Billed as “Europe’s best independent annual motorcycle show” and London’s “new wave” motorcycle emporium”, chic moto store ‘The Bike Shed’ opened the doors of its 8th annual bike show. Staged at London’s historic and charismatic Tobacco Dock (at the end of May) for the fourth time, the weekend saw some 14,000 “New Core” visitors drooling over a high-class selection of 200 plus custom bikes displayed for the edification of an urban and much bearded audience.
This was the fourth time for the show at the Thames-side former Victorian warehouse venue in East London’s Docklands – and as custom bike shows go, it is a world in which contemporary custom styling collides with artisan catering and a limited number of “curated” exhibitor opportunities.
|Organizer and ‘Bike Shed’ owner Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Someren: “Our goal was to create the best independent motorcycle exhibition event in the world, without any compromises on quality or experience”|
Organizer and owner Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Someren told us that at least a third of the bikes were from first-timers, shed builders or semi-pros, and they got to enjoy the same upscale presentation values as the bikes by established names and manufacturers.
The formula is to mix the bikes in with a weekend of “live music, live art, live pin-striping/screen-printing/leatherwork, photography, food, coffee, bars, tattoos, barbershop and curated retail and brand exhibition,” says Dutch. The sponsors were Ohlins, Triumph, Indian, BMW, Yamaha, Ducati Scrambler and European apparel brand Rev’It.
|Photo by Autohouse|
The exhibitors are presented in an “open area” style that blends them in with the bikes and circulatory space in a way that the conventional “barrier booth” thinking just doesn’t permit.
With apologies to anyone we are omitting, the sponsors exhibited alongside Honda, CCM (a British off-road and Enduro bike manufacturer), Fantic (Italian based small displacement Chinese engined off-roaders), Royal Enfield, Italian helmet brand DMD, British helmet brand Hedon and Liverpool, England based helmet manufacturer Davida.
“After months of preparation we’re all really chuffed [Google it!] that the show went so well and was so well attended, with 14,000 people through our doors over the weekend. Our goal was to create the best independent motorcycle exhibition event in the world, without any compromises on quality or experience.
“The main hero bikes were all invitational, and more curated than ever, and we think the bar was raised, yet again, with custom builds from all over the world coming from as far away as the US and Taiwan.
|Krazy Horse’s Paul Beamish with one of the many customized Scouts he had on display|
|Winston Yeh of Rough Crafts, Taiwan, with his MV Agusta, “Ballistic Trident”, displayed in conjunction with Ohlins|
“We’re already planning Bike Shed London 2018 for 25/26/27 next May, and it will be even bigger and better, especially with the facilities and hospitality, where we know we can do so much more – we now have 18 months under our belt operating our Old Street store on a 7 days-a-week basis, so we have learned a lot about what people are looking for, and the views and expectations of the 600-member strong Bike Shed Motorcycle Club drives everything we are able to come up with.”
Celebrating the creativity of the new wave and Cafe Racer custom motorcycle culture is at the heart of ‘The Bike Shed’s holy trinity of store, social and show and, as an event, it stands alongside the new generation of events such as ‘The One Show’ at Portland, Oregon, ‘Mama Tried’ at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ‘Handbuilt’ at Austin, Texas, ‘Born Free’ in California and the Indian Motorcycle sponsored ‘Wheels and Waves’ at Biarritz, France , rather than being “just another” orthodox European or U.S. style custom bike event, at which there is nothing “craft” about the beers and nothing salubrious about an experience that may have gotten us to where we are today, but isn’t fit for purpose where motivating and engaging new generations of consumers is concerned as we already eye the third decade of the 21st century.
“This is NOT a motorcycle trade fair,” Dutch had said prior to the weekend, “it’s an exhibition in a giant pop-up member’s club, where everyone is invited. There’s plenty of space to chill out and enjoy the crowd, and people tend to want to hang out all weekend, soaking up the entertainment and the vibe.”
|Paul Milbourn Customs with “Titanium V” Moto Guzzi V11|
|PDF Motociclette from Bergamo, Italy|
|Rocket Bobs’ “Speed Weevil”, winner of Artistry in Iron last year|
Every element of this unique and privately-run event is hand-picked by the organizers and the bikes (and exhibit booths) are displayed without ropes or barriers of any kind, “so visitors can get up close and into detail with their pictures.
“Every brand, retailer, artist, photographer and exhibitor is selected and approved by us. Every barista, bar tender, burger (or salad box) and coffee bean is tried and tested, and the organizing staff are all bike-loving volunteers and members of the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club (BSMC). The event is extremely family friendly, safe for kids, and enjoyable for non-bike riders as well as custom aficionados.”
Pro-builders this year included prior AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building winners and competitors such as Rough Crafts (Taiwan), Old Empire Motorcycles (UK), Sur Les Chapeaux de Roues (France), PDF Motociclette (Italy), Black Track (Luxembourg), Rocket Bobs (UK) and others.
|Live art at the Davida booth|
‘The Bike Shed’ is able to leverage some 647,000 Facebook followers and 105,000 Instagrammers, and Dutch says that “we reach and engage with around 5-6 million people in the weeks of our annual events. Our online social media reach is genuinely global and 100% organic. ‘The Bike Shed’ main website serves 700,000 pages a month to around 200,000 unique users - and the BSMC is privately owned and run by family and friends.”