The growth in popularity of cycling as a sport, and a means of commuting, has resulted in the evolution of a new species: the mamil (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra). The origin of the term is disputed. Wikipedia will inform you that it was coined by a market research firm, Mintel, but the Oxford dictionaries blog ( gives it an Australian origin. The earliest usage I found, in the transcript of an ABC program (April 2010), pre-dated the Mintel report by a couple of months, and referred to Tony Abbott as a mamil, based on his attire during his swimming and cycling activities. It is generally a derogatory term, often employed when discussing body-hugging clothing’s capacity for highlighting middle-age spread. However, some have sought to reclaim it, invoking fellow lycra-wearers such as Usain Bolt and Superman as role models. One of the attractions of the acronym is the way it suggests the word mammal. What kind of animal could the mamil be? Something aquatic perhaps, given the connection to swimming – a sleek otter, or industrious beaver? Hopefully, no one would be unkind enough to suggest a whale.

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