My friends, for the avid enthusiast cyclist, if you haven’t already, it’s time to shed the winter fur and take a razor to the legs. My wife prefers I go all year fur-free, and I happily oblige.
For those who didn’t know already, glistening guns are absolutely more aerodynamic – scientifically proven in a wind tunnel. Shaving the guns is worth between two and four free seconds a mile. That may not sound all too impressive, but that works out to between 200 and 320 free seconds over 100 miles. Now, either you save three to six minutes or that’s watts you don’t have to produce to keep up. Don’t stop reading just yet, though! There’s more to this than just shave your legs to be like the rest of the sheep.
I messed up when I shaved my legs the first time – I listened to the damned internet before properly investigating whether or not I should even bother.
So here’s “the rest of the story”. I was going to start riding with a group – my first club ride – and I didn’t want to look like a noob. Everything on the web back then said you gotta shave the guns – and this was before Specialized tested shaved legs in their wind tunnel. It was treated as a right of passage, almost. It even made the rules. I bought into the online hype and quietly, without telling my wife, went to town. Now, I had some hairy legs back then. Not quite yeti, but pretty freaking close. I even had to regularly trim that leg hair with a set of clippers when it got too long and unruly. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too much a shock for my wife the first time she crawled into bed and was like, “Hey, wait a minute“… God bless her, she loved my newly shorn legs and I’ve never looked back. But…
Upon discussing my new, sparkling guns with the owner of the local shop, he chuckled and said it was completely unnecessary as only racers bother. I had to scrape my jaw up off the asphalt with a shovel – I must have looked pretty funny because I was wearing one hell of an incredulous look on my face. I said, “But the internet”… and just let it trail off.
With that out of the way, there’s a pecking order of who shaves and who doesn’t – and this is important so you don’t show up for the wrong group with the wrong legs!
Gravel Roadies: Yea or neigh.
Mountain bikers: Don’t shave.
Triathletes: Shave, without question. Including eyebrows, ears, nose holes… possibly eyelashes… I’m just kidding. Just the legs will do, but you’re thinking about the eyebrows, aren’t you? I know.
Now, there’s a pecking order to that as well, because many of us cross lines into different genres of cycling. You defer to shaving. For instance, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally rides a gravel bike, you’re okay with hairy legs. On the other hand, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally plays a roadie, you shave. If you’re a triathlete dabbling in the other genres, think about investing in Nair… or see if you can be their CEO. The point is, if you will ride, even occasionally, a shaving bike, you shave. Or you’d better be able to lay down the watts so others are in awe at your fabulousness.
So, folks, the truth is you really don’t have to shave your legs if you’re a dude. On the other hand, I’ll never go back. Once you’ve ridden in a group for a while, you’ll pick out hairy guys in a pack almost instantly because they stick out like a sore, hairy thumb… and nine times in ten, that identifier tips you off to keep an extra watchful eye on how that person rides because they’re often new or not used to riding in a pack. Or they’re the one whose wheel you want to ride.
So, shave your guns or don’t. You will work a lot harder if you don’t. It’s science. And physics. And rocket science. Or something.
UPDATE: As you will see in the comments section, there is a technicality in terms of what “Guns” are. In weightlifting, guns are the arms – that which is used to pump iron. In cycling, the “guns” are the legs – what you use to turn the pedals. Just to be clear.