For years, "middle-aged men in Lycra" (Mamils) have stoically defended their right to squeeze into tight-fitting cycling gear, despite the sniggers of practically everyone else.

But now, even Sir Chris Hoy has waded into the debate, advising amateur cyclists to avoid skimpy, fluorescent sportswear, unless they are whippet-thin because "it looks pretty awful".

Writing in the style column of GQ magazine, the six-time British Olympic gold medalist said that many Britons found themselves over-thinking their cycling wardrobe, believing that to be taken seriously by other riders, they should be "wearing a full Team Sky racing kit".

"Of course, it makes most cyclists look as ridiculous as an overweight football fan wearing the shirt of his favourite club for a pub five-a-side game," he added.

"Lycra isn't the most elegant material you can wear, and professional cycling gear generally looks awful on pretty much anyone heavier than eight stone [50kg] and with more than five percent body aerodynamic fat.

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"A lot of people think they have to wear something black - because it is flattering - or something Day-Glo, to be safe and seen.

Sir Chris Hoy launches the
Sir Chris Hoy launches the "Hoy" brand. Photo/Getty Images

"That isn't the case. Decent cycling clothing today is designed with reflective strips or subtle detailing that is visible under streetlights or in car headlights. You'll find that you can be seen just as well as you would in a builder's fluorescent vest."

Cycling is booming in Britain, with more than two million people across the country now riding their bikes at least once a week, an all-time high, according to British Cycling, the sport's governing body in the UK.

And as the sport grows, so has the desire to "look the part". Cycling clothing firm Rapha, which supplies the Team Sky pro road bike team, says its sales have grown by more than 30 percent per annum for 11 years in a row.

The worst faux-pas, according to Sir Chris, is white cycling shorts, which can leave little to the imagination if riders are caught in an unexpected rainstorm.

"They're terribly unflattering," he said. "From the front, men look like a percentage sign and become see-through when wet. Enough said.

"And never wear an aerodynamic helmet. Unless you are taking part in a time trial at the Olympics or one of the Grand Tours, don't do it."

Instead, Sir Chris said the average amateur should stick to "understated" and "smart" fabrics and mix-and-match items, so it does not look as if you are advertising a brand.

"Another common mistake is buying the most expensive cycling gear, just because it is perceived as fashionable or cool," he added.

"For many cyclists, there is a reverse snobbery, where they will look down on a rider if every item they own comes from the same brand."

However the Olympian did defend leg shaving, and said that the public should not be so judgemental of overweight cyclists.

"The more cycling you do, the more toned your legs get and the better you will look, and so you should be proud to show your legs off, with hair or without. And if you can get to the stage where you feel confident enough to shave your legs, why would you worry about what you are wearing anyway.

"Personally, I feel sorry for Mamils. When they walk into a cafe, dressed head-to-toe in Lycra, you always spot people sniggering at them.

"And yet you don't know what that person looked like six months or even a year ago. It may be they were once twice the size they are now, until cycling transformed them and they feel great about how they look."

Sir Chris also said men should show off their shaved legs, as they will look better the more cycling they do.

Since retiring in 2013, Hoy has launched new careers as a professional racing driver and a children's author.