Go­ing out on a limb

Cyclist - - The Rules - Dear Frank

Much as I would like to fol­low Rule #7 – Tan lines should be kept ra­zor sharp – I live in Bri­tain and any faint sum­mer colour has long since re­ceded. I’m plan­ning a win­ter rid­ing trip to Gran Ca­naria, and I’m con­sid­er­ing the use of fake tan on my pale legs. Is this within the spirit of The Rules, and should I aim to cre­ate false tan lines? Mark, by email

But some­thing in­ter­est­ing hap­pened when, against my bet­ter judg­ment, I con­tem­plated this as though it were a gen­uine ques­tion. Ev­ery­thing in­ter­est­ing, af­ter all, is found in the vast grey space be­tween black and white.

The co­nun­drum lies with Four­nel’s The­o­rem, which states that to look good is al­ready to go fast. This the­o­rem is one of the cor­ner­stones of the Velom­i­nati – we be­lieve that tak­ing pride in aes­thet­ics, to take care in one’s ap­pear­ance, fun­da­men­tally al­ters how good you feel about your­self. Cru­cially, we are more likely to ride in the first place, and ride well in the sec­ond, when we al­ready feel good about how we look. Look­ing Fan­tas­tic is what feeds the loop that drives us to ride and be­come bet­ter cy­clists. (There is also re­search that in­di­cates that when we adopt con­fi­dent body lan­guage, our bod­ies pro­duce hor­mones that pro­mote con­fi­dent be­hav­iour. I pos­tu­late that some­thing sim­i­lar may hap­pen when we feel good about how we look.)

The ques­tion be­comes sud­denly in­ter­est­ing: how does Four­nel’s The­o­rem play into the psy­chol­ogy sur­round­ing your pale pins? Does this mat­ter of a fake tan af­fect your self-im­age? Specif­i­cally, would your semi-trans­par­ent get­away sticks make you some­how more re­luc­tant to emerge from your ho­tel room to be­gin your train­ing in the first place?

The ar­gu­ment could be made, then, that vis­it­ing your lo­cal spray tan fa­cil­ity would in fact make you feel bet­ter about your­self, lead­ing to more and bet­ter train­ing, a more en­joy­able trip over­all, and bet­ter form when you ar­rive back home, which would con­se­quently spur you on to rid­ing and train­ing more through­out the win­ter, yield­ing a bet­ter year of rid­ing. In a sense, the sim­ple act of get­ting the spray tan could be the cat­a­lyst for a se­ries of events that lead you to be­come a bet­ter cy­clist.

Let’s as­sume, for a mo­ment, that you de­cide to go ahead with the de­ci­sion to get the fake tan. There might be some prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions that you should con­sider. Firstly, what if one of your mates spots you ar­riv­ing at or leav­ing the tan­ning fa­cil­ity? How does that play out? Not well, if your friends are any­thing like mine. Now that I men­tion it, I shouldn’t even be friends with th­ese peo­ple. Sav­ages, each and every one of them.

Fur­ther, what hap­pens inside the fa­cil­ity it­self? I’ve not been to one, but I know a woman who has, so I en­listed her in­put on the process. First, you sit in a wait­ing room, pre­sum­ably avoid­ing eye con­tact with any­thing with a heart­beat. Once a room frees up, you are is­sued a pa­per thong which you are in­tended to slip into, which it­self sounds a bit hu­mil­i­at­ing. And some un­com­fort­able gog­gles with which to keep the orange oil spray from get­ting into your eyes.

At this point I feel com­pelled to point out that your cy­cling kit doesn’t feel like the ap­pro­pri­ate at­tire for this oc­ca­sion. And I’m guess­ing its con­di­tion would not be im­proved by be­ing sprayed down by said tan­ning goo. Which means the fake tan lines are out and the all-over body tan is in.

Fi­nally, as­sum­ing you es­cape the fa­cil­ity with­out be­ing seen, your ar­rival to Gran Ca­naria with mag­nif­i­cently tanned guns might be slightly sus­pi­cious to your peers from the Isles, so you need to be pre­pared with a wa­ter­tight al­ibi to ex­plain th­ese bronzed can­nons of yours. I rec­om­mend an anec­dote in­volv­ing a ninja, a wa­ter­slide and a Guin­ness mal­func­tion.

Tan lines are a mark of the se­ri­ous cy­clist, but is it OK to fake them? Frank Strack is in two minds…

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