The cycling world is embroiled in yet another controversy. This time involving its current world champion, Peter Sagan of Slovakia.

No, he did not test positive for performance enhancing drugs. Nor did he cheat by hiding a motor in his bicycle.

He did something far worse. He showed up to a race with hairy legs.

"I think Peter Sagan loves to be at the center of attention," says John Stevenson of cycling website Road.CC. "To turn up at the beginning of the season with hairy legs just gets everyones attention."

Begs the question: What's the deal with hairy legs on cyclists?

Stevenson says there is a ton of excuses cyclists use as to why they shave their legs. "It makes it easier to get a massage, wounds heal quicker, it's supposed to be more aerodynamic ... but I think at the root of it is that cyclists do it because cyclists do it," he says.

He notes there could be a competitive advantage for removing leg hair. "Specialized, the bike manufacturer, did some wind tunnel research last year and found that there was enough drag off leg hair that if you were doing a race against the clock, a time trial, there was a significant advantage at having your legs shaved," he says.


Yes. Stevenson says aerodynamics are incredibly important in cycling. This is especially true when you get to Sagan's level, where races are sometimes won by seconds. "The air is what you are fighting on a bike," he says.

So that's why cyclists reach for the razor and foam.

And because, it's just what cyclists do. But not Sagan.

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International