I always joked that I should do an article on hairy vs.shaved legs. Being the one who was potentially going to be “field testing” this article everybody I explained the article to thought it was a fantastic idea. In all likelihood, they just wanted to see my cleanly shorn legs and potentially embarrass myself in-front of the internets.

As I immerse myself in cycling culture, I find more and more of it intriguing. Of course I’m a total gear and tech head (who isn’t), and despite being too slow for it to help I’m interested in understanding race strategy and psychology, but there are other things that I wanted to get to the bottom of as well. Bib shorts was one, those silly hats might be another, but today the focus will be on why cyclists believe the shaved leg to be superior to the hairy one.

After some brief research I discovered that there are ultimately 7 reasons cyclists turn to the blade:

  1. It’s faster
    Though scientifically dubious, I think this is more of a psychological speed advantage. If you think you are faster, you will be faster (even if it’s only in perception). To be honest, if you believe it to be true and gain confidence from rolling up to the start line of a race silky smooth, then it’s probably worth it.
  2. It helps healing
    Road rash – a common affliction among cyclists is much easier to dress and heals significantly faster on hairless skin. I can only speak from my experience, but while on the Transrockies I bailed going ~30km/h down a rutted dirt logging road – the road rash, although not serious, was pretty much healed before the end of the week. Taking this into account, I’m surprised my race partner Sheldon ‘Crash’ Smart doesn’t shave his entire body ;-)
  3. It looks hot
    Vanity. What other reason do you need? It’s a big part of why women shave their legs, and men are no different. Women think it looks better, and for a man immersed in cycling culture the same might be true. I have to admit it does show more definition in those muscles ;-)
  4. Peer pressure
    The urge to conform is a powerful thing. Should you be the only chap sporting a forest of hair before the Sunday ride it can mess with your head. Sure you’re riding ‘with’ the group, but are you really ‘part’ of the group, where everybody else is taking part of something you’re not? The next thing you know you’re standing in front of the mirror staring at the razor wondering what might be…
  5. Easier massages
    I might put forth that this is more of a bonus to professional riders than to the masses, but it does make for easier, more comfortable massages – for both the ‘massager’ and the ‘massagee’.
  6. Tradition
    Though some might argue that this is no different than ‘peer pressure’ I think the mindset behind tradition is a little different… Though I struggle to make a clear definition – It just sounds better, I guess ;-)
  7. Deter ticks
    I found this surprising, but apparently one lesser known benefit to shaving your legs is that it makes it almost impossible to pick up a tick should you be traveling through some thick underbrush.

Are you looking at your future?

Ready to take the plunge?

I’d imagine a number of questions arise… Where do I start? How is this going to work? How high do I shave? Well, have no fear… The process, although a little tedious, is not difficult. You shouldn’t need too much more than the following:

  • Razor w/3-5 blades
  • Beard trimmer
  • Shaving cream
  • Moisturizing cream
  • Bathtub/shower

Once you’ve rounded up the proper materials and reserved yourself some private time in a bathroom you can follow these seven steps:

  1. Use the beard trimmer to get things down as close as you can… This is quick work, and you’ll probably be impressed/amazed/disgusted at how much hair actually there actually is.
  2. Foam up your shaving cream and apply liberally below the knee of one leg.
  3. Start shaving, working from the ankle up. It’s possible the remaining hair is difficult to see (as it was in my case), so use your free hand to search for missed tufts of hair and ensure silky smoothness.
  4. Attack the remaining leg-parts. I would suggest starting with each leg below the knee before moving above. I found the skin to be a little tougher and more receptive to the blade – Hone your skills here, then move on to the more difficult areas.
  5. Rinse your bare, silky new legs using your hands to identify and clean up any places you may have missed.
  6. Dry yourself off and apply moisturizing cream immediately! Chances are, your legs had likely never been moisturized, but nor have they faced the elements without the comfort and security of your man-hair. The moisturizer will ensure your legs look and feel their best. Try to find a moisturizer that has as little odour as possible, lest you run the risk of smelling like a girlie (not like it matters… You just shaved your legs!).
  7. Show off your new look to friends and family ;-)

Are you the next to join the club?

External impressions

Now that I’ve been without leg hair for just over a month, I’ve been actively seeking feedback and opinions about the look and the practice in general. I found the comments to generally fall into three categories:

  1. “What took you so long?”
    This comment came generally from both men and women active in the sporting/cycling world, and didn’t surprise me too much. Those active in sporting fields are usually accustomed to doing weird and wonderful things to their body for the sake of their sport.
  2. “Hmmm…”
    This came mainly from women outside the sporting/cycling community. Though they thought the practice a little odd they generally appreciated the look of my new legs. It turns out this group was almost split as to which look they preferred – many women were quite receptive to it… Though I will admit that my shockingly attractive legs didn’t make for a scientifically accurate survey ;-)
  3. “WTF?!”
    Not surprisingly this came generally from men outside the sporting/cycling community, though despite vowing that they would never under any circumstances join the ranks, it didn’t repulse them. They just didn’t ‘get’ it.

So what’s the verdict? To be honest it’s still out. It sure feels weird right after you’re done… Not quite sure how to explain it, heightened sensitivity maybe? In the few races and events that I’ve participated in since I’m not sure I felt more like a cyclist, but I definitely didn’t feel out of place. Most people don’t give it a second glance.

Will I keep my legs as smooth as a baby’s bottom? Only time will tell. I’m not opposed to it on principle, but the upkeep is a bit of a pain in the ass, and I am a lazy bastard ;-)

What are your thoughts?