In defence of Mamils
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