We were lucky enough to have local photographer and moto journo Tom Bing cover the Bike Shed show for us. He is friends with the Bike Shed crew and most of the builders, so it was great to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes as well as the bikes on display. Words and photos by Tom Bing.
It’s got to be the most exciting weekend of the year in the UK for custom bike lovers. It’s funny, when you’re anywhere near the ‘inner folds’ of something like the Bike Shed, you feel strangely proud of the achievements of all the people who have worked so hard to make the event come together yet again. It feels like a community event – not something you just attend as a punter, but something we are all a part of.
As we start to roll in on Friday morning – I’m helping my North-East pals Ryan Roadkill
and Mike Hill from Survivor Customs
to load in – the sheer scale and organisation of the event start to dawn on me, again. There are vans and trucks lined up around the block, we’ve got a morning slot this time around as well. Hired staff are directing us into the rear gate and we’re getting a sneak peek of some of the bikes that are rolling in through the industrial corridors. At this point, Bike Shed 2019 is just a huge series of empty rooms at the Tobacco Dock Venue in East London. There are around seven hours until the doors are open to the public; nothing is set up yet. I checked back a bit later and it’s the same scene, vans lined up around the corner, but the panic looked more real at this point.
We split for a shower and a beer with Ryan and Mike’s corner all set-up in an still empty room, dodging through a sea of packaging, bikes, plinths, backdrops and beer deliveries on our way out. Sure enough, a couple of hours later, there it was. The Bike Shed. Fully completed and panic free.
“I’ll let you into a little secret.
People are shit scared of Vicky.”
I’ll let you into a little secret. People are shit scared of Vicky. I’ve never exhibited anything so I’m not. But I know for a fact that she is hugely responsible for the fact that the chaos and panic turns into one of the best shows in the world.
“Every room had something to drool over,
wherever your preferences and tastes lie.”
The show wasn’t any bigger this year than it was last year, maybe it’s hit it’s sweet spot and the organisers have decided to halt the growth and work on the quality. They’re only using one half of the venue and without doubt could fill a space three times the size with custom bikes. The beer was cold, the food was good and the mix of manufacturers, shed and pro-built bikes was fair. It’s not a trade fair and there aren’t boxes of cheap shite laying around to sift through like some sort of two-wheeled TK Maxx like a lot of shows. You come to the Bike Shed to see a carefully curated selection of bikes, gear and art. Every room had something to drool over, wherever your preferences and tastes lie.
For me, this year, it was the Dirt Room. Old, raced Dakar bikes stole the show for custom work for me. That and real Flat Track bikes, not street trackers but race bikes, like Ross Sharp’s (Bike Shed Editor) Wasp Framed XSR700 on the Sideburn Stand. French manufacturer DAB Motorcycles were presenting their fully homologated Husky-engine based fully customisable dirt bike; all blacked out sat on supermoto wheels. A neat idea and fun looking bike begging to be ripped around.
dir=”ltr”>The electric room was packed out; with stock Zero’s to check out and the Arc Vector taking centre stage. Love them or hate them; folk were interested. Oil in the Blood and TW Steel’s Debolex electric bike was sat amongst fossil fuel burners in another part of the show in a league of its own. I’d be interested to see how much more of a presence electric has next year.
“I don’t think there was one build I could
heavily criticise in terms of build quality and attention to detail”
dir=”ltr”>The rows and rows of Shed Built bikes in the main room were impressive. I don’t think there was one build I could heavily criticise in terms of build quality and attention to detail; they weren’t all to my taste but that doesn’t detract from the fact that amateur builders from across the UK and Europe are working to a very refined level. That or the Bike Shed crew have a very discerning curator.
Manufacturers flexed their muscle too; the pair of Indian FTR1200 Hooligan bikes, converted by S&S certainly gave potential FTR owners a few things to think about. As did Winston Yeh’s fully tricked out carbon Royal Enfield Interceptor. Scrambler Ducati maintained their presence as solid custom platform and Triumph presented their bobber build-off, getting the cogs going for a lot of fans.
Despite the fact that the team had ordered 50% more beer than last year, supplies started to run dry by early afternoon on the Saturday; possibly due to the shuttle bus running from the Old Street venue out to Tobacco Dock. Why ride out when you can drink beer and jump on the party bus?
Overall, the 2019 show was excellent, really well put together and curated with a great balance of stuff on show. It might be time to ditch the newsboy caps and stand-up bass bands for something else in 2020; maybe clamp down on unnecessary exhaust wrap too. But despite that; I’ll be back again for the annual community gathering at the best and most friendly custom show in Europe.
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