Monday, May 20, 2013

Discussing the MAMILS, Cycling the New Golf, among other stereotypes.

What's a MAMIL? 
Middle Aged Men In Lycra Spandex, or MAMILS, is a very recent term coined by an overseas marketing firm.

At first glance, this word looks like the word "mammal" misspelled. But no, we're not talking about walruses here, although some MAMILS might look like walruses, but that's an altogether different subject. We're talking about middle-aged men in Lycra spandex, a marketing term used to classify an emerging demographic of cycling consumers. According to a Bristish news source, the term was originated by a retailing marketing firm called Mintel. 

So what makes someone a MAMIL? Besides the obvious acronym, market research suggests this age category to be between 35-44 years of age, with disposable income, and the ones most likely to purchase a brand new carbon fiber bike and ride around in a team kit. They're likely to be middle class, high grossing individuals in upper management positions, and take on cycling as a leisurely activity at a premium price point. It's comparable to buying a sports car when in a mid-life crisis and driving it on the weekends, only that sports car is now a shiny new bike.

Am I offended by this term? Actually I find it hilarious. I am neither middle-aged nor do I have disposable income. I ride bicycles that are sometimes as old as I am, and it's been years since I spent over $50 on a cycling jersey or spandex. I do ride in my spandex often, especially in the summertime. But I leave spandex at home when the weather is not favorable or when it's the wrong occasion to be using them, like a trip to the grocery store or pulling the kid trailer behind me. I also make sure that the clothes I buy actually fit me and look cool (note, in contrast, the guy's jersey in the picture above).  Abroad this term has been somewhat embraced even by the demographic that its referring to. Middle-aged men see that although at first glance they will look like out of shape marshmallows climbing hills at a snail's pace, cycling will turn them into studs in the long run as long as they continue do it. So the term is sometimes worn as a badge of honor, mostly by old, fat Englishmen overseas.  

The danger of stereotyping is that uneducated people depend on labels to come to their conclusions in life. In the United States, cyclists are stereotyped as Lance Armstrong wannabes who obstruct the road from angry motorists who drive Land Rovers or Hummer vehicles. And although a lot of cycling fatalities are purely accidental, there has been a recent surge in vehicular homicides or attempted homicides on cyclists. Interesting to note, most cycling related deaths in the U.S have involved men in their 40's riding their bikes during rush hour. This is where stereotyping is dangerous, it fuels the anger of people who have entitlement issues and homicidal tendencies. 

What about cycling as the "new" golf? The Economist made this claim in a recent article that suggests cycling can help establish business relationships. I'm sorry, but there is no comparison between these two activities. There might be a sector of society that likes cycling as well as golf and even some MAMILS might reside among them. This stereotype, however, takes a quantum leap and gives the impression that cycling, just like golf, is an activity for the business elite. In my mind, the two can mix less than oil and water. Cycling is an activity I enjoy because it doesn't cost any money after the initial investment of buying a bike. A trip to a golf range or golf course can cost between $30 and $50 just for the entry fee. 

When compared to cycling, golf is a very stupid sport. I mean, why would I want to play a sport wearing what the business world considers dress attire on casual Friday's? There is no other sport that screams conformity, dork, old man and brown noser like golf does. You can be a portly little fellow and still be a great golf player. Cycling requires real man effort, blood, sweat and tears in order to excel above the others at. To me golf is a sport played by old, out of shape men that are holding on to my job by not retiring and love throwing their weight around when they are swinging a golf club. Comparing cycling to golf, even suggesting that there is anything similar between the two, offends me. I have yet to land a job through cycling. The day I do, I'll consider cycling as a great way to network but I will never, ever say that cycling is the new golf. That would be stepping into the darkside and completely negating everything I stood for in my punk rock youth.

In conclusion, anyone can get into the sport of cycling. There are no age or income requirements to do so. In this modern internet age consumers are more connected than ever before, and can spend infinitely less on the start up costs of cycling than in the past. There is no need to buy something new from a store anymore and paying full retail price on anything. Educated consumers on a shoestring budget (like myself) can now pick up a decent road bike second hand and rock it like Alberto Contador. The same can not be said about golf, a sport that will forever remain tucked away neatly in the country clubs and col-de-sacs of suburbia. Although a lot of well off people ride bicycles for recreation or sport, lets remember that most champions of the sport of cycling came from poor families who were of little means. Talent, and not money, is what made them successful. Stereotypes are hurdles to success. They alienate people who would excel at cycling if they took up the sport. They elevate the already inflated egos of businessmen and corporate fat cats. Cycling marketers need to think younger, fitter and less conservative in their marketing campaigns. A change in the market will mean a change in the stereotypes, and will also save us from the ire of someone's road rage.

1 comment:

  1. After seeing my photo which was taken at the Tour di Italia ride recently I have come to realize that yes I am one of these MAMILS. Ha Ha.