As we sat around in the pub moaning about what a let down the winter UK Bike shows had been, the conversation turned quickly to what a Bike event would look like if the BSMC put one on. The banter lit up. We’d have all the best builders in the UK and Europe showcasing their builds, and we’d include the best Shed-Builders too. It would be the people’s bike show. By bikers for bikers. The show we’d all want to go to.
…The bikes had to be up on plinths, like at the Oil Stained Brain event we saw on MotoMucci last year in Melbourne, although we’d have to make sure it was a smart central venue with nice facilities, decent toilets for the girls, and really great food, somewhere you’d wanna hang out and chat all day. Proper coffee too, and some sofas.
…But, it’s not just about the bikes is it?
Being united around one type of motorcycle isn’t the end of the story. Hooking up with fellow riders at the “whatever-bike-you-own evening” at the Ace Cafe doesn’t often lead to finding new soul mates. The conversation usually runs dry after you’ve finished chatting about tyre choice and where you got your tail tidy from.
What united all of us in the BSMC was the other common ground we shared in addition to our taste in bikes. We had a shared set of values, similar tastes and aesthetics. It also turned out that we were mostly creatives in media, design and photography, or bike builders who loved the design as much as the engineering.
The custom/cafe/brat scene attracts creative types and is about style as well as the machine. Sites like Pipeburn, Iron&Air and BikeEXIF are all about the photo, the visual story and the culture. The ride and the aesthetics both have to be up to scratch. So… we also needed automotive inspired design, art and photography at our virtual BSMC pop-up exhibition.
It was easy to build this event in our fantasy-bike-league, beer-fueled conversation, …the “Carlsberg version” of a Motorcycle Show. The difference was that a couple of weeks later, I had gone and booked a venue.
Right. We’re on. …Who’s in?
As it turned out, everyone was in.
From the UK bike builders who feature on the Bike Shed, like Kevils, Redmax, Old Empire Motorcycles and of course our own BSMC co-founders, Untitled MC and Spirit of the Seventies, to the likes of itRoCkS! in Portugal, Motopunks in Germany, and new builders like Kingdom of Kicks, East London Chop Shop, CRC, and guys we hadn’t met before, like Barons Speed Shop. Even Deus Ex Machina wanted in, with the first of their new bikes out of Italy.
As the exhibition bikes starting coming in we realised seven of the 30-odd bikes on show were going to be making their public debut, not least Spirit’s much anticipated Triumph 675, V7 and part finished ER-6, but also Kevil’s Ace, OEM’s first Japanese build, the Italian Deus debut, CRCs two unveiled builds and the barely announced Triumph Bobbers by the East London Chop Shop.
We also hooked-in Shed builders like Cutter Pete with his EXIF featured Monster, Ray with his outrageous Harley/JAP, and Andy from Belgium’s Flying Hermans, whose yard-built Sport Classic 1000 went ballistic online and may soon appear in high-end print. And, we got the thumbs-up from our favourite photographers, Sam Christmas and Damian McFadden; pro snappers who already catalog bikes for the likes of BikeEXIF, as well as artists like Death Spray Custom, Corpses from Hell and Nico, AKA Ornamental Conifer, who delayed and re-booked his flights to emigrate to Australia so he could be at the event.
Shit. It had better be good then.
Above – Jackets from Ornamental Conifer, and below – Tracker livery by Death Spray Customs.
As consummate shoppers and gear hoarders we also realised that the ‘ideal’ Bike Show would have to offer hard-to-find, top-tier, branded gear from the likes of Belstaff, Roland Sands, Davida, Maple, Gasolina …and what if we could get a couple of those insane Bell Moto 3 style Elder’s Helmets in from Thailand?
They all said yes too, as we were joined by The Cafe Racer, Davida, Maple, Urban Rider, Albion Motorcycles, Foundry Motorcycle – and those crazy Elders guys in Thailand booked plane tickets and applied for UK visas. Ok. Getting serious. …Now, if we were going to cover off the culture bit in full, we also needed a tattooist (cue Woody) and what about a top level hairstylist, so our punters could leave in better style than they arrived?
Frankie takes care of business in Billy & Bo’s “Salon de Coiffure”
Woody Tattoos Rob from Black Closet.
Next up we needed the best possible food and drink, so we hooked up with the Street Kitchen guys who specialise in high quality food on-the-go, in a cool-looking Airstream. All their stuff is UK-sourced too.
There were a few trials and tribulations along the way.
Our original venue in the Old Truman Brewery turned out to be too small to host our growing number of exhibitors, retailers and bikes, so we need somewhere new with just six weeks to go. Lots of the builders we really love in Europe were already booked-up for the spring and summer, so coming to an unproven London event was not only a big and costly risk, but they were already signed up to other events.
However, when it came to the perfect new venue, we were very lucky to find the Shoreditch Studios run by Ranx and the lovely Xica.
…just one last small detail. We had to fund the whole thing.
We decided from the outset that we were going to lose our money, and do the show without any compromise on our vision. No charge for entry – just donations. With the idea of profit or ‘return on investment’ out the window we could just get on with it, free from worry about attendance or upsetting retailers or sponsors.
The other major investment was time. Apart from twice weekly meets in the pub with the BSMC crew the Dutchess and I were up almost every night for the six weeks preceding the event, frequently joined by Ben into the early hours. The amount of work involved could easily have justified a full time job for all three of us. In the final days leading up to the show we thought maybe we’d been a bit over zealous over the look and feel; hiring or borrowing – and transporting – almost all the furniture and fittings for the retailers and exhibitors, but when we see the photos, the extra effort now looks well worth it.
The list of volunteers and BSMC crew who gave their time and priceless talent is huge and we’ll probably miss loads of people out trying to list them here. (We could never have afforded them if they were charging us). My wife, Vikki, AKA The Dutchess and Ben put in dozens of solid days and late evenings of hard graft on floor plans, insurance, style guides, sourcing vintage retail furniture, etc. Adam from Untitled supported our efforts closely along with Ian who also fronted the cost and time on producing T-shirts and decals, aided by his wife and their kids.
My brother Tim (a BSMC biker too) covered the event on video and edited the movie at the top of this page (cheers bro). Barry T (Motorcycle Deluxe) covered the artwork and marketing materials, using photos of Untitled UM2 by Damian and logos from Alex Ramon Mas (of Cafe Racer Dreams and GasCap Kustom). James from Kingdom of Kicks and his mate Bingo came up trumps with building the plinths, the K/K lounge and sorting all the gear we needed to hang and display all the artwork, putting in long weekends of carpentry and rigging.
BSMC originals Hugo and Martin helped run things on the day with Barney & Phil, supported by the likes of David, Gareth and Ali who volunteered their services for the build-out, both event days, and the big de-rig, and they barely knew us at all. Additional help on the weekend came from Shed-build exhibitors Pete (AKA Cutter) and Elaine, as well as Motopunk’s Wolfgang and his lovely companion, Makeba, on the Hotwheels XJ. Event planner, Richard, also helped with advice and suggestions for the price of a handshake. Talk about trust and faith amongst like-minded bikers.
The final – and most important – piece of the puzzle was always going to be the crowd. One of the best shows we ever went to was the Goodwood Revival. What took it from “good” to “great” was simply that the crowd in attendance was as interesting as the show. From the amazing visitor’s car park outside to the crowd on the inside, all dressed-up like it was 1950, the punters were every bit as interesting as the exhibitors.
We knew our followers had stunning rides, character and stories equal to those published in The Bike Shed, so pulling in the right crowd could take the show from ‘interesting’ to ‘epic’. And not just the bikers, but their friends and their families too, plus the local Shoreditch community of Hipsters, Fixie riders, designers and fashionistas should be there. They might make us look more hip & cool.
Corpses from Hell’s BSA in the Kingdom of Kick’s Lounge, permanently occupied by beautiful people.
Barons Speedshop‘s stunning Triumph.
Deus Ex Machina’s Italian import.
Ornamental Conifer’s GSXR 750
Cool rides quickly fill the yard.
Albion tag the crowd with info on their Mallorcan bike tours.
CRC’s 6 cylinder beastie next to East London Chop Shop‘s CB350 Cafe Racer.
Harris-framed loveliness from CRC.
Sharon at the Davida corner.
East London Chop Shop in Studio 2. How low can you go?
Kevils‘ BMonda and the Ace, surrounded by Damian’s photos.
Dave fom Maple Motorcycle Jeans shows off the kevlar lining the 16 ounce Japanese denim.
Martin sketches in the yard.
Nick’s Guzzi usually attracts a crowd.
Ray’s JAP powered Harley Bobber was a show stopper. Especially when he fired her up.
Redmax Speedshop‘s Norton 961 Tracker generated a lot of comments.
The Vulcan, a CB250, from Old Empire Motorcycles in Studio 1.
Sideburn‘s Sushi-Easter makes a good point about how to get an event like this done.
Spirit of the Seventies‘ S6 was one of the most photographed bikes at the show, surrounded by Sam Christmas’s pictures.
Spirit’s new 675 also got a lot of attention in it’s debut.
Kevil’s Bmonda, again.
Shoreditch provided some great backdrops for bike photos.
The Cafe Racer shop was non-stop, dishing out gear from Roland Sands, Belstaff, Barbour, Deus, etc.
Untitled Motorcycles range. Suits you in Gold, sir.
More in the yard above. Bbelow, Elders from Thailand bring a tribute lid to the show.
We learned a lot from doing this event, about ourselves, about hard work, friendship, faith and trust, and we made a lot of mistakes along the way, but it was a fantastic experience and we will be doing this, and more, all over again – …and we won’t wait a year.
All told, we reckon somewhere between 3000 and 4000 people came through our doors, (some say more…), with Saturday being the busiest and bustling with Bikers, while Sunday was more low key with more foot-traffic and families. We couldn’t have had a better crowd, and the vibe other bloggers have written about was as much about the punters as it was about us.
Thanks for coming, and please come to our next event – whatever that may be.
Pics courtesy of Merry Michau, Matt Bone, PhotoAV, Bonnifcation, Andrew Zofka and many more. (Drop me a line if we didn’t credit you.)
Thanks also for the support from Edwin Jeans, Iron & Air, Do The Ton … and to all of you for turning up.
Coverage in Motorcycle News (29th May 2013)
Iron & Air, 4 pages, Issue TEN
Back Street Heroes, Page 36, 37 & 38…
BIKE Aug 2013
A few other write-ups here:
Rider’s Digest (new)