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Should cyclists use fake tan in winter?

Frank Strack
28 Nov 2016

Is it against The Rules to bronze up your cannons when sunshine is in short supply?

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


Dear Mark

Tan line doping? Is this a piss-take? Is someone recording this? The instinctive answer is that you should leave your pale legs pale and let the sun do its work to brown them naturally.

As your training during the trip progresses, so will your tan lines, carving into your legs the evidence of the hours spent chipping away at your form like Michelangelo chipping away the marble that obscures a great masterpiece.

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.

Looking the part

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.

Socially acceptable?

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.

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