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Dave Myers dead at 66: Warm-hearted Hairy Biker who helped democratise cooking TV

Dave Myers dead at 66: Warm-hearted Hairy Biker who helped democratise cooking TV

When Dave Myers and Simon King quite literally roared onto television screens 20 years ago — in black leathers, on old bikes, and tearing through Portugal for their pilot episode — the pair instantly became a revelatory force in food programmes. The Noughties may have been a slightly more relaxed time for cooking telly than the Eighties and Nineties, when it was largely dominated by privately-educated eccentrics or frowning French masters, but two Northerners parking their coughing motorcycles in little known parts (Swakopmund, Sighişoara, Dracula’s Castle) and ribbing each other over local delicacies was decidedly new. It felt, in some way, more democratic than what had come before.

Today, King announced the passing of his friend. Myers died aged 66, two years after revealing he had an unspecified cancer. Writing on X, King posted: “I’m afraid I bear some sad news. Most of you will know Dave has been fighting cancer for the past couple of years. Last night, on 28th February 2024, with Lili, Dave’s wife, his family, close friend David and myself by his side, he passed away peacefully at home. All who knew Dave are devastated at his passing.

He added: “Personally, I am not sure I can put into words on how I feel at the moment. My best friend is on a journey that for now, I can’t follow. I will miss him every day and the bond and friendship we shared over half a lifetime.”

 (BBC/South Shore Productions/PA Wire)
(BBC/South Shore Productions/PA Wire)

Myers and King — whose latest show, The Hairy Bikers Go West, began airing on BBC Two earlier this month to rave reviews — offered a travelogue, cookery show and mates-on-tour vibe as one. Their shows combined humour, pally teasing, and a sense of genuine curiosity and interest in where they went and what they ate. In a nod to the great Keith Floyd, the shows did away with any fourth wall pretence, with both King and Myers frequently addressing not just the viewers at home but the crew they were working with.

It landed with audiences: the Bikers made more than 30 series and specials over their 20-year on-screen partnership, and almost as many books, mostly recipes, but a number dedicated to dieting. Myers also appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, reaching week seven.

Born in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, Myers was an affable, gentle screen presence — his six foot frame, beard and long hair were a red herring — who favoured relaxed, unaffected cooking over more meticulous methods. In between quips, he would often tell viewers not to worry if they didn’t have the exact ingredients, or quite the right amounts. The sense was that food should be a pleasure, not a chore. It was a far cry from the exacting standards demanded by the likes of Gordon Ramsay or Marcus Wareing.

This may have come from the fact the Hairy Bikers’ beginnings were nothing to do with food. The pair met on the set of 1995 TV drama The Gambling Man, where Myers was head of prosthetics, while King was assistant director. In 2022, speaking to Kate Thorton on her podcast White Wine Question Time, Myers explained of the first 2004 Bikers series: “We never set out to do a food program. We loved food, we'd cooked since we were kids, but we never set out to be TV chefs, as they call it.

 (BBC)
(BBC)

“Food,” he explained, “was the currency that drove the program.”

He added: “We were both in our day jobs and we just got our guide books out and thought of thousand-mile motorbike trips that we wanted to do. “I'd filmed in South Africa [and heard] Namibia was brilliant. So we went to Namibia, and Vietnam, Transylvania, Morocco, India, and it literally was as random as that.”

Perhaps it was this sense of good fortune that drove Myers’ warm-hearted outlook. And while Myers was a force — one that, with King, helped make cooking more approachable for viewers, while showing them much of the globe at the same time — it was this warm-heartedness that was crucial to his appeal. Later shows, including the festive special, The Hairy Bikers: Coming Home for Christmas, saw the pair reflect on life, its meaning, and making the most of their time. “I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back in the saddle again,” Myers began the episode.

“I wish you god’s speed brother; you are and will remain a beacon in this world,” wrote King this morning. It is a sentiment that has been widely shared.