Once again, the Bike Shed Custom Bike Show descended upon Tobacco Docks, in Wapping, East London, from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th May. I attended on Friday for the exclusive preview night – where press, VIPs, industry heavy-hitters and bike owners on show all mingle together over revelry and drinks – organised by the people behind the Bike Shed, a café/bar and motorcycle club based in Shoreditch.
“Supported by the mainstream motorcycle industry, the event is sponsored by Dainese and Rev’It apparel, with motorcycle manufacturers; Indian, Triumph, Ducati Scrambler, Yamaha & BMW, all exhibiting alongside other manufacturers, plus the pro-builders, amateurs and shed-builders.”
Reputably well-established as Europe’s biggest independent annual bike show, BSCBS is a quaint, privately-run affair with a more relaxed vibe; especially in comparison to the overwhelming hustle-and-bustle of the gargantuan industry trade shows. Unlike the latter, its focus is predominantly on the niche custom/retro scene, rather than the conventional mainstream market; that being said, custom versions of 2018 models by deBolex, Holographic Hammer and Survivor Customs were on display.
The purpose here is to celebrate the unique custom bikes on display as well as the alternative custom bike lifestyle; which started out as a grass-roots movement where every unorthodox invention was revered with pride. Nevertheless, a lot of time and effort are put into these bikes and the culture surrounding it, so it is no surprise that a lot of money followed it soon after and grew into what some see as a “trendy hipster” subculture. One can argue that, but what is astounding is not only does the range of machines on offer far exceeds that stereotype in terms of build quality, imagination and craftsmanship. Furthermore, the broad spectrum of people from multiple generations, backgrounds and from across the world joining together to celebrate a thriving scene, with a well-rounded show that can appeal to both the radicals and the purists, and all those in between, when it comes to custom motorcycles.
With over 200 bikes on display, each one is ‘Invitational’ selected from the best bike builders in the UK, Europe and the US, without ropes or barriers, by the Bike Shed team. Furthermore, the show was more of an open exhibition – one can easily get lost the intricate, labyrinthine spaces and hallways – than just a strict motorcycle trade fair. Attractions include art and photography exhibitions, live music, high quality drinks and street-food vendors, whisky bar, cigar lounge, and much more; as pointed out by the organisers:
“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 & tested, and the organising staff are all bike-loving volunteers and members of the BSMC. The event is extremely family friendly, safe for kids, and enjoyable for non-bike-riders, as well as the custom aficionados.”
Another aspect that truly stands out, besides the bikes themselves, are the retailers and traders; the majority are independent brands that offer luxury high-quality riding gear and accessories (with hefty price tags); Hedon, Kytone, and Malle immediately spring to mind. Moreover, there are some top notch independent custom garages, who also sell goods and apparel, including Bolt London, Death Machines of London, Mutt Motorcycles and Rebels Alliance; who displayed not only new builds, but also three exclusive custom Triumphs – the “Spirit of 59”, the “Thruxton R*ace” and the “Bob Cat” – by street artist, D*Face. Other stand out custom bikes include “Red”, a 1950 Velocette 350cc MAC covered in vintage ephemera and paraphernalia by the aptly named Eclectic Motorcycles Ltd; as well as “Fluffy Thunder”, a 1977 Honda CG125 dirt-track racer (which, interestingly enough, was listed on eBay weeks before the show).
Nonetheless, the Bike Shed Custom Bike Show is a fine event to attend. You always come for the eclectic gathering of custom bikes (that never disappoint), and stay for the people and the atmosphere.