First, let’s get the basics out of the way; besides looking fantastic, shaved legs are faster. Wind tunnel tested, approved for news (even for the drive-by media), science settled, faster.
How much faster? Technically, a lot, though there are a few interesting studies out there that show the real science behind shaved legs and cycling. If you were only concerned with “faster”, shaving the front of your legs, the leading edges, if you will, and leaving the backs hairy would be fastest because the hair at the back of the legs would break up the vortex created by air slamming together after it’s split by your shins.
So shave those guns. Or don’t.
Here’s my humorous story relating to how I happened on shaving my legs for cycling for the first time… it’s a funny one.
So, long about 2012, I’d been riding road bikes for a few months and I was fast enough to hold a 20-mph average on my own. I’d bought a used 1999 Trek from him because my first road bike was hilariously small for me (advertised on Craig’s List as a 56, it was a 54 – and I didn’t know any better back then). With this new (to me) Trek race bike, and switching from an aluminum frame to carbon fiber, I was even faster. The shop owner took notice and invited me to come out for the Tuesday Night Club Ride. Having never ridden in a group before, I was unquestionably nervous. I practiced riding in a straight line (using the line on the edge of the road as a guide) for a month or two before I finally decided to show up for my first TNCR.
Now, I was at an interesting crossroads in cycling. Behind me, I had a year and some change of solo cycling. I liked that fine… but looking at riding with a group, I didn’t want to be seen as a noob – so I did what all cycling noobs do – I consulted the interwebz to learn what I needed to know.
If you are laughing, or you smacked your forehead with your palm, you’re on the right track.
Everything I read said to shave your legs if you don’t want to look like a noob. While this isn’t exactly wrong, it ain’t right, either. I found out the hard way the next evening after taking razor to legs (it’s a miracle I didn’t clog the drain). In reality, the only people who absolutely shave their legs are the racers – those who actually race. Most of the fast crowd will shave their legs, but some won’t – especially the mountain biking set. In the end, it’s a matter of choice. You definitely don’t have to shave the guns. It is significantly faster and your legs will look much better, but you won’t be laughed out of a group if you choose to keep the flowing mane attached to your legs.
Look at the bright side if you don’t; you’ll always have an excuse lined up for when you get dropped. Unfortunately, if you were to ever use that excuse for getting dropped, your man card* will likely be revoked immediately if not sooner, so after thinking better about it, use it as a donut shop excuse. You don’t want to use that excuse with normal folk as they’ll laugh at you. The people sitting at the counter of the donut shop will buy it, though. Hook, line and sinker.
You’ll see the odd hairy leg in our group, but they’re rare:
*Look, I actually thought twice about including the “man card” bit – I like it because it’s funny, and it’s purposefully written that way to be funny. In the US, typically we don’t have to worry about furry legged women much. They’re out there, but mostly in Seattle, so we really don’t have to make too much of a kerfuffle about it. If you’re a fuzzy female, you’re woman card will absolutely be subject to revocation should you show up to a group ride sporting furry legs. That’s equal to a guy doing it (but not a hair more or less).