Why I Don't Shave My Legs

In a previous post I had some fun probing the various reasons cyclists give for shaving their legs. A few more reasons were given in the comments:

  • As a way to "join the club"
  • To avoid the pain of pulled hair when pulling on the shorts
  • Because shaved legs are just so sexy
  • More comfortable post-ride massage
I can see the "joining the club" reason and I think Fatty covered it pretty well in his To impress other cyclists point. Shaved legs then are like a secret handshake that gives you instant credibility with other cyclists. You don't have to give a travelogue of local rides or be able to recite the last 10 winners of the Tour de France or explain the more arcane mechanics of bicycles in order to be accepted. The shaved legs do all the talking in an instant with one glance.

I have a different approach. I like to be the underdog. The Clark Kent. When I ride with new people they don't see anything impressive. My bike is not fancy, new or carbon. My clothing is functional, but not exotic or trendy (like J.C.Penny or maybe Old Navy, but not Nordstroms or Macys). And my legs are not shaved. Most people looking at me would assume I'm just another 40-something out for a joy ride. But once we get rolling, I let my riding do the talking. This is not to say I'm hot stuff - I'm not. But I think I'm an above-average recreational rider. I like to think that most people I ride with are impressed that: I can do a 20+ mph pace, I know what to do (and not to do) in a paceline, I don't just up and die on climbs, I make some technical mountain bike moves, and I really enjoy riding.

In some ways I admire you leg-shavers for being bold enough to announce to the world (through your hairless legs) that you are a serious cyclist. Perhaps it helps you go harder because you feel you have to live up to that statement. A gutsy way to go.

Maybe I'm just being a wimp for going low-key since it's easier to impress people and if I get dropped the humiliation isn't as deep. If so, that's not my conscious decision. For one I'm cheap so I just don't buy a lot of new or fancy gear - just the OK-looking functional stuff. It seems to work about as good as the expensive stuff and I'm happy with it. I bought my road bike used, and it's a bit worn, but it fits me like a glove and it has a good drive-train (Ultegra). My mountain bike is a bit nicer (2005 Cannondale Prophet), but it was also used and has it's share of dings and I'm slowly fixing it up, but I love how it rides. I'm pursuing cycling in my way - that's all.

OK, back to the list. Two reasons for shaving relate to reduced pain or discomfort. Well, if that works for you, but it seems weak to me. I'd rather put up with a little pain than have to shave every week, but maybe that's just me. Todd did note that he frequently receives post-ride massages and the shaved legs make the massage nicer - even I might shave if it meant frequent post-ride massages - hard to argue with that.

Because shaved legs are sexy. I'm not sure what to make of this one. Sexy in a general sense? Or the ladies find shaved legs sexy? Or other guys find guys shaved legs sexy? To not go too far afield, I'll assume sexy in general. Yeah, I can see that, but for this 40-something married guy, that just doesn't mean much to me anymore. Sure, everyone likes to feel attractive, but that's not enough for me to put up with the hassles of shaving more of me than just my face (which I use an electric razor in the car so it's as easy and uses my least valuable time).

So all you leg-shavers can keep your razors, cuts, razor burn, stubble and 15 minutes of life wasted each week. I'll stay au natural, thank you.


Eat Sleep MTB said...

First of all, a leg massage with a full winter coat actually hurts, making it totally undesirable, as opposed to what it truly is, that of complete ecstacy.

Second, you talk about it way too much for someone who doesn't shave their legs (or doesn't want to).

Third, I only listen to people who talk from experience, not theory or other opinions. So just do it, then at least you will have the experience to complain about.

UtRider said...

You continually forget the most important reason to shave (in my opinion) and the one I keep talking about: How it feels. Maybe you find the sensation of the wind blowing through your long leg hairs refreshing. Me, I hate it. It makes me feel slow. Sure it's all a matter of perception but I truly don't like the way it feels to ride in shorts with hair on my legs. For me it's all about feel first and appearance second (I'll be honest here - I think shaved legs look much better than those covered with hair and there's nothing sexual at all in that statement. Also, I hate seeing hairs sticking out of my tights or leg warmers. To me that's not appealing at all).

Eat Sleep MTB said...

I'll add an additional reason. I hate mud and dirt sticking to my leg hairs. I think it would be funny to see some CX racers on a muddy course with hairy legs, I imagine they would finish the race 10 pounds heavier and look like sasquatch to boot.

KanyonKris said...

eat sleep mtb: I'll take your word for it that a massage is much nicer without hair - makes sense. But I don't get massages so that is a moot point for me.

Leg shaving is a fun issue to probe. I really don't care if cyclists shave their legs, and I'll admit it looks sleek. I'm mostly just amused by all the apologetic, weak "reasons" cyclists give to explain why they shave.

I agree that experience is an excellent teacher, but people study things all the time as an observer. And people make most decisions based on external data. I've considered shaving my legs as an experiment, but I'm quite sure I wouldn't stick with it so what's the point?

utrider: Liking how shaved legs feel is a valid reason. I've got no problem with that. I just wish other cyclists would admit it rather than spin a web of weak rationalizations to cover it up. Maybe I would like how shaved legs feel (I probably would - who doesn't like smooth?), but ignorance is bliss so why even experiment? I'm happy with hairy legs.

eat sleep mtb: Mud does stick better to hairy legs, and I've had mud on my legs many times, but never considered it a nuisance. Come on, these are minor issues. And they don't justify the hassle of shaving to me. But that's me.

StupidBike said...

wasted 15 minutes of life, well I shave once every 2 weeks or so, and it Doesn't take 15 minutes.

your time spent writing 2 posts, reading comments and commenting on comments could of got you through at least 3 if not more leg shavings. :)

KanyonKris said...

stupidbike: I don't think I could get by with shaving my legs every 2 weeks, judging by the rate my facial hair grows (not crazy fast, but average or faster).

And you're right, I could easily find the time - I just don't want the hassle. And it seems a hassle to me because I don't see enough benefit.

Boz said...

I have to lotion my feet and legs daily, dry skin due to diabetes. Works much better w/ no hair.
Also, there is nothing as exilerating as a freshly shorn sr**um. So sez Dr. Evil.

j_e said...

i draw the line a few inches away from my scrotum

no razor shall approach it

Forrest said...

I never get these recovery massages so many claim to get, so I dont shave my legs. Dave Wiens won the National Circuit on hairy legs back in the day. Plus I have not had serious road rash in years. Why bother.

KanyonKris said...

Amen, brother!

Rio's Rider said...

Meh. I just shave my legs cuz I'm a girl.

KanyonKris does bring up some valid points about men shaving their legs though. He might have even convinced me to stop shaving mine. Just kidding!

Even though I love the look of shaved male legs, I can't say that I would want my hubby to shave his. It is a hassle. I don't want him shaving just for the look of it (for me). He doesn't ride in the mud or get leg massages (I know, I need to work on that one).
Sure it's an accepted thing for cyclists to do, but who rides 24/7? The issue would be being comfortable with shaved legs when you're hanging out the the non-cycling community. I happen to think it's hot when I spot a guy with smooth legs, but I'm sure there's people out there looking at him like he's lost his mind (because they just don't understand what it's all about).

Anyway, stop worrying about what all of us think, and do what you think is right for you.

goat said...

I'll buy the lazie-faire grooming argument if it's coming from someone who has unkempt hair, a beard, doesn't iron their shirts, shine their shoes, whiten teeth, wear deodorant, or in any other way concern himself with vanity-related personal grooming. We've only met once, but you don't strike me as that kind of guy.


There's no doubt there's a dues-paying component to leg-shaving. It signals a certain degree of seriousness about your sport. It's a (social) barrier to entry, so to speak. A guy with hairy legs shows up to my local group ride or a race and I stay clear; like it or not, he's signaling his inexperience.

But another very good reason to shave, not only your legs but your arms too, is the lotion component. Sunscreen, Icy-Hot, petroleum jelly...all these chemical abuses and more that serious pedal-pushers submit their epidermis to. So much easier to get on--and off--with smooth legs.

(Also, even if you're not _getting_ that post-ride massage, there's much to be said for self-massage, and massage is decidedly more comfortable hairless.)

But I'm not trying to talk you into it. You should do whatever you want, I'm just saying...

goat said...

One more thing...

If this is reasonable logic to you--"I just shave my legs cuz I'm a girl."--then to say "I just shave cuz I'm a cyclist" should be no less reasonable.

Both arguments for shaving aren't really arguments at all, but declarations of identity and what it means to identify as such.

I identify as a girl, girls shave, therefore I shave.

I identify as a cyclist, cyclists shave, therefore I shave.

KanyonKris said...

goat: good discussion points. I could take offense that you think I'm a slob because I don't shave my legs. Just kidding - I know that was not your intent. This seems similar to UTRider's all-or-nothing logic, but that's not true - we all draw the line somewhere. I don't wear a suit to work everyday because it's not required or in keeping with the work I do. I'll admit that leg shaving is a part of cycling, but the functional and social benefits aren't of enough value to me.

Your point about gaining quick acceptance through leg shaving is valid. But anyone can shave their legs so it's not a completely reliable message. Consider this scenario (though I admit it's probably rare): some newbie shows up at a group ride with shaved legs that earn him instance trust that results in him causing a crash. I Realize there are lots of flaws with this example, but I think you get my point. So I'm actually helping people be safe - they avoid me (due to my scarlet letter legs) and I slowly earn their trust if I ride well. :-)

Ease of applying sunscreen and lotion makes sense, but I'd rather put up with a bit more hassle applying sunscreen in exchange for avoiding the hassle of shaving.

In the end it's personal choice. I have enjoyed the discussion. And while I may not have been convinced to shave my legs, I know a lot more about why people choose to do so.

Sadly it's a moot point (at least here in Utah) since my legs haven't seen the sun for months and it looks like we've got at least another month to go. But I can feel the hint of Spring out there.

Anonymous said...

I have been shaving my legs for years but may have to stop. I am prone to staph infections and am justing getting over one.

After I shave I apply the Alcohol santitizer but still ended up getting an infection. I hate the fact of not shaving but it may just have to be.

Anonymous said...

ff my image, at least give a credit.

KanyonKris said...

Credit given. The image had (and still has) a link to your post about leg shaving. There was no indication that you took the photo. What is ff?