Does removing body hair really increase speed?
I am a triathlete. I am also a man. I am a fan of “mandscaping” as part of preparing for an event, but it’s not a cut and dried issue. Let me explain.
Shaving has been a staple of swimming for years, as it has with cyclists to a slightly lesser degree—and because triathlons do consist of swimming and cycling, shaving the legs and sometimes the arms can be part of the sport. Swimmers have long believed that reduced hair made them more hydrodynamic and provided a better feel while swimming. For some swimmers, shaving is a head-to-toe affair.
For cycling, the reasons for hair removal are a bit more blurry. Some say it increases aerodynamics. And some say hairless skin makes wound care easier, in case a cyclist crashes and has quite a bit of road rash.
Rule #33 on the cycling blog, Velominati.com, clearly states:
Legs are to be carefully shaved at all times. If, for some reason, your legs are to be left hairy, make sure you can dish out plenty of hurt to shaved riders, or be considered a hippie douche on your way to a Critical Mass…
So that’s the etiquette, but does shaving really increase speed for cycling? I think it might help psychologically more than anything. The main reasons that I think triathletes and cyclists shave is two-fold: (1) In the event that you crash on the bike, it is much easier to clean up the road rash if hair does not get in the way; and (2) if you are an athlete that gets somewhat-regular sports massages, the lack of hair makes the massage much more pleasant.
So, if you do decide to shave your legs (I’m not going to get into other forms of hair removal—they are a whole other ball of wax, if you know what I mean), there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have an understanding partner who is OK with her man having smooth legs, maybe smoother than hers!
- Start with normal hair clippers if you have more than a few years of unkempt hair growth on your legs, and are shaving for the first time. Clip the leg hair with “no guard” first. Do NOT do this in the bathtub if you do not want to call a drain repair man.
- Once the initial shave has been done, it’s up to you how to complete the job. Some men are ok leaving their legs clipped. Others want completely smooth legs. So, against the grain or with the grain, it is up to you. Just make sure you have a fair bit of time and patience and a few razors handy. And, make sure you take it easy around the knees and shins.
- Lastly, make sure you clean out the tub when you are finished…unless of course you are single and then it’s up to you. But, if you are single and do not clean out the tub, that probably explains a lot.
I will close with a bit of vanity. I must say that shaving the legs, or “guns” as mentioned above, looks better and does show off the leg muscles much more than having hair-covered legs.
Amy Marsh is a four time Ironman champion, two time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at email@example.com. On Twitter, follow Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and follow Amy @AmyCMarsh.