Cycling has become an incredibly popular pastime in recent years, with some even dubbing it “the new golf” for middle aged men. With this growth in popularity, we have seen this particular age group spending thousands on the necessary equipment and sporting the tight cycling get-ups, to the point where they even have their own name. MAMILs, or, Middle Aged Men In Lycra, are among the biggest adopters of the cycling trend, as it allows people within this demographic to both socialise and remain physically active. While some argue that MAMILs are just the product of Mid-Life Crises, others believe it is an incredibly beneficial activity physically and mentally for middle-aged men to participate in—even if the outfits don’t always agree with them.
The term MAMIL came from a marketing campaign in the UK, where the trend initially took off. A bunch of blokes were asked why they enjoyed cycling so much, to which their responses were that it was uncomplicated, a way to rejuvenate and to be alone while still connecting with others. They basically see it as an escape which juxtaposes their busy work and family lifestyle, with the added bonus of keeping active and healthy.
So let’s talk about the so-called mid-life crisis that is said to be the reason behind this herd of MAMILs. Men generally go through a mid-life crisis when they reach their 40s and feel as if time is running out, experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety. As a result they can act out, with the endless list of destructive behaviour ranging from drinking more, cheating and wasting money. So is the rise of MAMILs a response to mid life crises? Maybe. Is this a bad thing? Definitely not. I mean it’s a lot more cost effective than going out and buying a Mercedes (at least I think so, have you SEEN the cost of those bikes?!). Whatever the reason for the rise in this demographic of cyclists, there are a bunch of health benefits—both physically and mentally—for this group to partake in the activity.
So the physical health benefits are pretty obvious. According to the Department of Health, over 60% of Australian adults don’t do enough physical activity. Physical inactivity is said to be the main cause of 20-30% of diabetes and heart disease cases. Cycling in particular has many physical health benefits as it’s a low-intensity workout which helps reduce the risk of disease while also improving stamina, balance and coordination. Also, in comparison to other sports, cycling can be carried out for much longer through ageing than other sports which are more strenuous and physically demanding. Let’s save the tackle footy for the young ones.
Now for the mental health benefits. As mentioned before, depression and anxiety often get thrown into this idea of a ‘mid-life crisis’. Physical activity is instrumental in aiding feelings of stress and other areas of mental health. As well as this, the sense of camaraderie that comes along with cycling is part of the appeal for these men. The idea that they are ‘alone but connected’, and that the boom of online social groups have made it easier to get in touch with other cyclists. There is even an Australian MAMILs organisation which has raised over $240,000 for cancer research since its birth in 2013. It’s kinda nice that they’re helping others while also helping each other.
So, even though it’s kinda lame, this new form of mid-life crisis is definitely a lot less self-destructive than other alternatives. So I hope the next time you’re driving and a cyclist is taking up half the road you can look past their skin tight lycra and be a bit more forgiving. I know I will, since their bike probably cost more than my car anyway.