It Improves Your Aerodynamics on the Bike
Along with skin-tight lycra, aero frames, aero bars, aero helmets and aero water bottles, less hair on the legs is also aero. Quoted by Bicycling Magazine: a 1987 study conducted by Chester Kyle for this magazine concluded that the aerodynamic improvement is roughly 0.6 percent, which could result in a savings of around 5 seconds in a 40km time trial ridden at 37kph.
Of course, the question arises: how hairy are your legs…really? The answer will effect each individual rider’s drag coefficient. If you have leg hair the thickness of Brillo pads, you had best consider shaving. If you’ve ever wondered why the Wolf Man has never been seen astride a racing bicycle, now you know. Can you imagine the aerodynamic drag? Worse yet, can you imagine the Wolf Man shaving his legs? He’d be the laughing stock of the film industry AND the pro peleton.
It Makes Road Rash Easier to Deal With
If you’ve ever picked sand and other gritty foreign matter out of a patch of road rash, you know that a lot of leg hair is a complicating factor. If this is not enough to convince you, try to visualize the added pain of individual hair follicles being ripped out as the skin is abraded. Talk about adding insult to injury?! [I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the original etymology behind the saying] In the photo above Mark Cavendish had crashed in a 45 mph sprint and been run over by 2 or 3 riders. Do you think he’s glad he remembered to shave?
Other popular answers site tradition and the increased liklihood of meeting pretty girls. It has been a tradition in cycling for over 100 years. Once again, in the words of Bicycling Magazine: Losing the leg pelt is a sign that you’re committed to living your life with the noble aim of honoring what it means to be a true racing cyclist – plus, showing up hairy to a serious group ride is akin to wearing shorts to church. I’m not sure about the pretty girl theory. I married the prettiest girl I know, and she’s never asked me to shave my legs.
“It was the fashion when I raced. It’s the fashion now. Real bike riders shave their legs.” —Davis Phinney