I want to introduce all our Naked fans to the cyclists’ badge of honor. Carbon bikes and matching professional-looking kits are all important to your cool factor as a cyclist, but that’s not what I’m talking about. No, I want to introduce you the most important mark of a true cyclist, the tan lines. It’s a known fact that how distinct your tan lines are is a direct indicator of your fitness level. We start off the season in March with layers of clothes covering our skin and as the season progresses and the layers come off, our training hours increase and our skin becomes noticeably darker. And your tan lines begin to form and take shape. It doesn’t matter how much sun screen you apply and what SPF you use, come August, if you’ve trained properly and are fit, you will have very distinct tan lines on your arms, thighs and ankles that contrast with the other normal-toned portions of your body.
I first start racing my bike in 2005 while in law school and officially became a cyclist one summer day in 2005 while in line at an Einstein Bros. bagel shop. I realize that is a strange place to declare that I became a cyclist. I was wearing a tank-top, shorts and sandals. The man in line behind me said “you must be a cyclist.” Confused by how he knew that, I gave him a funny look and replied “yes”. He replied with “I could tell from your tan lines” and thus I was initiated into the Real Cyclists’ Club.
You can tell what kind of a cyclist someone is by their tan lines. Road cyclists who wear form-fitting lycra have very dramatic tan lines on their arms, thighs, and ankles. If you are a road cyclist who races for a team and wears your team kit on every ride (as we Naked ladies do), your tan lines will be very distinct. Professional cyclists have remarkable tan lines from riding 20-30 hours per week in the sun. It’s not uncommon to see these cyclists meticulously lining up their shorts prior to every ride so as to maximize tan line potential. Recreational road cyclists tend to have a myriad of different brands of cycling clothing in their closet and their jerseys and shorts of varying lengths lead to a less dramatic effect of the tan lines. Triathletes are a special breed of cyclists and so are their tan lines. Their cycling shorts tend to be shorter, their tops are often sleeveless, and sometimes they even do crazy things line wear arm-warmers with a tank top. Go figure! That mix will leave some crazy tan lines. Mountain bikes are a whole different story with their baggy shorts.
And then there are people like one young man who shall remain nameless who ended up with the weirdest tan lines I have ever seen. It was a crisp spring day and the sun was shining brightly as it does in Colorado. This young man decided to ride the trainer outdoors so as to take full advantage of the sunshine. He got a little warm while riding so took off his jersey and spun on the trainer in his bib shorts, while wearing his heart rate monitor for over an hour. Keep in mind that this young man is pasty white on every place that is typically covered by lycra. Over an hour later, the young man had finished his workout and was left with a burn on his back and shoulders that outlined both his heartrate monitor strap and his bib shorts. You can only imagine how funny it looked. (This is a good lesson to all you young readers to wear sunscreen. It took a full two years for the tan lines from that sunburn to fade.)
Cyclists on vacation at the beach are a pretty funny sight to see. Imagine an incredibly skinny man or woman, walking along in a bathing suit, their upper body quite scrawny and out of proportion with their chiseled calves and huge thighs, with an incredible contrast in skin color between their chest, upper thighs, top-most part of their biceps, and their lower arms and lower legs.
I typically wear my tan lines with pride. I don’t hesitate to wear sleeveless tops at the office, despite the comments from my co-workers regarding my arm tan lines. And I have no problem wearing sandals during the summer even though my tan stops roughly at my ankle bone where my sock height ends. The only time my tan lines have become an issue was at my wedding this summer. Arms that are tan ¾ of the way up and pale white for the upper ¼ do not a pretty bride make. Two weeks of applying self-tanner prior to the wedding did a pretty good job of helping mask my tan lines. Thank goodness.
So the next time you are out and about on your Sunday ride or at Starbucks getting your morning caffeine before heading to work, check out the tan lines of the people around you and see if you can tell what kind of cyclist they are and how much they have been training.
Warning: The author of this blog post does not endorse engaging in outdoor activities sans sunscreen in order to increase your tan lines. All tan lines should be duly earned through hours upon hours of hard training rides and proper alignment of your shorts before every ride. All outdoor activities are undertaken at your own risk and should be done only with sufficient sunscreen protection. The author highly recommends Kinesys for all your sun-blocking skin care needs.