Video: To beard or not to beard

Which is faster, a hairy chin or freshly-mown skin?

by John Stevenson   May 22, 2014  

Wind Tunnel beard test screen shot

With cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins emerging from the winter break with luxuriant growths of facial hair, one of the burning questions in cycling over the last few months has been: “What DOES he look like?” Er, we mean: “Does facial hair slow you down?” The good folks at Specialized have found an answer.

Specialized built its own wind tunnel at its Morgan Hill California headquarters last year, and has already produced videos showing how much time you can save by changing position on the bike, and how you can more aerodynamically carry water and food for a long-distance time trial or triathlon.

After building up to it with those trivial projects, the Specialized aero R&D team turned their attention to the vital issue of the aerodynamics of beards.

In this video, Specialized’s Mark Cote and Chris Yu first measure the drag of bearded rider Joe Self, from a Specialized dealership in Texas. Joe then shaves of his beard and the measurements are repeated.

Which is faster? Watch and find out for yourself:

22 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

careful, I think Specialized have a TM on beards

posted by jason.timothy.jones [305 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 15:08


If you have a decent beard, you can tuck it into the top of your shirt and that removes the vortex that builds up under your chin and slows you down. So I think that if Spesh had down the same tests with Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top guitarist for those too young to know), and then shaved him, they would have found a statistical difference in the results.
It's also possible to soak your beard in energy drink ahead of a race and lick that off if your energy levels are starting to flag… which also improves performance. - Muddy bikes, Road bikes and Family rides in the South West

posted by Mombee [81 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 15:20


just goes to show it's muscles not silly things like hair that really make the difference.

I would like to see Usain Bolt take on a sprinter though!

javacofe's picture

posted by javacofe [11 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 15:22


I'm pleased to see that my beard isn't slowing me down. I would now like to see how the beard compares to other artificial chin warmers, as on the occasions I've shaved mine off, I've been reaching for the snood.

posted by AleBeRiding [13 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 15:24


Wonder if my Norris (norse) Skipper has any significant (dis) advantages....or my oft seen soul patch...couldn't quite get to grips with my hollywoodian phase...cos I just aint gonna get rid of my sidies....


The _Kaner's picture

posted by The _Kaner [630 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 15:56


Shave Billy Gibbons????? That's like messing with the space/time continuum!

posted by numbercruncher [28 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 17:52


If you shaved Billy Gibbons (or Dusty Hill) I don't think that he would ever stop looking for you! Worried

And for those who shave other body parts. Devil
" Why do you shave your legs?"
"No you don't!"
"Ok! I shave my legs because it feels soooooo gooooood. Can I still do it?"
"All right. So long as you don't say 'aero' ever again."

posted by levermonkey [603 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 18:22


To misquote a t shirt I saw the other day

'A man who shaves his beard to win a medal deserves neither'

posted by barbarus [124 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 18:58


The most interesting fact in all this is that the only member of ZZ Top who didn't have a beard was called Frank BEARD!!! Rolling On The Floor

don simon's picture

posted by don simon [543 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 19:09


Beards are good in the winter when cycling but .... there is more to this trend for cyclist growing beards..... has it something to do with shaving the legs ?

I am sure they did test on hairy legs vs shaved legs years ago and they found that hairy legs were faster. Something to do with smoothing the air flow over the legs.

Rupert's picture

posted by Rupert [169 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 20:57


with a wind tunnel driven by hair dryers I'm not surprised a beard makes little difference Cool

I doubt Rigoberto Uran optimised his position in that bit of marketing gimmickery they call a wind tunnel. Sad

posted by MinardiM189 [34 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 0:13


My time trial times as an 18 year old with a beard significantly bigger than the chap in the video, were way better than my times when I returned to the sport 20 years later when shaved. Proves beards help. Sadly that was a low point in my life from which have now recovered.
Bet Cadel wishes he had a beard.

posted by mattsccm [310 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 6:48


jason.timothy.jones wrote:
careful, I think Specialized have a TM on beards

Yeah - and I wonder if they're going to start charging Ferrari for using a wind tunnel..

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

jmaccelari's picture

posted by jmaccelari [222 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 7:01


Rupert wrote:
Beards are good in the winter when cycling but .... there is more to this trend for cyclist growing beards..... has it something to do with shaving the legs ?

I am sure they did test on hairy legs vs shaved legs years ago and they found that hairy legs were faster. Something to do with smoothing the air flow over the legs.

I've made this joke before, but in my case shaving my legs might help me on the hills because of the weight saving Party

Dedicated cycling price comparison |

posted by mckechan [221 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 9:20


I believe sidies act like the F surface on a Ridley Noah forks and calm the airflow on to the ears!

andybnk's picture

posted by andybnk [99 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 10:02


It cushions insect impacts.

BertYardbrush's picture

posted by BertYardbrush [44 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 20:29


If you ask me, that wind tunnel test resulted in a close shave.
But don't knock beards. They are especially useful at meal times, for catching bits of food for you to eat later.

posted by Condor flyer [34 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 23:01



But I suspect that this rider needs to continue growing for at least another year. And as for leg hair... well... I wonder when they'll begin working on appropriate treatments...

posted by bwpearre [6 posts]
24th May 2014 - 2:52


Why do not people see the obvious?

Over the course of a year, the time saved by not shaving will all add up. Definitely a help to time pressed cyclists.

Let's say you shave for 3 minutes every 3 days (I'm being conservative); that's roughly 6 hours you've wasted faffing about with a razor. Well that's almost 100 miles of riding.

With my beard, I look rugged. Cool

In fact, I'm not sure, but I think there's a kinda Samson effect with beards too. Allow me to explain. When ever you see someone survive against the odds in the wilderness after a crash or that's been stranded, they always emerge with a beard. Big Grin

posted by ronin [260 posts]
24th May 2014 - 12:22


Surely you have to factor in the additional power that the rider gets from having the beard? #BeardPower

thegibdog's picture

posted by thegibdog [98 posts]
25th May 2014 - 13:19


Anyone we recignise? Wink

Appropriately enough though mine came off thisweek. I am still waiting for the aerodynamic advantage to kick in.

I like the idea of the Sampson effect though. I felt like Sampson with the Beard and still feel like Sampson without it Smile

posted by AnalogueAndy [30 posts]
25th May 2014 - 23:47


This week I has been mostly sporting a tickler...not too sure of the aero advantages as I hasn't been on the bike...been to busy
on other 'projects'...


The _Kaner's picture

posted by The _Kaner [630 posts]
26th May 2014 - 6:46