This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
On Tuesday, in the second weirdest example of the press losing their shit about Jeremy Corbyn (the first being the Telegraph calling his Shadow Chancellor a "nut-job") this article in the Times described Jeremy Corbyn's bike as a "Chairman Mao-style bicycle."
Ah yes, a Chairman Mao-style bicycle. Like those bikes that Chairman Mao famously used to ride to military displays.
I get what the journalist was going for. It's another example of the micro-scrutiny of the UK's new Labour leader. You know, stuff like: He wears clothes like a geography teacher and has a beard like a socialist student. But those are references that people understand. I've just never heard of a Maoist bike.
To find out if I was just being stupid and naive, I called up some bike shops to see if I could find myself a bike worthy of a Communist despot.
VICE: Hello, I was wondering if you could help me. I'm looking for a Mao bike?
The Red Bike Shop: A Mao?
I don't know it I'm afraid. Sorry, say that again?
I think it might be a Chinese bike?
We certainly don't sell them or stock them. What do you need, are you looking to buy one?
Yeah, basically I've heard it's the one Jeremy Corbyn has actually, and that's why I'm looking for it. Someone said it was a Mao bike?
Have you had a look online? How do you spell it?
M-A-O. Is anything coming up? It might have been another famous dictator actually?
Wait, there's a picture of him [Jeremy Corbyn] on his bike, I'm going to blow it up…
[sound of clicking]
To be honest, it looks like a bog-standard hybrid with a long stand. Nothing special. Old, early 2000s cheap hybrid with an extended stand. Just look for any old hybrid and put a long stand on it and that should work fine.
Oh, OK. Thanks.
VICE: Hi there, I was wondering if you have any Mao bikes?
Micycle: Any what bikes, sorry?
Mao bikes. M-A-O.
[Pause] No, we don't sell those.
It's the sort of bike Chairman Mao rode, apparently.
No… we only do Bobbins and Bianchis.
Do you have any similar bikes to the one Chairman Mao had? It doesn't have to be Chairman Mao, it could be another dictator. Preferably left-wing.
I'm guessing it would be traditional, vintage, mudguards, chain-guards, that kind of thing?
Yeah, I guess so, but really I want the sort of bike a dictator would have.
Is it for a film or something?
No, it's just that I saw Jeremy Corbyn had one and I thought it looked really cool. I want one similar to that.
[Laughs] Do you want to have a look online? We mainly do Bobbins. Look at those. Actually, we do have something very traditional. It's even got rod-pull brakes. It's not cheap though; it's £699 [$1,084]. But an Italian company makes it and it's quite communist-looking, if you know what I mean.
Yeah, communist-looking is good, I'm looking at the Bobbin one right now and it doesn't look that communist to me though, to be honest.
OK, let me remember the model name.
It's got to be quite socialist, you know? Jeremy Corbyn-esque.
OK, so there's one, instead of having brake cables, it's got rod-pull, Victorian or 1930s style, and it's a dark-green, with a mudguard.
OK, so that's a Chairman Mao bike?
Yeah, and if you see it up close, it's really beautifully made. Made by one of the few companies that actually make rod-pull brakes.
And that's the sort of bike that a murderous dictator like Mao would ride?
It's the same kind of design, yep. But it's going to be better quality. Probably the one he rode was made in his own country, and the Italians are more into their quality, if you know what I mean.
VICE: Hi, I'm looking for a Mao bike?
Mosquito Bikes: Mao?
Yeah, Mao bike. M-A-O.
Right, yeah, it's not something we stock.
It's like the bike that Chairman Mao rides? The Chinese dictator. Apparently Jeremy Corbyn has a "Chairman Mao-style bicycle."
Yeah. I've heard of him, I mean I know who he is. But I'm not familiar with his bike, not sure what it looks like.
Really? Are there any other dictators who had bikes?
Er… oh god, I don't know. [Laughs] I've not got a clue? I'm not that genned up on dictators. [Laughs]
There are no other cycling dictators you know?
Right, I'm going to search for "dictators' bikes." [Sound of typing] Is it sort of a sit-up kind of bike? Let me have a look for "Jeremy Corbyn bike." [More typing]
Did Saddam Hussein ride a bike?
[Ignores the question] OK, here we go. Images. Oh, it's a Dutch-style bike. Yeah, if you look up "Dutch bike"—we don't do it. Just look up "Dutch bike."
Is that a socialist bike?
Erm… Not really, it's just a bike. I don't think bikes are really defined by their political persuasion.
OK. Yeah, that's what I thought. I guess it's just the Times being weird. Thanks anyway.
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