Triathletes and cyclists are always trying to find ways to go faster without necessarily trying harder. New equipment helps, even small upgrades to your bike can make a huge difference. But what about your legs?
There’s no doubt, shaved legs are part of the road cycling culture. It’s an indication that you take your training seriously and want to emulate your favourite pro cyclist/triathlete. But beyond swimming, cycling and running, seeing men shave their legs isn’t particularly common.
With spring well underway and summer on the rise, here are four reasons why you should go against the grain and shave your legs for the triathlon season:
1) First and foremost, smooth legs are faster than hairy legs. In the Specialized Win(d) Tunnel, human performance researchers and engineers found that a rider could gain as much as 90 seconds over a 40K time trial with shaved legs compared to hairy legs.
2) There is a practical reason for all this. If you’ve ever experienced a road rash, the aftermath in the hospital can be excruciating. It’s even more painful if you have hairy legs. By shaving your legs, you make treating your wounds considerably easier and reduce the risk of infection. Bandages can be applied directly to the skin, and perhaps most importantly, removing adhesive bandages is much less painful when you aren’t pulling out a patch of hair as well.
Related: Cycling etiquette for triathletes
3) An underappreciated benefit of shaving is the cool feeling you get when slicing through the wind. Even the feel of your bedsheets is a weird, but exciting experience. Not particularly practical but if you notice the little things, this is nice. Aesthetically, leg muscles tend to look bigger and better without hair in the way. So be warned, you may get a few curious looks from people at your local coffee shop.
4) You’ll fit in just fine with your cycling friends. Many cyclists shave their legs to fit in with the crowd. Go on any weekend group road ride and nearly everyone who takes their cycling seriously will have smooth legs. They also will generally follow a set of unspoken rules. Nobody will have visors on their helmets. Kits will usually be somewhat matching. Socks will be tall, not short. Mini-pumps won’t be attached to bike frames. And no there will be no brick session after a 160K ride.
Just because you race triathlons or ride bikes doesn’t mean you have to shave and conform to the general norms of the sport. Plenty of people who enjoy triathlon and take it seriously don’t feel the need to remove their body hair to enjoy cycling. But it may be faster. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.