Swimming and cycling are two sports where aerodynamics really matter (we could include motorsports like Formula 1 as well, but those cars don’t need hair removal cream). Winning a race is a simple formula.
Your force put out to go forward (on the pedals or through a stroke) - your weight - your drag = your finishing time.
There are some complexities added onto that of course, but that is the basic idea. So if you want to become a better swimmer/cyclist there are only a few things you can do.
- Train a lot - this will make the force you put out more efficient and powerful. This is obviously the number one thing you can do to improve.
- Lose body weight - this takes time. Training will help with this, but diet and genetics is also a factor.
- Lose equipment weight - this is expensive. Bikes can cost north of $20,000 if you are really wanting to lose weight.
- Decrease your equipment drag - this is also expensive. If you watch cycling you’ll notice sometimes they wear the Green Goblin looking helmets. Those decrease drag, and yes they are pricey.
- Decrease your body drag - this is the main thing we’ll focus on in this blog post. It is cheap and brings about the best gains for the time input. Let’s dive in.
Decreasing Body Drag
We’re going to hop around from swimming to cycling in this section. All that we bring up is relevant for both. The only difference is swimmers deal with water drag while cyclists deal with air drag (unless they crashed into a lake or something).
There have been numerous studies done to see the effects of hairless legs on bike performance. One of the most influential results came out of Specialized Wind Tunnel where they found a 7% improvement in drag by just removing your leg hair. This accounts for 79 seconds of lap time in a 40 km race (~27 miles). That is huge for the top level of cycling.
Swimming studies have similar results. One study shows that swimmers could extend their stroke by 5% by removing body hair. These may seem like small gains, but when everyone has already maximized their training, weight, and equipment, this is huge.
If you are wanting to improve your swimming or cycling, then hair removal is a great option. 5% gains overnight is nothing to scoff at.