Race bikes are for racing.

You are not a MAMIL. You are a bike racer.

In America, they used to be called “fast recreational riders.” In the UK, they’re now called  MAMILs.

“Middle Aged Men In LYCRA.” Just another phrase for self-delusion?

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  • Commute. Exercise. Club-ride. Race. But don’t be a MAMIL.
  • Racing is a fast road rider’s birthright. Man-up. (Or “woman up!”)
  • When fantasy grows without action, it starts to become — a little pathetic. Cut it out.
  • You’re not like them. Are you.
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I’m gonna get some nasty mail for this post.


When I was doing my research prior to launching StartConfident, I  believed that there would be scads of posts and articles online about “fast recreational riders.”

At least, that’s what I remember from the cycling press back in the 80’s and early 90’s when I really became enamored with cycling.

But I was wrong. I couldn’t really find anything dedicated to that as a subculture. Commuters? Sure. Hipsters with single-speed bikes? Tons. ‘Cross and Mountain bikes? Everywhere. And road racing? Well, I LOVE road racing. I’ve followed it my entire adult life. It’s my absolute favorite spectator sport and sport to participate in. But, to my dismay, that’s what the lion’s share of the cycling press was all about. Hard core, baller, UCI-steeped road racing.

I was hoping to find something that was for those riders who were on race-oriented bikes, doing fast club rides — but who didn’t race.

I couldn’t find anything.

Well. Nothing from the American press. England? That’s a different story.

The limey’s had plenty of articles about so-called “MAMILs.” “Middle aged men in LYCRA.” And when I found this story, it galvanized me to action.

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Upon reading this I knew what I had to do: convert as many melba toast American MAMILs to snarling CAT 5s


I am no MAMIL. Don’t you be, either.

Cycling has exploded in the UK. You can thank Sir Brad and Froomey and Team Sky. Oh, and there’s the Manx Missile ‘ta boot. Professional success breeds consumer interest, and with Lance having taken the big fall, our fellow English speakers (well, it’s their language, after all) have taken up the mantle of cycling success quite admirably.

And with that success, “cycling as the new golf” has really taken off.

[callout icon=”hb-moon-bike” animation=”scale-up”]Dude. It’s time to cut bait. It’s time to set your sights on podiums and pacelines rather than pretending to be Petacchi.[/callout]


But, to this writer, the disturbing part was the poseur, fan-boy-with-money aspect that struck me as nothing short of sad. Men in the throes of middle age who had the means to acquire the same exact bike that launched up Mont Ventoux did so.

Acquired, that is. Not launched.

Unless you consider launching Strava to be “launching.”

MAMILs also acquire the kit, the sunglasses, the helmet, the shoes — but they don’t acquire a racing license.


Racing bikes are for racing. Be proud. Race.

So. You’re like I was: you followed all the racing news. You have a lovely carbon bike. The kids are mostly grown. But for various reasons, your imaginings of sprint glory go no further than making sure you get through that one yellow light every Sunday morning with the club. The one where whoever is the last one through buys the espresso and croissants.

Is that competition? Of course it is. And there are stakes involved. That’s admirable.

But you can do better.

That feeling you get when you make that final turn before the sprint starts? That tingle? That exhilarating few moments where everything goes quiet because you’re listening for the upclick of gears? Yeah…

That feeling you get when you click up, pull yourself to a stand over the pedals and stomp for all you’re worth? Oh, yeah. This is what you live for, isn’t it. This…is really why you ride, why you buy clincher tires that cost more than your neighbor’s exercise treadmill that languishes in their garage.

Dude. It’s time to cut bait. It’s time to set your sights on podiums and pacelines rather than pretending to be Petacchi.

“But Sam, I’m afraid of crashing. I can’t take that kind of risk.”

I hear you, loud and clear. So find a local time trial. Nearly all of them will have a standard bike class. No teardrop helmet needed.

“I just can’t. What if I come in dead last? What if I embarrass my riding buddies. Or my family?”

My answer to that is a quote that has been quoted so often as to become nearly trite. But in your case, it may ring clear. As you read it, just remember: it’s far better to fail miserably, than to do nothing, gallantly. Listen now, to Uncle Teddy:

[callout]It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt



[icon_box icon=”hb-moon-bike” icon_position=”left” align=”left”] Question: Right here, right now: Tell the world the date you’ll roll up to your first start line. [/icon_box]

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Sam Lowe

I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.

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