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tour down under

The annual cycling extravaganza that is the Tour Down Under has just concluded in Adelaide with South Australia enjoying some excellent exposure on the world stage.

Whilst the professional stages of the TDU are compelling viewing for even the most casual cycling enthusiast, more curious for me is the amateur cycling milieu that takes over the city for the duration of the event.

The three most common traits of the people that belong to this milieu are: a) they are middle aged; b) they are male; c) they wear body-hugging lycra over their distended beer bellies and varicose vein-marbled thighs.

These are ‘mamils’, or ‘middle aged men in lycra’, a term first coined by UK marketing research firm Mintel back in 2010.

Today this term is used commonly by sociologists and demographers to explain the propensity for unfit, old codgers to spend a small fortune on a precision machine made from space shuttle-grade materials, and take to the streets in a most unbecoming ensemble.

I like a leisurely cycle from time to time, although I don’t do the ‘big three’: hills, gears or roads.  I also do the odd RPM class at the gym.  But I do not understand the ‘mamil’ culture and I’m not sure that I ever will.

I have so many questions:

  • Where do mamils go when it’s not January? Do they hibernate?
  • Why is it that mamils only appear on the roads on the first day of the Tour Down Under? Don’t they do any lead-in work?
  • Do mamils take a week of leave from work over the Tour Down Under period? Do they still have leave accrued after their Christmas break? Or are they all unemployed?
  • If they are unemployed, how did they afford a $2,000+ road bike?
  • Do mamils really think that being devoid of leg hair will make their bodies more aerodynamic and thus improve their speed?
  • Why do mamils insist on riding three abreast on arterial roads, with two riders cycling outside of the designated bike lane?
  • How do you ‘clip out’ of those bloody pedals without going ass over?
  • Shouldn’t mamils rehydrate with water, rather than sipping on a latte every kilometre?
  • Do all those brand names on a mamil’s lycra bodysuit mean that they are actually sponsored to ride? Or do they just want to look like they’re a professional rider?
  • What is that funny protruding bracket that sticks out of the top of a mamil’s helmet?
  • Why don’t mamils make at least some small attempt to augment their ‘package’ in that revealing garb?

A friend – who, like me, is over forty years old –  has invited me to get involved and start training for next year’s BUPA Challenge Tour, a public cycling race held during the TDU event.

I’m going to stick to running because, unlike my friend, I don’t look the part in a lycra onesie.

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