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.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.