The MAMIL, Middle-Aged Man (or Men) In Lycra, a sub-species of Treadlyagluteus Irresponsibilus* (yes, I made that up), is the bane of road users throughout Australia. Many are a law unto their own, especially when it comes to groups, as they take over streets and roads like the Mongol Hordes of old, ravaging everything in their path. Victoria’s Hell Ride being the most notorious gathering of MAMIL tribal warriors in Australia. Hell Riders have no mercy, razing everything in their path and woe betide anyone that gets in their way. Of course it’s always the fault of others and, as with any primitive tribe, the tribe comes together to support the tribal member. And in Gippsland, MAMILs, can appear at any time, anywhere, taking over the narrow and sometimes hazardous roads, spurning all others.
This is another one of my Gippsland road series of stories, highlighting some of the hazards and outright dumb behaviour of road users in our area. It’s not bad enough that we have some of the worst roads in terms of quality, but they are also often quite narrow, very windy and hilly, and can provide all manner of hazards. So it often becomes a frustrating affair when you not only have to contend with the poor quality of the roads themselves, but then the often equally poor habits of road users. This time it’s an incident that happened recently with a group of MAMILs, though it’s no isolated case by any means. I have a strong suspicion that whenever a MAMIL dons their tight Lycra battledress and starts pumping their legs, the brain is depleted of blood and all sensibility and sense of proportion and self-preservation evaporates. I simply can’t fathom any other reason why MAMILs become such a hazard to themselves, as well as others on the roads. It’s bad enough having to contend with local hazards, but imported ones just add to the drama.
So on one of my regular morning trips to take the hounds for a run, I came across a slow moving tribe of MAMILs on another raid and on the most awkward section of road. A car towing a wide boat, itself struggling, comes across this tribe and, even though there was plenty of room for the outermost of the four MAMILs to move into a wide section off the road on the left, they maintained their warrior position. Just because it’s legal to ride two abreast on any road, doesn’t mean that you should. These roads are used by large milk tankers, logging and quarry trucks, and all manner of other large and small vehicles and not just on weekdays, but early on a weekend morning like in this incident. It may be fine to be in the right when it comes to how you’re allowed to ride a treadly on these roads, but it doesn’t make much difference if you’re hit. And for those not aware, this particular road goes for a long way before there’s any opportunity to pass (especially if there’s oncoming traffic) and can raise incredible frustration for a convoy of vehicles. Yet laws are being introduced to enforce mandatory clearances for MAMILs that are virtually impossible to follow safely on most country roads.
Under controlled conditions like with managed races and off public-road pelotons that I’ve covered over the years, there’s no problem. Events like the Great Victorian Bike Ride have all manner of precautions and controls in place to manage the public and the riders, as well as the safety of the public and the riders. And the pelotons that I’ve covered, have been conducted in locations where they don’t interact with the public at all. But when groups, either large or small, do their thing on these uncompromising roads and you come across them suddenly and in the worst of places, it really isn’t a good thing. Yes, there can be all manner of other hazards on the roads, but coming unexpectedly across a bunch of MAMILs, especially when they aren’t being overly careful when they should, is a recipe for tragedy. Of course the motorist is always to blame, so little wonder that so many now have dash cams installed, to at least provide some backup, as no MAMIL will ever admit to fault.
After 20+ years of encountering MAMILs in all manner of places (before it perhaps really took hold), I readily admit that I have developed a certain degree of disdain for what they represent. If I’d had a dash cam 20+ years ago, I could show some truly abhorrent behaviour by riding clubs conducting events on the flat, country, roads in the west of Melbourne where I often went on photography journeys. I’ve come to associate MAMILs with the likes of trail bike riders, 95% of them give the other 5% a bad name; they mostly have no respect for other road users. That may well be a generalisation, but perception is reality. The MAMILs never, ever, seem to look at things from the non-MAMIL side, though we haven’t quite reached the point experienced by some English villages, but only time will tell.
So what’s the answer? As rules are increasingly applied to motorists when it comes to interacting with cyclists, the former who predominantly wear the blame for everything, there also needs to be appropriate rules applied to cyclists for different road conditions. When on roads like the Strzelecki Highway (which is far from being a highway) and any single lane road that is posted at more than 60kmh, cyclists should not be legally allowed to ride two abreast. This is especially important as cyclists and cycling organisations are demanding separation rules for overtaking vehicles where it’s patently difficult, if not impossible, to do legallly. Rather than making reasonable rules applicable to both sides, I can soon see the rules once more targeting the motorists, perhaps with similar rules as for stationary emergency vehicles, where you’ll have to slow to 40 kmh when passing a hoard of MAMILs.
*Treadlyagluteus Irresponsibilus also includes:
- Urban MAMILs that create havoc for pedestrians, joggers and traffic
- CBD couriers that create havoc for pedestrians and traffic
- Mountain Bike riders that fly unexpectedly out of forest openings
- Teenagers who think they are bulletproof
Update 1. I came across this and simply had to post it; perhaps coming soon to our waterways, so that boaters and fishers can enjoy the biking experience of newly conceived water-MAMILs. I can just imagine water Pelotons etc, imagine a ‘Tour de Hawkesbury’.