The Playbook For The Modern Man

Middle Aged Men In Lycra Prove Why Cycling Will Never Be Cool In Australia

“Anywhere serious cyclists congregate… can look like a Viagra advertisement.”

In continental Europe, cycling is a form of exercise so chill as to be labelled, “incidental.”

It doesn’t matter if they stop for an espresso and cigarette on their way to the supermarket; that they are not driving a 4×4 Porsche and slurping a syrupy latte has impressed scientists worldwide.

So when bike shops started cropping up everywhere from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to Perth’s CBD, one could be forgiven for thinking it was a good thing.

Advertisement

How wrong we were.

As it turns out: there was no cultural renaissance. We did not start cycling to picnics, baguettes in baskets and olives in eskies.

The streets saw no uptick in Parisien dresses and Milanese jackets.

Instead, every Saturday and Sunday morning from 5am to 9am our roads are plagued by middle aged men in lycra.

If that weren’t bad enough, from 9 til 12 they take over our cafes—sweaty, fluorescent groups, talking about “headwind,” “carbon fibre” and “time trials.”

At this point, you are probably starting to think we are getting a bit dramatic. After all: it’s just a bunch of dudes riding bikes and eating poached eggs.

But even The Economist’s 1843 magazine, a publication known for covering the world’s most pressing socio-cultural issues, has warned that droves of middle aged men are putting on superhero costumes (lycra) and having affairs with their bicycles.

Although we are in no position to say this could be the downfall of Western civilisation as we know it (we’ll leave that to The Guardian), we feel confident in saying this is the worst fashion crisis since grown men riding electric scooters to work.

Advertisement

And, culturally speaking (read: in terms of “coolness” per capita), it goes against the raison d’être of cycling. What happened to dawdling down the corner shop, getting some fresh air or going out for a coffee?

We’re not even going to point out how annoying it is to overtake an amateur peloton, or have an overzealous triathlete ride in your slipstream (which also happens to be a blind spot), because—we are well aware—there are just as many idiot motorists as there are cyclists (human nature, bad apples, ignorance, etc).

What we have a problem with is looking like a dickhead. You see, for cycling to become cool in Australia, we need to import all of its elements. And currently, looking at the bikes that dominate our nation’s streets, you get the sense that there are two core components of analog locomotion: Deliveroo and Tour de France.

So how do we change this? Well, tempting as is is to call for an international embargo on epilepsy-coloured activewear and padded undies, what we really need to do is embrace the more aesthetically pleasing parts of bike culture.

What we really need is better infrastructure for the casual cyclist (i.e. family friendly bike paths), and resurgence of big wheeled, comfy seaters with wide handle bars, and casual riders who aren’t dressed like aspiring Olympians.

If you’re feeling brave, you could even appropriate the Dutch tradition of carrying round your shopping in a wicker basket, by installing a board rack for your surfboard (and quit paying for parking at the beach).

We understand that road biking provides middle aged men with a lost sense of community and the excuse to do something tangible with their hands, “At a time when changing a filter in one’s car requires a computer code,” (1843).

“When a car became just another payment to make, the bike brought renewed freedom.”

But the problem is, as insiders like Tom Vanderbilt readily admit, “Anywhere serious cyclists congregate – Tucson’s Le Buzz Café, the Runcible Spoon in Nyack, NY, the Eroica ride in Italy – … can look like a Viagra advertisement.”

So the solution is not to slap an injunction on clip-in pedals, but to encourage a wider range of two-wheeled enthusiasts to grace the streets.

And if your middle aged dad takes offence at your “superficial” judgements on his style, show him the studies that demonstrate consistent incidental exercise is better for you than a sedentary lifestyle punctuated by intense bouts of exercise.

Advertisement

Yes: we are aware that it seems intellectually lazy—arrogant, even—to claim intense exercise is a joke. But it’s not just turtle neck wearing French university students who take that view.

Scientists have found that intense exercise (like a road cyclist’s lactic threshold test) may actually make it more likely for plaque to build up in the arteries—especially for men.

This goes to show our Macho culture of killing ourselves on a bike for two hours in the morning, and spending the rest of the day scarcely able to walk is questionable at best, ridiculous at worst.

RELATED: Grown Men Riding Scooters To Work Proves Why Sydney Will Never Be Cool 

  • T$

    You mad bro?

  • Billy Tucker

    Just finished my third 50km ride of the week, yes in lycra, and as is common I caught up briefly with a good bunch of guys at the tail end for a quick coffee and a chat… Three opinions:

    – Agree wholeheartedly that this is not commuting, this is exercise, late forties fella with a half decent Dad-bod and a plethora of middle-aged responsibilities staving off the impending decline into middle age and beyond. The fastest guys in our “amatuar pelaton” are older than I am, a somewhat unique feature of cycling is that age is largely nullified by stamina and dogged persistence.
    – I don’t give a flying anything how embarrassed you think I should be in lycra, I’m not, nor do I agree that cycling on the road makes me a pest by any stretch; References to “fashion crisis”, “coolness” and the apparent raison d’être are completely facile; there is no reason for being, it’s a bike for god’s sake, and any attempt to echo what exists in another culture and call it cool is idiotic; on a recent trip to Amsterdam I rented a fixie and rode around everywhere but the locals looked cool because they smoked too, damn it, now I need to take up smoking whilst riding my single gear bike to look cool. You’d need to have absolutely no sense of self whatsoever to feel the need to appropriate a “look” in the hope of being cooler FFS.
    – The intent of this article may be right, more casual cycling = good for everyone. But the language, the lycra hating, the judgement is what makes it hard. Some folks are not smart enough to only loath the weekend warriors, and as a result I don’t cycle with my four kids because drivers behave with resentment toward all cyclists and you’re part of it.

  • Peter Missingham

    Top response. Well done. Unfortunately, the cyclist topic seems to be go-to clickbait for various ‘publications’. All (irresponsibly) designed to further inflame resentment against cyclists that, at best threatens, but frequently results in, serious injury. That’s the last D’Marge article I’ll ever read.

  • Angus Clark

    Well said. Stupid article.

  • JB

    We don’t loathe the weekend warriors, only their outfits! Could they not go home and change before brunch?

  • Billy Tucker

    I wrote and rewrote this comment a number of times then resigned myself to the possibility that you may not have driven from Florence to Volterra and witnessed leagues of italians in lycra, just like me, of from Barcelona to Sitges, same, Nice, Edinburgh, Trogir, all the same; no baguettes in wicker basket nonsense, just middle aged rich blokes like me on $15k bikes having the time of their lives… maybe you’re not so clued in to the zeitgeist after all, but the purpose you serve is to give those with no sense of self something to cling to that makes them feel part of something if only for a short time…. Us lycra clad embarrassments are part of something, and we’re big enough to know that we couldn’t care less what you think is suitable for brunch, PMSL.

  • Da Gargoyle

    What a short sighted snarky git you are James Booth. You don’t like cycling don’t do it. But for those people who do, more power to them. Most people I know that ride do it because it is fun. You really feel the speed on a bike not like the cocoon of a four wheel drive or modern sedan. Cyclists are not out to impress anyone and I imagine that you are more likely to be sore and stiff at work than the committed bike commuter because you probably do so little exercise that your legs struggle to get you from the car to the lift that takes you to your office. As for the derision of the crowed that enjoys a coffee after a ride, ask the cafe owner if he wants happy groups of people spending money at his/her establishment, or you. You know, the git that derides total strangers for enjoying themselves in a way that does not gel with your sensibilities.

  • JB

    Fair enough mate: no problem with road biking, nor did we say it is not popular in Europe. We just reckon it would be cool if Aussie cyclists could import the ‘wicker basket’ culture as well (and maybe not take themselves quite so seriously).

  • Alex

    I think you’ve just shown that you’re a bit out of touch…
    You should check out some of the cycling scene and you’d realise it’s all about fashion.
    The same people (MAMIL is a myth – plenty of young people both male and female in my club) who ride their expensive bikes for exercise ride their fixie to the shops, MTB to school drop off and cargo bike to the beach. You just don’t see it…
    Maybe you should get out more?

  • Cameron Cecil

    James Booth: you reference looking like a dickhead. I’ve never seen you but I don’t need to, because the sort of clown that would write something like this clearly has all of the traits that define the word dickhead anyway. Time for you to find something you’re actually good at, leave journalism for those who have a higher level of intelligence…

  • tbonetone

    Well done James. You got some clicks.
    But you have now alienated a whole community against this publication, including a lot of women through your expert opinion. Don’t worry, there are only about 3.74M Australians riding every week. No loss.
    Enjoy sitting around eating smashed avo at exotic cafe’s most likely frowning at all the fashion faux being thrust into your vision.

  • steve

    Mr. Tucker’s comments are a better read than the authors original. Surprised you even put your name on this, Mr Brook, but then you were feeling smug about stumbling across the research, and your ‘turtle neck’ quip made you feel all fuzzy, so ignored the journalist within. Very poor.

    Basically, Mr Brook your fat shaming, and neatly rolling this up with impotence, and as Billy rightly points out, the soft undertones of increasing hate towards cyclists.

    Lycra and cycling of any distance are like peas in a pod. When you go from teenage kid to actually pushing through some semi-serious miles in your legs, and you feel a touch stupid buying your first cycling shorts that are lumpy with padding, then ride in them, you understand. Your nuts understand. Your ass thanks you, and you never go back. I’m almost 50, not beach body ready (unless that beach is the one in Blue Planet with the elephant seals on it) and putting on the Lycra feel great. On the days my son pops on one of my original jerseys and joins me, it’s just the best.

  • Russ Boelhauf

    Next time Mr. Booth draws the short straw with his editor, he might take the safe route and discuss something that he has at least a passing familiarity with. Cycling clothing is defined by the needs of an elite group of Euro-pros who spend much of their competitive lives in the saddle. The rest of us, have adopted the clothing the top pros use because it is more equipment than fashion. The Lycra, the saddle pads, clip-in pedals, fingerless gloves and all the rest are the uniform of the day for cyclists because that what works best to ride a bike. You could easily claim a guy in a full-face respirator sand blasting a concrete wall looks clownish, but as you stand by mocking the poor guy, he is doing what he can do preserve his ability to breathe until the end of his natural life.

NEW ON D'MARGE


Show More

Subscribe

Close

The playbook for the modern man

Get the very best of men's style, health, travel & culture delivered to your inbox.

Dont show me this again