The Hairy Bikers on their emotional new series, lockdown and mental health

Best friends, Dave and Si, are back on our screens and this time they’re exploring the best of northern British food

The Hairy Bikers

by Bryony Firth-bernard |

Bearded best mates Si King and Dave Myers, aka [The Hairy Bikers,](http://Hairy Bikers chilli con carne recipe) have been a near-constant fixture on our TV screens for nearly 15 years now.

Their latest series, The Hairy Bikers Go North, see’s the duo travel on their bikes from the west coast to the east of their native north of England, and both Si and Dave say it was an emotional journey for them both as they return to areas from their childhood, including Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, where Dave grew up.

“My Dad was retired by the time I was growing up so we spent a lot of time together," Dave recalls. "He was mad on bikes. Motorbikes in the backyard, playground in the street. It was magic. Monday was baking day. It sums up my love of food and bikes. It all started there."

The Hairy Bikers
©BBC Pictures

When he was eight his mum was diagnosed with MS. Cooking fell to Dave and his Dad, and it was this responsibility that sparked his love of food.

“We had three years living on tinned mince, Smash and peas. But then I got £10 to do the weekly shop at a newly opened superstore 20 minutes walk away, and it meant I got to choose what the family ate. I still remember the carrier bags cutting into my fingers.

“Some of my first culinary efforts were a bit cack handed! Looking back, it was quite harsh being a carer but being a young carer kick started my love of food. I’ve always cooked since I was eight.”

One of the series’ highlights for the boys was visiting the therapeutic project Growing Well in Kendal, where volunteers lend a hand in return for a share of the crop. It was during this visit that Dave talks honestly about Si’s own struggles with mental illness.

The Hairy Bikers Go North
©BBC Pictures

“Si had some problems with depression, he won’t mind me saying that. There was this time at the NEC in Birmingham, and we were there in front of 3,000 people cooking away, and being happy, and I looked at him and deep down inside, he didn’t know what way to turn.

“I did feel so sorry for him. As the years have gone by, I am only just now, beginning to respect what it took for him to get up there with me to do the show and also to give the 3, 000 people who bought the tickets what they came for.

“Anyone can wake up in a bit of a fug but we always sense that and it can be something as simple as me saying to Si: ‘Oi you, here. Come here, and have a cuddle and a slap across the chops’. ”

The duo had big plans for 2020 but when the first lockdown began the pair were living at opposite ends of England. It was the longest they’d ever been away from each other.

“We didn’t see each other for five months ­– I’ve never been away from me mate for that long,” recalls Si. “But we were constantly on the phone! We had time to write our first vegetarian book in the first lockdown last year via Zoom calls, and then filmed this current series between August and October. We haven’t filmed in the UK for 10 years so it was quite important to us.”

“It’s a lovely nostalgic series. The schedule gave us time to chat but also to give space to the contributors and their stories. That was incredibly special. It was the landscape and the food that’s defined us. It enabled us to look at the past through a different lens.

“Inevitably you are going to be incredibly enthusiastic about it.”

The Hairy Bikers Go North is on BBC2, Thursdays at 8pm

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