So how did Lyle come to be?

What Actually Happened

In 2015 I made a small smiling monster on a piece of MDF. He lived in our kitchen. He smiled at people and they smiled back, so I made a few more and gave them away. My friend Lee asked what his name was. No idea. Lee said he looked like a Lyle. And that was it.

We live in Marin County, 20 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. I left a few larger Lyles on Tamarancho, our local (legendary) mountain-biking trail. We’re lucky enough to live in the epicentre of mountain biking, in the place where the sport was invented. More and more people wanted Lyles so I started making more. A couple of local shops stocked them. People started leaving them on the trails. Lyle started becoming an unofficial mascot of local mountain biking. There’s even a 7ft Lyle in the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame.

Tamarancho, downtown Fairfax, The Mountain Biking Hall of Fame, Endor flow-trail

The Norcal kitesurfing community also embraced him. Dillon Beach, Crissy Fields, Sherman Island in the delta, North Shore Maui and even La Ventana in Mexico have had sightings.

In 2018 I took a large herd of Lyles down to LA to an art fair in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. Without permission I arranged the herd against the hangar’s huge doors. The show organisers thought they were part of the hangar, and the hangar people thought they were part of the show, so the herd remained in place. They were a hit. Everyone smiled, and even the LAPD took selfies.

The Other Art Fair LA, Santa Monica Barker Hangar

As more and more Lyles were adopted, people took them traveling all over the world and the hashtag #lylesighting became a thing. There have been verified sightings in over 35 countries.

Bordeaux France, Nosy Be Madagascar, Radio City Music Hall NYC, Jericoacoara Brazil

The Thinking Behind Lyle

While initially just for fun, Lyle’s role became more serious. 2015 saw him roaming the hills of Marin with not a care in the world. But in 2016 things changed. Lyle’s mission changed too. He became a reminder that decency still exists.

During covid more and more Lyles got adopted, and now he’s all over the place.

The breeding programme has just moved to London, so the smile-spreading continues!

– Ralph, London 2023