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September 18, 2014

We Expect Big Changes....

...from you Testosterone-Having Folks:

Every man comfortable enough with his masculinity to squeeze into performance-enhancing lycra athletic body wear has sooner or later confronted the next frontier: The question of whether to shave his legs!

Aside from perhaps staunch feminists, female athletes don't face this social conundrum. Among male athletes, the otherwise socially uncool body-smoothing "manscaping" has long been a tradition. Cyclists will tell you that it might improve recovery from road rash or make leg massages better. They'll also admit that it's fashion. Tough, big-deal bike riders do it. Nobody races Le Tour de France with hairy legs. Male shaving is a form of machismo.

We are not sure what word comes to mind first when the subject of Manscaping comes up, but we are pretty sure it isn't "machismo".

But we digress...

It also has negligible performance benefits, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Now, new data from men on bikes in wind tunnels contradicts this view. Bicyclists were measured to move more quickly with shaved legs! In theory this makes sense. Generally, smooth surfaces are more aerodynamic than rough or uneven ones.

Aerodynamics is so important to cyclists because the practical limit of their speed is not their muscle power, but the aerodynamic drag of their ride: bike and body. Terminal velocity on level ground (on a properly geared ride) is determined by how cleanly the forward-facing shapes cut into the wind. The more carefully a surface cleaves oncoming air into parts without disturbing it into a chaotic turbulent mess, the faster it goes.

An everyday pleasure rider may hit 15 mph on a brisk ride, a commuter may cruise at 16-18, and a professional racer can hold speeds in the mid 20s. A rider on a bike with an extremely aerodynamic fairing like the nose of a rocket can reach speeds of more than 80 mph!

"Aero" has become a huge buzzword and selling point in the cycling industry. Most competitive races have actually banned certain bike designs for being too fast. Within a limited bicycle geometry range, the next gains to be made are those from the other half of the aerodynamics of the system: the rider himself. Riders often employ a hunched position, with the arms out and the head tucked down, to reduce aerodynamic profile. They may smooth even their natural body profiles with seamless skinsuits.

Here's where the hairy legs come in. Smooth legs should be slightly more aerodynamic than hairy or, heaven forbid, "stubbly" legs, right?

Previous tests said no, there was no measurable effect. Leg-shaving is just machismo. This new test says otherwise. A cyclist going into the wind tunnel for aero testing at the bike industry "Specialized" forgot to shave his legs first. His test showed significantly higher drag. Surprised, he came back days later with legs as smooth as a baby's cheek, in addition to a 7% gain in aerodynamic slipperiness!

Science has spoken! And the science is settled. Don't be a denier.

And remember: the catchphrase of the day is "aerodynamic slipperiness" :p

Posted by Cassandra at September 18, 2014 07:12 AM

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If I ever take up competitive cycling or swimming, I'll keep that in mind.

Of course, the oversized belly might be the greater impediment to aerodynamic slipperiness.

And if you think shaved legs look bad, me in full body spandex would likely result in questions about explosion hazards.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 18, 2014 11:32 AM

As I always like to say, "Spandex is a privilege. Not a right." :p

I'm still in shock from seeing a young lady of near-cetacean proportions wearing bright magenta and yellow spandex in Miami decades ago. Some people really have no mercy on their fellow humans.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 18, 2014 11:49 AM

Ah yes, bicyclists: the heterosexual ideal.

Posted by: Grim at September 18, 2014 11:51 AM

Grim, you are a cruel, cruel man.

Shame.... SHAME ON YOU!!!!

Posted by: Cassandra at September 18, 2014 01:07 PM

That bits of manhood should be sacrificed at the root for the purpose of getting from inconsequential here to nonessential there - faster - suggests all manner of smoothing. For example, excess baggage may be done away with. No use toting a package on dry runs.

Men are lunatics. Sometimes.

Posted by: George Pal at September 18, 2014 03:22 PM

George, I never cease to be delighted at your cleverness with words :p

Doesn't stop me from arguing, but whilst I'm arguin', I'm appreciatin'.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 18, 2014 04:17 PM


You have been several times generous in your remarks about my comments and I have been remiss thanking you. So thank you – twice trebled. I'm appreciatin' the appreciatin'.

Posted by: George Pal at September 18, 2014 04:55 PM

YHGTBSM. But then, idiots attired in full bike drag are infesting our local streets all the time, so I suppose why not?

Posted by: Capt Mongo at September 19, 2014 09:20 AM

I think we should wait to hear from MRUN on this subject as I would think he to be the ultimate expert on not only this, but George's aformentioned luggage.

Posted by: DL Sly at September 19, 2014 12:04 PM