You might have seen our recent feature on things you can copy off the pros to make you faster and more comfortable on the bike. The downside to a fair few of those tricks, tips and components, however, is that they take not only a lot of time to perfect, but also a lot of money. If only there was a cheap way of making yourself faster, free speed if you like...
...there is, and it's shaving your legs of course! It's seemingly an absolute must in the pro peloton and for keen amateurs alike. Shaved legs are one of those things that have become so commonplace that we often don't stop to ask ourselves the reasons why.
Some riders claim that the benefits include more comfortable post-race massages, and better recovery if you lose skin in a crash, while others shave up just to satisfy their superstitions.
Of course, the primary reason that many riders claim they shave their legs is for aerodynamics - but how many watts can those pesky leg hairs really be saving you? And if shaved legs really are measurably quicker, then how come shaved legs aren't commonplace?
The lack of a wind tunnel makes this rather hard to answer, but luckily we know someone who's spent plenty of time in one and is well-equipped with spreadsheets and data to answer all of our silly questions.
Xavier Disley, Founder of AeroCoach, has spent countless hours nipping and tucking the country's best athletes into honed wind-cheating machines.
He told us: "Shaving legs is faster. It's more aerodynamic.
"I know that there's reasons that people come up with, like it's better for massage and stuff. [But] from my perspective, it's aero."
"If you look at a rider from the front, the silhouette, and you look at the legs, which are effectively in free airflow, they're not behind anything. They're not at the back of the bike, your legs are much wider than the downtube of the bike. And if we said to you that we're going to cover the downtube of your bike in a layer of hair, everyone would be like, well, that's going to be far less aero, I'm not going to buy a hairy bike."
Disley continues: "So if you take the surface area and the frontal area of the downtube of the bike, and you multiply that up by six, seven times, or something, that's what your legs are.
"So yes, getting rid of the hair on your legs is worth more than just putting aero socks on. Probably not as much as a [aero] jersey for most people, but at 30kph you're saving not fractions of a watt, you're saving five, six watts or so. And then that gets increased the faster you go."
With those kinds of numbers, it's no wonder that the pros, male and female, maintain such smooth legs! Disley went on to say that if you can, and don't find the process too onerous, then shaving your legs is free speed (or at least, only the cost of a cheap disposable razor).
This raised the question that if shaved legs are quite so much faster and hair is quite so draggy, then how come we don't see more pro riders with shaved arms? Some certainly do it, but it's nowhere near as commonplace as shaved legs. Disley was able to shed some light on the question:
"Let's think about it in different scenarios", he says.
"If we have a time trial scenario, you can get away in nearly all situations with covering your arms with a long-sleeve skinsuit. And in most cases, the fabrics that you can choose for your suit that cover your forearm will be faster than bare skin.
"There are some instances where it doesn't really matter for some riders, and this depends a little bit on the angle of your forearm. Some riders prefer to have exposed arms because it's better for cooling.
"However, there are times when shaved arms can make a difference. For example, when on a road bike more of your forearm is exposed to the wind, and if you have really hairy arms then it could be a good idea if it's maximum watt savings you're after."
How many watts shaved arms could save you depends not only on how hairy they are to start with, but on plenty of other factors such as how much of your arm is presented to the wind.
"Obviously, the more your arm is kind of presented to the wind, the bigger the potential savings," says Disley.
"The more vertical your arm is, if you're in the drops, or if you're holding the hoods with your arms straight. That's going to be a little bit different than if you have a breakaway position where you have your forearm parallel to the ground, for example."
Disley explained that it's seen as "a bit weird to shave your arms":
"I've done it for time trials before and found it a bit uncomfortable. And it doesn't feel as normal as shaving your legs because you don't do it all the time.
"I'd say that most people probably don't need to worry about it too much. But shaving your legs is a performance benefit that I think most people can get behind
most of the time, in most situations."
So, there you go, shaving your legs really will save you a fair few watts, and therefore, seconds. It’s not just so the pros can get more comfortable post-race massages...
Let us know whether you’re prepared to shave it off in the name of speed in the comments below...
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...