Britain’s fitness and environmentally-aware cyclists have spawned a new generation of sportsman called Mamil – or middle aged men in lycra.
Boffins believe the success of competitive cyclists Mark Cavendish at this year’s Tour De France and Sir Chris Hoy – who scooped three gold medals in Beijing 2008 – are also responsible.
University researchers say splashing out on top of the range cycling gear – which includes skintight shorts and vests – is slowly replacing the flash sports car as crutch to the mid-life crisis.
The study conducted by academics at the University of the West of England suggests there has been a surge in middle-aged men choosing to get on two wheels.
Fifteen per cent of 35 to 44 year olds said they considered themselves ”serious cyclists” who rode ”very often”.
Experts say the research revealed that the number of men cycling to work and during leisure time had at least doubled over the last ten years.
Professor Alan Tapp said: ”It seems that it is becoming cooler for middle-aged men to don the lycra and hop on their bike.
”This rise in Mamils – or middle aged men in lycra – largely seems to be down to an interest in gadgets and carbon frames but also a shift in the cultural acceptability for middle-aged men to wear lycra and ride bikes.
”We wanted to find out if cycling is still the ‘poor man’s transport’ populated by badly dressed social misfits muttering about gear ratios, or a fashionable activity of good looking people who rock up to the office with the latest carbon frame.
”We asked questions about how congestion, global warming and ever rising fuel prices might persuade us out of our cars and back onto two wheels.
”Our findings suggest that most people see Jeremy Clarkson-esque critics of cycling as missing the point.”
The university quizzed 3,885 people aged 16-64 were interviewed in early summer 2010 on their thoughts regarding cycling.
Prof Tapp added: ”An impressive 42 per cent of the British public think that ‘cycling has become cool nowadays’, and, good news for those forty-something men with mid-life crises, 38 per cent agree that bike technology is much sexier nowadays.
”Perhaps surprisingly there was also encouragement for government initiatives, with 43 per cent agreeing that ‘there’s a new push by the government towards getting people to cycle’.
”These pro cycling feelings might be a symptom of traffic jam stress as much as anything.
”A whopping 43 per cent of us agreed that ‘When I’m stuck in a traffic jam I sometimes wish I were cycling’.
”The success of the likes of Chris Hoy and Mark Cavendish might be rubbing off on us as well: a surprising 18 per cent of us admit that ‘The success of British cyclists has encouraged me to think about cycling more myself’.”
Figures show Britain is still divided over the benefits of cycling with 28 per cent of those quizzed claiming that ‘roads are for cars not bikes’.
Only 12 per cent of people cycle once a week or more and 54 per cent claiming they ‘would not support any measure that penalises car use’.
Will Spurgeon, co-owner of Cadence bike shop in Bath, said: ”I’ve witnessed the rise of the Mamil at first hand and at 42 I guess can count myself among them.
”The fact is that in the last five years I’ve seen a change away from mountain biking and a huge influx of new riders from other sports – running especially.
”I see both men and women in their late thirties, forties and early fifties as the most willing to don the lycra.
”There’s been an increase in people cycling to and from work.
”High profile cyclists in the media like Mark Cavendish and Chris Hoy and their reported successes means it’s a more widely recognised sport, and it’s considered more acceptable to be seen in public sporting skin tight clothing.”