5 Real Reasons Why You Should Shave Your Legs (That Have Nothing To Do With Aerodynamics)

bobby julich ripped calves

I have been shaving my legs for so long that I don’t even remember why I do it. It’s just instinct. Kind of like putting on my helmet or lathering up with chamois butter, I don’t think about why I do it, I just do it. And hey, it works fine that way.

But there are so many myths and misconceptions about leg shaving, and so many articles that don’t quite get it right, I decided to put on my thinking cap and remember exactly why I shave my legs. You should always be able to make informed decisions, even if your information comes from some loon on the internet! So all my reasons to shave are listed below…

Shaving Your Legs for All The Wrong Reasons

First, we’ll start with a few reasons people give for shaving their legs that are actually myths or just dumb reasons.

To ride faster (due to better aerodynamics.)

aerodynamic cyclist

The first thing most people think of with smooth legs is better aerodynamics. Surely a smooth leg slices through the wind much, much faster than a leg covered in thin little hairs!

But guess what – this lack of leg hair does not make you more aerodynamic. While there are a variety of wind tunnel tests for time trial positioning, along with big studies about air turbulence for golf ball dimple designs, drag from leg hair has not been studied. Why? Because it is way too minimal to even matter.

If you are a triathlete or swimmer, though, you’re dealing with water, and that’s a different story. (One which doesn’t even matter these days, thanks to super fast suits that even smooth skin can’t compare to.)

For sheer joy and excitement.

You might be thinking “hey, that might be neat to shave my legs once.” Trust me, it’s not. Ask any cyclist (or any female, for that matter) that shaves their legs how fun and exciting it is, and you’ll get blank stares and confused looks.

The first time is alright, and smooth legs do make for a good conversation piece, but then you have to shave again at least twice a week. It’s a hassle, and if you don’t do it, well, the stubble is not fun. So then you are forced to keep shaving or deal with stubble for a couple weeks.

Good Reasons to Shave Your Legs

Now here are the real reasons to shave your legs that actually justify the time, expense, and possible ridicule you’ll experience once you begin shaving your legs.

Reason 1 – To look good.

This is what it’s all about right here. You can have a fancy kit, sleek helmet, and top-of-the-line bike, but if you pair hairy legs with tight spandex, the cycling fashion police will be forced to haul you away.

Best of all, hairless legs emphasize your muscles. With hair, your legs will still be big, but once they’re shaved, every little ripple in your muscles stands out for the world to see. (Just look at Bobby Julich’s legs, pictured above!)

Reason 2 – To feel like a pro.

All the pros shave their legs. Not once have I seen a professional racer (on the road, at least) that foregos shaving, and even the majority of recreational roadies and amateur racers shave their legs. If you shave yours, too, it makes you feel like part of the group.

You’ll feel faster, too, just like the pros. Heck, you might even get motivated enough that your mind is driven to ride faster. This is a placebo effect, not aerodynamics, but it could very well result in faster times!

And not only do you feel like a pro, you just feel good. That’s probably because hairless legs keep you cooler (think of hairy legs like wearing a cotton t-shirt.) Plus, you actually “feel” the air moving around your legs, which is very neat.

Reason 3 – To treat road rash easily.

road rash veteran

The less you race or do group rides, the less you’ll have to worry about road rash, but it’s always a concern. But if you do a lot of group rides and races, there’s a good chance you’ll experience road rash first-hand.

The previous two reasons (looking good and feeling good) will help you on each ride, but the (hopefully) rare cases when you get road rash will be the most memorable “I’m so glad I shaved my legs!” moments. That’s because cleaning your raw skin is much easier if you don’t have hair in the way. Not to mention, the hair will likely trap more dust, dirt, bugs, and gravel in your wounds.

If you end up in the hospital to get your hairy road rash cleaned out, chances are a tired, unsympathetic nurse will bust out what feels like a wire brush to scrub your wounds. Ouch! So in this case, leg shaving is kind of like wearing a helmet – you hope you don’t need it, but it’s there just in case.

Smooth legs also come in handy if you’re a mountain biker and get scratched up or cut; then you can put a band-aid on your wounds without it pulling out your hair (which can sometimes be more painful than the cut itself!)

Reason 4 – For better massages.

Again, this probably doesn’t matter on a day-to-day basis (unless you’re a pro,) but getting a massage feels so much better if your legs are smooth. Part of the reason is that the hair gets sticky and creates friction, which makes it harder for the masseuse, which translates into a sub-par experience for you.

Try it yourself: rub some massage oil on a hairy leg, and then do a little self-massage. Then try the same thing on a smooth leg, and you’ll see a big difference. Your hands will glide easily, and it will feel oh so good!

Reason 5 – To deter ticks.

tick

If you ride in the woods (or even on back roads,) ticks can jump off weeds and grab your leg hair, then make their way around your body until they decide to bite. Smooth legs don’t leave them much to grab onto, so it’s less likely that a tick will stay on your body.

It will also be easier to spot a tick if there isn’t a mass of hair obscuring your vision.

I’ve found five ticks on me so far this year, but with my smooth legs, most have been stuck hiding on my clothes. With hairy legs, I probably would have had at least twice as many ticks, some of which may have crawled through my leg hair and made a nice home somewhere on my upper thigh!

(One did stick itself into my hamstring, but that bugger got there one evening when I was sitting around in the grass. I don’t think he would have made it there had I been wearing lycra!)

So there you have it. Five solid reasons to shave your legs that have nothing to do with aerodynamics.

Photo credits: Bobby Julich by The Dublin Reeds | Aero cyclist by Gaetan Lee | George Hincapie’s legs by TimothyJ | Tick by ninjapoodles

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47 Comments so far

  1. Kendra on July 15th, 2008

    ohhhhhhhhh now it makes sense! all these men with hairless legs!

  2. dale kaup on July 15th, 2008

    How dare u speak of nurses that way

  3. i lasered my pubes on July 16th, 2008

    Reason 6, it helps you pull at the homo bar,

  4. Levi on July 16th, 2008

    @Kendra

    Yes, there is a method to our madness.

    @dale

    What do you mean? Do you think everyone in the ER is happy, sympathetic, gentle, and always gets plenty of sleep?

    @lasered

    Thanks for the tip, although I only included the 5 reasons I have personal experience with. ;)

  5. pro on July 21st, 2008

    another reason, no bugs in the hair, sweat evaporates instead of dripping down into your shoes.

  6. Levi on July 22nd, 2008

    @pro

    Yeah, bugs in the hair suck. Although I still get quite a few gnats and other little buggers stuck to my legs when it’s wet or if I’m extra sweaty.

  7. NAC on July 23rd, 2008

    They say women are vane. I’m sure there are women who like that their men shave or they may even tell them to shave.

    Real men have hair on their legs, they don’t wear Band-Aids, they show off their scars like a badge of honor.

    If your wife or girlfriend make you shave off your hair, grow some, and be a man. Girlie Men, sweet sensitive new age men. God help us all.

  8. jonny carroll on July 23rd, 2008

    yes! now I have an article to refer people to when the ask why I shave my legs. I don’t ride road (yet), but the tick thing is great for excuse for trails. hehehe.

  9. Chris on July 24th, 2008

    I think the best reason was overlooked: sweat evaporates more quickly. That and the road rash thing are the only reasons I do it.

  10. Levi on July 25th, 2008

    @Chris,

    Yeah, I kind of lumped the sweat evaporation aspect into the “feeling good” reason, because I love how it keeps me cool on hot days.

    I didn’t think it was big enough for its own section because: If sweat evaporated that quickly from a hairless surface, none of our forehead sweat would drip into our eyes…

  11. Tom on July 26th, 2008

    The only good reasons are to treat road rash and deter ticks. Guys are SUPPOSED to have hairy legs. I have friends that are gay, and even THEY don’t freaking shave their legs! Plus the other reasoms are lame. Like “feel like a pro”? Whatever.

  12. Jbanks on July 29th, 2008

    I like that road rash…I know I’ve had a couple crashes on the road. not fun especially when your skin is ripped off and lower tissue layers are exposed. seen it too many times to over look it. Feelings I’m not so concerned didn’t even think about ticks and insects. good point.

  13. Wil on July 29th, 2008

    I don’t shave my legs, and I do alot of biking. I’ve never had a problem with cleaning a cut. Yeah the hair my legs gets in the way, and when I pull the bandaid off, some hair comes with it, but I’m happy having hairy legs like a man should.

  14. juan martinez on August 2nd, 2008

    The main reason to shave their legs is because in a case of road rash, it will not get infected because of the hair

  15. Raleigh on August 6th, 2008

    I’m really surprised no one has mentioned the ease of applying and removing embrocations on hairless legs. If you ride in the cold, the rain or w/ fatigued muscles like almost every competitive rider it is much easier to apply and wipe off. And besides all the ‘legit’ reasons let’s not pretend it’s a big deal. It’s not. When someone asks me why my legs are shaved I tell them ‘chicks dig it’. You can’t buy legs that will win a TT or a sprint. If you put work into it of course you want it to show. Nothing wrong w/ that.

  16. Levi on August 7th, 2008

    @Raleigh

    Yes, applying embrocations is easier, much like giving yourself a massage. (So I just grouped them into one reason.) :)

  17. pat on September 12th, 2008

    Funny as I just read another article about this. I am a fairly serious cyclist (only recently) and have said I would never shave but am starting to think I might…
    http://thegearjunkie.com/men-who-shave-their-legs

  18. Carol on April 27th, 2009

    My husband has just shaved his legs and I’m SO disappointed. Most women love hairy men – it’s the hair that makes them look and feel like men. Who wants to rub their legs agains hairless shiny legs? Well, not me for one. I hate it – just like I hate the look of any man who removes the hair from his body.

  19. curtis on September 27th, 2009

    I am pretty sure ticks do not jump onto another organism. Would not worth the energy if you missed. you have to come into contact with them.

  20. Levi on September 28th, 2009

    @Curtis

    The point is that however you come into contact with ticks, whether it’s from an overgrown trail or a wreck where you tumble through the weeds, you’re better off without leg hair.

  21. George on October 6th, 2009

    If you shave your legs for all these reasons why not shave arms too ? Shaving legs is just fashion and for those that look in the mirror too much. If you really believed what you say then shave your arms too…or do bugs and road rash only go on the legs ?
    You need to take up weightlifting too there are lots of mirrors in the gym to look at yourself..

  22. Intr on November 4th, 2009

    Ok Tom if men are supposed to have hair then why dont women stop shaving? After all they too are supposed to have hair

  23. Hector on November 5th, 2009

    I shave my nipples so I can run faster.

  24. Don on November 6th, 2009

    For road rash? Weak. I’m a mountain biker and crash pretty regularly. I’m not having problems because of the hair on my legs. Do you think a nurse will use the brush only on hairy legs? Ha! If you have gravel in your leg, it needs to be scrubbed!
    The real reasons for shaving are the first couple listed in the article.
    1. To feel like a pro, or at least feel like part of the “group”
    2. They like the way it looks.
    If you’re honest…. That’s about the only reasons they do it. I know it seems lame, but if it’s you… then OWN IT!

  25. Dave on November 16th, 2009

    Most important reason: if you’re competing against someone up a climb or in a race and you don’t have shaved legs, he/she won’t take you seriously and will be more likely to attack you.

  26. Ben on December 30th, 2009

    It was discovered that covering towed underwater cables with hair created an ad-hoc fairing, shedding vortices and reducing drag. It’s called the “Haired Fairing” (US patent 4756270 and others).

    I have my doubts that it would actually work with legs (short hair, wide legs) in air, but you could probably at least start a fun bar brawl by citing that patent after dropping your smooth-legged buddies…

  27. aussierick on December 31st, 2009

    If you live or ride in cool rainforest areas ticks and leeches will drop out of trees and shrubs when they detect body heat. This will happen when you stop for a moment or when your legs brush past damp bushes where ticks await. I once stopped at a meeting point at the top of a mountain trail then noticed a lump on my thigh under two layers of clothing. Peeled the pants and bike shorts back and there was a leech buried into my leg. gave me nightmares, Yeark! Hate em! Shaving would not stop that situation although it would help with ticks. Hate them too.
    But getting back to shaving. Do it or don’t. Half do it (like once for trying) and when the sharp ended hairs grow back they will poke out through the lycra shorts and that looks, well… you can imagine.
    Enjoy your ride.

  28. Loren on March 17th, 2010

    Ticks don’t jump although they sometimes drop–what they do is grab, and they position themselves next so animals which brush up against their perch can be easily grabbed.

    One legit reason to shave, though, is crashing with hairy legs on new, slick asphalt will scratch the heck out of whatever skin hits it as well as yanking out a lot of your precious little hairs at the follicle, but if you’ve shaved all you’ll end up with is scratches. (re: experience on a hot summer day)

  29. David on March 24th, 2010

    Why are all these people giving a damn about whether their mate shaves or not. It’s THEIR body. Women resent men telling them things about their body so why do it back? Shaving your legs doesn’t detract from your personality. I think if women let their hairy legs grow for just 2 months they would change their minds.

  30. Bill Talbot on April 11th, 2010

    Lets get this straight. I am gay,all this shaving business is a style thing period. It is not just restricted to cyclist’s either; watch any adult movies lately?
    Most guys are checking out my Madone and not my legs,thanks,and,shaving is not likely to change that either.
    The pros shave as part of the over all branding and marketing plans,that are so much part of the sport.
    If you want to shave fine,but spare us the absurd reasons/justifacations for shaving and,lets just leave it as it is,fashion and style. Not for me man. I prefer manly looking men.

  31. roadracer on April 14th, 2010

    Some of you people are just narrow-minded and judgmental. Everyone does something that others think is weird. I’m a hardcore racer and shave my pistons regularly. It’s all about what fits in the racing culture, just as you rednecks feel compelled to wear your stupid big belt buckles and watch lame sports like football or…shall I even write it? …baseball. zzzzzzz

    Grow the f- up!

  32. Levi on April 17th, 2010

    @roadracer

    You’re absolutely right.

  33. igotskillz on June 2nd, 2010

    Well, i am not gay and dont wipe out so i guess i will stay hairy.

    Some women dig a little fur and that’s fine with me. I have had way old ladies touch the hair on my arms like i was a dog. I swear one lady waited 100 years to touch a hairy arm.

    Anyone drink creatine mix while riding ? I mountainbike 20 miles at a time when the sun is shining. I mix 2 quarts and i am gone !

    I find the stuff works well that way yet everyone seems to say before or after.

  34. C Dub on June 25th, 2010

    There are two reasons for serious cyclists to shave their legs:

    It is traditional.

    Psychological…You feel faster.

  35. darren on June 29th, 2010

    well i just shaved my legs i love it my wife hates it ( men should have hairy legs she said)we she will have to bloody get use to it !!!!!! im a lycra junky

  36. matt on July 2nd, 2010

    My girlfriend gave me a hard time about it at first, but then she said it looks pretty hot on the bike with my muscles popping. She’s into it now.

    Also, I have pretty hairy legs, and when riding I swore I could feel every single one blowing in the wind. Now that they’re shaved I “feel” like I’m just slicing through the wind, no tingling up and down my entire leg.

  37. Nuckee on November 16th, 2010

    comfort and style is all it is. But being comfortable is a pretty big competitive advantage if you think about it. I tried it once but I wont be doing it again… Too lazy to keep up with it, like my wife in the winter.

  38. Mike on November 18th, 2010

    Haha, love this article. I’ve actually struggled with explaining to my girlfriend why I shave my legs, and she’s trying to talk me out of it. You’ve given me some new ammunition! :)

  39. Trent on February 1st, 2011

    OK,
    I shave my legs,I ride a whole lot. I’m even on the team.. But I will tell you right now.. shaving your legs does not help you in anyway..
    It is easyer to clean up your scratches when you have a fall.. But The MAIN reson Racers shave is cause they want to show there leg Muscles and it feels great feeling the wind on your legs as you ride..

  40. kristi on February 12th, 2011

    Ticks! Great idea!

  41. Japhy on February 14th, 2011

    I ride everyday. I commute, train, and race year round. I shave for comfort and hygiene. Cram you legs in cycling tights or Lycra short everyday and ride 2,3,4,5, or even 6 hours a day 5-6 days a week in all four seasons and see how you feel. If you are dedicated you will find a way to be comfortable. As far as what other people think, I left high school years ago and my personal grooming habits are none of your business. Have a nice day.

  42. Don on May 15th, 2011

    Dude… you shave for hygiene?
    You shave because you like the way it looks. Also, you want to feel like you’re a part of the cycling “culture”… the same way single speeders use toe clips and wear knickers and messenger bags… so that they feel part of the “group”.

    Shavers… don’t be embarrassed. Just own it… and quit with the B.S. explanations!

    Have a nice day.

  43. Japhy on June 13th, 2011

    Dude,

    Yes. Hygiene. Cleanliness. I live in a rainy area and ride all year. Road grime is gross and it is easier to clean up after a ride. I also get rashes on my legs under the lycra. Shaving the hair allows me to keep my skin healthy using lotions and ointments.

    Have a nice day.

  44. Heather on July 23rd, 2012

    Hey, all you “hairy leg” purists, let me tell you a tip. We ladies? Are NOT attracted to steel wool on your legs. Give me the choice between a hairy-legged guy and one who shaves his legs, I’ll take Mr. Smooth Legs every time. It looks better, it feels better, and it’s not something that means he’s “not a man” – that’s just silly.

    If your sexuality is threatened by a man with a razor, then you might need to check your privilege… it’s not that big a deal. ;)

  45. jgitz on August 29th, 2012

    This is a great article that explains why male cyclists shave their legs to non-cyclists. Anytime anyone asks me why from now on I’m just going to point them to this article.

  46. slick on November 10th, 2012

    Looks and feels cleaner. Less plumbing hassles in shower if you keep shaved. Unless you’re experiencing male pattern baldness hair doesn’t build up in the shower drain as often.

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