Bicycling “mamils” and fossils

I was listening to talkback radio recently. The topic was the New Zealand café owner who has recently banned middle-aged male cyclists from his café because he was concerned that his patrons found the wearing of bike shorts offensive. While nearly everyone recognised that the issue was not an important one, it did generate quite a discussion and I was quite amused by some of the new language that it has created. It pushed mamil into the limelight.


There is a new term for these brazen middle-aged male cyclists—they are MAMILs, short for Middle-Aged Men In Lycra. This term, I learned from my research, was coined a few years ago in Britain to describe the apparel of the demographic that had taken to cycling inspired by the success of Jonathan Wiggins in world cycling, particularly his win in the Tour de France.

The FOSSIL mamil

The radio program’s listeners, though, had still more to offer: a fellow from an older demographic rang claiming that he was a FOSSIL—a Fit Old Sweaty Senior In Lycra. My research found only one similar reference on-line and that was to a Fine Old Senior Soul In Lycra. Soon after the FOSSIL had finished on air, a woman rang in to say that her husband was a very old man in tights, which, of course, made him a VOMIT. Unfortunately these were the only offerings and the conversation moved on.

The solution to budgie smuggling

Men in skin hugging gear is somewhat accepted (or tolerated) at the beach although what they wear (as all Australians will know) are referred to, with a strange mix of humorous euphemism and subtlety, as budgie smugglers (and to keep things fair, the female equivalent is the camel toe) . However, skin-hugging lycra does not seem to be as easily tolerated as street wear. So it got me wondering what the solution could be. I thought answers might be found in the apparel of the male ballet dancer or perhaps in the athletic support garment known as a jock-strap.

The dance belt

Male ballet dancers have solved the problem of budgie smuggling with what are, rather disappointingly, called dance belts. A dance belt is a padded G-string designed to protect, contain and disguise the male genitalia.

The modern dance belt although, apparently, uncomfortable is much better than those worn before the 1980s. The older style dance belts featured a very wide industrial-grade elastic waistband, with a single piece of non-stretchable, canvas-like fabric attached front and rear like a hammock. Being very uncomfortable, it was inevitable in ballet that they were nicknamed nutcrackers.

The jock strap and the jill strap

Realising that athletic supports are no more modest than lycra bike shorts it is interesting to note they share a history. The Bike Web Company (now called Bike Athletic) invented the athletic support in 1874 to provide support for bike riders, then known as bicycle jockeys, riding on the cobblestone streets of Boston. This athletic support became known as the bike jockey strap and then jock-strap or just a jock (and of course we have a brand of underpants in Australia called Jockeys). The female version of an athletic support is a pelvic protector, informally called a jill-strap or a jill.

The solution to mammals?

I am not sure that dance belts and jock straps provide a solution to the concerns about bike short budgie smuggling and the mamil plague. However, I did discover that ballet dancers sometimes stuff their dance belts with women’s sanitary napkins for additional comfort and padding, which if they were used in bike shorts might ease the discomfort of the New Zealand cafe owner, if not the wearers.