Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?

Ever caught sight of the hairless shins of a fellow rider and found yourself wondering: Just why do cyclists shave their legs for cycling?

In this article, we will look at the benefits of shaving legs for cycling and our top tips on how to shave legs men can use if they’ve never tried their hand at body hair removal.

We’ll be covering: 

  • Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?
  • How to Shave Your Legs for Cycling: Top Tips

Let’s get started!

Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?: Title Image

Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?

Although plenty of recreational and fairly competitive cyclists do not shave their legs, most elite and professional cyclists do shave their legs.

So, why do cyclists shave their legs? What are the benefits of shaving your legs for cycling?

There are several benefits of removing the hair on your legs for cycling, including:

A cyclist has her leg bandaged after falling off her bike.

#1. Shaving Your Legs for Cycling Makes It Easier to Deal With Road Rash

In a perfect world, none of us would ever fall off our bikes and have to deal with the painful reality of road rash.

However, the truth is that getting scuffed up during a fall is a near-inevitable fact for most cyclists who are going to be logging a lot of miles on the road.

Road rash refers to the grazed skin abrasion you can get wherever your skin contacts the pavement or gravel when you crash your bike.

Not only is road rash notoriously painful, but it’s also difficult to properly clean.

Many road rash abrasions cover a fairly large surface area of skin. All of this open skin leaves a sticky, wet, bloody surface for all sorts of debris like dirt and gravel to adhere to.

This road rash wound must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent the risk of infection and encourage healthy healing.

Therefore, you have to pick out all of the dirt, gravel, and other debris from the world. This can be hard enough, but becomes even more difficult when your leg is covered by a dense overlay of leg hair.

Additionally, even if you are able to fully clean the wound amidst the forest of leg hair, the road rash abrasion needs to be covered with a sterile, dry dressing after being coded in an antiseptic appointment.

If you’ve ever had to use Band-Aids or medical tape on hairy skin, you are probably well aware that trying to remove the adhesive once the wound is healed, or to change the dressing, can be a wincingly-painful process that involves ripping out your body hair by the roots.

Although you can get road rash anywhere on your body, it is particularly common on the legs. Plus, the legs tend to be one of the hairiest areas of the body.

Therefore, cyclists who don’t shave their legs can find themselves in the unfortunate and painful position of cleaning up and treating road rash amidst leg hair.

A cyclist with shaved legs rides through the mountains.

#2. Shaving Your Legs for Cycling Makes It More Comfortable to Get a Sports Massage

The average recreational cyclist may not have the financial means to justify getting frequent massages to soothe achy muscles. 

However, one of the top reasons that professional cyclists shave their legs is to make the massage experience more comfortable. 

Massage is not just a luxury or an indulgence for pro cyclists, as studies show that sports massages can also reduce muscle soreness, increase circulation, and promote recovery.

For this reason, many professional cyclists routinely get massages as part of their normal training protocol.

If you have leg hair, the masseuse’s hands and fingers can get stuck on the hairs and inadvertently yank and pull them while kneading your muscles.

Moreover, once the massage is over, it is easier to wipe down your legs and clean off any excess emollient if there is no hair on your legs.

A cyclist with shaved legs sprints out of the saddle.

#3. Shaving Your Legs for Cycling Makes Your Body More Aerodynamic 

Cycling speed mainly depends on your fitness level and your ability to sustain a high power output for the duration of your event, but aerodynamics also comes into play.

Cyclists take all sorts of measures to reduce their air resistance and improve the aerodynamics of their bodies on the bike.

From specialized aero bars and bike geometry to reduce air resistance to Lycra or spandex clothing and tapered helmets, any possible modifications you can make to streamline your body will be a boon to your cycling speed.

Removing your leg hair is just one more way you can “shave” off that little bit more drag.

The popular bike firm Specialized famously performed a study that looked at the effects of hair on cycling performance.

Not only did the researchers investigate the best hairstyles to reduce air resistance (spoiler: it’s the braid or plait), but they also looked at the potential performance effects of removing body hair.

In the study, pro triathlete Jesse Thomas reduced his drag by nearly 7% after shaving his legs, a difference equivalent to being able to exert 15 watts less power at the same speed.

A group of cyclists with shaved legs ride around a race track.

#4. Shaving Your Legs for Cycling Can Make You Feel Like a Cyclist

Let’s face it: humans like to feel like they belong.

We are a social species that seeks to gain approval and feel united in different groups and social circles.

Many cyclists shave their legs because it can be a motion that not only demonstrates to the outside world that they are indeed a proud card-carrying member of the “club” of avid cyclists but also makes them feel that they belong to the club.

If shaving your legs helps you embody the spirit, ethos, and confidence of being a cyclist, grabbing a razor and shaving your legs can be a nearly free and quick fix towards carrying yourself in a way that feels good.

Plus, as mentioned, men who shave their legs for cycling are broadcasting a clue to the world that you are indeed a proud cyclist who puts in hard work on the bike.

A group of cyclists with shaved legs ride on the road.

How to Shave Your Legs for Cycling: Top Tips

You Don’t Need to Shave Your Entire Leg

If you’re standing in the shower staring down at your legs holding a razor for the first time, you might feel overwhelmed at how much shaving you might have to do to get smooth and sleek legs for cycling.

However, the good news is that you don’t have to shave your entire leg to reap the benefits of shaving legs for cycling.

You will conceivably be wearing bike shorts or a cycling bib that goes down most of the way down your thighs. 

Any hair on the skin covered by your bike shorts doesn’t need to be removed.

This cycling apparel should be made out of a streamlined, body-conforming material, so it is already inherently aerodynamic. 

Plus, the likelihood of getting a road rash on skin that is covered in clothing is relatively small because the clothing will get destroyed rather than your skin.

Therefore, if it makes it easier, all you need to do is shave up to the line of the leg gripper on your skinsuit or bike shorts.

With that said, if you are largely motivated to shave your legs for the purposes of massage, you might want to shave all the way up to the groin line depending on how hairy your upper thighs are.

Choose the Best Leg Hair Removal Option for Your Needs

So, is it better to shave your legs? Wax your legs? Or should you give laser hair removal a try? 

What is the best way to remove leg hair for men?

Ultimately, there is no “right“ or “wrong“ way to remove your leg care for cycling. Each hair removal option has its pros and cons, and you should feel free to experiment to find which one works best for you.

The most common ways to remove leg hair for cycling include shaving with a wet or dry razor, using a hair removal cream, waxing, or epilating your hair.

A man puts shaving cream on his leg before shaving.

Shaving

If you have an electric razor, you can dry-shave your legs by simply running the razor up and down the length of your legs over the areas of hair you want to remove.

If you want to shave with a straight razor, lather up your legs and shaving cream or shaving gel. Make sure you have a sharp razor.

Reach down and begin at your ankle, pulling the razor gently and evenly up your leg to your knee, keeping the razor blade flush against your skin. Continue shaving your leg in this fashion, working 360° around your lower leg.

Then, carefully shave around the knee and repeat the same process along the thigh. You can also shave in one long stroke from ankle to thigh, but be mindful around the knee.

Shaving should be completely painless and is extremely inexpensive, save for the cost of a razor and shaving cream.

However, shaving only cuts hair at the surface of the skin, not at the root.

Depending on your rate of hair growth, you will start to see new hair growth as soon as 1 to 3 days after shaving, so this method of hair removal does not last very long.

It’s also important to note that if you have thick hair, it can take several swipes over each area of skin to fully remove the hair, and it is possible to get ingrown hairs, which can be painful and can become infected. 

You need to exfoliate your skin using an abrasive scrubber to prevent this from happening.

Hair Removal Creams

Hair removal creams, referred to as depilatory creams, such as Nair and Veet, physically dissolve your leg hair. 

These creams are easy to use but they usually have a bit of an odor.

Because the hair is removed slightly below the skin, removing hair with one of these creams will last a little bit longer than shaving – typically a week or so.

A cyclist has his legs waxed.

Waxing

Waxing your legs involves applying hot wax and then paper strips to your legs.

After the wax hardens, you yank the strips in an end-to-end fashion to remove all of the adhered hairs. This method of hair removal removes hair from the root, so it provides longer-lasting results (2-4 weeks).

However, waxing your legs can be extremely painful and you often need to touch up certain areas with a razor where errant hairs remain.

Epilating

Epilating involves using a special tool called an epilator, which is essentially a tweezing machine. This can be an effective way to remove hair from the root, although it is also a painful process and requires buying a machine.

A peloton of cyclists with shaved legs.

Now you know the benefits of shaving legs for cycling…

Whether you’re motivated to shave your legs for improved performance, as a proactive measure should you fall prey to road rash, or to express yourself to the world as a cyclist, consider grabbing a razor and doing a little more hair removal than your usual pre-work facial shave!

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