Back in the Bike Shed

This year was the third time I’ve been to London’s Bike Shed event, having been to all but the first year, and it has been interesting to watch the show grow over the years, but I feel that the ethos that was originally the driving force – a display of shed built bikes – is starting to evaporate and I’m not sure that’s not a good thing, especially given the show’s name.

Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of BMW boxer twins, especially from Untitled Motorcycles, which was one of the early supporters of the show, alongside lots of ‘80s and ‘90s mid-range Japanese motorcycle-based builds. It’s just that when the show is sponsored by Triumph and has the support of Moto Guzzi, Ducati with its Scramblers, Yamaha with its ‘Shed Built’ factory sponsored custom program and numerous high dollar builds from Warr’s and Shaw’s and customised Street models from European H-D dealers, the thought creeps in that it’s less about small-scale shed builders and more about the corporate world, despite what the name over the (shed) door might say.

However, having said all of that, there’s no denying that it makes for a good day out, and given that tickets offer access across both days of the weekend, it’s a cracking value too. Even more so, if you fancy a haircut or a tattoo. You read that right; among the show bikes, there was a traditional barber, even if the barbers did happen to be bang on trend hipster-wise with plugs in their earlobes, full-sleeve tattoos, and the obligatory bushy beards and waxed ‘taches. If you wanted to join the hipster crowd then the on-site tattooist was available to help with at least one part of the look, while a little bit of shopping at one of the many clothing suppliers would see you kitted out in the obligatory heavyweight selvedge jeans with suitable six-inch turn-ups. Then again, I’m not sure if that would clash with the latest over-priced jacket being punted out by Barbour, who joined Triumph as one of the show’s sponsors. ‘Cause isn’t a Barbour jacket essential wear for everyone tinkering away in cramped little sheds trying to create their personal vision of individuality?

For me, the display of bikes that were ridden into the space outside Tobacco Dock and parked in front of the dry-docked ships was far more in keeping with the Shed Built theme with which the show began four years ago.

It’ll be interesting to see what direction the show goes in the future. There is no doubt that the organising team has big ideas, as just weeks prior to the London event they held a Bike Shed show in Paris. I just wonder if the whole idea of encouraging folks to get out in their sheds and have a go at bike building for themselves will get watered down by the prevalence of factory supported and dealer builds?


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