The artist Grayson Perry has spoken of why he chooses to ride a traditional Dutch bike – and says that men splashing out on a road bike that is more suited to the Tour de France than a commute are confusing function with status.
The Turner Prize winner, who sometimes dresses as his female alter ego Clare, can regularly be seen riding his green Vogue Elite bike in the streets near his North London studio.
Writing on the website of the auction house Christie’s, he said that he likes the bike, which he ordered online from the Netherlands, “very much.”
“It is a ladies’ bike, so I can wear a dress on it,” he said. “I have a yellow plastic milk crate on the front, which is where I put my shoes and handbag. I really enjoy passing men on racing bikes, particularly when I am wearing a skirt.”
Earlier this week, a poll on our live blog showed that black is Britain’s most popular bike colour, but it certainly wouldn’t have got Perry’s vote.
“I chose the pea-green model because I am a colour campaigner and wanted a bike that was bright. I never buy black — ‘cowards’ black’, I call it. Black clothes on men are an abstention from the conversation.”
On riding his bike, he said: “One of my favourite things is to pedal it about London very slowly on a beautiful balmy summer’s evening, like a kind of two-wheeled flâneur.
“Sometimes I might stop for a pint or two on the way round, just on my own, so I can hear and smell and watch the world go by. I love doing that.”
Dutch-style bikes of the type Perry rides are very much the exception in a city where bike commuters often ride drop-bar road bikes, with some attracting the nickname of MAMIILs – Middle Aged Men in Lycra.
Perry, who when cycling in his guise of Clare is perhaps more of a MAMID – a Middle Aged Man in a Dress – said that men who commute on expensive road bikes are confusing function and status.
“I have done a lot of work around masculinity, and I find that men are very confused about the role of function, which they often think is a way of displaying statusm” he explained. “
So they get a £2,000 bike that weighs five kilograms and would be useful if you were on the Tour de France — but it’s completely impractical for riding to work.”
He added: “A town bike that you leave on a rack needs to be cheap: that’s one of its functions. This bike has a squishy saddle and is very comfortable — but comfort is another function that gets ignored in the man world, because no status is attached to it.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.