La Vie Velominatus: Flemish Tan Lines

A select group of people appreciate this look.

Clouds hang heavy in the sky, plump with a rain which contemplates the opportunity to hurl itself towards the Earth below. I get the sense that we wait for each other, the Rain and I; the rain relishes the opportunity to soak my clothes and skin, seeking to corrode my resolve while I cherish the opportunity to prove to myself that it will not be shaped by such things.

As a kid, I had an illustrated book of Aesop’s Fables. This time of year, I’m often reminded of one fable in particular, that of the Wind and the Sun. As the tale goes, the two are in the midst of an argument over which is the stronger when they spot a traveller on the road below. The Sun suggests that whichever of them can cause the traveller to take off his cloak will be declared the winner. The Wind blows and blows with all its might but the traveller only pulls his cloak closer. The Sun, on the other hand, beams with all its yellow glory, and the traveller soon finds it too hot for his cloak and discards it.

Aesop’s moral was that kindness is more effective than severity, but that sounds a lot like it would require introspection to really digest. Instead, I like to think of myself as the traveller and my resolve as the cloak; the worse the weather, the closer I pull it to me and the more determined I am to hold my course. In fact, this concept extends to any hardship in life; the greater the challenge, the stronger my determination.

So there we are, the Rain and I, waiting for each other; me with my cloak and the Rain with its severity. At this time of year, when the skies have turned grey but the chill hasn’t yet arrived to keep it company, I enjoy waiting for the rain to fall before embarking on my rides. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the questioning looks from the neighbors who descend from their homes in coats and hiding beneath their umbrellas for the journey from front door to automobile; they serve as further evidence that the public still has some distance yet to cover before understanding the Velominatus.

The rain pours down and in minutes soaks my clothes. Rain drops drip from the brim of my cycling cap; when I clench my fist, water steams from the fingers of my gloves. The roads are soaked; both the rain and traffic cast debris towards the gutters. My path crosses between the two and the grit and dirt afloat in the rain water are flung onto my machine and body.

When I return home from the ride, the evidence of my journey is carried in my clothing which is heavy with water and debris. Overshoes and knee warmers, once removed, reveal my Flemish Tan Lines via the clean skin beneath.

Perhaps Flanders is a place not defined by the borders between people, but between wool and flesh. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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187 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: Flemish Tan Lines”

  1. I know it’s against La Vie Velominatus but I really hate riding in the rain. Not for health’s sake but for my bike’s sake. I don’t complain about myself. I pity my bike.

  2. nice write-up!

    i just came back from a very wet ride so i can totally relate to this.

  3. Flemish Tan Lines – I like it.  I also like the idea of simply saying you got a ‘Flemish Tan’ while out riding today.

    @czmiel I enjoy riding in shit weather, but I do agree that it can be a pain to always have to clean up the bike afterward.  That said, its a good reason for owning a Bike #2 or #3 or #4 with components that perhaps aren’t as flashy/expensive, but rather durable so you aren’t so concerned about subjecting to the wet and the slop.  Still, said bike should be wiped down after each Rule #9 ride and thoroughly cleaned as necessary to minimize wear and tear.  Incidentally, my Bike #2/rain bike is predominately white so it shows every bit of roadspray, muck and grime – but that’s part of what I like about it.

  4. @xced Yes, I know. What’s more I totally agree we all should have (at least) one dedicated bike(vide Rule #12). For the moment however I’m happy to have my $1.500 bike… That’s all I can afford.

  5. @czmiel

    @xced Yes, I know. What’s more I totally agree we all should have (at least) one dedicated bike(vide Rule #12” href=”http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/#12″ rel=”nofollow”> Rule #12). For the moment however I’m happy to have my $1.500 bike… That’s all I can afford.

    This is true the LBS are currently deconstructing the rain bike in order to build up the N1, hope to rebuild the rain bike over the summer but velominatus budgetatus is a limiting factor…

  6. Great article. The picture, on the other hand, suggested to me you pulled over and threw up from a bad case of The Vlu.  By the by, notice the virginal white bar tape and how it just repels the weather.

  7. I read this and some comments and came across some terms I do not know, please explain “fenders” , “knee warmers” and “overshoes”

  8. @scaler911

    Hah, frank has a good weather Cervelo and a bad weather Cervelo. Bastard.

    Thankfully, for us pale/translucent folk cultivating nice, sharp Flemish tan lines is a fair bit easier than those other tan lines that people usually go gaga for:

  9. “Perhaps Flanders is a place not defined by the borders between people, but between wool and flesh. Vive la Vie Velominatus.”

    So, Flanders can be found wherever Minion is, then?

    I’ll be here all week. Try the veal!

  10. @Cyclops

    I’m a fat cow.

    I would say the look of pure enjoyment on your face you can be anything you like…it looks like brilliant fun!

  11. Riding in the warm rain of he tropics is something to be experienced, I like to start out dry. The worries  and sweat of the day are washed away, the looks of the motorist in their air conditioned cocoon. But the spell can be broken when the warm rain turns to large icy drops and lightning forks the road! Mind cleansing relaxation just became focused survival.

  12. I realise I’m implicating myself in various rule violations.

    The hairy legs, evidence of below the ankle socks, that said I think the picture may be relavent to the article.

    Yes I have tried shaving my legs, the hair on the first leg grew back before I could finish the 2nd leg.

  13. Lately I got 75k into a 120k , and was at a junction I could have been home going right in 10k, or ride out the last 45 by going left. Wet and cold, I thought hypothermia may have been an issue. Then I thought of what the folk here may do. I literally said out loud “If I start to shiver, I can just ride harder to warm up.” and went left..

    @Cyclops Doesn’t matter as long as you’re quick! Berms are the best thing about riding dirt…

  14. Purely in the interests of marital harmony and domestic fair play, I’m now, for the first time in a number of years, the owner of a mountain bike. I’ve been getting my dirt and mud legs back for the last couple of weeks, and I suspect that the shape in which my mtb and I return home will only encourage me to feel more at home on the road bike in Rule #9 conditions. I’m getting more efficient with the hose-wipedown-lube routine.

  15. I used to dislike ridig in the rain. I would look up, scanning the sky for any dark clouds that may interfere with my day’s ride. Thoughts of being wet through to the skin, that constant feeling of water spraying up one’s arse (a Flemish bidet perhaps?), chain skipping and hearing the grit grating through it after an hour or so, coming home covered in crap and then having to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning the aforementioned crap off of everything. Not something I looked forward to.

    Then I realised the folly of my thoughts. Rain bike was set up accordingly. Ride is pre-planned and regardless of weather, I head out. Still get covered in whatever gets thrown at me but I now find that I enjoy the feeling of being wet. I think frank has written before of that sensation of being more alert, more attuned to one’s bike when riding in the rain; the sound of tyres slicing through the rain soaked roads, focused on the task at hand, i.e. being a cyclist. The rain may try to despoil bike and kit yet it never fails to cleanse the spirit methinks.

  16. Tis the season here in the holy land. Wet dirty grity rides on farm roads. We now opt for singletrack in the woods on the Cross bike. If I could post a picture of my Flanders bike tans I would!

  17. Whilst out on the Sunday Club run yesterday in the crappiest weather the Gower could throw at us, complete with sheep shit covered roads, it was suggested to me that I “get a winter bike, and old hack, £300 should do it…., saves all that cleaning”

    Truth is, I couldn’t ride a dirty bike just from a personal pride point of view. Secondly, cleaning/maintaining a bike properly helps to ensure it doesn’t let you down because the chances are, when it does it will be pissing down!

    … and since when did 300 quid get you anything that looks remotely respectable anyway!

  18. @il ciclista medio

    Yeah I am trying to get more comfortable with it myself, as even sitting on a trainer or rollers during the winter cannot replace good outdoor rides for maintaining a nice level of fitness through the dark months.

    It’s always easier to start when it’s dry, as once you’re out there and it’s raining, what can you do? You just have to keep going. And it’s never as bad as it looks from inside your dry, warm house once you get going.

  19. @mcsqueak

    @il ciclista medio

    Yeah I am trying to get more comfortable with it myself, as even sitting on a trainer or rollers during the winter cannot replace good outdoor rides for maintaining a nice level of fitness through the dark months.

    It’s always easier to start when it’s dry, as once you’re out there and it’s raining, what can you do? You just have to keep going. And it’s never as bad as it looks from inside your dry, warm house once you get going.

    Yeah, I used to think that way too. Start out dry and if it rains, deal with it. Nowadays it’s more like… just start out. Whether you’re wet now or an hour later doesn’t really matter does it? There’s that magical moment when one is riding in the rain, covered in whatever protective kit is used, that you feel completely drenched. You know that point where your waterproof booties are working and the next, squelch on the downward stroke! Aaaaah, heaven…..

     

  20. @Mark1 I have a rain bike, but I find that I don’t always use it in the rain? Go figure? No 1 or No 2 get used instead. As you say, a well maintained steed will rarely let one down, regardless of weather

  21. Ahh…. riding in the rain ….especially on our country roads is a very special experience.  Some may say its madness tackling cars and trucks and other associated road heavies in the pooring rain but given the right clothing, layering helps, its a time to get all introspective and solve the problems of the world.  It keeps the cafe racers off the roads as well and also the “daddy bought me a porsche” riders that only have one bike, but that bike doesnt come out unless its 28 degrees and no wind.

    Sometimes, those are the rides you crave, solo, heading over country roads, rain making that familiar sound on the helmut and rain jacket, no one else around but the smell of wet grass and steamy bitumen……

    Stop it, I like it……..

  22. @frank

    I was very tempted to give you shit about the absurdity of running white Belgian booties in the rain, having the good sense to run black myself. Then I saw that the Flandrien gunk made a sort of distorted, cog-like pattern around the cuff, and I realized it was pure genius.

  23. Frank, it looks like your bike has thrown a con rod through the block, and puked it’s guts all out over the road.

    Your roads are filthy.  Even when I get a Flemish tan, it’s brown, not black.  City folk have to tolerate all sorts of weird crap.

  24. @mcsqueak

    so why did u stop commuting? the route is only getting more fun now. certainly more fun than the trainer. and this is before it actually turns into cold dark rain.

  25. Saturday:

    Gear on, The Pisashita dolled up with shitty Crud fenders, of which the front has snapped off last rainy season just aft of the caliper from a minor glove snag while wiping away worse crud than will clear Belgiquely, and the rear a ziptie pulled clean through the ‘tough resilient plastic’ at the merest mention of snugging. Minor cursathon at favourable reviews, a glance outside reveals the factuals: thorough self fuckathon to ensue, fenders, however useless/useful, to play minor role. Gloriously metric reality of ‘rain, sometimes heavy, 25 to 50mm’ greets me and the hapless Pisashita the instant we step beyond the threshold. Fully 3 minutes into the excursion and waterproof/breathable has met its match and become ‘sodden/waterlogged’, but what the fuck! it’s also relatively warm so who gives a shit.

    The deluge seems to repel all but the hardiest motorists, so the stinging rebukes of nothing but liquid from the sky assail me. Exactly 0 roadies cross my path, and I get back to Chez Star after 90 minutes feeling lightly demolished, extremely satisfied, and vaguely puzzled: really? I’m the only local rider able to handle these conditions? I’m fucking OLD for chrissake.

    Sunday:

    Gear up, this time properly capped against extreme helmet drippage, and sporting kit I know doesn’t repel water but might still be reasonably insulative given the predictions of strongish winds and rain. Head off, wet roads, decent spray, nothing from the sky, getting mighty fucking warm.  25 km in, clearly a tail/crosswind, a few lone riders encountered, always going the other direction. I begin to feel oddly vicious, bloodthirsty.

    A group ride looms ahead and zooms by, comraderie evident via numerous waves and nods. ‘Yessir, we’re nutters too!’ I bare my teeth in greeting, growling a bit, not yet ‘truly’ hungry for human flesh, and they mistake my vague clutches at them as returned greetings. My lonely rainseeking pilgrimage continues uninterrupted, save a brief desire to whip a suicidal u-turn to latch onto them, then test their mettle into the headwindy bleak bluster. Some time later, a motorpaced duo zing by, and I regret they aren’t going my direction, so I can Belgie them in Farzanian style. ‘Jump on? Fuck yeah!’ I’ll ask them if it’s cool after I dispatch them in the sprint to the ‘slow to 30’ sign. Then I’ll chew on a face or two. The moto pilot looks plump and juicy…

    Ride 3 overheated hours, completely prepared to crush myself through torrential downpours, and of course: rain does not come. Not until The Pisashita and I are safely ensconced in Chez Star do the first drops fall, and today my dehydration was made very clear by my failure to visit the pissoir until 6:00 pm. Does this explain my desire to kill and consume? Only one bottle cage on Pisashita…just enough liquid to wash down a liver, maybe a bicep, certainly a brain or spinal column. With sriracha. Oh yes.

    No.

    No.

    No.

  26. I adore shit weather.  It’s a proper tan when you have to scrub the first layer of skin off to remove the dirt.  Superstorm sandy came through this area last week and I of course had to ride through it.  Was one of the most amazing experiences ive had on a bike caused by mother nature.  100+kph winds and pelting rain.  Only worry I had was being blown off the roads and into the river.  Not sure what it’s called when road debris flies up and lacerates the legs, but those and a Flemish Tan go hand in hand

  27. @mcsqueak

    @scaler911

    Hah, frank has a good weather Cervelo and a bad weather Cervelo. Bastard.

    Thankfully, for us pale/translucent folk cultivating nice, sharp Flemish Tan Lines is a fair bit easier than those other tan lines that people usually go GaGa for:

    Squeek, I’ve gotta ask…why are the two uncovered sections askew?

  28. @starclimber

    Saturday:

    Gear on, The Pisashita dolled up with shitty Crud fenders, of which the front has snapped off last rainy season just aft of the caliper from a minor glove snag while wiping away worse crud than will clear Belgiquely, and the rear a ziptie pulled clean through the ‘tough resilient plastic’ at the merest mention of snugging. Minor cursathon at favourable reviews, a glance outside reveals the factuals: thorough self fuckathon to ensue, fenders, however useless/useful, to play minor role. Gloriously metric reality of ‘rain, sometimes heavy, 25 to 50mm’ greets me and the hapless Pisashita the instant we step beyond the threshold. Fully 3 minutes into the excursion and waterproof/breathable has met its match and become ‘sodden/waterlogged’, but what the fuck! it’s also relatively warm so who gives a shit.

    The deluge seems to repel all but the hardiest motorists, so the stinging rebukes of nothing but liquid from the sky assail me. Exactly 0 roadies cross my path, and I get back to Chez Star after 90 minutes feeling lightly demolished, extremely satisfied, and vaguely puzzled: really? I’m the only local rider able to handle these conditions? I’m fucking OLD for chrissake.

    Sunday:

    Gear up, this time properly capped against extreme helmet drippage, and sporting kit I know doesn’t repel water but might still be reasonably insulative given the predictions of strongish winds and rain. Head off, wet roads, decent spray, nothing from the sky, getting mighty fucking warm. 25 km in, clearly a tail/crosswind, a few lone riders encountered, always going the other direction. I begin to feel oddly vicious, bloodthirsty.

    A group ride looms ahead and zooms by, comraderie evident via numerous waves and nods. ‘Yessir, we’re nutters too!’ I bare my teeth in greeting, growling a bit, not yet ‘truly’ hungry for human flesh, and they mistake my vague clutches at them as returned greetings. My lonely rainseeking pilgrimage continues uninterrupted, save a brief desire to whip a suicidal u-turn to latch onto them, then test their mettle into the headwindy bleak bluster. Some time later, a motorpaced duo zing by, and I regret they aren’t going my direction, so I can Belgie them in Farzanian style. ‘Jump on? Fuck yeah!’ I’ll ask them if it’s cool after I dispatch them in the sprint to the ‘slow to 30″² sign. Then I’ll chew on a face or two. The moto pilot looks plump and juicy…

    Ride 3 overheated hours, completely prepared to crush myself through torrential downpours, and of course: rain does not come. Not until The Pisashita and I are safely ensconced in Chez Star do the first drops fall, and today my dehydration was made very clear by my failure to visit the pissoir until 6:00 pm. Does this explain my desire to kill and consume? Only one bottle cage on Pisashita…just enough liquid to wash down a liver, maybe a bicep, certainly a brain or spinal column. With sriracha. Oh yes.

    No.

    No.

    No.

    Ah, poetry. Music to mine ears.

  29. Pack of filthy fricken devos. Never seen more pics of dirty shaved legs in my life.

    That, however may be from lack of looking for such things.

  30. @mcsqueak

    “Perhaps Flanders is a place not defined by the borders between people, but between wool and flesh. Vive la Vie Velominatus.”

    So, Flanders can be found wherever Minion is, then?

    I’ll be here all week. Try the veal!

    Give that man the +1 badge. Superb.

  31. @mcsqueak

    WAY bitd, I used to be a bike messenger in Portland but I lived across the river in Vancouver.  I would have an hour commute and then spend eight hours on the bike and then another hour home.  Nothing like getting paid to train and I was freaking fast but in the wet winters of Portland it got pretty old being soaking wet and cold all day and then having an hour commute home.  I must confess that most of December the bike stayed at work and I took the bus.

  32. Love it, Frank! It’s indeed awesome when most people act as if being outside longer than a few seconds might kill them…and you roll out on your race bike with a big smile on! Only makes me enjoy the HardMan Saddle Time that much more.

    Great photos of some Flemish Tan Lines! Tuesday morning and I’ll all excited looking at dirty pegs on the internet. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

    Cyclops – that’s a sweet shot, my friend!

    Crazy weather for us in central NC. I was riding in summer kit just two weeks ago with 29* temperatures and sun. Now it’s grey, overcast and around 8*. I don’t mind and in fact like this weather, but it does take me a week or two to adjust; this switch was fast! And now the early darkness…

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