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Shaving Legs for Cycling Performance: An Aerodynamic Perspective

February 02, 2024


Cyclists, both professional and amateur, have long debated the benefits of shaving their legs for improved performance. While some argue that the practice enhances post-race massage comfort and aids in skin recovery after potential crashes, others believe it is rooted in aerodynamics. To delve into this age-old question, we turn to Xavier Disley, founder of AeroCoach, who has spent considerable time researching aerodynamic effects in cycling.

Aerodynamics of Shaved Legs:

Disley asserts that shaving legs indeed contributes to increased speed and aligns with aerodynamic principles. Observing a cyclist's profile from the front, he highlights that legs are exposed directly to the free airflow, making them wider than the bike's down tube. Shaving legs, therefore, reduces the surface area and frontal profile, akin to the aerodynamic benefits of wearing streamlined clothing.

Power Savings from Shaved Legs:

Calculating the impact of shaved legs on power savings, Disley explains, "If you multiply the surface area of the bike's down tube and frontal area by six or seven times, that's roughly the equivalent of your legs." The power savings can range from a few watts to 5 or 6 watts, particularly evident at speeds exceeding 30 km/h. This insight explains why professional cyclists, regardless of gender, often sport smooth legs.

Shaved Arms: An Overlooked Aspect?

While shaved legs offer substantial aerodynamic advantages, the same cannot be said for shaved arms. Disley suggests that in many scenarios, cyclists can use long-sleeved jerseys to cover their arms, minimizing the need to shave. Additionally, the impact of shaved arms depends on factors such as arm exposure to wind and the rider's preference for heat dissipation. Shaving arms may have limited benefits compared to the more widespread practice of shaving legs.


In conclusion, shaving legs for cycling does yield aerodynamic benefits, translating into improved speed and power savings. The practice is cost-effective and has become a hallmark of professional cyclists. On the other hand, shaving arms may not provide as significant advantages and is influenced by various factors, including the rider's comfort and race conditions. Ultimately, the decision to shave comes down to individual preference, but for those seeking a performance edge, the aerodynamic gains from smooth legs are worth considering.

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