Tanning Beds vs. Hypobaric Sleeping Chambers

tan hands.jpg

Tanning. It just struck me that there is a curious comparison of tanning beds and hypobaric sleeping chambers, if you present tanned skin and cycling fitness as being parallels.

Growing up in Florida and being of Filipino descent, I always figured that I was destined to sport a deep tan. Then I moved to Seattle, the “Emerald City”, which the tourism brochures often fail to reveal is actually the “Grey City” for most of the year. By the time April rolls around around, I’m downright pale, but now I’m finally getting some colour. Occasionally I toy with the idea of going to a tanning salon during the winter, but now that it’s warm I can save money by just riding my bike to get tan. Thankfully there are other benefits to riding, as it would be difficult to justify a $5K carbon road bike as a pragmatic alternative to a tanning bed. But even so, wouldn’t it be advantageous to use a tanning bed occasionally during the winter? That way my tan would be more even and I’d have a comparative advantage.

I mean, people who live in sunny winter climates have a tanning advantage, kinda like Tour de France riders who have a fitness advantage from naturally high hemocrit levels because they live at high altitude locales like Columbia or Colorado. Just thinking of all those smug, tanned bastards in California makes the cost of tanning salons look trivial. Couldn’t I use a tanning bed like well-funded pro cyclists use hypobaric (low air pressure) chambers to simulate living at high-altitudes? Unless I’m wrong, the UCI and WADA haven’t banned hypobaric chambers since their use isn’t technically a performance-enhancing substance. And a tanning bed is a lot cheaper than a sleeping chamber, and they’re everywhere here in Seattle.

Of course, as a cyclist, my tan is always going to be funny looking. I always wear socks and long-finger gloves, and I roll the bottom of my shorts up to the same level before each ride. The tan line on my leg also lends itself as a guide for shaving, but the glove line catches people off-guard occasionally, like when I hand money to a cashier. The full-finger gloves follow the contours of my wrist bones exactly; I might even draw in some suture scars and see if I can convince gullible laypersons that I had hand transplants.

The fact that my jerseys have varying sleeve lengths and that the jerseys’ materials also vary in UV-transparency softens the hard “farmer’s tan” on my arms and torso, but people in public don’t see that as much. I’ve been told that it’s no longer deemed socially acceptable for me to be casually shirtless in public since a) I’ve graduated college and b) I don’t live in Florida anymore. But my hands are incredibly pallid, and under a fluorescent light the backs of my hands almost glow white with blue veins prominently standing out. My girlfriend says they look dead.

My girlfriend, who is not a cyclist, has been going to the tanning beds this month. But she isn’t afraid to cheat the whole tanning process a little; her skin has a bit of “tan-in-a-tube” help. Sure this would be an obvious example of tan-enhancing substance use, but frankly, she looks good. This adds one more bizarre feature to my hands’ skin colour: the palms of my hands are somewhat orange and a little darker than the back of my hands.



3 Comments

Hooray for “ghost hands”! 

Cyclist tanlines are funny, no doubt.  Glad my wife doesn’t mind the various stripes, patches and hard lines from wearing lycra kit…because if I were her, I’d think it all a bit ridiculous.

Good time to plug the Hincapie Sunscreen we’re selling! Honestly, the stuff is the best I’ve used for us fair-skinned types. I tan through it, but don’t burn.

I wore some padded half-fingers today because I’m coming off a broken wrist, but otherwise I won’t wear gloves unless my hands are cold.  The thing about half-fingers is that they probably help with a tan gradient, rather than the abrupt shift past the first/second knuckle. I guess that’s why I like sleeveless jerseys, right up until those days when you need arm warmers…

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