Boom. Our tenth Bike Shed London show. Just like that, another annual weekend event seemed to be over, and while our team of Bike Shed staff, crew, members and volunteers began the long de-rig process the afterglow has already started to set-in.
Bike Shed London was the foundation of our fulltime space in Shoreditch, and ten shows later it still carries the same spirit; – a home for motorcycle culture, and a celebration of the creativity and ingenuity that blends design with engineering to create machines that move the body and the soul. … A mode of transport that has become a metaphor for freedom, independence, rebellion and adventure. Whether you are a rider or just admire the people and the machinery, our aim is to bring this community together under one roof to enjoy the best of our two-wheeled world, alongside other lifestyle pursuits that sit within the riding community radius. Not only do we make sure that hospitality is at the heart of the Bike Shed experience, with comfy places to hang out all day, great food, bars, entertainment – and shopping – we also bring art, photography, film, live music and vinyl DJs, tattoos and a barbershop. There’s even a cigar lounge and several watch brands on display.
This year’s show did feel bigger, and that’s because it was. The space itself covered over 16,000 square metres,. …Here are some raw stats.
17,207 People came through our doors during the show, to see 281 custom bikes of which 62 were genuine Shed Builders. There were 550 exhibitors and brands, 5 Bars, 9 live bands on stage plus a separate DJ serving-up vinyl tunes. 1 cigar lounge. 170 deck chairs. 26 picnic benches. 24 huge plants & trees. 69 sofas. 10 tattooers. 10 barbers. 17 food & drink vendors. 1 cinema showing 5 films a day, including Oil in the Blood, TT-Closer to the Edge and On Any Sunday, and we even had a Shuttle Bus shipping visitors to and from our Old Street venue and Tobacco Dock. All this was created and run by our in-house team and a group of unpaid volunteers, most of whom are Bike Shed Members, who all worked tirelessly for the longest weekend. And the shortest too. How could it all be over so quickly?
The Bike Shed London show started back in 2012 when the group of biking mates behind the Bike Shed website and blog decided not to attend the annual UK Motorcycle Trade fair at the NEC, basically because it was “rubbish”. … Why attend a show created by the industry, designed to market new showroom bikes hidden behind red velvet ropes, at the same time as a group of retailers ply their trade selling last year’s gear at a hefty discount, while the sausage-factory of middle-aged men was barely offset by a handful of lycra-clad promo girls armed with iPads to get your email address? It’s hardly a place to bring the wife and kids, and you wouldn’t eat or drink there unless you really had too.
Alternatively, what would a Bike show look like if it was created by us? The answer is now written into our annual moving moto-manifesto – Bike Shed London. Our first show in May 2013, set in two Shoreditch railway arches, showcased 55 bikes and attracted 3,000 visitors. By our third show we realised we didn’t ever want it to end, so the event transformed into a full time club in November 2015, which is now almost 4 years old, open seven days a week, fifteen hours a day – and welcomes well over 2,000 people through our doors every week, and often many more.
The spirit of the Bike Shed London show in 2019 is exactly as it was back in 2013. A show by and for bike people. It’s entirely curated by us, and while the invitational bikes are the heroes of the show, the part that makes it a community event that keeps people coming back all weekend is friendly quality hospitality in a stunning space.
The last five shows have been held at Tobacco Dock; a heritage venue, built in 1811 to store tobacco unloaded from ships via the river Thames. We chose it to host our show for a few reasons; partly because it’s in Central London and easily accessible to millions of travellers and Londoners by public transport, plus it has loads of on-site parking for bikes, but most of all because it’s beautiful. We don’t want to display stunning hand-crafted custom bikes in a big ugly warehouse building any more than you’d give your fiancé a diamond engagement ring wrapped in a piece of old newspaper. Also, our event is not just for our visitors – it’s also for our online followers on YouTube and social media, so we generate thousands of photos and hours of video, viewed by around 10m people in the week of the event, so we want them to see a beautiful space. The only downside is that it’s expensive – but you get what you pay for, and we think it’s worth it.
This year’s show had a much bigger Shed Row, with 62 bikes that were built by amateur builders in sheds, garages, greenhouses and even a few kitchens. Some demonstrated skills and quality that put a few pro builders to shame, while others showed passion, grit, determination and imagination despite some shonky paint or welding. Every bike was there for a reason, and every proud owner deserved their spot.
As ever were supported by most of the major manufacturers and brands, which we are obliged to list, but do so gratefully – as they help fund the show and make it accessible and affordable to our visitors. Dainese Settandedue, Bremont watches, Ducati Scrambler, Triumph, Yamaha, Indian Motorcycle, Bell and Royal Enfield all came to the party and did themselves proud, with custom bikes & quality gear. We still played our usual role in curating their spaces to make sure there was no trade-fair vibe, and they were integrated into the rest of the event.
We’re always asked to name our favourite bikes, but it’s an impossible task. There are no “winners” or competitions at the event. Every bike has it’s place. Besides, how do you compare a £500 Shed-build to a sponsored pro-custom bike with limitless budgets? To us, every show is a winner. If they are at the show, we have judged them to be relevant and interesting to our visitors, for any number of reasons. Having said that, a few did stand out for me, personally, like Jim Alonzo’s stunning bevelhead Ducati, the Triumph Hurricane/drag-bike inspired Bobber build-off bike by Laguna in Ashford, and the Made In Metal Triton using a 50’s featherbed frame with a modern Thruxton 1200R engine and chassis parts in the Makers Room. I also loved the shed-built Yamaha two-stroke scrambler in speed-block yellow, and the Kaffeemaschine Guzzis were a treat we’ve wanted at the show for years now.
So, what next? We’re already discussing what could be done better (and yes, we’ll order even more beer for next year) so look out for Bike Shed London 2020 which will be even better presented, managed and curated. We’re already talking to a crowd of brands, exhibitors and builders who want to come back…
Stay tuned for more images from the incredibly talented Amy Shore, and a film from the Rolling Rogues. Here’s are a few shots of how it looked before we let everyone in…