Full Membership, the MAMIL Club

by Chikashi

When I took up road cycling a couple of years ago, it was simply inconceivable that I would ever wear Lycra or any cycling-specific garment. After all, I do (or, perhaps the past tense may be more accurate) have at least a bit of self respect. I was never going to dress like THAT. I do think propriety of dress is important, but really, not THAT, like I will never take milk, lemon or sugar with a good cup of tea: if others like it, then that’s their choice, but I have my own preference. Or, had.

Firstly, what sparked my interest in road cycling was l’Eroica, an annual gathering of beautiful lugged steel (and a few glued aluminium) bikes from a gentler era with a superior sense of style, form, colour and craft. I got an old steel road bike and rebuilt it as a single-speed rig to go for a pootle every now and then, not for anything more than, say, 60 km, wearing normal clothes. Furthermore, my disdain for synthetic textiles was such that I would wear them only when necessary but never out of choice.

Then, it was a slippery slope from there. Next thing I know, I’m cycling from London to Edinburgh. For the ride, I got a few cycling-friendly garments from Rapha that don’t make you look too silly when you are off the bike. However, I still resisted the cycling jerseys or Lycra shorts that screamed ‘roadie’.

As I started to ride longer distances more regularly, I became more aware of the fact that normal clothes are not designed for cycling, and therefore, my way of dressing was compromising my comfort whilst cycling in a forward position. I became more and more curious about cycling-specific kit. The irony is that the blame for me adopting Lycra lies squarely with my tailor who is a Lycra-wearing cyclist. Yep, he’s a MAMIL. He got me curious about the Rapha Lycra stuff that he wears because their classic pieces, particularly those for which Luke had design oversight, are not visually offensive or comical as ‘performance’ cycling garments typically are. And, now, as the cliché goes, my assortment of cycling-specific kit, including an appalling quantity of elastane threads, no longer fits in one drawer. So, I became a MAMIL. (Why is it not cathartic to say that, I wonder.)

Campagnolo pedal, MKS toe clip, Brooks strap

However, I resisted one element of the essential MAMIL getup: shoes for clipless pedals. I insisted on spinning pedals with clips and straps, wearing black, perforated leather shoes, as it is l’Eroica all year round for me. In other words, I still could not get my head round wearing those comical shoes that are usually made of synthetic uppers with appalling colours and made you walk like a chattering, geriatric duck. But, of course, I got curious because I found that those old pedals are not the most comfortable or efficient when spinning up the second 20 km ascent of the day in the French Alps.

Now, both feet are firmly in MAMIL territory, literally. My sister gave me a good-looking pair of leather clackety-clack shoes for my birthday (the best looking shoes to come out of China, methinks), and I subsequently got a pair of clipless pedals to use with the shoes. My MAMIL metamorphosis now seems to be complete, particularly since I already have a regular grooming routine for my legs. Too bizarre even for Kafka.

Rapha GT shoes Campagnolo Pro Fit pedals

I don’t think I’ve worn shoes with Velcro closure since I was 5 or 6 years old. And, they were white as well… I remember thinking the running shoes were terribly cool on their own and devastatingly chic when paired with a navy blue track suit. That is, until I learned how to tie laces and immediately concluded that Velcros are for babies. So utterly uncool. Someone at work mentioned regression analysis just a few days ago, and I thought for a moment that the consultant knew about my little secret…

When I tried the new pedals for the first time last week, I did so with the bike perching on the Tacx Booster trainer. And fell on the brick floor. Who falls off a turbo trainer? I didn’t even know that it’s possible. I don’t even know how it happened since I had disengaged my left foot but fell to the right. I got a bruise on an elbow and a cut on my knee. I think I also sprained the plantar muscles on my right foot. You can’t make this stuff up, can you?

You might spot me falling sideways at a red light.