Does Shaving Your Legs Help You To Cycle Faster?
There is a long tradition in cycling of men shaving their legs. If you ever come across a professional cyclists, or an amateur who takes their racing seriously, they will probably have shaved legs.
The most commonly attributed reason for cyclists to shave their legs is that it makes them go faster. The theory behind this is that having hair on the legs increases the profile of the body, making it less aerodynamic. While it may improve aerodynamics by fractions of a second, for cyclists that race on the road, this is a very negligible benefit for a lot of effort. Indeed, many cyclists race in full leggings during the winter, which would seem to make shaving largely irrelevant.
Some cyclists believe that having shaved legs also keeps them cooler. The wind has more of a cooling effect on shaved legs, and there is less insulation from the hair. While this may be true when cycling in hot weather it is probably of little benefit for the thousands of cyclists living in Northern Europe or the cooler parts of North America.
Some cyclists claim that it is more of a psychological benefit. They like the feeling of shaved legs; it makes them feel streamlined when they feel the wind on their legs. Undoubtedly, any psychological benefit can enhance performance; but, when scientific evidence suggests that such little improvement can be made by shaving, it is difficult to see how riders can convince themselves that it is significantly helping.
A more understandable reason for shaving is for health reasons. Cyclists who race competitively will, sooner or later, be involved in a relatively high speed crash. The consquence of this, when you are clipped into your bike, is road rash on the legs. Having shaved legs will not prevent or even lessen the road rash, but it is easier to clean the wound and help it to heal, if it is not surrounded by hair which is prone to accumulating dirt and bacteria.
Similarly, shaved legs are better for absorbing sun cream, which professional cyclists use in great quantities every day. They are also better for massages; it is not a pleasant experience to get the hairs on your legs pulled while receiving a massage. Professional cyclists receive massages daily, so the benefits of shaving are evident in this area.