December 01, 2017 – As stereotypes go, the opening scene of MAMIL (middle aged men in lycra) by the Demand.film that opened in theatres across Canada last night, wasn’t shy. Our Mamil, preparing for an early morning ride, was a resplendent lycra peacock even before he ignited his flashing red LED anklets, a two-wheeled teletubbie. Viewers saw more expensive, ill-fitting helmets, perched on logoed skull caps, sunglasses tucked into the vents upside down, than any human deserves to be exposed to in a lifetime, let alone a 98-minute movie.
Full of stories and scenes that alternately brought guffaws, knowing smirks, or a moist eye to viewers, this film nailed it. The MAMIL that looked like he had a backpack on backwards under his kit would have us believe sixty is the new thirty. “I may look a little chubby in lycra, but I don’t care,” wasn’t a fashion statement, it was a challenge. “You want to go fast enough to kill yourself, it’s a shame just to get hurt,” wasn’t macho, it was a self-declaration that I’m still a fearless twenty-something.
Yet, for every incredulous, costumed rider that viewers got to scoff at or identify with (the spectrum was that broad and well covered), producers Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe presented a life-affirming MAMIL alternative. The Ride to Conquer Cancer, which brought together the original MAMIL group in direct support of one of their members, and a tearful scene of another MAMIL hugging his Mom, a breast cancer survivor, were genuinely touching. Obese riders, Christian riders, gay riders, men with mental health issues all told their stories honestly, providing balance to those who are all about kits, bikes and gear.
The theme of kits, bikes and gear provided hilarious scenes of men using every means possible to hide the cost of their bikes and gear from their partners. “Lots of guys pay half in cash, half by credit card,” states one high-end shop employee. Another MAMIL acknowledges paying cash for his $7,000 worth of jerseys. The movie didn’t shy away from exploring the fine line between the health benefits, camaraderie, and wholesome competitiveness of MAMIL-tude versus its selfishness, acquisitiveness, and racial exclusivity.
Danger is part of the MAMIL culture, and fearlessness is demanded. Scenes of a 58-year-old tentatively remounting his bike after rehabbing from a crash that broke his back and crushed his 03 vertebrae, or another fifty-something joining a group ride with a massive plastic neck brace for the first post-crash time, telling the film crew he’ll stay at the back for safety, then immediately dicing in the pack, forced honest introspection.
The movie is hugely entertaining. It’s self-deprecating style is both hilarious and deeply moving when it shares cyclists overcoming hardships and finding the will to continue. Every laugh generated was balanced with a scene of compassion. MAMIL’s scope is broad enough for all of us to find ourselves, reflect on why we ride, and laugh at ourselves.
Consider a screening for your club or shop to help get you through the winter. Details here.