No self-respecting child of the 1980s rode a bicycle that wasn’t fully and luridly accessorised.
Some favoured the plastic streamers tangling from their handlebars; others went for a horn or bell with a cartoon character adorned on it. Personally, I was all about the rainbow delights that were Spokey Dokeys.
The original Spokey Dokeys were colourful round plastic beads that snapped easily on to your bike’s wheel spokes. (You can see where the ‘Spokey’ part of the name comes from; what the ‘dokey’ bit refers to is anyone’s guess…)
Gaining the correct speed was a hugely important part of making the most of your Spokey Dokeys. Go too fast and the beads remained motionless, resulting in a disappointingly silent journey. That was always a shame because, as all kids of that era knew, having Spokey Dokeys on your wheels actually made you the fastest rider EVER. That is completely true.
Despite this, to encourage a noise out of your Spokey Dokeys you actually had to ride at a pace so slow you were always at danger of gently toppling off into a ditch. Get it right and the beads would slide up and down the spokes of your wheel, giving you that massively pleasing ‘click clack click clack’ sound. Get a large crowd of Spokey Dokey enthusiasts together and the cumulative effect was magnificent.
(The noise from Spokey Dokeys is not to be confused, of course, with the muted machine gun ‘rat-a-tat-a-tat’ achieved by pegging playing cards to your bike forks so that they caught on the spokes as you pedalled.)
There’s not an awful lot of information available on the invention of these little beauties but they seem to have originated in California. It’s believed that a man called Larry Harmen designed them and sold the licence to a U.S. toy company. They were, at one point, distributed via cereals – remember how breakfast used to be mega-exciting when it was time to open a new packet? Especially if you were an only child, as I was: no fighting over whose turn it was to collect the free gift for me.
Garish and often irritating, Spokey Dokeys were the perfect accompaniment to a decade that is largely remembered for its horrendous fashion and bad hairstyles but, while they’re nowhere near as popular as they once were, the little clicky-clackers have continued to sell. They’ve been available, over the years, in a wide range of colours and styles, including neon and glow in the dark ones, stars, flowers, butterflies and other assorted shapes plus reflective ones for safer night-time cycling. There were also the inevitable tie-ins with big brands, with both Monster Munch and Kellogg’s getting in on the action, the latter with a Simpsons’ tie-in.
Spokey Dokeys are still available now in a variety of colours and gimmicks, including a natty set of Dennis the Menace ones that I’ve just spotted on eBay. Wonder if I’ve still got my Dennis and Gnasher Fan Club badges to wear at the same time?