If you thought this was a further expose of the sex lives of Moodscope bloggers, sorry to disappoint you. No, I am writing about MAMILS. For those unfamiliar with the term, it stands for Middle Aged Men in Lycra. Cyclists who take it very seriously indeed.
This was triggered by hearing a radio interview with Australian film maker Nickolas Bird. His film Mamils is on release. It is safe to say I will not be rushing to see it.
If I want to observe the habits of shiny-clad men on bikes, I only need look out of my window. Several years ago, 10 miles of old railway track which leads off the local common was turned into a combined cycle track and ramblers path. I live just yards away, so the cycle route starts by my house.
It is not an easy combination, bikes, dogs off leads, toddlers on scooters, walkers. There were some skirmishes in the early days, there was one hit-and-run, resulting in a dog being killed. Nonetheless, most people, myself included love going there. There are badger setts, bat boxes made by local volunteers, and some lovely views. For dog-owners it is an enjoyable opportunity for a gossip.
Most cyclists are cheerful and considerate. The students on their way to the nearby university usually ring a bell or call out. Groups of older people shout thanks if we stand to one side to let them past. Families, with young kids learning how to ride, will tutor their offspring to say thank you politely. To be fair to Mamils, some of them who travel in a pack will show a bit of good-humour. The ones to watch are the solo ones, the lone wolves who take no prisoners. They will have all the gear, and I'm told it is not unusual for a fully-kitted road bike to cost an eye-watering £30,000.
The filmaker interviewed male cycling fanatics from all over the world. He concluded that for many, getting out on their bike is a coping mechanism, triggered by loneliness and depression. One man told him he would have taken his life if he had not discovered cycling. A desire to get away from wives and children was mentioned frequently. Another common pleasure comes from the nostalgia for childhood, being a carefree young lad again, out on his bike.
When I was small I used to enjoy putting doll's clothes on the cat, and taking her out in a little pram. If I decided to relive this simple pastime from childhood, I wonder how long it would be before the authorities intervened? But then, boys will be boys...
Hearing this, I felt a bit guilty, dismissing them as arrogant blokes in dodgy gear. I would try to be a bit more understanding as they hurtled past at 30mph. This new attitude lasted just a few hours. Chatting to a dog owner, we stood well to one side, her little Westie on his lead. There came an almighty roar of outrage, "Don't you ******* slow me down!". We leapt out of the way, my pal snatching up her dog.
Another friend told me a Mamil had aimed a kick at his well-behaved German Shepherd, for no reason whatsoever. The dog reacted quickly to guard his human, pulling at the cyclist's shoe. Off he came, into a bed of tall nettles. Luckily there were witnesses, so his screamed threats of legal action cut no ice.
If they are lonely and depressed, surely this sort of behaviour can only reinforce those bad feelings? I suspect many of the wives and children back at home are rather relived when Dad takes his bike, and his bad attitude, elsewhere.
I have learned something else that might shed some light on it. They wear leather jockstraps under their tights. Just saying.
A Moodscope member.
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