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An interview with Spencer Wilson: father, illustrator, MAMIL

Cycling Blog

An interview with Spencer Wilson: father, illustrator, MAMIL

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Spencer Wilson

January 29th, 2016

Spencer Wilson is a father, illustrator, cyclist and the co-author of The Modern MAMIL – an upcoming A-Z guide to the secret lingo known only to the most hardcore of cyclists. We spoke to him ahead of the release of the book.

As a self described “jack of all trades, master of none” at school, Spencer’s route into illustration began with a nudge from his tutor, and saw him carve out a successful career via a degree at Brighton University (“and with the help of some odd part time jobs”, he adds).

His style draws inspiration from vintage cycling posters and artists including Dick Bruna, Herve Morvan and Ryo Takemasa to create bold and striking illustrations. His posters for iconic cycling events perfectly capture their spirit:

His route into cycling was bittersweet: picking up a bike was a doctor’s recommendation for keeping fit after an injury made his previous hobbies – football and running – unsuitable. 

Watching the Tour de France while working increased his attraction to the sport (“illustrators are good multi-taskers”), and filling every spare moment with researching bikes, reading reviews and looking at bike magazines only fueled it further (“you could say that at this point I had a bikeporn addiction!”).

His thoughts on the transition to cycling sing its praises well:

“I still miss the football but the beauty of cycling is that you can fit it into your whole week if you wish. You get to see some fantastic views, have a chat whilst riding, sprint for signs, drink coffee and eat a fat slice of cake and not even notice.

Shaving your legs is an additional bonus.”

Of the next step, his route into MAMILhood, Spencer says

“A visit to the LBS led me to get an end of season Speicalized Allez – black and red – and after riding solo for a half a year I took the plunge and joined my local club – BerkhamstedCC.

After a few rides getting some longer miles in my legs and learning about coffee stops I was cajoled into the faster group where I just about held on and learnt some cycling lingo – it was during this period that the MAMIL book seed was sewn.”

It was also around this time that his friends and family began calling him a MAMIL and, despite resistance, the label stuck.

Bagging a few sportives and transitioning to crit racing (“where I thought I’d die every race”) seemed to cement the accusations, and thereafter the journey culminated in his joining the local race team, Lovelo Cinelli.

Spencer’s dedication to cycling is further evidenced by his penchant for designing stylised mock adverts for products that keep him going through rides:

In short, he’s definitely earned his cycling chops and is well qualified to write a guide to the esoteric lingo of cyclists.

As is customary when speaking with a MAMIL we asked about his current bike ownership levels, with reference to the famous N+1 rule (defined in the book as “The formula indicating the number of bikes that a MAMIL needs. Where (N) equals current number of bikes owned”):

“I own two. My first bike was the Spesh, and although it’s a little too big, heavy and creaks a fair bit it will always signal my transition from the field to the road and will now serve as the winter bike everyone seems to have.

My new love though is my Cinelli Strato Faster and she’s a beaut. Super stiff with a raised BB for crit racing she powers the flats like a dream and climbs like a whisper.”

And finally, we asked if there were any terms that didn’t make the final cut of the book:

  • Slamming your stem
  • Owning a neck Buff
  • Riding on the Drops
  • Eating Marzipan
  • The BOU (big ol’ unit)
  • Broom wagon (“in this instance the wife who collects you when you can’t fix your bike out on the ride”)

To see which terms did make it, pre-order a copy now.

You can also find out more about Spencer via his website and Twitter.

Top image by MacMac Photography

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