I had a roommate in school that was a swimmer. That is to say, he was on the swim team. He took his swimming pretty seriously. Maybe he loved the sport. Or maybe it was the scholarship. He shaved his legs to be more streamlined, to swim faster, to place higher.
This was back in the nineties. But even then everyone knew that swimmers shaved their legs to go faster. It was before my leap into the fanatical following of professional cycling. But even then everyone knew that cyclists shaved their legs, too.
A few years later, when he-whose-name-cannot-be-mentioned was winning races and hearts across America and the world, cyclists’ legs were all over the screens - clad in neon Lycra advertisements, deeply tan-lined, glistening, and, well… shaved. Well shaved!
But why do cyclists shave their legs?
Originally, we thought it was, like swimmers, to go faster. Reasonable assumption. But probably only the slightest of aerodynamic effect on the hairiest of gents in the peloton.
If you’ve watched pro cycling long enough, actually almost any amount of time will do, you’ve likely seen some crashes. Riders are always getting tangled up in each others’ business or coming into a corner too hot. Clearly those Lycra suits are not Kevlar reinforced - providing nary an extra layer of skin’s worth of protection. This is when we learned the term road rash - quickly branded into our minds with graphic images. And then the argument goes that hair and wounds and bandages and infection don’t mix very well if one is planning to finish the stage and then up and ride another several hours on the next stage and the next and next, week after week after tour after tour, all through the season.
And what about massage? It seems these cyclists live quite the life of luxury, if not leisure. Daily massage after each stage. Not so bad! And there’s that massage oil - keeps things slippery. Wouldn’t want hair to get in the way of the relaxing and restorative advantages from the spa.
Then we add in tight clothes and long days in the saddle and friction and one can guess that there are various remedies, tonics, and lubes that must be applied to certain areas of the body. Does shaving help with that application or the reduction of friction?
Similarly: sunscreen. Whose legs would you rather rub down with sunscreen? I’m not sure a lot of these riders wear much sunscreen though. Did I mention those tan lines?!
Maybe it’s cooler in hot weather…
And how often do they shave? It seems a lot of work to shave daily when they’ve already got so much going on in their day… you know, like massage... and dinner and interstage transport… oh, and riding all day! (When do they sleep!)
And what about amateurs? And the regular weekend warriors? We’ve seen them out there, too…
And what about their arms… hmm…
I think we can all see now why cyclists shave their legs… Because it’s so damn sexy!