In de­fence of Mamils

Cycling Weekly - - Fitness - James Beale and Oliver Glackin are sports psy­chol­o­gists from the Uni­ver­sity of East Lon­don

Chris Hoy re­cently sparked con­tro­versy by writ­ing in GQ mag­a­zine that Mamils [mid­dle-aged men in Ly­cra] “look as ridicu­lous as an over­weight foot­ball fan wear­ing the shirt of his favourite club for a pub five-a-side game”.

Hoy later apol­o­gised, but the mat­ter isn’t set­tled; Mamils are con­tin­u­ally given a hard time in the pop­u­lar press. Do they de­serve this flak? Aren’t they just or­di­nary men try­ing to en­joy their free time? We re­cently pub­lished re­search ex­am­in­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact on se­ri­ous recre­ational cy­clists aged 34-52 — typ­i­cal Mamils — of cy­cling in groups in the coun­try­side.

This study fo­cused on ‘green cy­cling’ — gen­eral ex­er­cise in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment (dis­tinct from train­ing or rac­ing). We wanted to ex­am­ine the rea­sons why pro­fes­sional males with lim­ited free time choose to spend that time cy­cling in the coun­try­side rather than, say, re­lax­ing at home. The high preva­lence of Mamils sug­gested the pull fac­tors were strong; the press de­pic­tions of these men as driven by ego and com­pet­i­tive­ness seemed in­ad­e­quate at best.

Our re­search found three main mo­ti­va­tions among Mamils. The first was ‘mas­tery and un­com­pli­cated joys’: ris­ing to the chal­lenges pre­sented by the coun­try­side — big hills, long roads, and the re­sul­tant sense of achieve­ment. The se­cond was ‘my place to es­cape and re­ju­ve­nate’: rid­ers spoke of the coun­try­side as a nat­u­rally restorative place in which they were able to leave be­hind their stresses and fo­cus purely on rid­ing. The fi­nal mo­ti­va­tion was to feel ‘alone but con­nected’: rid­ing in the coun­try­side as pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity with­out obli­ga­tion to net­work and be so­cia­ble. The rid­ers also spoke about com­par­ing GPS data to foster non-com­pet­i­tive so­cial con­nec­tiv­ity.

This study goes some way to de­fend­ing the Mamil. He is a peace-lov­ing crea­ture who rides to re­lax and feel at one with na­ture. Just be­cause he opts not to race or fol­low a struc­tured train­ing regime shouldn’t make him a tar­get of mock­ery or dis­dain.

“Mamils ride to re­lax and feel at one with na­ture”

Mamils: na­ture lovers

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