MAMILS, or ‘Middle Aged Men in Lycra’ as they are otherwise known, are the latest phenomena to come out of the increasing momentum amongst us all to get fit and stay fit, and not everyone’s happy about it it seems.
The term MAMIL has now officially been immortalized in the Oxford English Dictionary, and as one horrified cycling widow wrote in the Daily Mail, it is defined as “a middle-aged man who is a very keen road cyclist, typically one who rides an expensive bike and wears the type of clothing associated with professional cyclists.”
It probably goes without saying that most people, professional or otherwise, look faintly ridiculous in head-to-toe cycling kit, but when it comes to performance it serves its purpose. Tight Lycra and accompanying sports materials allow for better performance, keeping the body streamlined. It doesn’t get damaged by sweat or sunlight in the same way other materials do, and it absorbs little water so you don’t get as cold if it rains. Some materials are also made for temperature control, so there’s a reason for looking ever so silly. As for the colors, reflectors can be explained by safety reasons, but when it comes to lurid pink… well, that’s for fun.
The thing is, MAMILism is not just about the outfit, it’s about the mentality, conversation and lifestyle that comes with it. We’re not really talking about people who have been into cycling all their lives. We’re talking about the people who have discovered the joy of two wheels later in their amateur careers, and revel in their increased fitness and the technicalities of their newfound love.
Along with the outfit and the general interest comes the dinner table conversation about quicker helmets and padded shorts, the pros and cons of cycling shoes, and the need for a personal trainer to improve their ‘power to weight ratio’.
Wonderful and enthusiastic as it all sounds to fellow cycling enthusiasts, writer Jennie Price, understandably, feels that this takes her ‘cycling widow’ status to a whole new level. There’s a twinge of embarrassment and a touch of boredom thrown in for good measure when conversation is dominated by performance enhancing, neon clothing, gadgets, and a hint of obsessive behavior leading to a rather high level of spending on the MAMIL’s new mistress.
Could the MAMIL be falling into the other health and fitness dilemma du jour – the wellness debt cycle where a commitment to wellbeing leads to bank breaking spending on protein powders, health food products and yoga classes? Time will tell.