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Why The Shaved Legs?

By Ian Lurie

Whenever I tell anyone that I raced for fun a long time ago, the first question is almost a sure thing:

"Did you shave your legs?!"

I have to sheepishly admit that yes, I, too, went for the hairless gams. And believe me, 1,500 years of eastern european ancestry do NOT make that an easy task.

So, why do racers shave their legs? I'll answer to the best of my ability. I've never gotten a straight answer from anyone, but lots of racers and serious recreational riders will likely agree:

NOT Because I'm Faster

I guess that, in the strictest terms, shaving your legs will make you a bit more aerodynamic. But c'mon. You can get a bigger advantage by taping your ears back. So forget that one.

Note: In water, it's a different story. Hence swimmers' all-over shave, which for me would be a Greek tragedy (shudder).

NOT Because It's Cool

Some folks suggest that it's just because other racers do it, and we're all joiners.

Maybe, but I gotta tell ya, I'd rather do 3 hours of intervals after eating lasagna than shave my legs. It's a miserable experience. And did you ever try explaining to your friends why you, a college-aged male, have a 3-inch long gash on your calf from a shaving accident?

It's not cool. Trust me. And ladies, I have the utmost respect for those who shave strictly for fashion's sake.

NOT Because It Shows Muscles

OK, sure. Maybe a shaved leg shows those bulging calves and quads. But trust me. It just ain't worth it. See above.

YES Because It's More Treatable

If you race regularly, you get little muscle injuries: Pulls, bruises, slight strains, or just overtrained soreness. Every masseuse I've ever spoken too tells me that it's easier to do a good job working the lactic acid and injuries out of a smooth leg than a fuzzy one.

YES Because It's Clean

If you've ever crashed on pavement, you know the term 'road rash'. Sadly, pavement is rarely clean, and that nasty half-flayed section of your leg will have to be cleaned of grit, etc.. If you're hairless, that can often be accomplished with a soft cloth. If you're hairy, out comes the scrub brush. I'm not kidding.

Leg hairs don't help you feel macho when you're screaming 4 octaves above normal. I'll take the razor, and the soft cloth, please.

Also, if you get splashed with dirt, grime or a seemingly impossible quanity of bird poo (yes, it's happened to me), your hairless legs will dry faster and are easier to clean while in motion.

The Skinny

So, there you have it. In my opinion, you shave your legs out of self-preservation. No amount of glamour, glory or coolness would ever make it worth it.

About the Author

Ian Lurie has been a bike messenger, competitive cyclist, bicycle tourist and occasional Phred. He now lives in Seattle, where he serves as a tow truck for his kids.