Personal Care – Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?

Bulldog Shaving for Men - Tim Wiggins

It is an often-asked question by non-cyclists: why do male cyclists shave their legs? Is it for speed, is it for aerodynamics, is it hygiene, or is it style? Or is it just tradition?

I have been removing my leg hair for over a decade, and it has become second nature now. Yet, when asked the reason for doing so, it is often hard to pin down an exact motivation.

In this blog post, I thought I would try and sum-up my Top 5 reasons for why cyclists shave their legs: reasons from my own personal experience of riding a bike—both clean-shaven and hairy legged.



(1) Hygiene

For me, the main reason that cyclists should shave their legs is hygiene. If you have ever been tasked with cleaning the alloy wheels of a car, you will know how hard it is to remove the baked-on layer of brake dust, oil, road salt and general road grime. The front wheel of a bike sprays a cyclist's legs with a similar concoction of nasties when they ride on the road, as well as potentially a more rank mixture when they ride off-road (think riding through a cow field) …

Imagine trying to remove that black layer of grime if your alloy wheels were coated in hair. You would need a serious amount of car shampoo. For me, the ease of cleaning off unpleasant and unhygienic grime from your shins is one of the best reasons to choose to shave your legs as a cyclist.

Tim Wiggins Strade Bianche Grand Fondo




(2) Dressing a Wound

'Road rash', as it is slightly belittlingly called, is an unfortunate fact of life as a cyclist. Things go wrong; wheels touch, brakes squeal; and at some point, you will likely hit the deck with a thump. Having cleanly shaven legs not only makes it easier to clean out the resulting deep and reddened graze or gouge; it also means the dressings that are applied will stick better and be less painful to remove.

Road Rash




(3) Ointments and Lotions

If you have ever spilt sun cream in your hair, then you will know it makes a sticky matted mess that is a headache to clean out. Cyclists are out in the sun a lot, and while many seem to enjoy cultivating razor-sharp tan-lines, I am a strong advocate of UPF protection.

Slapping on sun cream, moisturisers, warming-up oils and even insect repellent are a lot more pleasant with smoothly shaven legs.





(4) Massage

Massaging a hairy limb (or back) is not something many masseuses will enjoy. It is rather uncomfortable for you, the client, too. Add into the mix the fact that massages usually involve massage oil—to help reduce the skin-on-skin friction, and you can tie this reason back to point #3 above.





(5) Vanity

Lastly, there is undeniably an element of vanity in explaining why cyclists shave their legs. I am not going to speculate on whether cleanly shaven limbs are more aerodynamic or faster than Chewbacca's; but there is without doubt a psychological advantage—for many, shaven legs simply look better with Lycra, and that in itself might make you more confident to push for a faster time.

For me, it is not an aversion to hairy shins, or that I think you can see muscle definition more clearly. Rather, it is that having hairs poking through your Lycra cycling shorts and creating a fuzzy thigh look is not great—not to mention that those protruding hairs are more likely to pull and tug as you ride. Shaven legs and skin-tight clothing just seem to go better together.

Fabian Cancellara




Summary

In my opinion, cyclists shave their legs for several legitimate reasons: from hygiene and comfort to medical and vanity-driven motivations.

Some cyclists choose only to shave their legs in summer, and do not do so when full-length winter tights cover their limbs—because a lot of the above reasons are reduced in significance in the winter months.

Whether you choose to shave your legs as a bike rider is completely optional, and I cast no judgement for a decision either way; even Pro cyclists (though very rarely) choose to turn up to the season opening races with fuzzy limbs… perhaps they enjoy the extra insulation.

If you do choose to reach for the razor, pick a good one—cheap disposables are bad for your skin and the environment. I am currently enjoying a great shaving set from Bulldog Skincare.



Tim Wiggins Souke Sports Apparel

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