Not content with starting a cafe, Neil Paterson has bolted on a bike shop, customer workshop and - soon- a biker’ B&B
The roads around Crediton in Devon are biking heaven, so there are few finer spots to start a cafe. Neil Paterson has done just that with Moto Velo, which is seven miles from Exeter, and within easy reach of Dartmoor and Exmoor. It’s a warm and cosy cafe that’s a gateway to an area of outstanding beauty.
Thing is, while you are there it’s easy to imagine the temptation will go way beyond whether to have a sarnie for lunch or just cake. The place has customised bikes for sale, top quality clothing and merch. And if you are on a road trip and looking for somewhere to stay the night, there’s half a dozen en-suite rooms upstairs. It’s not your normal motorcycle shop. Neil is an old skool biker, brought up on Triumphs and Harley-Davidsons. He’s spent years building bikes and riding all across Europe, so his hard-earned experience in customising and keeping them running means he understands what motorcycle guys and gals are looking for from a place like this.
“I’m a restorative builder, so I do extensions on medieval buildings, things like that. I’ve played 30 years of rugby and what with the building, parts of my body are worn out and I needed to do something different. “I’ve been chopping bikes and messing with them since I was a kid, first on mopeds and then bigger stuff. I tried to make them go better, look better. I’ve also ridden all over Europe on Harleys and even rode a Buell to Greece for the Super Rally. I got to know my inner thighs and arse rather well on that trip. It was painful. My Buell, by the way, is green. Green with green flames! Green’s my thing.
“But after all the travelling, I just wanted to do something a bit different. So I came up with something that combines all my interests. I designed the shop – and even poured the concrete for the polished work surfaces of the cafe bar.” The shop has a homely feel but it’s the bikes up for sale that catch the eye. It’s more like a small bike show than a bike shop.
When we were in town there was a gorgeous RSD-inspired Sportster cafe racer with just 5000 miles on the clock and going for £5200, which seemed a steal given the bolton components used. There was a 1981 T140 ES. Now I’ve an oil in-the-frame Triumph TR7 which I think is quite cool in stock form but the ES models? Not the prettiest thing Meriden did. But the minimalist McQueen-esque desert sled styling Neil’s applied gives the bike a whole new lease of life.
Other bikes included a stock 1968 Triumph Bonneville T120, Norton 961, S1 Buell, Bonnie cafe racer, pretty stock (which is rare as!) 1985 4-speed Evo Softail, superneat flamed-out Harley Ironhead chop and a 2010-built Godet Vincent, a five-speed 1968 motor. “Most of the bike stock for sale is my own, apart from the Godet Vincent which is my brother’s. I had Triumphs and then Harleys since 1986. I think you need a bike of unreliability to keep the interest alive, it Keeps you busy.
I built a collection of bikes over the years and was lucky enough to live in a house that was big enough to keep them. So there’s a bit of everything in the shop. I want to try and build more stuff in the future. We’ll buy bikes in too. “I didn’t want to sell 125s though – I didn’t want Royal Enfield either. I’m limited on space and if you go for a franchise you have to give up too much.”
There’s also clothing and merchandise but it’s all class stuff and Neil will only sell products he’s personally used.“I’m trying to get people to know we’re here and we’re selling top brands and it’s all stuff I wear myself – and trust.” Moto Velo stock 78 Gloves, Baruffaldi, Lindstrands STR, Kytone, Legend Gear, Resurgence, and do their own brand of top quality T-shirts.
Most bike shops these days have somewhere to sit and have a coffee but this is something else. Those easy chairs are seats from a Jag XJ, there’s proper coffee and decent food. “The coffee shop is an expansion of the bike shop idea I had. My step daughter Lena is a partner in the business (as is Neil’s wife Natalie). Lena liked the idea of doing more than just a bike shop, and the coffee shop will kept us ticking over through the winter. “I want a barber’s shop in here too. Coffee, barbers, leatherwork, furniture. I love the pre-Raphaelites arts and crafts movement. I don’t want to be part of the fast-paced world we live in.”
How much was all of this influenced by The Bike Shed and the contemporary custom movement? “I looked at it. They’ve reinvented the beard and chopper thing, even though they come from a sportsbike background. It’s quite exciting because we’re getting away from the massively expensive American chopper scene. “I also went to Bike Shed Paris and was really impressed. There’s some fantastic bike builds coming through. Really high end builds. It’s almost like what happened to the 1970s music scene, we had really good music, rock went all glitzy and punk came along to take it back to its raw roots.
“I’ve been around bikes all my life. I’ve currently got a Softail Harley with knobblies, Sportster tank, duck-arse seat, clip-ons. It makes an outrageous bike but fun to ride! I sold a 1956 Pan, stupidly – and a year later I was wishing I still had it. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll get one next year. “I’ve mates with early Sportsters, Ironheads. We did the chopper thing then got disillusioned with certain elements of it. Then my mate bought a ’66 Shovel. A couple of others got Ironheads. Then I bought an old Harley too. You’ll be seeing Diggers soon running around all over the West Coast.
“We’ve had an incredibly positive reaction to the shop opening from the locals and the passers by. This place was an old tool shop and had become derelict. The people here are really happy what we’ve done with the building. It’s so different from anything else here.” The top floor is where Neil is creating six ensuite rooms. “The roads around here are amazing. There are no cameras and you can ride for miles on really scenic, well-surfaced back roads. That’s why I wanted to have rooms. I can give people a map – I don’t believe in sat navs – with a good day’s ride, pointing out places to stop for coffee or food.
Based here I reckon you could get three really good days of riding using a different route each day. “We’re going to hire bikes too. Modern retros like the Thruxton R and RnineT and maybe a Triumph Bobber too. I think we’ll fit a sidecar to that and stick Springer forks on it. What do you reckon?” What we reckon is that this is one of the coolest, best thought-out places we’ve seen. We’ll definitely be back to try out the rooms and back roads…