Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs? (Warning: Disturbing Images Ahead)

08.8.2005 | 9:40 pm

One nice thing about writing a blog called "Fat Cyclist" is you no longer have to worry about losing your dignity. Since you’ve kissed it goodbye as part of the blog’s premise, you’re free to do just about anything without worrying about embarassing yourself.

And so it is without hesitation that today I answer the question, "Why do cyclists shave their legs?" with "before" and "after" photographs. I suppose I could have also posted "during" photographs, but then I might have gotten comments to this post from distraught readers who had gouged out their eyes in an attempt to get the horrible, horrible vision out of their heads.

I think I made the right decision.

OK, So Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs, Then?

Well, there are several reasons most cyclists will give you. They will say that it makes them more aerodynamic, which would be a good reason…if it were true.

They will say they do it because it makes it easier to clean road rash out of their legs. To which I answer, if you’re so confident you’re going to be crashing, maybe you need to look into a different sport. Like chess, for example.

They will say they shave their legs because of tradition. This reason actually does have merit, but it’s tantamount to proclaiming that you’re a lemming.

There are two  — and only two — real reasons cyclists shave their legs:

  • Vanity: You’ve worked hard to get the legs you’ve got. Why hide them under a mat of hair?
  • To impress other cyclists: Once you’re on the bike, there’s not much you can do to hide whether you’re the alpha rider or a domestique. But at least while you’re hanging out at the bike shop, shaved legs say, "I’ve joined the club; I’m a serious cyclist. I am so confident of my manliness that I can wear a bright jersey, tight lycra shorts, and have shaved legs without feeling ridiculous in public."

You see, when you shave, the hair that hides your muscle definition is gone, making it easier for you to admire those quads in the mirror, and for other cyclists to admire your calves on the bike. And since you’ve worked so hard  to get those muscles, you feel it’s your right to show them off in all their glory.

Here. I’ll show you what I mean.


Here I am before shaving. If you look hard, you can see a hint of some quads, but mostly you just see big stumpy legs. 


Clippers Time.

As you can see, I’ve got hair-o-plenty (except on the top of my head, where the hair’s becoming increasingly scarce). Before I could shave, I needed to mow down the tall grass with the electric clippers. What surprised me was the sheer volume of hair I had on my legs. I swear, the below picture is just of the clippings of my legs, not of a shorn llama.



It’s been some time since I regularly shaved my legs. During my hairy period, I seem to have forgotten how much time it takes. Even more, I had forgotten how much agility it takes to reach around and shave the back of your knees — all while fearing that you are about to hit a major artery.

Believe me, most middle age men do not want to be discovered dead in the shower with their legs half-shaved.

So — and I can say this only because I am the dignity-free Fat Cyclist — I asked my wife for help. She rolled her eyes, locked the bathroom door (this was definitely something I did not want the kids to see), and got to work. Two Mach 3 razor cartridges later, I was as smooth as can be.

You may be asking yourself right now, "So how high do cyclists shave themselves?" Or you may be really resenting that I articulated that question, because you had successfully avoided bringing that image to mind up to that point. Regardless, you shouldn’t look for an answer to that question here. If there’s consensus in the cycling world on where the "Do not cross this line" point is, I don’t know what it is. As for me, let me just say that I’d look verrrrry ridiculous in a Speedo right now.

OK, on to the "After" photo:


Well, whaddaya know. The Fat Cyclist actually had some big ol’ quads underneath all that hair. Though they still — alas — lack definition. And who do I gotta bribe to get some calf muscles?

And What About After?

The thing about shaving your legs is, it’s not just a one-time deal. You’ve made a commitment. Because once the hair starts growing back (about 4 hours, in my case), you’ve got to shave again — because male stubble is abrasive enough to scratch the paint right off a car.

So how long will this last? I dunno. Through the Leadville 100, at least. Gotta impress the fans.


  1. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Ask a Cyclist | 01.24.2008 | 8:55 am

    [...] do cyclists shave their legs? I give a detailed answer here, but there are in fact two answers. first, there’s the answer cyclists would have you [...]

  2. Trackback by SOG knives | 07.17.2008 | 11:29 pm

    SOG knives

    Interesting ideas… I wonder how the Hollywood media would portray this?

  3. Comment by Darren | 08.2.2008 | 2:30 pm

    If you road race, and don’t shave your legs, others will think you are weak and squirrely (likely to cause a crash), and will avoid working with or near you. I shaved my legs after having this reaction to other hairy-legged cyclists, even while racing with hairy legs myself. Leg shaving is so common it is now required to assimilate with the wolf pack (who will work with you ’till you ’stumble’…they then attack and eat you). I haven’t done these mountain bike races, but sense that that rationale wouldn’t hold since the drafting/breakaway group thing doesn’t really happen (?).

  4. Comment by Hal | 11.11.2008 | 3:36 pm

    Let’s see I’ve been a cyclists for 20 yrs and saved my legs off & on. My wife & daughter just get a kick out of it…. lol

  5. Comment by Chris from Belgium | 11.29.2008 | 5:25 am

    Hello, I found this page by accident…

    I think that the first reason for cyclists to shave their legs is to make easier the application of the warming-up oil before races… And the non-racers shave they legs to have a racing look :)

  6. Comment by devildogmech | 03.4.2009 | 11:05 am

    I have the same folicular impairment as you…. No hair on top and too much on the legs…. But the hair on top isn’t lost!

    Nope, it just migrated down south…..:D

  7. Comment by Pagan Beast | 04.2.2009 | 7:07 am

    Hair is designed to keep your body warm. It creates an air cushion around your body to act as an insulator. By shaving your legs you remove this air cushion and therefore allow the wind to have direct contact with your skin. This allows for quicker transfer of moisture and therefore a more efficient heat transfer system.

  8. Comment by GK | 06.1.2009 | 10:05 pm

    I’m a road racer (cat1).
    I don’t know why I shave my legs, but I just do it every other day, like shaving my face. At times, after a hard race or long training rides, I like to deep massage my legs. Shaved is much easier to massage. During my cat 3 year, I did crash a lot. Not that I’m a bad racer, but I did race crits 4 times a week. It’s much easier to pull the tape off your legs. So, I guess this is why I shave my legs.
    Have fun riding! Shaved or not. haha

  9. Pingback by Rails to trails, a nuclear missile silo and salvation through junkfood » Adventure Monkey | 12.22.2009 | 10:10 pm

    [...] he has something better to do than entertain me. The discussion took many turns including gear, why cyclists shave their legs, the huge amount of hair on mine and a new route to take on my next [...]

  10. Comment by sivle girl | 01.30.2011 | 4:55 pm

    Em, I shave my legs only during the summer and that’s only because I work in a primary school and kids can be so cruel.

    Or is it because I’m a woman and that’s the culture I’m forced to follow.

    Oh no, That’s you guys.

  11. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Too Old for This | 12.14.2011 | 10:59 am

    [...] I start with issue of shaving one’s legs because — I confess — it is an issue of real concern for me. Over the past several years, I have become so accustomed to shaving my legs that I can no longer easily remember what they looked like when they were hairy (but here’s a hint). [...]


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