Colourful characters

Eccentric cyclists

By David Bramwell

Brighton has always been a Mecca for the vain owners of flamboyant cars and motorbikes, as proved each summer when the town gets bombarded with souped-up Minis, preening Mods on scooters and tweed-sporting chaps in their vintage motors. And let's not forget the boy racers who fly up and down Madeira Drive in their customised Ford Escorts at 130 miles per hour on a Friday night, fuelled by testosterone, Eminem and cheap cider. This summer, however, a new phenomenon materialised on Brighton seafront - that of the eccentric cyclist. Out of the blue, our town appears to have acquired a number of dotty cycling nuts, each seemingly intent on outdoing each other with their eccentricity. For those yet to have witnessed this marvellous spectacle, there follows a brief spotter's guide.

Dr Dolittle:
Often found whizzing along the seafront on an old butcher's bike, Dr Dolittle is - I can only deduce - attempting to beat the world record for how many animals a person can carry on one bicycle. Notable for his bronze tan, tattoos, big silver ear-ring and obligatory parrot, this white-haired old pirate has animals sticking out of his pockets, perched on his shoulder, rats clinging to his shirt, and a good ten dogs squashed into his front basket, all hanging on for dear life.

Mr Boombastic:
Probably the easiest of the bunch to spot, owing to the fact that you can hear him a mile off, for this body-building music obsessive has seen fit to attach a large hi-fi to the front of his bicycle, an even larger set of speakers on his handlebars and - obviously inspired by the good doctor - a cute little dog in his front basket. Along with the bike, his taste in music is suitably fruity too, ranging from Hawaiian exotica to thrash Metal.

Terry Addict:
Obviously not wanting to be outdone by Mr Boombastic, Terry has fitted a hi-fi and twelve-inch television to the front of his bike, not to mention fairy lights and plastic flowers! More of a night bird than his other colleagues, he can be found loitering around the West Pier of an evening, watching the highlights of the Tour de France and attracting a bemused crowd.

Body piercings
If that's not enough, I even know of one local chap who takes great delight in attaching a tight chain between his nipple piercings and heavily manacled private parts before riding his bike up and down Kemp Town seafront. Sounds painful but he does always seem to have a sloppy grin on his face whenever I see him.

I admit, I'm at a loss to predict what's coming next - some guy in jodhpurs, sporting a monocle and riding a ten-ton monster truck round the Old Lanes???? Now that would be ridiculous...

This is one of a series of articles by David Bramwell published in the Insight between 2001-2004. David Bramwell is the author of the Cheeky Guide to Brighton.
Added to the site on 12-05-05 
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page

An excellent site. Though I should be happier to find a nice long mention (and photos) of my Great Aunt Brigden, who was, for a number of years a fascinating Brighton character, working as an Aquatic Entertainer on the West Pier.

By Christine Burke (Mrs) (26/12/2006)

Mrs Burke, would your aunt's name have been Zoe Brigden? if so please advise as I can forward you some information and a rather nice picture of the same.
Also would the Brighton butchers shop at the turn of the 20th century with the name of Brigden be of any interest to you?

By Peter Miller (11/01/2007)

Mr Miller - I would be very intereted in anything about Zoe Brigden.

Thanks
Helena
hastings.press@virgin.net

By Helena Wojtczak (08/03/2007)

Mrs Burke and Mr Miller - Like the other Helen, I too would like to hear more about Zoe - she is my Grandmother's cousin - my grandmother being Mabel Brigden - and I have been gathering information for years in the hopes of tracing her side of the family. My email is Natbrent@fastmail.fm

By Helen Shipley formerly McDiarmid (23/09/2007)

I once had to make a delivery 'somewhere' along Madeira Drive, late on a saturday night not realising there were chav racers all about. It was v v scary- people thought I was going for a drag race, in a skoda?? Police then were doing naff all to disperse crowds.

By dan dan the pizza man (28/06/2008)

Talking of eccentric cyclists I believe an ancestor of my husband used to ride in the annual cycle race to Brighton
when he was in his 80s. Tom Vasey, born in Sheffield, lived at 'Surrenwood' 107 Surrenden Road Brighton in the late 1920s- middle 30s. He also had a photo studio on the premises and described himself as a photographic artist. Today I found out he out that in 1930 he put in an patent application for a refuse burning stove. I think he was quite a character and would love to know more about him. He had a few children - one was Leonora Vasey a stained glass artist who married Charles Knight - a member of the Royal Academy and art tutor to Princess Margaret. Charles and Leonora lived in Ditchling. I wonder if Charles is related to Linda Knight who answered some questions about the unidentified photograph.

By June Vasey (15/04/2009)

Dr Dolittle: Often found whizzing along the seafront on an old butcher's bike, Dr Dolittle is - I can only deduce - attempting to beat the world record for how many animals a person can carry on one bicycle. Notable for his bronze tan, tattoos, big silver ear-ring and obligatory parrot, this white-haired old pirate has animals sticking out of his pockets, perched on his shoulder, rats clinging to his shirt, and a good ten dogs squashed into his front basket, all hanging on for dear life. This lovely guy's name is Spyke and he is now 70 years old. His parrot died a few years ago as did a few of his other animals I've known this eccentric londoner for over 20 years , sadly Spyke is very unwell at the moment and it looks like he might not make it. I knew someone somewhere would have done an article on him so browsing the net I found this and through the time of sadness this article brought a smile to my face ,

By Heather (22/09/2010)

I was a little upset to hear that Spyke is unwell. I met him, his rat and pug, and photographed Spyke back in July for a TV programme. You can see him at his best on Demand Five http://demand.five.tv/Episode.aspx?episodeBaseName=C5153280006 I also blogged about the experience at: http://www.gingerdjrob.com/2010/07/spyke-to-rescue-day-2-filming.html

By Robin Coleman (21/10/2010)

I remember a guy that had a bike that when you turned the handle bars the wheels went in the other direction! He used to bet five bob if you could ride it in a figure of eight. He was always around the West Pier.

By Duffy Watkins (18/05/2011)

Over the past year or so, I've often seen a chap riding along Pelham Street towards the seafront in the mornings. His bike is twice as high as a standard one, so one wonders how he manages to get on and off the thing.

By Kelvin Green (29/07/2011)

I knew Spike (Dr Doolittle). Sadly, I have been informed (hearsay) he has died. He told me he couldn't read or write very well but he always had time for a chat, I really enjoyed talking to him. He went to the beach a lot - together with various animals - and I think he liked chatting to people who stopped to admire or pet them. He stood out as an individual, he added colour to a too-conformist world. I will always remember him.

By Jenny Hughes (02/12/2012)

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