According to biologists, I’m a mammal, a warm-blooded creature with fur.
According to some wags, I’m also a MAMIL, or middle-aged man in lycra, one of a species seen waddling out from our dens on weekends and mounting expensive road bikes in a picturesque attempt to capture some of the reflected glory that goes with the Tour de France and other sexy, manly European road races.
I’m not sure who coined the term, but it refers to men of a certain age, who, freaking out at the loss of youth, don’t buy a red Porsche Boxster, opting instead for a red Pinarello or Specialized S-Works road bike. Even though it can set them back up to $10,000, it’s cheaper than the chariot, saves on CO2 and helps them stay fit. With all the money they save, they can outfit themselves in the bike gear of their favourite Tour De France hero, like Alberto Contador or old Ironsides, Lance Armstrong.
MAMILs also exhibit some interesting behaviours. For example, they shave their legs. They think it makes them more aerodynamic. Long-suffering spouses refrain from pointing out the obvious: That if their significant MAMIL would only lay off the carbs and drop 20 pounds, it would be a damn sight easier to get up the hill.
MAMILs travel in packs, often with MAFILs, (middle-aged females in lycra, natch), who are given equal status in the herd, at least until the testosterone starts to run and the boys can’t help racing, even though they know they won’t be able to walk, never mind do chores, rendering them useless for the rest of the weekend, sowing discord in the den.
MAMILs also love hills, and grunt up mountains at the slightest provocation. Not everyone has the cash, time or guts to climb the Col du Tourmalet, a daunting feature of the Tour De France, but here in Vancouver, MAMILs think nothing of riding up Cypress Bowl and Mount Seymour on the same day, a combined climb of almost 30 kilometres, straight up.
This Saturday morning will be a great opportunity to catch 4,000 of us in the RBC GranFondo Whistler, a breathtaking 120-kilometre ride along the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler from downtown Vancouver. The GranFondo (which means “big ride” in sexy Italian, the lingua franca of MAMILs) has a net elevation gain of 650 metres, which is perfect for grunting up, and the first of its kind in Canada.
It sold out months ago, so next year’s GranFondo promises to be even bigger. And it’s just the start. The GranFondo lycra will stretch from coast to coast. Organizers are planning to launch events in major MAMIL habitats, wherever there are large concentrations of mid-life crisis.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;