The word “Mamil” has been around since 2010, and is becoming more prevalent – and relevant – by the year.
For the uninitiated, it is an acronym that stands for “middle-aged man in Lycra” – a blanket term for a new breed of affluent cyclists who spend large amounts of money on high-end racing bikes for recreation, pairing them with the latest sports fashion.
What was once considered the poor man’s vehicle is increasingly making its mark in the luxury market. In 2014, a US$2million (Dh734.6m) bicycle, designed by international artist Jack Armstrong, was showcased at the Big Boys Toys exhibition in Dubai.
While that was a one-off collector’s work of art never intended to be used on the open road, there are consumers in the UAE who are happy to spend upwards of Dh60,000 on a professional, top-of-the-range bike. In comparison, a full-option Nissan Micra car will only set you back about Dh45,000.
In fact, the price of speciality bikes has risen by 75 per cent globally in the past decade, as amateurs increasingly demand the level of equipment once reserved for professionals.
“The UAE is a competitive market when it comes to people seeking that range,” says Sam Sayadan, co-founder of Cycle Hub in Dubai. “We see similar buying trends to those in more established markets, such as Europe.
“A good portion of the expatriate and local population has disposable income to buy a high-quality product and brand. The buyer here is a traveller, and they expect to find the latest technology here, as well. We always have to be ahead of the game.”
The bike shop, in Dubai Motor City, stocks the Italian Pinarello and American Specialized brands.
“They are both racing-bike manufacturers that support race teams and are endorsed by some of the fastest cyclists in the world,” says Sayadan.
An entry level Pinarello costs Dh10,000. Prices of the company’s racing bikes begin at Dh21,000 for only the frame, and can go up to Dh60,000 after customisation.
The S-Works premium range from Specialized starts from Dh16,000 for the frame – add-ons can set a customer back up to Dh53,000.
But what is it about these bikes that justifies a price tag higher than a new car?
Innovations include lighter and stronger carbon-fibre frames, disc brakes, faster gear mechanisms and lighter pedals and saddles. There are also more functional high-end bikes, which can transport luggage without compromising on the aerodynamics.
“What sets these bikes apart is the amount of research these companies do to develop them,” says Sayadan. “Every year, they look at ways to innovate and make them stronger, lighter and more comfortable.”
He says Pinarello teamed up with Jaguar to use the luxury-car maker’s wind tunnel to test the latest bicycle technology, and also works with Japanese company Torayca, a carbon-fibre company that supplies materials for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
Specialized has its own wind tunnel, and is constantly exploring new ways to assist riders by allowing them to strap on items and gadgets without weighing them down in races.
Michael Philip, a supervisor at the Ride Bike Shop, which has branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, says it sold about 15 top-of-the-line Giant Propel Advanced SL bikes – the price of which starts at Dh23,000 – last year.
“This is a prestigious brand, used by racers in Tour de France,” says Philip.
“They are made of carbon fibre, are light and have an electronic gear-shifting system.”
In a controlled test at 40 kilometres per hour, the bike was shown to save between 12 and 36 seconds.
For those whose budgets are a little tighter, Ride Bike offers hybrid bikes such as the FastRoad Comax, the price of which starts at Dh9,000.
“These are mainly for touring and cruising, a range between a mountain and road bike,” says Philip.
“People buy these bikes because they are stiffer, absorb vibration on the road and weigh about 10 kilograms.”
For more #cycletoworkuae coverage, check out the Weekend section on January 8 for a fun quiz on which bike best suits your needs and personality, and Arts&Life on January 10 for an expert’s guide to which size of bike is best suited to specific riding conditions in the UAE