2014 felt like a breakthrough year. A culmination of endeavour from right across the New-Wave scene resulted in a fairytale period where the pieces slotted together and foundations laid sometime ago set hard, providing a platform for newcomers to shine.
New builders sprang up daily, vying for attention with some strikingly different bikes. The battle weary old guard refined their craft and ramped up quality and ingenuity. Shed builders around the world, having found their feet with first and second builds, felt confident enough to tackle more daunting engineering tasks and in some cases flipped the boss a middle finger and set out alone.
While other motorcycle trends have often resulted in segregated factions of an already niche interest; take US centric Choppers or European driven Streetfighters as examples. Those following the New-Wave seem to be a truly broad and accepting church. Maybe it’s the internet, maybe it’s a more youthful demographic, but economic and territorial boundaries seem to have been broken down in a homogenous appreciation of individualised motorcycles and the demonstrated creativity.
As ever, three things stood out: The bikes, The Events and of course, The People.
Having spent an inordinate amount of time enveloped in the stories and trawling through photographs it has become clear that there are changing styles of the bikes we feature. Scramblers and Trackers are firing the imagination more than ever. We’ve featured a third less Café Racer styled bikes compared to 2013, while Trackers and Scrambler entries have increased two-fold.
Is there a shifting tide from the beloved and fettled Sunday special towards urban hacks and commuter weapons? If it takes as long to make something look ratty as it does to loop a subframe, slap on a new seat and chop off the crude flashing bits then why not enjoy a stylish alternative to a scooter or epically dull 600cc plastic fantastic.
The Brat-style that underpinned the origins of the scene has morphed and blended into the other custom iterations. Wafer thin seats and large front tyres found their way onto Scramblers and Trackers, whilst more traditional Café Racer-esque machinery continues to wash its hands of the transport cafe origins. Clip-ons and knobbly tyres, since when did that make sense.
If there is one sure-fire way to upset the old guard and make a bike standout it is to fit apparently inappropriate tyres. The more naysayers step up onto a soapbox, the higher Continental Tyres’ share price rises. Creativity and styling are the positive backfill to the void left by a now forgotten quest for unusable performance. Looking good, feeling unique and arriving five minutes later is evermore the order of the day, as opposed to dragging a knee and comparing chicken strips on a soft compound rear.
With much of the first world looking through rose-tinted spectacles towards nature, purity, simplicity and good old fashioned values to provide meaning to life, it’s no surprise that the desire for adventure now manifests itself in the urban environment. Many Trackers, Scramblers and knobbly-shod Café-Brat-Bobbs may never encounter so much as a blade of grass but imagination is a powerful requisite for survival in the concrete jungle.
For those who heard the call of the wild but forgot to send off their Dakar entry forms there are events popping up to satisfy that inbuilt desire to slide around and get dirty. Sideburn’s Dirt Quake event enjoyed a packed-out third running of their crazy, fancy dress, fun-fuelled flat track extravaganza in the U.K. and took a punt on custom comrades across the pond feeling the silliness. Dirt Quake U.S.A. was a roaring success and took organisers by surprise, expect queues and a very full grid in 2015. The Ozzies are at it too with Dust Hustle and Aftershock.
With Marc Marquez wrapping up his perfect season with an indoor flat track win at the Superprestigio, the mainstream will now be more aware than ever that turning left with one leg outstretched is the new knee-down. From out and out Street Trackers to builds with sliding potential, roundabouts have changed from being a diesel veneered inconvenience to a sought-out playground. The Bike Shed inbox has reflected this trend with the subject line of most build submissions featuring the word tracker.
Scramblers are hot on the heels though and 2015 could be the year that opinion relinquishes its disparaging view on the humble radiator. With retro, air-cooled donor bikes becoming increasingly expensive and offering less bang for buck could modern motocrossers and enduro machines find their way onto the builders bench? Roland Sands left a deep line in the sand with his Kurt Caselli tribute KTM. At BSMC HQ one could almost hear the eyelids stretching in realisation of things to come as the images flashed up on screen.
The steady stream of BMW based builds became a torrent, eBay prices for donors skyrocketed, owners of breakers yards rubbed their hands together and the quality and depth of builds rose rapidly. The bar has been set stratospherically high by shed builders and pros, whilst those at the top of the game are glueing extra sheets of paper to their order books.
But one seismic shift happened in 2014, the big manufacturers came to the party. Not just as coy bystanders leaning on the jukebox but armed with a keg of craft beer, a vodka luge and sword swallowing dancing girls with fireworks on their heads.
BMW smashed the door down first by offering some of the world’s finest creative minds the chance to undo the Bavarian draftsmen’s hard work and lay down a style of their own. It seemed that every week a fresh approach had yielded the best R NineT yet, until the Japanese turned up. Like when the big bloke turns up in the gym shower or you get lapped in a 15 minute sprint race, hearts must have sunk from Portland to Perth when Brat-Style founder Go Takamine, Cherry’s Company and their pals shredded the rule book and schooled the mainstream as to what can be created when following one’s heart and soul rather than budget or what’s gone before. Check out this video of all four bikes.
Triumph were more subtle in their approach. Select employees in the Hinkley mega-factory were given a fantastic opportunity by forward thinking bosses and toiled late into the night, on their own time to produce two of the finest bikes of the year. Albeit in possibly one of the world’s best sheds, the results were simply stunning, not only in what the designers and workers achieved but the way the two teams cohesively involved local business and suppliers to apply expertise and knowledge. And what might they have in the pipeline for next year? Spy shots on the web are promising and we have already put down our virtual deposits.
Yamaha quietly distributed bikes to builders around the globe who in turn produced some truly fabulous machinery. The Yard Built Series revived some older models in the current showroom range and injected a custom cachet that stoked the creative fires of those loyal to one of the most established names in motorcycling. The faithful SR400 was relaunched, with very few changes, offering individualisation potential to those that demand modern day reliability with sepia toned cool. Expect to see the Speedblock paint scheme a lot more in 2015 and hopefully a glimpse under the covers of how Yamaha plans to satisfy the insatiable appetite for its heritage and racing history. It’ll also be interesting to see how the new XJR1300 goes down with punters (we’ll bring news of this in early 2015) In the meantime; Dear Hiroyuki Yanagi, please could you build a Kenny Roberts TZ750, with a licence plate mount.
Ducati could be accused of arriving a decade early with the now highly sought after Sport Classic range, but was it that bike that spawned the modern café racer in the first place? The Bike Shed crew would surely testify to that as there are more than half a dozen owned by less than a dozen people. In a more timely launch, to much fanfare, the Scrambler arrived after an excruciating wait, with us and the world’s press feeding on scraps from the spy photographer’s table. The marketing hype was well founded, and those road testers that bothered to read the bike’s brief confirmed that Ducati had achieved their goal. The showrooms will be one-in-one-out and the waiting lists lengthy. In the meantime the rendering specialists have been working overtime to show potential beyond the initial offering of four styles. Chatter around the workshops has become louder and plans for a showstopper are gaining serious momentum.
It seemed like every other weekend there was an epic event to attend. Here in the U.K. and across the globe calendar real estate was in high demand.
After a successful winter break BSMC decided to put their balls in a wheelbarrow and march down to Tobacco Docks and negotiate a go big or go home deal to more than double floor space of previous exhibitions and commit to a make or break show, Event III. On a sunny day in May the bet paid off. With a 120 strong display of the best custom bikes from some of the best pro and shed builders on the scene, a full-on pop-up shop by Moto Legends and an entire Triumph lounge the throng queuing outside were in for a real treat.
The multi-storey carpark filled up with bikes, an entire level every hour, beer ran out by Saturday lunchtime, workers at the Street Kitchen Airstream got RSI from flipping so much beef and the dockside looked like a scene from Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage.
The crew, volunteers and helpers congregated on the Sunday afternoon glowing from what was one of those truly unique moments. In 2015 the barrows are bigger, the dreams wilder and the passion stronger. The first international event will be in Paris on April 11-12th, back to the UK for London version May 23-24th and plans our afoot to see the year out with a show in L.A.
Click here for gorgeous images by Laurent Nivalle
The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Rides followed the same trend and luckily the sun gods did their thing for the London ride. Over 750 bikes gathered in the shadow of London’s Shard and set off in a cacophony of exhaust notes for a lap of the Thames. Internationally 258 rides were organised in 57 countries, raising a $1.5m for prostate cancer research and treatment. 2015 will be a complete road block.
Wheels & Waves continues to go from strength to strength and is now seen as the perfect excuse for a summer break and a chance to hang out with like minded bikers from all over Europe.
The One Show, The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show stateside, Throttle Roll and Oil Stained Brain down under, Glemseck 101 in Germany and even custom parade laps at the Isle of Man TT demonstrate that this global phenomenon continues to grow and is here for the long haul.
2014 was the year form and function finally shook hands and agreed a truce. Riders have never had such a great selection of gear that offers both protection and style in equal measure. Not only from the niche and cottage manufacturers like Biltwell, Maple Jeans, Hedon Helmets and Roland Sands Design; Rev’it, TCX, Dainese, and Bell are just a few of the established riding gear manufacturers offering clothing which allow us to look good on and off the bike whilst ensuring sliding down the road after a tumble becomes a more dapper and less damaging affair. The growth in the apparel sector is set to explode over the next 12-24 months and the healthy competition welcomed.
You guys and gals. All of you. Builders, photographers, organisers, supporters, cohorts, readers and riders. You are the Bike Shed and none of it would matter without you. Too many to name and by the end of January 2015 a milestone of 300,000 Facebook followers will have been reached, a truly staggering figure that has grown at a steady rate of nearly 15,000 new people each and every month in 2014. We feel honoured and incredibly proud, thank you.
While we’re on the subject of people, this was also the year where bikers and hipsters got all mixed-up by a few confused observers, and there was a bearded backlash: Not from clean-shaven bikers in unfashionable jeans, but more from selvedge-clad bikers with beards who’ve got fed up with being mis-labeled as shallow fashionistas. Whichever side of the debate you sit, the row will rage on as long it’s still a look being ripped-off by mainstream fashion. And after all, it’s not the first time a group of people have been united by their appearance
So, mister Two Thousand & Fifteen, you have quite a job in hand to outdo your predecessor. But something tells us that the future is bright, the future is custom.