It has often been observed anecdotally that in recent decades that cycling has become the new golf – that is, a cliquey, expensive pastime beloved of males of a certain age and socio-economic status.
Now, thanks to a learned study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, it has been confirmed that the phenomenon of the rise of the “Mamils” – middle-aged men in lycra – is indeed not a figment of the imagination.
University of Sydney researchers have found the proportion of middle-aged men (45 to 65 years) who cycled at least once weekly has more than doubled, from 6.2% in 2002-04 to 13.2% in 2016.
But it seems the growth of cycling among this age group is confined to the “weekend warriors”, with data showing the number of middle-aged men who cycled to work not changing meaningfully between 2006 and 2016.
So while the number and value of bicycles and cycling-related accoutrement has increased significantly over the study period – as has media reporting of Mamil activity since 2010 – there has been only a minimal lift in overall physical activity by middle-aged adults over the past 22 years.
And the much-satirised stereotypes of the Mamil also appears to be borne out by the research.
Mamils in Australia are socially graded, and also grade themselves according to bicycle-related expenditure and hill gradients overcomes, the researchers say. This often resulted in the forming of cohesive, supportive groupings.
“The habitats of Mamils are affluent urban environments, often near the water, where Mamils meet in groups to channel their inner Cadel Evans in their technology-assisted quest to ride as fast as they can to the most-distant coffee shop,” the study authors said.
So while in areas such as the affluent Sydney suburb of Mosman there are reportedly “more Mamils per square metre than the Tour de France”, it is rare to see them “except on weekends” and even rarer to see them out of their usual habitat.
MJA; 10 December