The topic of shaving for a triathlon came up in a discussion I had with Mr. Carlson, Mr. Serfass, and Mr. Blatecky at the DC Triclub tent after Rocketts Landing. I was the only one representing the Hairy Legs (and I'm pretty damn proud of it). My esteemed colleagues attempted to drop knowledge on me with the reasoning that it's better to have shaved legs if you crash.
I take it I'm one of few guys in this club that fall into the hairy legs camp (a camp that also has no women!) My basic question is this... what are the quantifiable time benefits of shaving your legs for a tri? If anyone has any data on this, I'd be interested to know.
-He of the Hairy Legs
Shaved legs look way better in race photos. Even my chicken sticks show some muscle tone.
What are the time benefits of matching your jersey and shorts?
Some things you just do because they are right...
I have experienced shaved and bear roadrash and support the 'better to have shaved legs if you crash' theory.
But fully, 100%, support the 'shaved legs look nicer' theory.
I've tried telling myself it helps get my wetsuit off faster. Not sure it really does though.
As a former competitive swimmer, I'll chime in here (because yep, I did shave for races).
From the racing perspective, shaving makes very little difference. If you're worried about tenths of a second in a race (swim meets), then sure, shaving could help you out. However, from my "extensive" triathlon experience (i.e. a whopping 4 years), I don't think I've ever seen a triathlon come down to tenths of a second between first and second place. The leg it will help out the most is swimming, but if you're wearing a wetsuit, then there is no advantage at all. For the bike and run, the "speed" advantage is virtually non-existent.
But as mentioned, the real advantage to shaving is for the incident you hope doesn't happen: the bike crash and the ensuing road rash. The healing goes more smoothly and cleanly (less chance of infection) if there is no hair in the way.
As a former swimmer though, the one thing I don't fully comprehend is the triathlete's persistent state of shaved. As a swimmer, you want as much drag as possible for training (hence drag and training swimsuits). It makes you work harder to overcome that added resistance. Then right before your goal race, you shave and put on the speed suit, removing all drag. Now you don't have to work as hard and you go faster.
I can see though, that the persistent state of shaved is a psychological boost. If you feel good because you think you look good (and toned muscles definitely look good), then when you feel good, you'll race good (yes, I know that's grammatically incorrect, but it just works better). It's the same concept as racing in compression gear. Studies show that compression gear does not improve your performance significantly during a race (post race recovery is a different story). But if you feel that you're performing better because of the gear, then you'll most likely perform better.
So is that a long-ass reasoning or what?
well the persistent state of shaved makes sense if you have a persistent risk of crash (i.e. training)...
I'm with Carlson, Blatecky, Serfass and Travis on this one. Of course it comes down to preference and to me it just makes me feel faster.
Now, two things come to mind. Is it only your legs you shave? And what do you use to shave? I'm on the side of Sally Hanson.
The lady who cuts my hair always gives my eyebrows a trim.
Shaving your legs boosts your speed by 14 mph on the bike.
Or so they told me when I joined the club. (I must be doing something wrong. I didn't get 14 mph faster on the bike.)
The idea of shaving for tri's comes mainly from cycling…
Running: No benefit?
Swimming: No benefit with wet suit, insignificant benefit without
Cycling: A lot of talk of slight aero benefit and crash benefit…
My background is in competitive swimming like bcfrank’s. A couple times a year I would have the pleasure of shaving my body for the big meets (and my roommate and I during travel meets would have the pleasure of shaving each other’s backs). The idea of shaving in swimming is a combination of a slight aquadynamic (is that the term?) advantage and also the increased sensitivity in the water (the “feel” you end up with when taking the top layer of skin off) which would benefit your technique and psychological advantage. My races would come down to tenths or hundredths of a second difference so shaving made sense.
I assume that the psychological advantage is completely wasted for big races if you shave all the time!
I do not shave and on my weekend rides with other cyclists I have heard comments like, “you must not have had a bad fall yet”. Well I have (and have the scars to prove it), and that still hasn’t convinced me I need to shave. First of all, how often is everyone falling out there?!?! Second, it’s the hair growing into the healing wound that seems to be a part of the issue and shaving beforehand does nothing for that. I’m not prepping my legs for surgery each time I head out on a ride!
I think shaving comes from the cycling culture. It helps solidify and identify the “serious” from the rest. I consider myself somewhat “serious”, but I don’t feel that shaving is a necessary part of racing for me.
If you are going to shave, I have a recommendation – trim during training and only shave with a razor before big races. It will become part of your pre-race ritual and add to the psychological benefit. You’ll save that great shaved “feel” for times when it’s important. You'll also deal with in-grown hairs and nicks less... :-)
Let me add that I'm on the hairy side and by "pleasure" ealier I meant sitting in a bathtub for hours and going through 5-6 razors and a can of shaving cream. I think that the amount of work that goes into it for a guy like me has has contributed to my shave-adverseness.
I wasn't sure that my other post was long enough... lol.
Pashigian: The term you're looking for is 'hydrodynamic'.
I was always told that another reason for the "clean" pro cyclist was that they have a pre and post race massage for every race......so the three weeks on Le Tour would mean 40 + massages which would be far easier with shaved legs.
If you ever crash bad enough to get roadrash on two sides of your body or deep enough that it becomes hard to sleep both from a) the burning and b) not being able to find a comfortable position where you're not laying on your wound, you're likely to be counting the days until your wounds heal. In the meantime, maybe you bought new sheets because the drainage from your wounds destroyed your old ones. In those instances, you're likely to find yourself willing to do some simple things so that next time, the healing process goes MUCH faster.
Shaving does that, helps with keeping the open wound clean and it also reduces the depth of the wound in the first place. As you slide across the asphalt, your hair gets stuck in it and rips out chunks of flesh as your hair gets ripped from your legs by the folicle--at least, that's what it looks and feels like.
So yeah shaving is definitely annoying (I feel ya ladies); my wife asks me not shave to because it's not masculine; and coworkers don't get it. But I don't care because my last crash wasn't half the sidelining injury the one before I shaved was.
Or you could just avoid crashing. Let me know if you figure that one out.
A shaving thread and only dudes have responded so far. This tells me that some of you dudes need to be honest with yourselves, man up, and wax.
NO NO NO.......I tried waxing once and had the worst case ever of ingrowing hairs!!! Mens leg hair is thicker than womens and what happens is that a lot of hairs break off instead of pulling out the follicle, therefore when the new hair starts to grow again if it a broken hair it can't penetrate the skin and therefore causes those horrible bumps of ingrown hairs.
Shaving leaves a sharp end to the hair so it breaks through the skin and grows normally.
There was just a twitter mention of this thread, so I figured I would bump it to the top and make sure it's easily found :)
Shaving can make it easier to put on a wetsuit, maybe. No risk of pulling on leg hair as you're working the neoprene material up your leg.
I've been following this discussion & I just have to give my $0.02 from a female perspective. IMO, a shaved muscular body is way hotter than a hairy muscular body. So maybe a benefit of shaving is some extra attention from the ladies...