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Men's Lycra-clad army rides high after British cycling successes

By Kent and Sussex Courier  |  Posted: August 04, 2012

  • Andy Knight (kneeling) Owner of Wildside Cycles and Will Smith with one of their hi-tech bikes

  • it's a fad: Dean Morris, with a cycling magazine from the 1930s

  • TEMPTED? Wildside Cycles owner Andy Knight and Will Smith with one of their hi-tech bikes

  • Stock image of middle-aged man in lycra

  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: A mamil pictured with bike and in his lycra

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BE warned: an alien species is spreading rapidly across the country this summer.

Mamils (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) are believed to have begun breeding soon after the closing ceremony at the last Olympic Games in Beijing, when British cyclists brought home a stunning haul of 14 medals.

In recent years, sightings in country lanes and on cycle tracks around Tunbridge Wells have increased. But since Bradley Wiggins claimed victory in the Tour de France and struck Gold at the Olympics, they have become increasingly bold, many venturing into the centre of Tunbridge Wells in broad daylight.

Mamils tend to gather at Wildside Cycles in Camden Road, where their insatiable desire for equipment and clothing to help them go faster or further can be satisfied.

"We love mamils here," said owner Richard Smith, possibly a member of the breed himself, who organises regular cycling events for his customers.

"That's our market. They have a little bit of spare money, they want to get fit, and they enjoy the social side too."

Assistant Will Smith, who has worked at the shop for almost 15 years, said: "We've certainly seen an increase of interest in cycling in recent years.

"During the Tour de France, loads of people came into the shop to talk about it. We had it on all the time and there was a lot of excitement when Wiggins won.

"Of course people want to look like their heroes, and Lycra is the best material to wear because it's so functional - it's light and close-fitting, so it doesn't flap, and it dries quickly when you're sweating."

Mamils took firm shape when a group of middle-aged dads in Shropshire decided they needed their own club to cater for men like them. They registered Mamils Ltd as a business in 2010, and began to organise events and coaching sessions.

Just yards from Wildside, however, Dean Morris of the Camden Road Retro Centre was selling a 15-year-old red Raleigh Firefly bike to 50-somethings Ros Love and Richard Homewood. Bound for their holiday home in Spain, the couple were happy to pay £45 for their bike.

"I doubt I'll be wearing Lycra," said Mr Homewood. "We'll just use it for going for a spin to the beach."

Mr Morris, a cyclist himself, was equally dismissive of modern cycling fashion. "Mark my words, people will soon have forgotten Bradley Wiggins.

"Cycling will never catch on with the general public, it'll be a five-minute wonder.

"After all, Wiggins isn't Andy Murray, is he? Not with that nose. As for Lycra on middle-aged men, I'd rather not think about it."

With a steady stream of customers for his old-fashioned bikes, some dating back to the 1920s, plus some of the retro jackets and trousers to go with them, he said: "I used to build my own racing bikes, but these days you get people paying £3,000 for them.

"Things have changed a lot."

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