More space. More bikes. More people. The Bike Shed at Tobacco Dock in London just gets better and better
There was a very different vibe to Bike Shed at Tobacco Dock this year. The beautiful architectural venue was the same, but there were different rooms offering what felt like increased floor space, embracing lots of new builds and a packed crowd both days. But what made it all feel really different was the type of people who flocked in. This cafe racer, street tracker, bobber thing we love has gone mainstream. It’s a dramatic shift that’s occurred in just three years as far as the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club events are concerned. From the first tenative steps made by the enterprising BSMC crew with their low-key, pop-up custom show in a Shoreditch photo studio, the scene has been embraced by anyone and everyone who appreciates classy-looking retro motorcycles and who understands that travelling at hyper speeds on sportsbikes isn’t the only way to get your kicks. The younger element – who were in the majority at early BSMC events and brought a refreshing naivety in their shed builds – is still there, but there’s also a huge number of older bikers embracing the scene’s style and individuality.
‘This cafe racer, street tracker, bobber scene we love has gone mainstream. It’s a dramatic shift ’
And Tobacco Dock showed just why, with a diverse range of new builds that surely anyone would have been able to find something to suit their taste. Hinckley Triumphs were trending – Down & Out Cafe Racers got a Street Twin early and showed their custom version at Paris Bike Shed and brought it to London. But they had also worked some magic on a Thruxton R in a joint Barbour/Triumph venture (left), and had the beefy-tyred twin that gaffer Shaun had built as his own bike. Scottish-based White Crow Customs made their Bike Shed debut with their first ever build, a Triumph Thruxton with styling that looked as if it took cues from Rickman Metisse bodywork. Death Machines of London had just finished Up Yours Copper, a cafe racer-style Thruxton, sporting a neat mix of alloy, wood (for the seat) and copper plating (see this bike in detail on page 92). Others included Untitled MCs and Macco Motors’ Foxy Lady. Classic Triumphs weren’t ignored though – there was a wide range of ideas on Kingdom of Kicks 5TA old skool chopper and its crazy art paint job, to the Elvira bobber build by Vito Marinho which was based on a T120 Bonnie, and the customised classic pre-unit 5TA called Deuce built by Berham Customs.
And talking of classics, there was the epic beauty of Gasbox, a girder-forked, 1959 Norton Dominator bobber built by thegasbox. com owner Jesse Bassett in Cleveland, Ohio (see page 70). Harleys were popular too – what with H-D dealers Warrs and Shaw Speed both bringing along a selection of bikes. The event also hosted the England and Ireland stage of a European-wide Harley-Davidson Battle of the Kings for customised Iron 883s. It was won by Warrs with Rascal Racer, built by Charlie Stockwell. Some reckon BMW are passé and lord knows there’s a lot of them about but Tobacco Dock saw new builds aplenty.
Foundry Motorcycle’s BMW Silver R8cer was a super-clean, boxer twin that was so fresh it wasn’t completely finished (see page 128). Fuelled by a twin-choke Weber carb, it had tortuous plumbing to the inlet port, matched by equally tortuous exhaust pipe plumbing, terminating in a boom box silencer that served as the base for the seat. We hope there’s some serious heat insulation in there, but judging by the innovative engineering that’s gone into the build there probably is.
‘Harleys were popular too – H-D dealers Warrs and Shaw Speed both brought bikes’
Other BMWs of note included Sinroja Motorcycles R2 BMW R80 RT – a real black beauty with laid-down shocks and chopper pot pipes. Berham Customs Venr BMWR100/7 was given a unique look thanks to its cut-down flat track tank and seat unit. Mark Phillips’ Moto Curiosity had a bunch of boxer twins there too including the funky Rust Racer with special rusty patina treatment applied not only to the petrol tank, but also to the fibreglass front mudguard and seat unit.
It was heartening to see such a great selection of shed built bikes. Six we liked in no particular order included Marlon Jeavons demonstrating how to extract beauty from the beast of a CX500 with a really stylish cafe racer. Honda CB250 and 360 twins were derided back in the day but Sean Beresford worked wonders on his CB360 to create a clean Brat Style bike which drew praise from everyone we spoke to. Steve Robinson put a lot of work into his Triumph T140V street scrambler with upside down forks, wavy front disc, eccentric adjusters on the end of the swing-arm, high level two-into-one pipe and a clean finish.
Bike Shed Faces
If you wanted mental then Gary Winfield’s C90 with a KTM EXC450 shoe-horned into it certainly fitted the bill. A more sedate-looking machine was Pip Davidson’s tiny, vintage-styled two-stroke 1948 Monet Guyon S4J, dubbed ETTA48 Le Petit Une. And Martin Card’s super-clean Kwakatrack was impressive – a kind of street tracker-style with supermotard wheels and tyres crossbreed, built around a Kawasaki KLR650 trailie. What we’ve covered here is just a small section of Bike Shed London 2016.
The scene might be changing but inclusivity has always been what Dutch and his Bike Shed crew have striven for and this year’s event summed up that vibe beautifully. What’s reassuring is that the scene is still growing and it seems that every week new custom bikes are emerging, either from the professional builders or from shed dwellers all over the country. Here’s to the next Bike Shed event which, we hope, will be even bigger and better…