Good news, guys. The next time someone asks why you shave your legs, simply flex your bald calf muscles and say, “Science.”
Leg shaving in cycling is a ritual that’s been around for decades. Whether it’s to keep the post-ride massage from pulling out your hair or to make wound care easier to deal with after a crash, you can find plenty of answers as to why cyclists go hairless.
What you won’t get are cyclists who fess up to the real reason most actually do it—because shaved legs can make you feel faster on the bike, especially when you’re suited up in your aero race kit. But up until recently, there was no evidence to support the it-feels-faster claim.
Specialized released a video claiming shaved legs are significantly faster than furry ones. How much faster? They provide almost as much of an advantage as switching from a round-tube frame to an aero-style one, says Mark Cote, who does aerodynamics R&D for the California-based manufacturer.
“We were shocked,” says Cote. “The numbers dropped so much it set my bullshit meter off. I had to immediately check the equipment to make sure it was real.”
Even if you already shave your legs, there may still be time savings to be gained. If you have what the Specialized team calls a high “Chewbacca factor” on your legs, then you probably have it on your forearms, too.
Studies indicate that the surface area of the average person’s lower arm is 36 to 41 percent of their lower leg. While the leg and forearm are exposed to the air at different angles during cycling, the Specialized test results suggest that shaving your forearms might be of some advantage. The savings though probably wouldn’t achieve the vaunted 10-watt threshold.
“Shaved legs are just one more part of that speed formula,” says Cote. “It all adds up: the legs, the helmet, the aero frame. And this finally gives our girlfriends and our wives a real reason why we do this.”