kit, but have you tried using the same brand of razor to shave your legs? If not, could it be that you’re wondering what possible benefits there are to be gained from having hair-free legs?
One of the most common myths surrounding the practice of leg shaving in cycling is that smooth skin will provide better aerodynamics. There is some logic to this theory in that super-smooth swimsuit fabrics have produced record-breaking results in swimming sports. However, out of the water, there’s no evidence to support the notion that hairy legs may be responsible for any form of speed-sapping drag.
Male road cyclists have been shaving their legs for over 100 years; it’s a tradition of the sport. Each new generation of young competitive cyclists naturally adopts the habits of those they aspire to be, so having shaved legs has become part and parcel of being perceived as a “serious cyclist.” The more serious you become about your cycling, the more shaving your legs becomes a way of fitting in with your cycling peers. In his book “The Long Distance Cyclist’s Handbook,” professional cycling coach Simon Doughty says, “Racing cyclists shave their legs…some really don’t know why, but hey, everyone else does it so it must be right!”
If you’re cycling competitively or cycling regularly in a group, you will inevitably crash at some point. The resulting road-rash injuries are much easier to clean and treat if the skin is hair free. Tales of hospital treatments administered by matter-of-fact nurses with scrubbing brushes are favorites among seasoned cyclists and provide a good incentive for shaving your legs. In an article on athletic skin injuries published in The Physician and Sports Medicine, Dr. Rodney S.W. Basler reports that having to scrub abrasions to remove dirt particles actually hinders the skin’s natural repair process.
Top-level cyclists competing in grueling, long-distance road races rely on the skills of a massage therapist to relieve the aches and pains of a day in the saddle. The massage experience is a much more pleasant one for all concerned if there are no leg hairs to be pulled in the process.
If you have worked hard in training, you want to display the fruits of your labors for all to see. No one can see your toned muscles if they’re hidden under a layer of hair. This could be construed as vanity, but in competitive sport, the feel-good factor is an important element of the “success cycle.” In the book “Sport Psychology: A Self-Help Guide,” sports psychologist Brian Miller says, “The cycle shows the relationship between how you feel about yourself and how you’re likely to perform in competition.” Shaving your legs is all about looking the part, feeling the part and gaining the confidence to become the part.
- The Long Distance Cyclist's Handbook; Simon Doughty
- "Sport Psychology: A Self-help Guide"; Stephen J. Bull; 1991
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images