Friday Group Ride #326

Friday Group Ride #326

I’ve never shaved my legs. Even when I was a new roadie, the snide comments from my indoctrinators only served to harden my resolve against shaving. And then I stopped thinking about.

In full disclosure, I have hairy legs. There’s no real way to know where to stop once you put a razor in at the ankle. If I only went to my bibs’ hem line, then it would look like I had hair shorts on. That wasn’t even a thing in the ’70s, before Western Civilization undertook a wholesale rejection of body hair.

Very few of my friends race road bikes, so the common tropes about it making massage more comfortable or speeding the healing of road rash don’t play. Has anyone seen my soigneur? No. Me neither.

Much has been made of the aerodynamic advantages of smooth legs, but if I’m depending on a weekly rending of hair for a few seconds gained on whatever group rides I can drag myself to during a week, then I have my life priorities out of order.

That leaves two possible motivations. One is attractiveness. Some say shaved legs look better. I won’t resummon the visuals from above, but my personal aesthetics are not going to be improved with a Bic and a can of Barbasol. My wife has emphasized this to me every time the subject of leg shaving has arisen, which is not much at my house.

The last motivator? Tradition. We do this, because we’ve always done it. It would be pretentious to call myself an iconoclast, so I won’t. But I’m not really interested in upholding other people’s traditions either. The more they want me to, the less I want to do it.

This week’s Group Ride asks, have you ever shaved your legs just to fit in? Are you hirsute or polished? Hairy or sleek? Do you believe that whatever you do relates to your cycling in some real and tangible way? Or is it just the propeller beanie of our particular club?

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33 comments

  1. Lyford

    I’ve naturally got fairly light hair, both in color and coverage. Never shaved my legs. This spring, after a winter of heavy pants, I noticed that a lot of hair had rubbed off and thought “why not?”. The other incentive to try shaving was your article about embrocation, which I’d also never tried. Embro and hair sounded like even more of a mess. So out came the razor…..

    It hasn’t been a big deal. I’ve heard exactly one comment all summer. I haven’t noticed a difference in cooling or speed but it does seem a bit easier to apply various skin goops and clean up afterwards.

    As for the community, I expect to see “serious” road riders with shaved legs, and am a bit surprised to see fur, but it doesn’t matter.

  2. Stephen Barner

    When I raced, which was a very long time ago, I quickly realized that any advantage I would gain in shaving my legs would be vastly out of scale with how much I just plain sucked. A lot of my lack of performance was due to a corresponding lack of coaching, as I did have the legs, I just didn’t know how to use them to their best advantage. I have visible hair on my legs, but not excessively so. I don’t put anything on them, so the hair doesn’t result in a mess of sunscreen or embrocation. My solution for the hair gatting picked up in the ùadhesive for a bandage has been to try not to fall. Thus far, that strategy worked out pretty well.

  3. Josh Ross

    I shave my legs because it’s part of the “uniform” and I like to wear the uniform. Same reason the punkrockers all dress the same. The rest of the reasons are BS.

  4. Michael

    Nope – never shaved. Haven’t shaved my face in thirty years either. I hate shaving (rashes and cuts), so why conflate something I love – cycling – with something I despise? I have pretty hairy legs, but haven’t found any problem from the hair when I have had road rash. A physician said it might be worth shaving the hair off where the tape for the bandages went (I find it comes off fine with the first tape change) but that there was really no wound-cleanliness advantage to having shaved the area of the road rash prior to the accident He said the skin is crawling with bacteria already and the road introduces more.. Good enough for me – I am always looking for excuses to do what I was going to do anyway.

  5. Scott Gilbert

    Shaved them and even waxed them (waxing lasts about six times longer). They look better and sweat evaporates better in hot weather which keeps them cooler.

  6. John Hopper

    Once in college I shaved my whole body less my genital area because once I started it looked weird if I stopped. I was swimming then too. Felt weird in a good way in the water. Ladies seemed to love it. Got me some dates., 🙂

  7. Rick

    The adage when I started riding (and eventually racing) back in the day was “never ride behind someone with hairy legs”. I kept the advice in mind when riding on an unfamiliar wheel, but never shaved my own legs. LOL

    Over the years I’ve noticed also that mustaches are rare on pro bike racers and beards practically non-existent.

  8. Jan

    I don’t shave my legs anymore.

    Let me say, for a woman, this question reads really differently.

    There’s a whole lot of social expectation about women and removing body hair, so if a woman in US culture decides not to shave her legs and wears short or a skirt that shows any leg, that’s a whole different thing than a man in US culture shaving (or not), whether for biking or other reasons. All those nicks and cuts, the time, the cost of razors: it’s worth thinking about how you feel about those for your male selves and how you feel about women and body hair.

    When I first started riding unshaven, the wind on my legs felt so ticklish! It’s surprisingly freeing to decide I wasn’t going to care about that, even in public, even in a swim suit, even in lycra shorts, even at the doctor’s office.

    (My massage therapist has never said anything one way or the other, but then, he wouldn’t because he doesn’t make comments about bodies other than how the muscles feel and how he can make them hurt/feel better.)

  9. Jay

    I rode for decades without shaving, then on a whim I decided to try it out. There is no practical benefit that I can discern, but I will say that well sculpted, fit legs look way better sans hair. That is all.

  10. MattC

    I typically ride my MTB lots more than my road bike. I discovered long ago that typical raspberries and ‘trail rash’ from mtb crashes (consider that mtb crashes are a lot more common than road crashes in my experience) are horrifically painful when there’s hair in them (cuz they scab over at some point and the hair is trapped in the scabs), also before it scabs over you need to put bandages on them to sleep, and also to wear pants (like to WORK)…putting bandages of any sort on top of hair is quite painful. Thus, I learned the hard way and started shaving the legs just for that…(I don’t crash very often, but it only takes one to change your mind on this topic). I don’t (yet) shave my arms, but nearly any crash that damages my legs also damages my arms…would THAT be weird, shaving your arms? Just asking.

  11. Lawrence M Brooks

    When I started racing in 1985, it was pretty much expected that you would arrive at the start line with legs bare of hair. I’ve raced on and off since, and mostly keep them shaved during the long racing season here in California. One of my closest friends and longest riding buddies quipped a few years back that, “you only have about 12 hairs on each leg, so it’s hard to see much difference.” He’s not exaggerating much, but the little rituals of race preparation are important. I shave my legs for the same reason I change bar tape before a race – because it helps psych me up.

  12. Andrew

    I shave. I just think it looks way better in bike shorts. It also motivates me to train hard, because you can’t suck (too much) and pull it off. And as someone with an interest in anatomy I like being able to see the veins.

  13. Chip

    Aside from aesthetics (admittedly a personal choice) and the slight cooling sensation in hot weather (no real benefit, just feel the breeze a bit more), the nice thing about shaved legs for road riding is the relative ease of washing off the road grit and bugs (did I mention the crazy freaking clouds of gnats I encountered this morning?) that stick to sunscreen coated skin. Without my monkey-class leg hair, clean up after a ride is quicker.

  14. Fausto

    Shaved when I raced in high school in the early ’80s and with stood all of the harnessing. Constantly picked on but loved the punk rock feeling of being the outsider. Still remember the feeling of the first time, it was do weird. Started again in my mid 40’s for a few reasons: 1. Very hairy and looked bad. 2. Embrocation. 3. Sunscreen. 4. Reminds me of the commitment I made to myself to stay healthy and keep riding.

  15. Scotty

    Whenever I’m behind a guy with very hairy legs in a paceline I almost throw up in my mouth a little bit. It just looks wrong to have skin tight shorts and a forest of hair poking out beneath.

    I’ve been shaving my legs since I started riding a road bike, for the already-mentioned reasons of easier application of sunscreen and lotion, plus I like upholding tradition. I also started shaving my arms this season. I like the way it looks and feels on me. I trim everything else pretty short below the neck so the aesthetics are balanced. I still cultivate a beard because I like the way that looks on me, too. Hopefully the aero savings from my shaved arms negate the extra drag from my closely-trimmed beard.

    Go figure, I hate shaving my face but really don’t mind manscaping everywhere else.

    Another plus is that I don’t feel like a hypocrite when it comes to women and body hair. I pretty much hold myself to 90% of their hair removal standards, but…they definitely shouldn’t have mustaches. Mine looks badass on the other hand, screw Rule #50.

  16. Tom in Albany

    I’ve tried shaving a few times. I liked how it look and felt. I also liked that it made me feel like I was ‘focusing’ on my cycling. In truth, though, it’s just something else to do in my busy life so, it never stuck. Every now and then, though, I do it again. Just because.

    I will pull out a razor and shave the areas where I’m about to apply a bandage so that the bandage removal doesn’t include hair.

    I do shave my head though. Well, truthfully, I shave about 1/2 of my head. Mother Nature and Father Time took care of the rest!

  17. Ryan

    No, I don’t shave. I think it looks a little weird and it would be another thing to spend time on. The benefits of shaven legs would only really impact my life if I had someone massaging me often (I don’t) or I had some bad road rash. Road rash hurts anyway and I don’t find it to hurt more with hair on my legs. I mostly mountain bike anyway, where freshly shaven legs don’t really make much of an appearance in the group and it doesn’t fall into the tradition category.

  18. Rich

    This is what makes the world go ’round. Some do, some don’t and all for different reasons. I’m on again off again, but have very light coverage either way. Primarily I’m in the tradition and aesthetic camp. However, I find it really motivating when I can look down on a long, hot climb, and see the sweat dripping down the side of my clean shaven legs. Just not the same looking down at hairy, vague looking muscles.

  19. AG

    Absolutely shaving is the “propeller beanie of our particular club”. I think many of the posts reveal that, too (and not a small amount of narcissism). I have shaved my legs in the past and I must admit that walking into the high-end bike shop shaved feels different than hairy. For sure there is a recognition that you are “in the club” and are to be taken more seriously. I guess for a pro there are practical benefits such as easier to treat wounds and no hair pulling during massages, but once you realize you are not a pro but a father/husband struggling to find time to ride, shaving seems a bit silly.

  20. SBC

    What grows on my legs is fur, not hair, so no I don’t shave. I get the signaling aspect of shaving, but since none of my friends are pro (currently), it seems like a bit silly to maintain that there is much real benefit.

  21. souleur

    when I was racing, yes but for reasons not mentioned yet.
    It wasn’t to ‘fit in’.
    It wasn’t for an aero advantage.
    I understand the Embro fellas, but I havent fallen into that group, and that would be a good reason.
    The reason, you clean the guns, is when you crash, wound care is so much easier. After a good case of road rash, which you WILL get if you race or even ride, you’ll appreciate having thought ahead rather than shave/pul clean the hairy wound.

  22. Don Mackey

    I don’t shave. but I must admit that I am the only rider in my small “pack” that goes sans bic and barbasol. My wife puts up with all of my neurotic biking behavior (of which the list is long and varied) that comes along with training for “the” bike race that is not allowed to be mentioned on the Paceline for the rest of the year( I think) the last 4 years straight…where she draws the line is shaving..I think I have a better chance of being able to “sell” her on the reasons of why I might need to sleep in an altitude tent like my “pack” for said bike race before she will sign up for rubbing legs with her husbands “smooth” legs. I split my time almost 50-50 between the road and the MTB and I have experienced a raised eyebrow every now then from the clean shaven crew that would indicate that they are somehow more superior …Heck I think I even recall Fatty saying on the Paceline that he is automatically suspect of someone who he sees in a group/the group that is not clean shaven as if somehow having shaved legs is going to make someone a better bike handler…oh well I do love the sport and its unspoken/unwritten rules but no shaving for me 🙂

  23. Mark Young

    I shaved my legs as a commitment to the sport i loved. I tried racing was not good at it, but i enjoyed long rides. At that point in my life i rode 250-400 miles a week. Having shaved legs did not make me faster, but i felt ‘the part”

    Fast forward to the present and i am 30 years older, slower and a bit less committed to the sport i still love. I still consider shaving, but i do not get a resounding “yes” from my wife, but a more subtle “nyet”.

    So I ride on……

  24. Jeff Dieffenbach

    Reasonably hairy. Reasonably slow. Never shaved. Love the clean-shaven look. Hate the idea of the added maintenance. And worrying about how far up to shave, well, who needs THAT!?

    Last year, without really even knowing it, I went from being a roadie to riding my road bike between off-road rides. So I guess I’m off the hook …

  25. Scotty

    How far up? There’s an article about the British Cycling women’s team that answers that. It’s on BBC. Short version: not all the way.

    And guess what, it’s really not that much maintenance. I find it ironic that women are expected to keep their legs shaved and also do tons of extra stuff (depending on their circumstances; raising kids, having a career, picking up after us, etc.) and yet guys feel like shaving takes up too much time. Ha!

  26. Ron Reed

    I’m not even remotely interested. I wouldn’t shave my legs for riding any more than I would shave my underarms, chest, crotch or eyebrows.

  27. winky

    Yep, of course. It’s the look, the uniform, the signal, that marks the “serious” cyclist. The reason I do it really isn’t different to the reason my wife shaves her legs. It looks better and conforms to the social norm. There are plenty of hairy-legged dudes that can rip my legs off, though.

    And on a related matter. Lumberjacks have no place in cycling. I just hope we’ve reached (or passed) peak beard and these face rugs are consigned to the dustbin, never to return.

  28. Tom in Albany

    I’m a side sleeper. When I’ve shaved my legs, I found they don’t slide across each other as easily at night as when there’s hair on them. And then there’s waking myself up because the stubble is irritating.

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