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Hooked on Cycling
Source: The Daily Mail, written by: Jennie Price
Oh the shame of being married to a MAMIL (that’s a Middle Aged Man In Lycra)
Jennie Price from Surrey is a cycling widow. Her husband Richard’s transformation began five years ago. To get fit, he bought a road bike but soon became obsessed. Now he spends hours in the saddle. He has also spent a fortune on bikes, cycling clothing and gadgets.
Standing in the sunshine, chatting with my friends in the park on a lovely Saturday morning, I could not have been more content. Then I caught a glimpse of garish pink and DayGlo yellow. In an instant, my mood was shattered as a voice gasped: ‘Dear God, Jennie. Is that your husband?’.
And there he was, walking towards us in an outfit even Daniel Craig would struggle to pull off. In fact waddling would be a more apt description, as his cycling shoes made walking all but impossible.
Cycle of despair: Jennie Price and her husband Richard with his £2,000 bike
Yet, as I stood there mortified, Richard had a smile as broad as the Thames. For my darling husband is a MAMIL, and had just returned from his ritual Saturday bike ride.
‘What is a MAMIL?’ I hear you cry. Well, as of last week you need look no further than the Oxford Dictionary to find out. It stands for a Middle Aged Man In Lycra.
The definition is ‘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’.
Crisis: Richard’s mid-life crisis is entirely his choice, says Jennie who says it has turned her into a weekend widow rapidly turning grey as she watches money drain from their joint account. You will have seen them. Their numbers are swelling at an alarming rate, thanks to Tour de France winners Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome — men I would admire but for my husband’s desire to emulate them.
As professional sportsmen, it is their job to dress in ridiculous clothes and spend endless hours in the saddle. But Richard’s mid-life crisis is entirely his choice, and has turned me into a weekend widow rapidly turning grey as I watch money drain from our joint account more quickly than a Mark Cavendish sprint.
For those fortunate enough to have normal husbands, allow me to elaborate. Being a MAMIL is about much more than squeezing your ample frame into tight lycra.
MAMIL hero: The men all want to be like Tour De France winner Bradley Wiggins. This means boring dinner parties into silence with endless chat about bikes, spending long hours of family time out ‘training’, embarrassing your children walking around the house in bib shorts (think a mankini with padding around the nether regions) and paying eye-watering sums for obscure items of kit.
Richard’s transformation into a MAMIL began five years ago when, to get fit, he bought a road bike. At first, he wore a sensible pair of shorts and a loose-fitting jersey.
But then the buying began in earnest. New wheels (the old ones were slowing him down, apparently), a pair of cycling shoes, then another pair, then a ‘quicker’ helmet, then a personal trainer to help him shed the pounds and improve his ‘power to weight ratio’.
The clothes grew tighter, the cost escalated as he bought a cycling computer (a glorified satnav), which at £500 cost almost as much as his bike, and £250 sunglasses (they have gaps in the lenses to stop them steaming up — but if you sweat as much as Richard, they steam up anyway).
Now our weekends have been taken over by cycling. For MAMILs do not simply go on an hour-long run out. Rides regularly last three hours or more, while in the spring and summer they disappear for days to ride in ‘sportive’ events.
My husband, like so many of his friends, is a fanatic. He buys an average of one bike a year, each more expensive than the last. His first was a relatively meagre £800, that he sold two years on for £200.
Emulating their idols: Jennie’s husband and his friends go on cycling trips abroad so they can cycle routes taken by professionals like Chris Froome, pictured right Chris Froome: an inspiration to ‘MAMILs’ everywhere.
Today, he has three: a day-to-day ‘workhorse’ (£1,000), a steel ‘winter trainer’ (£850) and a custom-built, red, white and blue road bike (£2,000 — his name is painted on the frame).
Then there are the clothes, gadgets and ‘sports nutrition’. Tools, inner tubes, tyres, wheels, hats, gloves (summer, autumn, winter and spring versions), shoes (waterproof for the winter, lightweight for the summer), overshoes, arm warmers, leg warmers, lights, pumps, pedals and saddles… the list is endless.
Spending: Jennie says every week another mysterious package arrives, with the latest waterproof jersey or a vintage cycling cap of a type once worn by one of his increasingly obscure heroes. At night in bed, he reads Cycling Weekly or autobiographies of surly-looking Belgians. He has also been agonising over whether to shave his legs or not, although the only reason he can give me for doing so is ‘the pros do it’. All the gear, no idea: Jennie’s husband has as much kit as Mark Cavendish but cycling is not his career.
Even when it rains we get no respite. Rather than miss a ride he sets up rollers (a treadmill for bikes) in the kitchen and scares the dog witless by riding on the spot for a noisy hour.
Then there are the foreign trips. We live in the Surrey Hills — one of the best cycling spots in the country. Box Hill, where the Olympic road race was held, is a local climb and the Tour of Britain passes through every year.
The one thing we don’t have is a mountain. So a couple of times a year Richard and his MAMIL pals pack their bikes into protective boxes (£500) and fly to the Pyrenees or the Alps, for a weekend emulating their professional cycling idols. It may drive me to distraction, but I must admit I admire his dedication. Our son, James, six, certainly looks up to him and wants a road bike, too.
Even Jessica, eight-going-on-18, was genuinely interested in racing a bike until recently, when she started to prefer my Zumba and dance classes. For a man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago, Richard is impressively active. Both ride well and have picked up a love of exercise from Richard and me.
For a man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago, Richard is impressively active. Within a year of taking up cycling he rode from London to Paris and this summer did the Etape du Tour — a mountain stage of the Tour de France, in appalling weather.
As mid-life crises go it could be a lot worse. I am far happier my 41-year-old husband is out riding a pushbike with a bunch of other men than zooming around on a Harley-Davidson and chasing girls half his age. I also take comfort from the fact I am not alone. In our circle of friends, six of the husbands have taken up cycling. They are putting this passion to good use, too. Next May they will take part in a charity cycle ride from Guildford to Bordeaux in aid of The Fountain Centre, a local cancer charity.
Being a MAMIL, like all mid-life crises means acting like little boys. As 11-year-olds do, they have their in-jokes, asserting the perfect number of bikes to own is N + 1 (N is the number of bikes you have already).
Another formula, which shows they are not entirely stupid, is S – 1 (S is the number of bikes that will prompt your wife to demand a separation). In Richard’s case, he seems to have taken heed to the latter — he used to have two more than now (a mountain bike and a Brompton folding cycle).
Of course, he hankers for more. Recently, he has been wittering on about carbon and titanium frames, in the hope of boring me into submission. I humour him up to a point, but on one issue I will not budge. Since that day in the park Richard is banned from attending any social occasion dressed in lycra — on pain of his bike being sent to the tip.
Would I really follow through with the threat? Just try me.
Mid-life crisis reduced to purchase of cycling equipment
The Institute for Studies found that 43 percent of professional men aged 35-50 have spent more than £500 on a bike without really knowing why. Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Historically, men of a certain age have spent their disposable incomes on small fibreglass sports cars that the man in the shop described as a ‘fanny magnet’.
“This would be combined with pointy shoes, brown leather clothing and a hip flask – the objective being an overall sense of virility that would impress ‘dolly birds’.
“So it’s interesting that today’s middle-aged man is choosing instead to spend the disposable income generated by the job he hates on a Tungusku 9000 super-lightweight racing bike made from sort sort of space carbon and weighing less than a grape.
“And then riding around on top of it. Wearing spandex. And a plastic hat. Like a total bell-end.
“Clearly these are not the actions of a sexual predator.”
Roy Hobbs, 41, said: “I dressed myself in the gear and looked at myself in the mirror and thought, ‘What have I become?’ I looked like a chunky wasp.
“Maybe I’ll take the bike into the garden tomorrow and smash it with a mallet, while weeping.”
Most importantly, don’t let age slow you down. Get out there, have fun, and enjoy your bike! And in the meantime, hurry spring!
Hope to see you on the road.
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