It’s official! The acronym MAMILs – middle-aged men in Lycra – has made it onto a list of new words and phrases released today by Oxford University Press, publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Here’s the definition of ‘MAMIL’ (which can also be styled ‘Mamil’):
NOUN (plural MAMILs)
A middle-aged man who is a very keen road cyclist, typically one who rides an expensive bike and wears the type of clothing associated with professional cyclists:
'he spends his weekend mornings cycling with other MAMILs'
'this is as close to a professional peloton as any MAMIL will ever get'
Oxforddictionaries.com gives the word’s origin as: “Early 21st century: acronym from middle-aged man in Lycra (from the proprietary term for a type of fabric or fibre used to make close-fitting sportswear); the term was apparently first used in Australia with reference to a particular type of male swimmer.”
However, the first use we saw of it in a cycling context came in a consumer research report on the UK bicycle market published by the market research firm Mintel in August 2010, which highlighted growing numbers of well-off middle-agers, often professionals, taking to bicycles.
The report’s author, Michael Oliver, said at the time: "Thirty or 40 years ago, people would ride a bike for economic reasons, but our research suggests that nowadays a bicycle is more a lifestyle addition, a way of demonstrating how affluent you are."
To employ anoher new word (in its adjectival sense) the term MAMIL can evoke Marmite feelings among the cycling community, some wearing it as a badge of honour, others using it pejoratively to describe a certain kind of “all the gear but no idea” arriviste to the sport.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.