Six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy has apologised for remarks made in GQ magazine in which he shared his cycling style tips and said he feels “sorry for MAMILs,” comparing most of those who ride in full team kit to "an overweight football fan wearing the shirt of his favourite club for a pub five-a-side game."
On Twitter yesterday evening he said the comments, published in the magazine's August issue, were part of a "tongue-in-cheek article that wasn't meant to offend."
He added that on reflection, the article came across as "harsh," which hadn't been his intention.
As a 14+stone MAMIL myself, this was a tongue-in-cheek article that wasn't meant to offend (1/2) https://t.co/ludxBQm9QN
— Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) August 28, 2017
I'm really sorry; reading it back it looks harsh &that wasn't my intention.
Whatever ur age/build, if ur on a bike u have my respect (2/2)
— Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) August 28, 2017
The acronym MAMIL, which stands for “Middle Aged Men in Lycra,” was first used in a cycling context by London based consumer research firm Mintel in its Cycling in the UK report published in 2010.
Hoy began his GQ piece by highlighting what he sees as a “complicated” situation for cyclists in the UK compared to their counterparts in countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany where the habit of riding a bike is more entrenched, and has been for years.
“We are still in that awkward phase of finding ourselves in an unfamiliar situation and feeling uncomfortable,” he said. “So we overthink things and end up assuming to ride a bike in any way seriously you need to be wearing a full Team Sky racing kit.
“Of course, that it makes most cyclists look as ridiculous as an overweight football fan wearing the shirt of his favourite club for a pub five-a-side game.”
The Scot continued: “Personally, I feel sorry for MAMILs. When they walk into a café dressed head-to-toe in Lycra, you'll always spot people sniggering at them.”
He said that one positive interpretation “may be that they were once twice the size they are now until cycling transformed them and they feel great about how they look.”
But he continued: “The flipside is that Lycra isn't the most elegant material you can wear and professional cycling gear generally looks awful on pretty much anyone heavier than eight stone and with more than five per cent body aerodynamic fat.
“But there is a better solution. For me, the most important consideration is to choose attire that is functional, but looks stylish too. That means going for colours that are understated and use smart fabrics.”
Hoy, who in 2015 launched his own short-lived range of cycle clothing in partnership with Vulpine, which was rescued from administration by Mango Bikes earlier this year, took what many might see as a side-swipe at another well-known cycle clothing brand, and one whose products come at a premium.
“Another common mistake is buying the most expensive cycling gear just because it is perceived as fashionable or cool,” he said.
“For many cyclists, there is a reverse snobbery where they will look down on a rider if every item they own comes from the same brand.
“You will get more respect if you mix and match items that look good.”
Hoy’s style tips also encompassed issues such as shorts and leg-shaving
Then there is the issue of shorts and the option of leg shaving.
“If you are part of a cycling group that takes their riding seriously, you can expect a lot of mickey-taking if you turn up with hairy legs,” he explained.
“Likewise, if you ever wear shorts to the office and you have shaved your legs you are certainly going to hear about it.”
Most road cyclists would agree with the first of his parting pieces of advice.
“Avoid white shorts,” said Hoy. “They're terribly unflattering (from the front, men look like a percentage sign) and become see-through when wet. Enough said.”
Riders who regularly participate in time trials might take exception to his final tip, however.
“Never wear an aerodynamic helmet,” he cautioned. “Unless you are taking part in a time trial at the Olympics or one of the grand tours, don't do it.”
What do you think? Is Hoy on the money, or should people wear whatever they feel comfortable in? And what are your personal no-nos? National champion's kit? Mismatched team kit? Any kind of team kit at all, unless you ride for them? Let us know in the comments below.
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.