Not so long ago, dictionary compilers received submissions for a brand new word: MAMIL. It stands for Middle-Aged Man in Lycra – and says everything about the current vogue for cycling currently whooshing through executive suites.
Arguably, the competitive cycling craze started in Britain where – way before Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, and Team GB pedalled off with a stash of Olympic gold medals – cyclo-mania was in full spin. “You’re not anyone in the Square Mile anymore unless you’re a en route to a corporate cycle day, or sportive – the harder the better,” noted one commentator earlier this year. A 100km ride with a couple of major climbs is not unusual. Some firms even fly clients overseas to tackle the world’s most challenging rides (see box); there’s extra kudos for those arriving by corporate jet.
On a recent marathon charity bikeathon – from Olympia in Greece to London ahead of the Olympic Games – you might have swapped inner-tube tips with everyone from the boss of supermarket group Sainsburys (one of dozens of CEOs on the trip), to half the fund managers in the City. When it comes to oiling the wheels of deals, cycling is the new golf.
Is this macho new trend taking off anywhere else? India looks to be a prime candidate. The past few years have seen the arrival of a Mumbai Cyclothon and a Tour de Delhi (both aiming to appeal to corporate types), culminating this year in a fully-fledged Tour de India. In the tech capital of Hyderabad, meanwhile, the Republic Ride-2012 was billed as India’s biggest corporate cycling event, and attracted riders from multinationals including Infosys, General Electric, Mahindra Satyam and Invesco. As well as racing, the organisers laid on 18 cycling-based games (anyone for Cyclotomy?) as well as an amateur cycle polo tournament.
Regardless of nationality, the appeal to a certain type of executive is obvious. “It’s an opportunity to buy loads of expensive kit,” explains Tullett Prebon chief, Terry Smith. A £1,000 carbon frame is just the starting point. The serious corporate cyclist also needs electric gear-changers, a Garmin cycling computer, and a cycling shirt from the outfitter of choice, Rapha. It’s all a big investment but easily justified on grounds that it will probably pay dividends if it means you get to bond with a client while tackling a particularly gruelling gradient.
In China, the going for corporate cycling could be harder. Two-wheelers still loom large in the soul of the ‘bicycling kingdom’, but cars have more kudos. “I’d rather cry in the back of your BMW than laugh on the back of your bicycle”, to quote one Chinese reality TV star. On current trends, perhaps for not much longer.
Our prediction is that before the year is out, words like ‘peloton’, ‘chain gang’ and ‘bonk’ (it doesn’t mean what you think) will be cascading through the global management literature – and that after a near 40- year absence, sideburns will make a re-appearance in boardrooms.
Karakoram Highway (Rawalpindi to Kashgar 1,300km)
A well-established classic that passes through some amazing mountain scenery. Pamir Highway (Dushanbe-Osh 1,200km) A very remote and stunning ride through this little visited former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan. Rough track, stunning scenery “and some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on earth”.
(source: The Adventure Cycling Guide)
South East Asia
Vietnam’s National Highway 1
This ‘iconic’ road runs the length of the country, taking in the best parts of the coastline and climaxing in the mighty Hai Van (‘Ocean Cloud’) pass. A varied trip, gritty in parts.
(Source: Lonely Planet)
Vietnam to Cambodia
A 10-day charity ride taking place in November 2012, which starts in Ho Chi Minh City and follows a 400km route into Cambodia, taking in the famous temple site of Angkor Wat.
(source: Global Adventure Challenges)
A dramatic cross-island road-trip through rugged mountains and lush valleys, culminating in “miles upon miles of fast undulating coastline terrain”.
(source: In Motion Asia)
China: Penny Farthing adventure
Follow in the footsteps of the British adventurer Thomas Stevens who, in 1886, pedalled on a Penny Farthing cycle from the flower boats of Guangzhou in China’s south, to the pagodas of Jiujiang about 1,000km to the north. He was “disarmed by the scenery”.
(source: The Economist)