Entertainment & Arts

Tom Vernon: Fat Man on a Bicycle dies

Tom Vernon
Image caption Despite cycling thousands of miles Tom Vernon never lost any weight

Former Radio 4 presenter Tom Vernon, who was known as the Fat Man on the Bicycle, has died at the age of 74.

He died of a heart attack at his home in France, his widow Sally confirmed to the BBC News website.

The broadcaster was best known for his series of radio and TV programmes that followed his travels on his bicycle across Europe and beyond.

The shows were noted for Vernon's enthusiasm, acute observation and affection for the unusual.

Vernon's varied broadcasting career included a regular slot on the Today programme, creating instant songs about the news.

He was Radio London's first presenter and created a wide range of programmes including ones where he would read whole novels on air, playing all the characters.

He presented Kaleidoscope and Feedback on Radio 4 and during his time at the BBC he won a number of awards including presenter of the year and best radio documentary.

He also won an award from the Argentine government for Channel 4's Fat Man in Argentina, for improving relations between the countries not long after the Falklands War.

'Real curiosity'

Vernon's first Radio 4 show, Fat Man on a Bicycle, followed the broadcaster as he cycled from his home in Muswell Hill in North London to France in 1979.

It was followed by his travels to Italy in 1980, Fat Man on a Roman Road and Fat Man at Work in 1983.

He also wrote a number of books with his first - based on his French ride - becoming a best-seller.

The popularity of the programmes led Vernon to move to television and to travels further afield.

He also presented two series of Fat Man in the Kitchen filmed at his own home.

Booker Prize winner AS Byatt told The Times Vernon was one of the best interviewers she had ever encountered.

"One of his great qualities was real curiosity. He really wanted to know what a book was about, how it was constructed," she said.

"I ended up knowing more at the end of the interview than I had at the beginning."

Vernon is survived by his wife Sally and two sons.