Rise of the M.A.M.I.L.

As a middle aged man (is 39 middle aged?) there is one thing that is harder than all other things. Harder than neurosurgery in boxing gloves, harder than eating sushi whilst watching a SAW movie. Admitting you are wrong. Oh yes, its true, we are genetically coded to avoid this outcome at all costs. We may sail pretty close to the wind. We may offer reasons why an alternate approach would have been preferable. We could suggest that if our plan had been executed in another place (or dimension, our avoidance isn’t adverse to leveraging the possibility of quantum mechanics) the external variables wouldn’t have turned it into a total misfire, but its really very, very challenging to admit we are wrong. So imagine my dismay at having to admit that I was wrong about something that is in itself sort of wrong…..

What has got me into such a quandary? I’ll tell you dear reader. In hushed tones…..

Lycra bib shorts.

There, I said it. I was wrong about Lycra bib shorts. In fact I was wrong about all manner of tight fitting, lycra based clothing products designed for use when piloting my off road velocipede.

For many years I was a baggy shorts and t-shirt kind of a rider. I even spent a couple of years toting flat pedals and five ten shoes. I never went as far as a ‘piss pot’ helmet but that was mainly because I tried one whilst snowboarding once and honestly thought my brain was melting. I did once seriously consider a chain wallet, it was that close.

I have of course hidden padded shorts under my baggies, after all avoiding the ‘worm-ware’ style is one thing, bruised tenders is something completely else. But on the whole I am a huge believer that men of a certain age, and more specifically build, should not parade, or even shuffle themselves, around in public dressed like a vacuum sealed chicken. For so many people the image of men in Lycra is disturbing. Wrong. You may have a life long friend, someone you’ve shared good times and bad, perhaps a sports team colleague you’ve shared a locker room with, but its still all flavours of wrong the first time you see them strutting their funky stuff in the tighty tighties. Don’t get me started about the first time your kids see you. I don’t have sisters but I bet that’s a fun moment too…

So I was safe. I expressed my opinion and I was right. I am a man after all. And then something happened. A mate admitted he was wearing them. I was in a weakened condition. I was struggling to come to terms with the fact I had bought a road bike, and I was also bloody un-comfy. There I was, pedaling away, baggies chaffing like a torture implement, sliding down to allow just enough exposure of my back to chill my S.I. joint, already a catalogue of unpleasant agonies without the further assistance of our chilled climate. There he was telling me how snug he was, how his bibs kept His back warm, etc, etc, etc. Still I held strong. No ridiculous Lycra fetish wear for this guy until I did a soaking ride at a cold wet trail center. The kind of ride where your crevices feel like geology experiments and nothing short of a coma is going to block the cold from your thoughts. I actually got so wet and cold that my padded lining shorts started to travel south. This resulted in an unexpected amount of free space that a cyclist simply isn’t expecting and a phenomenon forever referred to as the ‘chilly nad slap’.

I didn’t buckle straight away though. I did a cheeky bib short experiment alone one evening, a swift hour loop to see if we got along. Sneaking around feeling like a deviant hoping my wife didn’t notice, let alone my mates. I tried to hate them. I tried to tell myself about my age, my physique. But it was no good, warm S.I. Joint, no crushing of the Gentleman vegetables, no slippage… I’m sold. And it’s opened a flood gate. Oh yes on the out side it’s all baggies and Cycology gear shirts (brilliant) but underneath I’m embracing my inner gimp. Arm warmers, leg warmers (!) and heaven forbid tights. And then, almost like a coming out party I braved the ridicule and did a ride snuggled head to toe in Lycra. In my defense it was a night ride, up a fairly remote welsh mountain but I still did it. I’m out. I’m a Middle Aged Man In Lycra and I’m proud.

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