Magazine article The Spectator

Beware the Lycra Louts

Magazine article The Spectator

Beware the Lycra Louts

Article excerpt

Cycling in funny clothes is bad for the soul

Spring is here and the air is alive with the sound of sweaty manmade materials rubbing together, as middle-aged cyclists fill every road, dressed head to toe in Lycra. They whizz along, jumping red lights, weaving in and out of the path of trucks, screaming at pedestrians and taxi drivers; barely evading death three times a morning. Lycra isn't just a fabric; it's a state of mind. At work, these often portly, always angry, red-faced individuals might be mild-mannered middle managers who work in marketing. But in their cycling kit they are superheroes who happen to swear a lot.

The double Olympic champion Laura Trott was once asked to help with a safety campaign which involved riding around the capital to highlight the dangers cyclists face on the roads. She returned absolutely terrified -- by cyclists who dressed like her but behaved like maniacs. 'I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit,' she said. Trott was too polite to say that this is largely a male problem. You rarely see women sporting the full Lycra look unless they're actually cycling competitively. There's even an acronym for it, Mamil: middle-aged man in Lycra.

Thanks to Boris Johnson -- who, mercifully, does not cycle in a stretchy body sock -- and his £47 million cycle superhighways, Londoners can soon expect massed pelotons of Lycra to flow inexhaustibly all the way from Westbourne Grove to Tower Hill via the Victoria Embankment, massively enhancing our collective sum of rage.

Lycra is bad for the soul -- and almost nobody looks good in it (the exceptions are 1980s LA gym birds and Jane Fonda). Even professional cyclists look ridiculous. So why do ever-increasing numbers of people dress like this? Joggers -- also afflicted by the Lycra bug -- will tell you that it's practical and aerodynamic, but you don't see Mo Farah running around in a skintight bodysuit.

Well, I have a confession: I am no stranger to the stretchy fabric. For ten years I rode a racing bike in London and would often sport Lycra. I even wore those special shoes that clip into the pedals. Lycra seeps into your brain. You might be pottering around the Chilterns, but in your mind you're riding Paris-Roubaix. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.