What Is A MAMIL (And Are You One)?

Do you like being called a MAMIL?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately, partly following the results of my subscriber survey and partly because I see that a new documentary on MAMILs is coming out. More on both topics later in the post.

But is the term MAMIL perjorative? (Good word…)

Offensive even?

Or something to be proud of? A tribe to identity with. A flag (stretchy, in garish colours) to rally around.

The modern MAMIL is a complex beast. And he needs analysing.

So, if you’d like to muse on the MAMIL (or perhaps find out what one is…), read on MAMIL-duff.

What Is A MAMIL?

The term ‘MAMIL’, for those living under a media-shielding rock, is an acronym that stands for ‘Middle Aged Man In Lycra’.

The internet tells us that the term was coined by Mintel, a global market research firm, as recently as 2010 (I must admit, it feels like the word has been around for longer).

Now, as a BA (Hons) Historian, I’d ideally like to go back to the primary source for this information. Unfortunately the primary source costs £1,500 (steep even before we consider that the report is 8 years out of date) so you’ll have to make do with a secondary source written at the time.

Whatever the origin, the word now sits firmly in the English lexicon, via the Oxford English Dictionary:

MAMIL – NOUN, British informal
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.

Wish I had an expensive bike…

Middle Age Starts At…

The Mintel research (apparently) refers to MAMILs as being aged 35–45, which feels like a rather tight age range.

To me, the population of greater spotted MAMILs seems to encompass riders well into their 50s and 60s. I’d be pulling the pin out and chucking the comments grenade if I was to suggest that readers of this blog that were born in the 1950s and ’60s are ‘old’.

So (he says, juggling the same comments grenade), assuming you’re not claiming to be a millenial, if you’re aged 45–65 (or older), does ‘middle-aged’ aged work for you?

Perhaps by saying that, I’ve lost the 45-year-olds.

I just asked my wife (40 next year, like me) whether she considers herself middle-aged. I also just finished making up a bed on the sofa in the living room.

As a 38-year-old, and therefore firmly a Mintel MAMIL, I must admit that I struggle to accept the first two letters as describing me accurately.

That said, I don’t mind being thought of as a MAMIL.

Are You A MAMIL? Am I?

Well, are you?

If you’re reading this blog (which you are…), there’s a pretty good chance that you meet the criteria.

I just ran a survey of Sportive Cyclist email subscribers. The results were pretty enlightening.

Firstly, it turns out that most of you are male:

Sportive cyclists gender

And, throwing age sensitivity to the wind, most of you are middle-aged, or at least on the brink of it:

Subscriber age chart

Whilst the age breakdown by gender may not be constant, let’s assume it is (and, fug it, let’s say the 65 plussers are ‘middle-aged’ – you’re probably fitter than most ‘normal’ middle-aged people).

On this basis, 89.3% of the readers (or at least subscribers) of this blog are MAMILs.

(Which probably means that if i) you’re a MAMIL; ii) you ride 2–3 times a week; iii) you’d like to get fitter in the limited time you have available each week; and iv) you’re targeting a long sportive or ride in the next year, you’d get an awful lot of value from signing up to my email list.)

The Lesser Spotted American MAMIL?

It turns out (from the survey) that 17.7% of you live in the USA (who knew…?).

Where do sportive cyclists live?

Normally I reserve reader questions for the end of the post, as a cunning ruse to get you to leave comments and thus confirm that the Sportive Cyclist blog actually has some readers, but… let’s go with one now:

Does the concept of ‘MAMIL’, or at least that term, exist in the US?

You see, I’m not sure that ‘Lycra’ is a particularly American thang, instead getting replaced with ‘Spandex’. This would make the middle-aged American road cyclist a MAMIS.

Surely not as catchy.

What About MAFILs (Or Should That Be MAWILs)?

[Mont starts to play keepy-uppy with the grenade]

Right. A strict reading of the MAMIL acronym clearly excludes women (which is probably welcomed by those that see it as a derogatory term).

Whilst the MAMIL grabbed the headlines, the 2010 Mintel research (I think) referred to 25% of cyclists being female.

Middle-aged men don’t hold the monopoly on being inspired by male pros.

I’m pretty sure non-MAMILs of either gender are able mentally to project themselves into the crucible of suffering that is a mountain stage in the third week of the Tour de France.

But if you’re a road cycling enthusiast in the middling decades of your life, and you happen to be a women, can we ignore what the acronym stands for and call you a MAMIL?

I Am MAMIL, Hear Me Roar!

In addition to featuring the word MAMIL for the first time (we are told…), the Mintel research described the growth in popularity of road cycling (and cycling more generally as a mode of transport).

This was before the further acceleration that followed the 2012 Olympics, the advent of the RideLondon mass participation event in 2013, and the 2014 Tour Grand Depart.

This is undoubtedly a good thing. The rise of the MAMIL was a significant contributing factor.

Money makes the world go round, and it was MAMILs driving the cycling spend. As well as driving the cyclo-economy, I’d assert that commuting MAMILs helped increase the number of cyclists on the road, particularly in London, increasing rider safety for all and pushing politicians to support the building of bike-specific infrastructure.

Tribalism (The Dangers Of)

To be honest, it feels like MAMIL has gone from the word describing a socio-economic group to one describing a tribe. A group of people, admittedly of a similar age and stage, with a shared passion for road bikes (and riding them).

Perhaps that’s why I’m happy to be identified as a MAMIL when I hesitate to embrace the onset of middle age.

It’s funny that I’m discussing this subject. I’m not a fan of tribalism.

I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable revealing which football team I support. I struggle with the idea that this then tells you which other team (or teams), their fans and players, that I must hate as a result. I just don’t feel strongly enough on the subject.

I don’t like groupthink and I don’t like imposing my views on others (he says, as he publishes another blog post…).

The danger with striving for too much definition is that it can cause divisions to arise between groups. Divisions that can tend towards the extreme. This can have tangible negative results.

There are certainly car drivers on the roads of Britain that have it in their heads that they ‘hate cyclists’ (and vice versa, admittedly). Which aint going to lead to a calm and tolerant driving style when they happen upon one.

That all said, if I am going to belong to a tribe, I’d prefer to belong to one that pokes fun at itself. One that accepts dressing in faintly ridiculous clothing and harbours juvenile notions that a professional cycling career can start at 40 (or later).

You Mentioned A Documentary On MAMILs…

Ah yes. This post was prompted by me discovering an upcoming documentary simply called ‘MAMIL’.

Here is the trailer:

It’s due to be screened in UK cinemas on 9 April at a variety of different Odeons. It looks like they need to sell a minimum number of tickets at a given venue for that showing to go ahead (so here’s hoping enough readers in Derby are motivated to go along…).

Here is the website for booking tickets.

So, Do You Identify With MAMIL?

My original question, if you can remember that far back, was whether you liked being called a MAMIL.

If you are a) female; or b) aged below 40, perhaps you have some misgivings in receiving the MAMILabel (or perhaps you don’t!?).

But for those of you ‘in the demographic’, how do you feel about the description?

Are you MAMIL and proud, or ‘definitely not one of those’…?

I’d be interested to know (not least because I might rename the blog as ‘The Secret Life of MAMILs’).

Let me know in the comments below.

33 thoughts on “What Is A MAMIL (And Are You One)?

  1. 52, don’t particularly identify as a MAMIL but undoubtedly would be placed in that group by others and I dont mind.Brilliant 2 hour ride this morning, bitterly cold but beautiful sunshine!

    As a more..ahem..robust cyclist, I can’t say Lycra does me or observers any favours at all, I would be very interested in something suitable for road cyclists that isn’t quite so ‘fitted’.

    Anyone out there able to help?

  2. When I took up cycling as a sport/exercise regime I was 45. Before then, I used to see these weirdos on their skinny bikes wearing extremely tight fitting bulge inducing clothing and would murmur to myself about not being seen dead looking like that. Now I am 56 and very happy to be part of the Mamil crowd. Part of what I love about cycling is the technology, whether it be the mechanics of the bikes, the add-ons like GPS, or the clothing. Every item I wear for cycling has a job to do other than just cover/accentuate my modesty. I had read a few years ago that the Mamil demographic was actually 45-55 but I reckon now it’s probably extends at least to 65 which means if I am still going strong at that age I’ll live to 110.

  3. Glenn – Sure on the style factor. Just wear a pair of padded shorts under your favorite age appropriate threads.
    Monty – you mentioned tribes as if they were a negative?
    Maybe surfing movies aren’t a big thing where you are? “In God’s Hands” is one of the best. There are several great narrated comments on modern tribes – how they function and why they exist.
    As a post MAMIL I’m not only pleased but honored to be in any tribe especially as a cyclist!
    From your 17%
    Steve

  4. American MAMILs: yes, absolutely. In my circles, it’s just a funny term for a grown man who wears much-too-tight clothes and spins around on a bike. See also: “Fred”

  5. My older sister refers to me as a MAMIL (I’m 62 and she’s, er, older) and, I think, she means it amusingly in the way she has always ribbed her baby brother. I laugh along with it but tend to feel beyond middle age and wonder if I’m deluding myself by accepting the term. I tend play down the MAMIL thing when others mention it, feeling slightly embarrassed and usually replying that I’m just an old bloke on a bike in an effort to deflect any pretension. As an aside, I recently came across the term VOMIT – Very Old Men in Tights. Perhaps that’s the next stage?

  6. I hate the tag, but the alternative, wearing baggy shorts and a sweatshirt, helmet with a peak etc. well, the thought is too horrendous to think about. I knew a guy who wouldn’t wear lycra just because of the MAMIL tag and he found the flapping clothing a real issue. The shorts chaffed and he looked like the marshmallow man with his shirt inflating. He eventually realised that the sort of people taking the mickey, who came up with the tag, were the kind that don’t do anything other than sit in a car or in front of a TV watching sport rather than doing it. He then realised that having fun and feeling good doing it were all that mattered and that life is too short to care about this sort of nonsense. Glad I got that right from the start!

  7. MAMIL a term used to describe age, clothing and pass time. It works, everyone knows what you mean from its popular usage.

    Me, I don’t actually care what you call me. Do I describe myself as such, no not to this day as never felt the need to ‘describe’ myself.

    I could definitely never aspire to be a pro, I don’t watch or pay much interest in sport on the television at all. I’m a cyclist, sometimes I wear Lycra, sometimes I wear jeans, surely we chose clothes to suit what we are doing – I don’t wear shorts in winter but I don’t wear jeans in summer.

    Good article Monty

  8. I don’t really care about being pout in this category/tribe. Better being out there doing something and enjoying yourself than on the couch eating a packet of chips melting away into obesity. Even my wife has started to ride now.

    As for a term for women I heard one the other day. WOBIL – Women On Bikes In Lycra. Not sure wifey is real keen on it though! Haha

  9. I’m afraid I have passed the MAMIL stage. Apparently I am now a FOSSIL!
    ( F…… old sod still in Lycra! ) But loving every minute!
    Just arrived in Cape Town ready for the Cape Town Cycle Tour. 35,000 riders of which normally around 600 of us will be over 70.
    I hope I am still riding here in my eighties!

  10. Good article as usual, thanks. Am I a Mamil? Yes, by any popular definition of the term. 49, un-slim, I wear Lycra and know I don’t look good in I but don’t care and I ride a road bike that cost enough that I was uncomfortable telling my wife about it (although I did and had a twenty point list of justifications prepared to support it, just in case).

    I don’t love the tag simply because the stereotype is far too close to the truth. I am learning to embrace it and mentally stick up 2 fingers to anyone who sniggers. I’m now fitter than I was when I started my 40s and cycling is way better for my mental health than golf ever was (yes, I even fall into that cliche) plus I have more time to support my kids in their weekend sporting endeavours.

    If this is a mid-life crisis then so be it. It’s better than the old version involving a Porsche 911 and a younger woman. Isn’t it?!

  11. As an OAFIL I’ve found this discussion of several years now to be one of those things that doesn’t draw in one’s conscious consideration beyond that of simply noting it. I cycle in the vicinity of a large university, and their team goes by myself and the other riders in my group upon occasion. They are very friendly and sometimes even chatty when it happens to coincide with one of their breaks. During large century rides one does see a small percentage of the stereotypical MAMIL, as best as I can infer from your OED definition, but its a very small percentage. Certainly, most of us spend lots of money on our gear, but quite a bit less so on the kit. That’s simply the passion. For myself, better that than just yet another larger flat screen.

  12. I’m 53 and definitely a MAMIL. It doesn’t bother me as a term, I am middle aged (though don’t think I felt it until at least 45, so you’ve got a few years Monty!), I ride a road bike and wear Lycra. If people want to sneer at that, more fool them. If one takes any sport half seriously then you wear the correct kit. Am I pretending to be Chris Froome? Perhaps a little, so what it’s my leisure time and the main reason for the Lycra is comfort and practicality.

    On the subject of the female equivalent term, I saw a club on Strava that used MAMIL as ‘middle aged maidens in Lycra’.

  13. I don’t like the term as it’s generally used as a derogatory label, often by other more experienced cyclists. Specifically I think it’s been used in a rather unkind way, to describe someone who is new to the sport, has the disposable cash to buy good quality gear, but has little experience; used rather sneeringly in an elitist way. “You’re not welcome in our sport, who do you think you are, beginners buying all the correct equipment etc, that’s for us who’ve been riding for years”
    So, no, I don’t like the term

  14. I’m 59 in a few weeks. I only really got into cycling on the wrong side of 55 and until he graduated and left home did most of my cycling with my son (who was early 20”s).

    Am I a MAMIL? Too right I am!
    Am I proud of it? Absolutely!

  15. Like many, no strong feelings about the term. I love cycling, there is no other sport like it. Keeps me fit and gives me a buzz, especially setting and achieving yearly goals. however, at 58 I do consider myself more OMIL than MAMIL.

  16. I am 53 and been cycling for 4 years now.
    Am I a MAMIL? Based on the movie (which I have seen and recommend), most definitely!
    Am I a MAMIL? Based on what everyone says, Yes?
    Am I Proud to be one? Oh Yes!!
    I am also proud that due to my efforts and results as a MAMIL. I have influenced at least 5 other people to take up cycling and live a healthier lifestyle.
    MAMIL describes a person that has realized something needs to be done about either weight, fitness, illness. stress levels or perhaps just to to try something new. This person takes up cycling in one form or another and quickly gets hooked and addicted to the sport! Soon to become a fully fledged MAMIL.
    I will remain a MAMIL as long as I can still get my leg over. (I am talking about my bike of course!)

  17. I am fast approaching 70 and although I’m sure some of my friends and family have used the term MAMIL to describe me I really couldn’t really care. I’m the one who is getting out and keeping active, with all the health and fitness benefits that are said to be gained from regular exercise. Middle age is all in the mind and although some days I start off feeling really ancient it does not take too long to feel good about myself.

  18. So, it’s confession time. I keep up with your articles, and sometimes I share them with my wife. When I found out that there was a reward for filling out the survey, I got her to fill it out as well! She’s 24, female, and American. I feel like she’s the outlier here, haha.

    I am 25, male, American, and I’ve never heard of the word “Lycra” or “MAMIL.” I also don’t associate with 40% of the acronym.

  19. I’m 57 and male so there’s not much I can do about 2 of the criteria for being a MAMIL. I discovered road cycling a year ago since when I’ve lost a stone and a half. It started out as a means to lose weight and I’m now lighter, stronger and fitter than I’ve been for years. However along the way I got bitten by the bug so now it’s something that I do because I enjoy it.

    As the distances have increased I realised that it’s better to be comfortable than not so I started wearing Lycra. To begin with I was pretty self-conscious but as I went on more rides I realised that I was just doing what everyone else does and there’s a reason for it.

    Friends may scoff (and indeed they do) and some claim to have been scarred for life at the thought but I simply point out the benefits and knock out another ride – a quick look at Strava soon shuts them up.

    So am I a MAMIL – yes; do other people have an issue with it probably – but that’s their problem not mine.

  20. Well Monty ….. I am a proud 49 year old South African MAMIL, however started riding higher end machines recreationally at the age of 16 and never stopped. Never fooled myself that I had the ability to join the pro’s and did it for both enjoyment and health. So no mid-life crisis in my road to MAMILhood and I do not intend getting off my bike until such time as my body forces me off it. Do friends scoff? Nope. Does my wife scoff? Nope — although she has shed a silent tear a few times after hard falls sent me to the ER. All they have ever known me as is a recreational cyclist and canoeist. Do I care when others scoff at me on the road? Nope ….. as they are normally panting just as hard as I am and it gives me great pleasure to point out that fact (plus the fact that they are at least 5 or 10 years younger than I am) as I put in a particularly hard turn at the front … the rest of the ride is normally quite …….. normal. Proud to be a MAMIL.

  21. 56 Cheshire based male cyclist .
    Took up cycling 4 years ago, tried wearing just normal shorts but once over 30 minutes they weren’t that comfortable. Once you have lyrca shorts , other stuff just follows. The middle aged thing – once it woudl have been derogatory , now i think i just squeeze in.

    I don’t think i have an expensive bike, but i gues no one does, although am now on my 4th in 4 years , and each one has cost a bit more.
    I’m recovering from a collar bone break – which is takimng lomger to heal beacause of my ae, but i’ll be back on teh bike once its healed
    I used to be a a BAB ( born again motorcyclist) so maybe a MMIL is a progression
    I’m relaxed

    I enjoy the Blog, and its one email i always read

  22. Great post … MAMIL’s rule.

    As a well proportioned 50+ cyclist – that transitioned across from MTB’ing – I too discovered that hiding behind baggy shorts and tops ended up being more uncomfortable than it was worth on the road. So yes, I do get the occasional sarcastic remark when clad in Lycra (mainly from the missus pre-ride), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    My aspirations are more about self-improvement and enjoyment than they are about appearances, so I do not think of MAMIL as derogatory, but rather as something that current and future cyclists should be proud to be as time goes by.

    The longer I’m a MAMIL, the happier I’ll be !!

  23. The term couldn’t come from any other source than marketing!
    Well I’m female, turned 60, have to resort to Lycra (is there anything else?). Quite frankly no-one I know would make comments on someone’s ‘looks’ in Lycra (on a bike) from someone on a bike in Lycra. Team spirit?
    Quite frankly don’t care what I’m called, although I prefer the term ‘fit’ or ‘healthy’!
    Sue.

  24. I’ve been riding all my life…well I’ve had a bike since I was 6ish, I’m a bit indifferent to the MAMIL moniker… now im 50 and still love biking, I road bike and mountain bike and yes do own Lycra, I have some great mates who I go on cycling trips with who are in their 20’s! I’m introducing my 4 year old to cycling at the moment who loves it.

    So, if others feel the need to put me into category and it makes them feel better then that’s fine with me as long as I can ride my bike, it keeps me fit, gives me some great experiences and keeps my mind active.

    Others play golf, football, cricket and I’m sure wear the appropriate clothing for their sport so what’s the difference? I guess we are just a bit more visible out on the road…

    Just found your blog by the way and have signed up…looking forward to reading more. Interesting topic!

    • Inspiring, humbling… bit of a Superhero in my view…

      Recently made the acquaintance of a 74yr. old local whom finished a 35mile gut buster of a ride / Fast group, designed to drop riders etc… Group was packed with young guns etc… out of 40+ riders, I came in among the top 10… So did My new friend Marvin!.. simply astounding and inspiring to say the least!!..

      Keep Rollin David!

  25. Well, I am in my mid fifties, am over weight and have been cycling since I was about five. I love cycling but I don’t like modern cyclists who because they are younger and faster think they are better.
    It takes me ages to warm up and I still struggle up the hills. I do a few sportives each year and managed a couple of good times last year but I have also abandoned a couple due to cramp etc.
    I also ride a mountai bike and ride a really fast electric bike and don’t care what I am called.
    It would be nice to find a jersey that flattered the fuller figure but I could also eat less.

    Great blog and just enjoy the time you have before your joints finally give up.

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