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

08.8.2005 | 2:56 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.
Today’s weight: 166.0


  1. Comment by Tommy | 08.8.2005 | 4:02 pm

    And don’t forget to mention how strange the sheets feel those first couple of nights after shaving: the first time I shaved my legs, I had trouble sleeping because the sheets felt so strange against my skin. And long pants — man oh man, what a strange feeling with shaved legs.

  2. Comment by Robert | 08.8.2005 | 4:51 pm

    You may want to consider calf implants.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 08.8.2005 | 5:35 pm

    There are two other reasons for leg shaving. It’s a bit cooler. That mat of hair does act as an insulator. Also, back when I was a racer and I was good, our club had a soigneur. He was just retired guy who learned to do sports massage and did for our club as a hobby. But it was a great thing. And if you get a leg massage with hairy legs, it <em>hurts</em>.

  4. Comment by Jodi | 08.8.2005 | 5:46 pm

    SPEEDO PIC!!c’mon, it’s monday, we could use a good laugh. By the by, you have pretty nice legs. Kind of like a pit-bull. In a good way, ok? Also, I still am sick because of you. Maybe send me a check to make me feel better.

  5. Comment by kris | 08.8.2005 | 5:57 pm

    You can stop flexing now.

  6. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.8.2005 | 6:21 pm

    Thanks, kj. I think I was about to bust something.

  7. Comment by kris | 08.8.2005 | 7:11 pm

    HA!! What kind of training have you been doing!? It looks like you have the quads of a 1km track sprinter combined with the calves of a five year old girl.

  8. Comment by Richard | 08.8.2005 | 9:25 pm

    Congrats on the quads, good job. Yeah the calf muscles will get there. Its all the high cadence anaerobic biking. Try some mild anaerobic trails or hilly sprints. I have heard that will help. Either way the quads do the pushin so good job, I am sure I probably couldn’t hold yer wheel for long. Great space. Take careRichard

  9. Comment by Unknown | 08.9.2005 | 2:44 am

    I have been a ’shaver’ of the legs since I was 14, think about asking Mom for the clippers…..I’m 33 now & i have my own.Road rash, yup if you have Lidocaine. Aero? I’m 200lbs, nope. Rub downs/massages YUP–Ever have an Indian Rugburn? Gotcha. The legs do look better, better for Big E kicking some arse up that dam’d freaking hill to the "mine"–I did my share X 4. Personaly, I can’t stand the sensation of air passing through the hairs on my legs in the spring. It drives me nutters.E, I gotta work early evenings on Thursday & Friday[but I am off those 2 days, & I work all day Saturday into the early evening.Call me at the shop–8885399295Love MC’s new Qoute of his Blog, "Actually, I don’t like computers. And e-mail. At all."Scoty

  10. Comment by kris | 08.9.2005 | 5:52 pm

    I would like to retract my previous statement about you possessing calves "of a five year old girl". I temporarily forgot that you’re writing a piece for Cyclingnews involving fellow riders and could have your way with me in front of the cycling world. "Kris Johnson of Fremont, NE gutted through tears and sobbing to pilot his pink Schwinn with tassles and a basket to the first aid station before abandoning. Good job, Kris!"Anyway, I’ll never disparage your body parts again….sir.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 08.9.2005 | 5:57 pm

    It looks like your fingers got much longer after shaving your legs. Weird!

  12. Comment by Suzanna | 08.9.2005 | 7:07 pm

    So I think this is all smoke and mirrors… it’s like the weightloss ads, the before pictures show pasty white people poorly lit and the after shots show them tanned, well lit, and sucking it in. In this case, it looks like you are flexing in the after photo. Additionally, speaking as someone who has shaved her legs regularly for years (except while a student at Humboldt State University) I don’t think it’s made my legs look any better, hence the marathon training!

  13. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.9.2005 | 11:43 pm

    Suzannam, I wasn’t just flexing in that after picture — I was in fact flexing so hard that my legs still hurt. I’m the worst sort of charlatan.

  14. Comment by k | 08.24.2005 | 1:59 pm

    Calfs – ultramarathon training lost 60lbs – always have had great legs try waxing it will last longer.

  15. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.24.2005 | 2:14 pm

    faun10: ultramarathon? i’ve done one regular ol’ marathon, and i’ve never been so beat. i’m ten times too much a sissy to do an ultra. i’ve considered waxing, but the same problem applies — sissiness. i’ve heard the screams.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.