Cool Sights on Hot Nights

The Bike Shed London 2017 show review

Famous London purveyors of cool ‘The Bike Shed’ held their fourth annual show at Tobacco Dock in Wapping, East London recently.

The key word for this year’s show was ‘More’; and there was more space, more bikes, more catering, more bands, more bars. Just, well more really. And while I don’t actually have the attendance figures to hand, I’m willing to bet that more people attended the show too.

You will notice that I haven’t referred to this event as a ‘bike show’, because although it is indeed a place where people show their bikes, it is also a celebration of lifestyle; cool, trendy, fashionable lifestyle.

Held over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, the show was blessed with fine summer weather, which complimented the dozens of traditional striped deckchairs overlooking the pirate ships ‘Sea Lark’ and ‘The Three Sisters’ moored on the southern edge of the site.

Inside, Bike Shed founder Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Someren and his team had taken a much larger chunk of the available space at Tobacco Dock, with yet more room to expand as the show evolves and continues to grow.

Speaking at the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies Conference at Chelsea Art College last summer, Dutch had stated that he’d wanted to create a friendly and relaxed show environment where couples, women and children could come along and enjoy a great atmosphere while looking at some very cool bikes.   

Looking around on the Friday evening I’d say he’d succeeded, the atmosphere certainly seemed to be friendly and relaxed, with the staff at the entrance extremely patient, pleasant and helpful.

The cloakroom was well organised and free (I would have happily paid a couple of quid for this) so as I’d ridden into town on the hottest night of the year, it was very nice not to be hauling my lid and jacket (as well as my camera bag) around with me as I swanned about admiring the sights and sounds and occasionally snapping the odd photo.

For 2017 there just seemed to be so much more space; and it was filled with dozens and dozens of outrageous, beautiful, stunning and occasionally ridiculous bikes – which is just what you’d expect really.

An elderly dog lounged comfortably in front of the Indian Motocycle (sic) Manufacturing Company’s ‘The Spirit of Munro’, their tribute to Burt’s record breaking Indian Scout; and Guy Martin’s Krazy Horse Indian Scout ‘Wall of Death’ bike was also on show nearby.

People sat around the picnic area with a cold drink and a hot dog, while bands played the blues and their audience chilled out on leather sofas.

The barbers were doing ‘something for the weekend’ stuff, often on previously virginal flesh with freshly inked tattoos.

At the Davida stand, founder David ‘Fid the Lid’ Fiddaman played host to artist Grayson Perry, who collected a specially commissioned helmet featuring his ‘Bogeyman’ design.

One of the new areas was a vast hall, housing dozens of ‘shed builds’ – unique one-off creations conceived and brought to life by independent moto-luthiers (I made that term up, but it kind of works) defying that old bikers’ logic that bigger is better, as alongside a cool Francis Barnet stood a particularly exotic looking BSA Bantam that seemed to feature a hearing trumpet as an exhaust.

Other highlights included a selection of bikes that were still dirty from Dirt Quake, including a Kenny Roberts replica speed block Yamaha and yet another Krazy Horse Guy Martin project, a John ‘Gibbo’ Gibson built Harley-Davidson chopper with 22” over forks (on which he won I believe, possibly because his front wheel crossed the line several minutes before the rest of the bike).

Elsewhere a harlequin tanked Gold Wing caff racer looked like it meant business alongside a bizarre looking French Kawasaki Z1000 with a one-piece tank/headlamp shroud.

I think it’s fair to say that the bikes have evolved over the years that The Bike Shed show has been running, with styling and design becoming overall more sophisticated and daring.

One of the great features of the weekend are what could be entitled ‘side shows’, with artisans creating unique pieces of work while visitors looked on. I watched as crash helmets were striped; art works were drawn and painted; and leather goods were stamped, punched and engraved.

In the boutiques people tried on tasty looking leather jackets and other desirable designer garb that were perhaps examples of form over function in many cases.

Beautiful bikes, beautiful people, beautiful venue; and the coffee served up by the barista at Dark Arts was possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.

Another attractive feature of The Bike Shed London, is that once you’ve bought your wristband you are welcome to return throughout the whole weekend.

Enjoy the photographs, and even if the shed built brat, bobber, caff racer and custom scene isn’t for you, you are missing out on a visual feast if you stayed in and washed your hair.

Dutch and his team are already planning next year’s show, which will once again be at Tobacco Dock on 25, 26, 27th May 2018, and even more space has been booked.

As they used to say in the hip and trendy swinging sixties, be there or be square! 

Martin Haskell
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