Entering the age brackets within cycling

The under-represented MamilStill Smiling, but greyRead More by robert

Cycling as a Mamil

The lack of acceptance of age

I’m 59 in a few weeks time. I suffer from having had grey hairs since my early 40s; it’s a genetic thing, and thankfully, I also have  very smooth skin and few wrinkles. I put this down to not only my DNA, but also due to having spent a lifetime in the outdoors, and doing my best to stay fit. I don’t weigh myself; I haven’t done so for nearly 30 years. These days, if my trousers fit me, I know that I’m fine; and I have a deal with my wife: she promises to tell me when I no longer look good in Lycra – and, I know for sure that she will! At such a point, I’ll never where tight cycling shorts and jerseys again 😉

I recall times as a young rock climber and mountaineer. At one time, working as a Youth Hostel warden, I had enough money for a few beers, car tax, insurance and fuel – and climbing gear and trips! It was all I needed, and we created adventure. These days, I live in a great house, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, mortgage free, with a very useful and very safe Audi Q5 on the driveway – paid for – and bikes of choice tucked safely away. My family and I have just returned from a utterly fantastic holiday, touring the alpine countries of Europe, and spending time in Italy and Switzerland, where we were able to relax and actually pay for nice hotels, meals out, trips, and a beautiful mountain chalet – yes, I’m lucky and I’m doing my best to create and collect memories, not possessions, because I know the value of life. Too frequently, people have let me down, and so spending time relaxing in the mountains is a great way for me to recharge after too much narcissism from too many people.

Age doesn’t make you complain more, not really. No, it simply gives you the evidence that  we’re surrounded by selfish, arrogant and very loud idiots. That now and again, the supposedly quiet and quite nice ones, will also show their true colours and kick you right in the balls – metaphorically speaking. And so, yes; I guess that in some respects, I’m a grey haired, middle-aged guy, who’s Lycra could fit slightly better, and who complains about things, and who can easily be ignored, for no other reason that he’s grey on the outside, and so the inside, where he’s still the same; or in conversation, where he can still hold his own on merit, simply doesn’t really matter. After all, I’m grey-haired, must be incontinent, and can’t possibly have any fun in life! And the cycling industry is surprisingly, one of the worst offenders.

My quite comfortable, disposable income

Yes, years ago, when money would have been very nice, helping to pay for my adventures, it was hard to come by. Nowadays though, I have money to spend freely and don’t need to use a credit card – save for the buyer protection it affords me. And yet, despite being part of the demographic that can simply walk into a bike shop and choose lots of nice shiny products, the cycling industry is still drunk on the idea of cascading an un-ending waterfall of products across social media, to clothes horses that will wear them once or twice or most, and then throw them into a dark cupboard. These clothes horses look nothing like me, and too frequently just stand and pose, often looking aimlessly and blankly upwards towards a non-existent bird flying overhead, or unseen climbing squirrel – men and women – and they very rarely sweat; not because be they’re young and fit, but because they don’t ride hard into the hills and actually push themselves. They simply pose, and they look nothing like me, nor my friends; and I’m left wondering if the kit will actually suit me, or if it’s well made, as they’re simply standing still, looking blankly, like the drugs have just taken effect – often uncomfortably looking.

More often than not, they represent that generation which I once belonged to; for whom a disposable income was simply a dream. Frequently, the social media life that we are shown, is a construct of unreality and a refusal to show their true self. Yes, many of them are simply Z-listers, trying hard to live a dream, and refusing to accept that life can be filled with sorrow and disappointment as well as happiness. They usually live lives that are alien to the image they show; and, they’re about as likely to buy the expensive products thrown at them, as you are to find  Unicorn pooh in a woodland meadow. My friends and I can afford such products, and we’d like to be shown them in a manner that reflects us… please. If it’s not too much trouble.

Whilst I’ve done all that I can, through parenthood, where it should always be about bringing up your children first and foremost; making sacrifices and not looking after yourself and buying unnecessary bikes or climbing kit; through a tough, unrelenting and time-consuming career, to stay fit; the simple fact is that I’m now grey and in my 50s, and able to treat myself, it looks like  that these brands simply don’t want to represent me – but the sales teams ( for whom I could use a different word or two)  do want my money! So tell me, please; I’m willing to listen – why on earth should I give it to them. In fact, why should any cyclist approaching, or in their 50s – or mid-30s onwards these days. You keep putting up the prices, to cover the cost of throwing away endless samples of your products to disloyal poseurs who in truth, don’t care about your brand or any other. In their eyes, you’re just this months cash cow or freebie. Next month, they’ll be wearing something else and you’ll be forgotten about and thrown into the wardrobe, until they next feel the urge for some free-loading.

The acceptance of marketing

I accept that marketing has to do certain things. After all, I work as a writer within the cycling industry. I weave words together, and I help to plan images and photoshoots. However, I work alongside true cyclists, who do ride and do sweat and of know the value of good kit. They can also string together amazing writing, which helps to market and sell products. I also know some absolutely amazing ambassadors on social media, who are so very talented, so loyal and so truly warm-hearted and grateful. They’re an example to others; and, they’re usually identifiable by not changing kit in every single post, and sticking to just a few brands, who they’re thankful for supporting them. These people usually produce amazing content too; both active and fashion-orientated images, and they’ve earned the right to to be called an influencer. Social media is however, filled with perverts and voyeurs, not followers; and I’ve spent too many hours, doing my best as an editor, to identify, filter and out those who simply see a sexualised image, not a female athlete. Much of the kit thrown away to the clothes horses, simply becomes feed for the voyeur, as clicks tend too often, to represent the number of weirdos online, not the number of potential customers.

I understand marketing and I know that we have to create images that attract the public. I also know though, as a person with a disposable income, that people in the mid-life, from their late 30s upwards, ought to be more represented. Activity images ought to be more represented; showing kit in action, not simply static and too statuesque. After all, we’re a sport and not a Paris fashion show, aren’t we?

Importantly, inside I’m not grey and 58; I’m still the same person I was at 28. I still run – not as fast as I once did, but frequently as fast as those 30 years younger. Yes, I ran competitively, and was gifted the ability to run by God or DNA, and I love the fact that, when annoyed, I can go out and push out a time that beats someone I know is far younger. It makes me feel good and happy, and yes, I’m still competitive and like to prove a point.

It’s time for change

I don’t yet dribble soup down my sweater, and I don’t wear incontinence pads under by bib shorts. I still fit into clothes from many years ago; and recently, my quite amazing and stunningly beautiful wife told me that her colleague at work described me by saying ‘Oh, your husband is quite slim!’ No, my wife hasn’t yet told me that Lycra no longer suits me!

As I write this, I’m doing all that I can to maintain my healthy waistline. It does get harder as I get older. I love cake too much, and I blame my wonderful Grandma. I was her favourite, I know; and I love cake and a coffee, just as she would make mid-mornings. I’ve tried vegetarianism, and I get it, and yes, I also believe in it’s benefits. However, I’m back onto white meat and fish, because I need the proteins and have allergies that can’t add too many nuts to my diet. Yes, I’m 59 in a few months, and next year I’ll be sixty.

I have a disposable income and can now enjoy the fruits of my career. I want to spend it wisely, and I want the best products. I also want too many brands to stop  throwing away their marketing budgets on worthless social media influencers, who don’t actually influence anyone; and who simply cause the price of products to have to be raised, to cover the costs. They may look good in Lycra, but hey, my wife says that I do too – and she’s definitely never wrong!

Yes, I’m the under-represented image of the group of people who can actually afford your products, and will actually buy them. Furthermore, it’s about time that the cycling industry took an actual interest in us, rather than in meaningless clothes horses, who will stand in front of a mirror, strut in a ridiculous stance, and throw themselves into a contorted mess, before throwing away your gifted goods and showing that for them… loyalty is as rare as that Unicorn pooh we mentioned earlier. The cycle industry is suffering. Brands are struggling to get consumers buying their products. Here at Pedalnorth, we’re all real people, real cyclists, real writers and we’ll only ever promote the brands that we truly like and love. We represent cyclists across all age groups – men and women – and we’re all former or current athletes. We’ve lived lives filled with adventure, and yes, we truly do represent the young, the middle aged, men and women, because that’s the right thing to do.

More importantly, we believe that  riding bikes is the way to live life; along with being kind, polite, free-thinking, happy and adventurous. You never stop being that young and excited climber in a beat-up car, heading for the mountains. The car just gets better, as do the hotels and chalets. The outer shell changes slightly; but inside you stay just as young, just as silly, just as excited – but with more money to spend on buying the best kit!

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