By May I have usually developed a tan on my arms and legs. It is a warm Mediterranean one that my Greek brother-in-law approves of. I could almost pass muster as his compatriot, but, take off my t-shirt and the truth is glaringly obvious. Underneath I’m just a pasty Englishman with a cycling tan.
There is a big difference between the moderate spring sun which developed my cycling tan and that of a sultry August afternoon. Fixing my bike last Saturday this is something I forgot. While my daughters splashed around in the paddling pool (my wife had made sure they maximum factored) my poor pale back turned quite rosy.
Even with a tan when the sun is strong there is a risk of burning. After an uncomfortable night with a tube of cooling Aloe Vera, this wasn’t a mistake I was going to make for Sunday’s club run. In the morning I lathered up with sun cream and headed out. 60 miles later I hadn’t sweated it off – kid’s sun cream is robust stuff – but I did have a new freckled complexion. Every exposed area of skin was dotted with little black specks. The combines were out, the wheat was being harvested, and the air was thick with thunderbugs. I had in turn harvested a good number of the irritating little bugs with my sticky and sweaty sun cream coated skin.
All this is coming round to a serious message about riding on a sunny summer’s day.
If you ride regularly in a group you are expected to do your share of work at the front. If you spend all day tucked in the bunch, eventually someone will notice your wheel sucking habit and comments will be made. Riding at the front you’re not just pushing air out of the way, you are adsorbing bug life too. I think there is a clear positive correlation between time spent at the front and extent of bug frecklage. So, at the end of a sticky summers ride, if your limbs and face are not spotted with bugs, you had better chose a dark and shady corner for the post ride coffee before anyone notices and the uncomfortable questions start!