Why MAMILs made the Oxford Dictionary in 2014

MAMILs - middle aged men in Lycra - were among cycling terms to gain immortality in the Oxford Dictionary in 2014

Just when you thought cycling couldn’t get more mainstream, the term “MAMIL” gets added to the Oxford Dictionary.

MAMIL, which, in case you didn’t know, stands for Middle Aged Man in Lycra, was among 1000 words added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2014, along with others influenced by decidedly less outdoorsy pursuits, including lolcat, al desko, clickbait and humblebrag.

Although not the most endearing of titles, too often used by tabloids to bash cyclists who “clog up the roads”, the dictionary’s description of a MAMIL is, nonetheless, a pretty accurate one:

“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”.

Editor of cycling website RCUK, George Scott, has a slightly more detailed description to help with MAMIL spotting.

“Your archetypal MAMIL is generally going to be riding a new bike from an established and respected manufacturer, which might cost between £2,000-£5,000 on the whole, though there will be people that spend more than that. They will either ride with a club or with a group of friends, they often ride sportives – if you are at a sportive that is prime MAMIL spotting territory,” he said.

In fact the word sportive, along with bikeable, audax and gran fondo, were also added to the dictionary in 2014, adding to the bike-related terms which can now officially be used in scrabble, and exams.

Ask the Expert: When Should I be Riding on the Drops on my Road Bike?

According to Google trends MAMIL (not to be confused with the baby food of the same name) first appeared around 2007. Scott says many MAMILs were inspired by Britain’s successes at the Beijing Olympics on the track and road.

“MAMILs make up a significant proportion of people who have come into the sport in the last five years, since cycling has really taken off. MAMIL wasn’t even a term before 2008.”

“Success breeds interest and puts cycling into the public domain. It was the people winning gold medals in Beijing, combined with a public consciousness of keeping fit, and getting out and staying active.”

He adds: “Anyone can do it. Generally if you’re crap at football you’re crap at football whereas most people can be pretty good at road cycling, if you put your mind to it.”

The Oxford Dictionary’s example sentences for the use of MAMIL are amusing:

“he spends his weekend mornings cycling with other MAMILs”

“this is as close to a professional peloton as any MAMIL will ever get”

There’s also a test you can take to work out what percentage MAMIL you are.

Where men of a certain age once splashed their disposable incomes on cars, more and more are spending on bikes and, immortalised in the dictionary, MAMILs are clearly here to stay.

For us though, fitter, healthier men and more people out on their bikes can only be a good thing.

We’re now wondering – should there, or could there, be a female equivalent?

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