I'll take the Lycra

While web-surfing recently, I came across an acronym I hadn’t seen before: MAMIL, which stands for Middle Aged Man In Lycra.

My wife managed not to snort coffee out of her nose before saying, with a bit too much enthusiasm, “That’s you!”

It’s been a long time since I’ve been part of a demographic with its own acronym. I missed out on the yuppie thing — I was neither “urban” nor particularly “upwardly mobile” when I was a young professional. For a little while, my wife and I were DINKs — double-income, no kids — but that didn’t last long.

The term MAMIL was apparently coined a few years ago by a British market research company to describe a new trend of gentlemen who ride high-end bicycles while clad in form-fitting cycling attire.

While I might argue that my bicycle could be a whole lot more expensive if I didn’t have some of those other pesky expenses, like kids, it’s pretty hard for me to deny any of the rest of that description.

Middle-aged? Yup, I turned 40 last fall.

Semi-competitive bike racer? I’ve got the bib numbers decorating my garage tool cabinet to prove it.

And the Lycra part? It’s safe to say that I have fully embraced the functionality of a good pair of Spandex cycling shorts.

In fact, I have acquired several good pairs of cycling shorts, and tights, as well as a few cycling jerseys to go with them. Oh, and I have multiple pairs of cycling gloves, a couple of windbreakers, toe covers for when it’s just a little chilly and shoe covers for when it’s really cold, and headbands — all with Lycra incorporated into the fabric. And don’t forget the socks — no cycling kit is complete without them.

As it turns out, there are quite a few MAMILs among us and our numbers are growing. Many of them are a lot like me, taking up cycling because beat up knees or other injuries preclude running. We’ve become established enough in our careers that we have a little bit of money (or for some, a lot of money) to spend on a hobby. And cycling is a great hobby to get into, because there’s always some new accessory or gadget you can collect. For those into data, there’s lots of that — distances, power outputs, speed, cadence, heart rate, elevation gained — and even computer programs to crunch all those numbers.

And if you ride a lot, there’s always more Lycra to buy.

A BBC News Magazine piece even suggested that becoming a MAMIL is a healthier response to a mid-life crisis than buying a sports car and wearing designer jeans. I’m not sure about that one — I started cycling well before I freaked out about turning 40.

Anyway, I don’t think my wife shares my appreciation for Lycra. I generally order new cycling clothing late at night when she’s asleep, and pay using gift cards from birthdays and Christmases past so I don’t get the “you spent how much on tights?!” lecture when the credit card bill arrives.

Don’t misunderstand, I have no delusions of grandeur (other than perhaps thinking I look better in my cycling attire than others might think). I’m not going to be joining a pro team — or even an amateur team, for that matter — any time in the future. In races, I’m perfectly content with a middle-of-the-pack-in-my-age-group finish. I want to be in good enough shape that when friends organize a ride on roads or trails, I’m fit enough to tag along, but I realize that a solo breakaway in the Tour de France is out of my league.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to dedicate a weekend morning to a 50-plus mile ride or a couple hours on an indoor trainer, and I’ve come to cherish that time to clear my mind. It’s almost a Zen experience for me, getting in tune with my bike and my surroundings.

So yes, I am proud to admit, I am a MAMIL. There are worse things to be. Because while it may not be about the bike, it’s definitely about the Spandex.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.

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