From left the Vogue Elite bicycle, photo courtesy of Europe Cycle Company. Illustration of Grayson Perry by Samuel Kerr

Object Lesson: Grayson Perry on his Vogue Elite bicycle

The Turner Prize-winning artist talks about why he loves his ladies’ bike, and discusses his adventures riding around London ‘like a kind of two-wheeled flâneur’

‘This is the bike I ride about town. I like it very much. It is a ladies’ bike, so I can wear a dress on it. 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. 

‘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.

‘I bought the bicycle online from Holland. It’s classic Dutch style: tall and upright, and old-school with its industrial welded tubes. The handlebars are close to the saddle, meaning that you are not bent over as you ride. It weighs about 40lb and is geared for Holland — one gear for the flat, two for when you have the wind at your back — so it’s hard work on hills. 

‘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.

‘I find that men are very confused about the role of function, which they often think is a way of displaying status’ — Grayson Perry

‘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 status. 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. 

‘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.

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‘It’s not that I mind men having expensive and beautiful things. But men sometimes kid themselves that they are buying something because they need it, rather than just because they want it. They feel that they have to justify their sports car. No: it is an adornment, as decorative as lacy underwear.’

Grayson Perry: Vanité, Identité, Sexualité continues at La Monnaie de Paris until 3 February