Grayson Perry wowed a bike-friendly audience last night with his tales of cycling, gender and what he coined PUFFINs (Pig Ugly Fat F**kers in Nylon) at "The Handlebars of Life", a special talk held in Shoreditch to raise money for Sustrans.
Perry, resplendent in a red and white "MAMIL" outfit created for him by a Central St Martin’s student, took the audience through his past as a mountain bike racer ("I fell off almost every race"), his specially created new bike, electric bikes and scooters, traffic behaviours and ultimately, the need for all road users to have a little more "empathy" towards each other.
"I love cycling," he roared to the audience, going on to detail how he had always loved the liberation it gives, along with certainty in terms of getting around the capital. "I’m never late," he said. Perry railed against those who do "shoaling", moving to the front of the queue at lights, only to move off slowly, and at some car drivers, one of which pulled alongside him and bellowed: "do you know how much my car weighs?". He went through his early life and experiences on and off the bike, the "macho" motorcyclists like his dad who he mirrored some years later, and how motorbikers were in two categories: "pirates" and "power rangers". There was time for him to pour scorn on "hipsters" as the first cultural movement never to have existed, lycra-clad speed merchants in the city, the "man jewellery" that is the carbon fibre groupset, and at serial re- light avoiders, despite admitting he does it from time to time ("I’m a 95% stopper"). "One of my great virtues is I’m a bit of a hypocrite".
Perry also took the audience through his House for Essex project, designed with FAT’s Charles Holland, his hot bike-packing excursions through the Pyrenees with a friend, and marvelled at the life-enhancing elements that being on two wheels had given him.
It was, he said, a massive part of his life where he can enjoy the silence and get away from the hubbub for once not as Grayson Perry but as "just traffic".
"I am a citizen on a bicycle," he told the audience. "I am not a cyclist."