The reason why male cyclists shave their legs is unclear, but some common reasons include reducing road rash, a psychological boost for aerodynamics, vanity to show off muscles, and tradition within the cycling community.
American women began shaving their legs and armpits after an ad for sleeveless dresses appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1915, but no one seems able to link such an event to the advent of male cyclists who put the blade straight on the leg . If asked, a cyclist is likely to name one of countless reasons circulating in the cycling community for wanting to shave their legs, but some of the more common ones are listed below.
Road Rash: The claim here is that when a rider crashes and has to clear gravel and debris from a leg, the hair gets in the way of the process and pulls on the skin as the blood dries and forms a scab. Also, the hair makes bandage removal a little more painful, and some insist that the threat of infection is reduced on a hairless leg. However, opponents dispute the validity of this claim, questioning the exclusion of the arm in the shaving process. They argue that the arms are just as likely to get rashes, but the arm hair remains intact. Why shave your legs but not your arms?
Aerodynamics: less hair, more speed? The consensus on this is of less scientific and more psychological benefit. Removing a few hairs is unlikely to really give a rider an aerodynamic advantage, but the psychological “placebo” effect could very well have an impact. For some, being hairless is a liberating feeling, and the freer and more liberated a rider feels, the faster the body is likely to react.
Vanity: Long hours on the bike produce tight, well-defined muscles. Hair hides the definition that many cyclists want to show off. Even if a cyclist doesn’t like to show off his assets to others, it’s still interesting to have a visual reminder of the long hours of toil on the bike seat, so this is right at the top of the list for reasons why cyclists shave their legs .
Tradition: This is probably the most valid and widespread reason why a cyclist would want to shave his legs. Despite the fact that no one seems to know exactly when or why the tradition began, it is still embraced by the cycling community and a smooth leg identifies a rider as a “real” cyclist. Keeping your legs hairless is a commitment, and when you’re riding with a group of riders, it’s generally unappealing to be the only guy in the group who doesn’t take that extra step.