As riders we debate a lot of things. Sock height, sleeve length, running gear, disc brakes.. the list goes on. But one part of cycling culture that seems to have never had any significant debate is the tan line. In fact it seems widely accepted through the cycling community that tan lines are something to celebrate. From pro’s to amateurs the tan line is seen as a sign of fitness and dedication to a life on the bike. Just look on Instagram and there are thousands of pictures of riders showing off their tan lines and even a number dedicated Instagram accounts and hashtags. But really, should we be celebrating the tan line?
Let me wind back to a story of a photo that shows a much younger, indestructible me. In it I am standing with a group of friends in an apartment on the Gold Coast. We had driven up from Melbourne, partied all night and took a picture of the fallout. Much to my disgust now, I am seen confidently holding a cigarette in one hand. It’s the only evidence of a stupid habit and a fearless 20 something me coming together. The picture, now safely tucked away from the reach of my kids still haunts me as I now can’t think of anything more disgusting than smoking. I can’t imagine how I would feel about the image if I was to develop lung cancer.
The evidence was there, smoking kills, yet here am I definitely looking straight down the lens saying I am cool and nothing bad will ever happen to me.
Like smoking, the numbers are there — overexposure to the sun and harmful UV radiation can lead to skin cancer and the more dangerous melanoma. In Australia, conveniently close to a much thinner Ozone layer, “approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70”*
As they say “There is no such thing as a healthy tan” so why, like my smoking picture, do we continue to ignore the evidence and celebrate something that has and will kill a large number of us.
Tanlines look silly and are not a sign of fitness or time on the bike. Results are. Just show a tan line pic to someone that doesn’t ride and see how they react.
I have an unfit and very slow riding friend who rides about once a month. He got some ripper tan lines over summer after slugging down beach road on a super hot and sunny day. I can assure you his tan lines are no indication of his fitness or dedication to two wheels.
So, given the science and the numbers, shouldn’t we be covering ourselves in sunscreen and doing away with the #cyclingtanline?
*Cancer Council Australia