If you’ve watched pro bike races, you’ve seen it. Shaven legs. Smoother than a baby’s tuchus, silkier than a glass of fresh almond milk.
Many people believe that bike racers shave their legs to be “more aero.” Although this was never the intention, interestingly there has been recent studies indicate that it might actually help. But we can get to that later.
The original reasons for pro cyclists to shave their legs had nothing to do with aerodynamics. Remember, the concept began at a time when brake cables flew out of your handlebars like wacky waving inflatable tube men, coifs ruled over any sort of aero helmet and brandy and cigarettes were considered PEDs.
Healing from road rash
Cyclists fall, and when they do, there can be a lot of bunged up skin. Since no one wants to feel like they are getting Nair’ed when they are at the hospital getting stitched up, shaven legs make for an easier canvas to apply dressings and bandages. A smooth leg means you can more easily pinpoint the cuts, and not worry about screaming in agony when you take off the bandages.
Massage is an integral part of recovery for cyclists. Soigneurs have enough to deal with in cycling (and in the 90s, even more…), between preparing bottles, food, and doing laundry, so rubbing a pair of legs that resemble a forest just didn’t seem optimal. When a cyclist has smooth legs, a post-race massage is just easier. Same with a little embrocation before the race: it’s easier to apply.
Nowadays, even recreational racers might shave their legs. Most weekend warriors aren’t getting regular pre and post-race massages, but there is something to be said for wearing skin-tight kit, a sleek aero helmet, super-fast wheels and bike…and a jungle growing on your legs. Some people just like the look. The continuation of sleek Lycra and smooth gams.
For years, pundits swore there was no gain with shaven legs. Turns out, there might be. The Globe and Mail reported that some tests at the Specialized wind tunnel has contradicted previous studies that stated shaven legs didn’t help how fast you cut the wind.
The study showed that shaving the rider’s legs reduced drag by about seven per cent, which turns out to be around 15 watts at the same speed. In a 40 km time trial, that could be well over a minute.