A human sub-species….

We’ve all seen them. Their visibility increases by the day. For many, it all starts on January 1st………

Let’s reveal gender early in the story. A man somewhere near you (maybe a neighbour) wakes up with a hangover on January 1st and decides that something has to change. He’s in his middle years, had his 2.1 children, changed the world in some small way in his business/professional capacity….and then realizes he is beginning to lose the edge. He needs a new target in life, something new to live for.

He takes a look at his profile in the mirror. The waist line is expanding, the hair receding, bags are appearing under theFat-Man eyes. He thinks about his lifestyle: poor diet, too much drinking, not enough exercise, burning the candle at both ends. Something has to change.

For some, there is a Damascene experience that can have one of several outcomes. Some buy themselves a powerful bullet bike (motor), with the accompanying leathers and attitude. You see them at weekends, ‘hunting’ in packs around the country lanes, breaking the speed limit at every opportune moment. Some take up jogging, but they do nothing to disguise the pain and the suffering……but all for a higher cause. Still others equip themselves with all the expensive gear needed for an arduous day’s fishing (and that includes the folding chair and six pack).

But then there is that unfit, paunchy middle aged male who begins to take an unusual interest in how his wife shaves her legs. He can be caught secretly surfing webpages of spandex clothing, reflective shades, fingerless gloves, shoes with metal plates protruding from the soles. But more worrying still, he begins to head off on secret shopping trips. He doesn’t come back with anything…..he says he’s just been window-shopping. He obviously wants to do something different, to change something in his life, but he doesn’t want to make any bad choices in the process. When he starts this new activity, he has to do everything right, so that he will (at least) look uber-cool.

3You’ve probably guessed by now, that these are the early pangs of a middle aged man getting into (or back into) cycling and, having experienced success as a professional and family man, he expects to go from ‘zero to hero’ overnight. If he’s not going to burn rubber at the speed of a Mark Cavendish, or dominate the peloton like Sir Brad, at least he can look the part.

Not for him an old steel bike that has been found at the local tip, and lovingly restored over weeks. Not for him anything less cool than a full carbon bike, weighing in just above the UCI legal 6.8 kilos; not for him the clothing that doesn’t stretch with every movement of his soon-to-be sleek body, and have enough elastication to help hold in that protruding gut; not for him a pair of sunglasses that he might wear for driving, or an old pair of skiing gloves. Everything has got to be right…………..right from the start.

The Cav, Wiggo and Froome effect has got this sub-species of the human race buying hyper-tech bikes with all the latest ‘tricknology’. Their beer1 bellies may yet be resting on the top tube as they ride, and they may be carrying an excess 30-40 kilos but, boy, they have the lightest, super-cool machine on the market; their clothing is head-turning; the electronic shifters are the best thing since sliced bread; and that Garmin 800 on his bar stem monitors his every heartbeat and pedal turn, every change in elevation, every detail of speed……it will even tell him when he’s missed a turning on the clubrun route.

This MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) is now ready to impress the world. Watch out for him at the weekends cruising along with his buddies. Like (motor) bikers, they ‘hunt in packs’…………..except the posh word in this case is ‘peloton’. If you overtake them, give them a friendly ‘beep’……


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on September 23, 2013, in Aspects of Britain, Cycling UK and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Edward Valletta

    That’s me!

  2. I encountered large numbers of this particular sub-species on the Nightrider this summer, and I took great delight in overtaking many of them. They may have all the right gear, but I’m younger and fitter and probably do an awful lot more cycling than they do.

    • …..good to hear you gave them their comeuppance! Whether or not you actually ‘cycle with heels’, I bet you rattle along at a mean speed. Would love to do the Nightrider some time.

  3. I only cycle to keep my beer belly to a respectable size. This is not helped by the fact that most club runs take lunch stops at rather nice pubs with good food and even better beers. It does beg the question; “If I didn’t cycle, would I have a beer belly?”

  4. Phil Lewis ( Chippenham Wheelers )

    Cyclists real, ride on steel!

    • Ah, interesting thought, Phil. And since I have just had a steel frame built, I might be inclined to agree with you……..but then I don’t just ride steel. In fact, I’m quite taken by the thought of a titanium road bike…….

      • Nothing wrong with titanium Frank, just the price of it.
        As I have all the machines I need to see me through this playground that the gracious Lord has given us, the majority of them being steel, they have stood the test of time, so there is no need for further extravagant indulgences.

  5. That’s almost me except I don’t do lycra – yet!!
    Graham Peace

  6. Elitist! 🙂

  7. I used to be a MAMIL, but if I’m middle-aged there’ll be a world record broken 64 years from now.

    So now I prefer to think of myself as a Fat Old Idiotic Bloke In Lycra. A FOIBIL.

  8. Well I take my (virtual) hat off to all the FOBILs. At least they’re trying !

  9. Heard this one from an Aussie expat living in the States: COBWEBS – cranky old buggers with expensive bikes!

  10. Frank, great note. Guess now that I am almost 70 (Feb), I don’t have to worry. Interestingly the Italian retirees are quite the deal with their team kit and exotic machines. Last summer a quite elderly but keen cyclist came quickly across the road to intercept me as I was climbing up from Rimini towards Novafeltrina. He must have figured a tourer would have tools along. He started in Italian but we quickly moved to sign language, er, bike sign language and he indicated that his steering stem was loose. It was a older threaded style that I had never seen in America. I tried to tighten (had the right tool) but something in the can arrangement was defective. During the help session l had laid my bike over so it lay on my ample panniers basically horizontal. One small problem. I had forgotten to zip my bar bad and my wallet/ passport and other valuables fell out but I did not figure that out until about 5 km up the road. Once I realized my loss I careened back to the help spot and retrieved my valuables from the weeds. Not the best experience but good to tell about.

    • An amazing story, Joe……and good to see you did what all roadies should always do…….stop to help someone in distress. The payback comes when you are in need…… Glad you retrieved your valuables!

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