To shave or not to shave, that’s the question many cyclists face at some point along their training journey. But not all forms of cycling are created equal; what may work for a time trial racer may not work for a mountain bike park rat.
Maximizing aerodynamics isn’t typically the top priority for those who ride single track, but some riders can find benefits from shaving that don’t have to do with maximizing speed.
Now for the real question: do mountain bikers shave their legs?
Short answer: it depends. Just like there are different types and variations of bike riding, there are even more subsets within those categories. There are mountain bikers who primarily spend their time at lift-assisted mountain bike parks. There are also mountain bikers who race cross-country. And there are mountain bikers who just enjoy riding flowy singletrack through the woods. All of these bikers will have different goals and preferences when it comes to their riding.
Just like road cycling, there’s a difference between what amateurs do and what professionals do. Someone who is looking for a competitive edge will be more likely to try tactics like shaving, while someone who just wants to commute between work and home probably won’t even consider it.
Let’s dive into all of the reasons mountain bikers might choose to shave their legs and what you can expect if you decide to take the plunge.
Should Mountain Bikers Shave Their Legs? Reasons To Do So !
It’s ultimately up to personal preference if a mountain biker should shave their legs, but there are a few benefits to doing so. Here are four reasons why mountain bikers might want to shave their legs:
Easier to treat wounds
Having no hair in the way makes it easier to clean and treat wounds, especially while on the trail. Mountain biking through the woods creates a lot of opportunity for injury – even something as minor as a leg brushing against a particularly thorny bush can require some medical attention.
While road rash is less common on a mountain bike, a lot of cyclists shave in order to have less severe road rash. They find that coarse leg hair can aggravate the wound, making it more difficult to treat and heal.
No hiding spot for ticks
Ticks are common in many regions of the world, especially when biking through the woods. Having less hair means fewer hiding places for these sneaky blood-suckers to hide.
Some riders prefer the feeling of freshly shaved legs because they find it can keep them cooler in the summer heat, and especially on longer rides. While it’s hard to know how much of a difference shaving would make in staying cool, it can be worth a shot if you often find yourself overheating.
More comfortable massages
If you race competitively (or just train a lot), you’ve likely gotten a sports massage at some point. Having someone rub against the hairs on your body can be a highly unpleasant experience, which is one reason some mountain bikers choose to shave.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons for cyclists to shave their legs is for the aerodynamic advantage. Many riders find that they can (literally) shave seconds off of their pace without any additional effort simply by having hair-less legs.
But is this also the case for mountain biking? Let’s take a look at that next.
Do Shaved Legs Make You A Faster Cyclist?
Yes, shaving your legs can make you a faster cyclist. Tests using indoor wind tunnels have shown that you can save as much as 70 seconds over 40km by shaving your legs. Interestingly, facial hair like beards have little effect on aerodynamics – shaving would only save up to one second per 40km. (Source A)(Source B)
However, it’s hard to know if this rule would apply equally to mountain bikers. There isn’t a lot of wind resistance when biking through a thick forest, so fewer hairs on your legs is unlikely to make a huge difference if any. In addition, a lot of mountain bikers opt to wear pants – especially those who compete in downhill races. This adds an additional layer of protection while cruising down rough terrain, and would make having smooth legs a moot point.
Do Pro Cyclists Shave?
Yes, most pro (road) cyclists shave their legs. Well, technically a lot of them will choose to wax their legs as it tends to last longer and produce a smoother result. Having silky smooth legs is almost a rite of passage for a lot of cyclists.
Some will shave or wax for the entire season while others will choose to only do it for racing – similar to the strategy that swimmers use.
Of course, the professionals aren’t the only ones shaving their legs. Even amateur riders can find value in the practice (even if it’s only to look the part).
Also, find out “Do Triathletes Shave Their Legs? Why, How & What To Shave!“
Do Shaving Legs Make Them Hairier?
No, shaving the legs will not make the hair grow back thicker or hairier. This is an urban legend that has lived on for over a century, despite being debunked in 1928 . There is a reason the myth lives on, though – hair regrowth can look different from what was on your legs before. This is primarily due to the fact that when hair is growing back, you’re seeing the base of the hair first. As time goes on (and as the hair gets longer), it will start to look like the way it used to. (Source)
Hair being exposed to the elements – sun, wind, and even chemicals in soap – will bring it back to the original texture. This will also help lighten the hair, which may look a little darker when it’s first growing in.
That being said, it is possible for your hair and legs to look worse during the grow back process, and that can be due to a number of factors including:
- Razor burn
- Ingrown hair
- Dry, itchy skin
It’s important to make sure you shave with a clean, fresh razor and use a shaving gel or lotion. Shave with the direction of hair growth, not against, and always follow up with a moisturizer. If shaving is too complicated, you can also get professionally waxed.
Things to Keep in Mind
At the end of the day, choosing to shave or not shave is a personal choice – especially for mountain bikers. A lot of mountain bike clothing provides a lot of protection from the elements, and any aerodynamic gains would be minimal. But if you prefer the feeling of smooth, soft legs, then go for it!