“LA is kind of a natural home for motorcycle culture in terms of brands, builders, bikers and scale, weather and roads. Here, you can ride 365 days a year. There are more over 600cc registered bikes in California than any country in the world.” [1]

-Dutch van Someren owner of the Bike Shed Moto Co.

The man himself: Dutch von Someren in his element, The Bike Shed LA. [Michael McCabe]

From his earliest riding days in London, The Bike Shed founder Dutch van Someren sensed motorcycles represented more than the sum total of their moving parts and reflected a complicated cultural process. Today, his London and Los Angeles Bike Shed locations are an important part of that on-going story.

History and Culture

Initially, as the 19th Century rolled into the early 20th, people became intoxicated by the possibility of machines, velocity and individualized movement. From the earliest production motorcycles in the mid-1890s, the combination of the internal combustion engine with a bicycle frame, seat, two wheels, gas tank and throttle created a thrilling and novel experience, but it was reserved only for the wealthy.

Twenty years later in 1901-2 the American manufacturing know-how of the Hendee Manufacturing Co. (Springfield, MA), later renamed the Indian Motorcycle Company, and Harley Davidson Inc. (Milwaukee, WI) in 1903-5 expanded the possibilities of the motorcycle and dropped the sticker price for a growing consumer public. Initially through the 1930s and early 1940s, motorcycles were seen as an affordable and fun transportation option but the 1947 Hollister ‘riot’ changed how bikes and bike riders were identified, via complicated signifiers of a countercultural, dangerous, sexualized life-altering possibility. [2]

Social, but reserved for the wealthy: even elaborate bicycles like this 1881 Starley trike were expensive. This chassis was used for the world’s first electric vehicle, Gustav Trouvé’s electric Starley tricycle of 1881 – check the story here. [The Vintagent Archive]
The ballooning post- WWII youth demographic in America and England was hungry for new options for identity── Hollywood contributed The Wild One (released cautiously in America in 1953, but banned by the British Board of Film Censors until 1967 and first shown at the motorcycle themed 59 Club). Adventurous youth in America, ‘Ton Up!’ oriented Leather Boys in England took to bikes as affordable transportation with added ‘mystique’. Savvy motorcycle brands in England, the US and Japan sensed an opportunity and enticed the youthful demographic shift with slogans:  “Nothing handles like a Triumph”, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”, “Until you’ve been on a Harley Davidson, you haven’t been on a motorcycle”. A new individual who rode on two wheels was created.

Common Ground

Dutch had long wondered if there was common ground among people who rode, the different brand platforms and riding styles. He started a blog in 2011 that explored the ‘new wave’ of custom motorcycles that was taking shape and wrote about the bikes and builders on the scene, especially in the UK and Europe. Within two years the blog grew to be one of the most popular commentators on what was becoming a powerful cultural movement. As the blog moved forward, Dutch was joined in 2013 by his wife Vikki and friends as they brought the community to the next level, hosting their first pop-up motorcycle event as ‘a celebration of the creative scene around motorcycle custom culture’.

The Bike Shed Moto Co. HQ in the Arts District of LA. Always bikes in the parking lot, and many more inside. [Michael McCabe]
The first Bike Shed event featured 55 curated custom motorcycles from as far away as Thailand, Portugal and the US that were displayed across two arches in the Shoreditch area of London. The event attracted more than 3000 people to not only enjoy the motorcycles but also art, photography, curated retailers, great food, a barber shop, tattooing and hospitality. In 2022 the Bike Shed London Show at Tobacco Dock welcomed 19,000 people to see 319 curated custom bikes with 500 exhibitors, live music and cinema. It was clear that Dutch, Vikki and their friends had struck a powerful nerve of interest.

Got art? Amazing work by Conrad Leach graces the walls of The Bike Shed LA. [Paul d’Orléans]
Following the second Bike Shed show in 2013, conversations started about the possibility to make the Bike Shed a permanent destination for bike riders who wanted to combine their love of motorcycles with a desire for hanging out with like-minded people. A club-like atmosphere with great food, great hospitality and comfortable surroundings that was open to everyone- bikers, non-bikers and the general public and also a club with membership perks like organized meetings, events and rides.

The custom motorcycle display / event space at The Bike Shed LA: an impressive array any time you visit. [Michael McCabe]
2015 the Bike Shed motorcycle club opened its doors on a 12,000 square foot venue across four renovated railway arches at the heart of its original home, at 384 Old Street in Shoreditch, Central London. The space featured display custom bikes, curated retail, space for more bikes, art, a barber shop, tattooing and event space. The café, bar, shop and gallery was open to everyone- bikers, non-bikers and the general public. Seven years on the Bike Shed welcomes 2500 ‘People Who Love People, who Love Motorcycles’ every week.

In April 2022, the potential of the Bike Shed Los Angeles expanded internationally and opened a 30,000 square foot venue in a 1945 red brick warehouse building located in the burgeoning Arts District. Similar to the Bike Shed London venue, the LA space has a 325 cover restaurant open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a multi-brand retail space hosting Belstaff, Bremont, Indian, Ducati and Royal Enfield concessions, a barber shop, tattoo studio and a 7000 square foot event space, plus dedicated private spaces for Bike Shed members.

J. Shia’s super cool BSA A65 custom can be visited – it’s worth a look at the crazy work she put into this unique machine. [Michael McCabe]
For educated eyes, nested among the bike brands on the floor are noteworthy custom builds that lend their process to the space:  J. Shia’s (Madhouse Motors, Boston, MA) 1972 BSA A65, ‘The Manipulated A65’ known for its provocative found object seat cowl and industrial lever side shifter is on the floor next to the Hugo Eccles (Untitled Motorcycles, San Francisco, CA) 1975 Moto Guzzi 850T ‘Supernaturale’ that is ten feet from the 1958 ‘Later Days’ Panhead built by Taber Nash (Nash Cycles, Vancouver, WA) and the impressive collection goes on. The vibe at the LA venue is chill and all about respecting the incredibly unique opportunity to be among friends and the bikes. We are now in the process of planning a shed built bike show similar to Tobacco Dock at our Los Angeles location for 2023. This event will be very important to the shed builders and admirers in and around LA.

Dutch describes his process of the Bike Shed; “I had a grown up job in media and motorcycle riding was my passion. I knew so many people for whom motorcycle riding was one of the main things that defined them. It wasn’t the only thing but it was one of the main things. They wouldn’t necessarily call themselves a ‘biker’, they’d say, ‘I’m a bike rider’ and they might have five bikes. But most of the industry in terms of magazines, shows, even the way the manufacturers behaved was really about the extremes of sports or commuting and there wasn’t anything about lifestyle.

The restaurant at The Bike Shed LA is open daily, breakfast/lunch/dinner, and has great food and a very cool bar, and places to chill on overstuffed couches. A super appealing formula. [Michael McCabe]
“Everybody I knew who rode, rode because biking is cool and it has a heritage and it inspires adventure and community and creates comradeship, friendships and experiences. And I didn’t think the industry or even journalism was speaking to that at all. They were obsessed with just engineering or just performance. To me those things were a product… But the real product is experience. When you get on an amazing high performance motorcycle, it’s something that’s beautiful. It’s really about creating story and adventure and experience.

“I don’t need to get geeky about fuel injection or how ABS works… That’s vaguely interesting to me because it might keep me alive or give me speed, but once I’m on the bike I’m enjoying this incredible human adventure. And I thought no one was really looking out for that. And that should be about good food and good hospitality and curated retail with not everything on sale for cheap. So everything that Vikki and my friends did was from a consumer point of view… As motorcycle riders, what do we want? We wanted a little more inclusivity and we wanted a bit less judgement, a little bit more fun. We didn’t want to go to grotty trade fairs with bad food where you are just a commodity. We wanted to de-commoditize biking. And I don’t want to spend all my time with people talking about how fast I’ve been or whether I’ve dragged my knee, or whether I used to be a pro racer… I love motorcycle riding just as much as people who can do those things but I express it in a different way. And it turns out there’s a lot of people like us who feel that way.

There’s a bike / gear shop – a great place to find the best and coolest riding gear, or buy a custom bike or even stock Royal Enfield or Ducati. [Michael McCabe]
“It’s a little bit like the whole conversation with some of the guys in MCs. I respect their place in bike culture, they call themselves the 1%ers for a reason… Well, we’re the 99%ers… there’s a lot of us… So ya, so really, the journey was looking at what our community wanted. I found our community- I spoke to them through a blog, I spoke to them through a show, and now we’re speaking to them through destination. London worked because London is a rich community of creative, interesting, adventurous people… Aspirational people who love biking and bike culture… Los Angeles is the same; there’s an amazing community here, we found our family here. But we also know there are families all over the world, in Lisbon, in Barcelona, in Austin and in Chicago, there’s communities just everywhere. So we’d like to continue to serve them in all of those places as long as the community allows us to do so. We will take it as far as our community will have us. If we can find a way to get there, we’ll go. I am very, very grateful for what we have been able create. Very proud of how we’ve brought this community together and given them a place to hang out in this kind of common ground. It’s a great privilege to keep doing it.

Need a haircut or tattoo? In common with the London Bike Shed, you can get both in LA. [Michael McCabe]
“The concept of a shed built bike, the celebration of what people can build at home is what has always inspired me. It’s great to be a professional builder but sometimes that gives you limitations like a budget or what you do. The great thing about some of these shed built bikes is they take inspiration from pro-builders, the manufacturers of after-market parts. You can buy exhaust pipes, wheels, triple clamp sets. You can do extraordinary things on your own. And shed builders aren’t charging by the hour… They might spend three-four hundred hours on a bike and not think anything of it. But sometimes it’s the story… When you realize a bike was built by father and son, or two brothers restoring a father’s bike after he died. It’s the context. Motorcycles are beautiful objects but without a human being on them they don’t do much. They just sit around. I really love the human contribution to biking. The human story is incredibly important to me. Like the bikes we have on display here… All of them run, all of them ride… It’s one of the rules about the bikes at our show… They have to work. That makes those shed built bikes even more interesting.”

As Dutch says, the Bike Shed offers a common ground, community and experience, where people who love motorcycles share a culture that unites them, in a time when too many people focus on the small things that divide, the Bike Shed finds a common ground.

Roland Sands’ ‘2 Stroke Attack!’ was featured in our Custom Revolution exhibit at the Petersen Museum in LA. [Paul d’Orleans]

[1] Dutch van Someren said at the April ’22 opening of his 30.000 square foot Los Angles motorcycle mecca. There are more than 800,000 registered motorcycles in California. More than 160,000 motorcycles registered annually in Los Angeles.

[2] The Hollister ‘riot’ of July 4, 1947 was adjacent to the annual ‘Gypsy Tour’ sponsored by the American Motorcycle Association (A.M.A.) since the 1930s. The small Hollister police force was overwhelmed and soon lost control of the event. The event was featured in the national media of the day as ‘Havoc in Hollister’. A second motorcycle themed riot occurred the following year in Riverside, California and supposedly this prompted the A.M.A. to make a now legendary statement: “The trouble was caused by the one percent deviant that tarnishes the public image of both motorcycles and motorcyclists.” The A.M.A. has no record of actually saying this but the statement, whether real or of not is recognized as the birth of the 1% outlaw biker personality.


Michael McCabe is a New York City tattoo artist and cultural anthropologist. He is the author of New York City Horsepower, Kustom Japan, New York City Tattoo, Japanese Tattooing Now, Tattoos of Indochina, and Tattooing New York City. For New York City Horsepower, Mr. McCabe spent two years discovering and documenting underground custom motorcycle and car garages in the City, as rapid gentrification put their culture under tremendous pressure. He interviewed and photographed New York City customizers about their personal histories and creative sensibilities.


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