At 9 every Saturday morning a posse of cyclists speed down the street, clad in sleek (and very chic) black and white biking gear.
They’re all part of the local cycling club, heading for the steepest hills in the district. When he’s home, my teenage son is out with the peloton like a shot – and now my husband’s caught the cycling bug and signed up too. He’s had his 20-year-old bike overhauled (“where on earth did this come from?” said the man at the bike shop, marvelling at its retro yellow and pink paintwork), bought a ton of Lycra and begun stockpiling energy bars and flapjacks.
The first weekend he returned four hours (and 80 kilometres) later, ashen-faced and stunned by how tough the ride had been. He hadn’t taken any food, got caught in a downpour with no wet weather gear and suffered a puncture. But his fellow cyclists were kindness personified. They shared their food, lent him a jacket and patiently waited for him to sort his tyre out.
My husband’s clearly not the only one to have turned into a cycling fanatic. Fired up by Bradley Wiggins’s triumphs, middle-aged men all over the country seem to be getting on their bikes. In the FT’s Life & Arts section at the weekend, editor Lionel Barber wrote about his gruelling weekend bike trip across the Pyrenees – wittily titled “Blood, sweat and gears.” And thanks to his article, I have now discovered I’m married to a “MAMIL” – a “middle-aged man in Lycra.”
But friends down under have coined a different term for middle-aged cycling enthusiasts. My friend Virginia emailed from Brisbane to tell me: “We call them VOMITS – very old men in tights!”