“Shed Row is always my favorite part of the show. You expect pro­ builders to build great bikes, like Jim Alonze producing yet another beautiful motorcycle[1] or like Calum of deBolex[2] building incredible motorcycles and seeing that dB Series in the flesh. But Shed builders are often brand new, they’ve just come into it, or they’re evolving their craft. This is a very unique time in the custom scene.” – Dutch van Someren- 2023 Road to the Show EP01

“I think the difference between factory and custom bikes will blur even more. All customs are getting more approachable to regular people, more ridable and more complete. I think stock bike and custom bike styles will begin to merge.” – Winston Yeh: Rough Crafts, Taiwan. Participant- Shed Talk panel discussion, Custom Culture – Where Next?

Photographer Amy Shore’s poster for the 2023 Bike Shed London Show at Tobacco Docks. [Amy Shore]

There are three motorcycles posed in Amy Shore’s Tobacco Dock promotional poster for the 2023 London Bike Shed Moto Show; they frame the Past, Present and Future theme of the event. In the center is a 1935 Matchless sprint bike that was re-built and customized by Joe Tinley and his father John at their Toolbox Lifestyle shop in London[3], on the left, Slabshot (Slapside plus Slingshot) a custom Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9 Superbike by Marc Bell at his HAXCH Moto in London[4] and on the right a futuristic concept build-virtual bike, Slipside by creative director and UK bike builder Paul Drake AKA Ziggy Moto’s Imaginary Motorcycle Company[5]. Each bike is meant to initiate a conversation about the evolving culture of motorcycles that will then be explored by the more than 300 custom bikes that are standing patiently inside the historic setting.

Exterior of the mammoth Tobacco Dock exhibit center in London. [Michael McCabe]
Bike Shed founders Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Someren and his wife Vikki have reshaped motorcycle culture at their London and Los Angeles Bike Shed locations. They see motorcycles and the cultures that surround them as a fluid entirety that isn’t preoccupied with individual brands, platforms, motor mechanics or riding styles. For them, motorcycles and riding on them represents a dynamic ecosystem; a community where everyone including riders, wrenchers or just casual appreciators are welcome.

Shed Row: a curated selection of home-built customs. [Shane Benson]
Dutch and Vikki started a blog in 2011, then a Web site, then a pop-up event in 2013 under two railway arches in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood that featured 55 curated custom motorcycles for 3000 curious enthusiasts. With growing success, in 2015 they opened a 12,000 square foot club-like destination at 384 Old Street in the same Shoreditch neighborhood where around 2500 people are now welcomed every week to experience great food and great hospitality as an ongoing ‘celebration of the creative scene around motorcycle custom culture’.

Attendees of the Bike Shed London show. [Michael McCabe]
After the success of the 2013 pop-up event, Dutch and Vikki sensed the enthusiasm for their 2014 bike show was outgrowing the first venue space, so they moved it down the street to the impressive and historical 48,000 square foot Tobacco Dock building, that easily accommodates 10,000 people at a clip in an open and inspiring space. The location was a perfect fit and they have held the event at Tobacco Dock ever since.

The lovely vaulted brick celing in the lower floor at the Bike Shed show. [Shane Benson]
As they entered the 2023 show, each attendee was given a sizable, color coded fold-out map/directory that illustrated in overwhelming detail what they were about to encounter: three days of unprecedented access to the largest custom motorcycle show in Europe and the best of the best of motorcycle design, fabrication and culture; curated food, curated art, Saturday and Sunday panel discussions with titles: Powering the Future, Motorcycle Design and The Future of Moto-Sport, a barber shop, tattooing and most important, an inspiring sense of community. The fold-out brochure floor plan map described where everything was located with special symbols and icons but the exciting, massive scale of the Tobacco Dock venue encouraged everyone to relax, take their time, rub shoulders with other like-minded attendees and get lost in total motorcycle bliss. There were upwards of 48 brands, 49 Pro/Semi-Pro bike builders and more than 120 shed builders listed. Upstairs and downstairs combined into a completely dreamlike experience.

Winston Yeh at the Shed Talk panel discussion: Customs & Culture – Past/Present/Future [Michael McCabe]
The introductory Bike Shed 2023 show statement described what attendees would experience:

“This year we will celebrate the theme of Past, Present and Future. Motorcycle culture has always looked to the past for style, inspiration and legend, while creating brand new human stories in the present and enjoying a peek into the future with innovation and evolution of performance, engineering and design. In 2023 our show will celebrate this thread that weaves the Past, Present and Future together, looking at how history has shaped the present, and where motorcycling will go next.”

Natural illumination from glass skylites helped the space feel airy, even with a large crowed. [Michael McCabe]
The show filled out the expansive floors of the Tobacco Dock venue: Upstairs is open to the sky with food and picnic tables down the middle, with glass-enclosed rooms alongside, featuring brand themes  and pro bike builds. Downstairs it’s dramatic and almost cavernous, with moody lighting and low vaulted ceilings over collections of curated Shed Builds. Each bike upstairs and down, whether brand, pro/semi-pro or Shed Built had a large, readable plaque with the bike’s name, entry class, builder and build date. This individualized information reinforced the event’s purpose to not only entertain but also educate across all the variables. There was no hint of a hierarchy of accomplishment at the show. Dutch and his crew were exploring the process of exceptional, curated motorcycle custom culture in an inclusive effort, beyond hyper-competitive judgement.

‘Ol 52’, a 1952 Triumph Thundebird customized by John Benbow. [Michael McCabe]
For those craving commercial brand recognition, Royal Enfield, Norton, Yamaha, BMW and others presented slick, full-scale settings that featured impressive collections of bikes and accessories. As a London based event it made sense to see a few more Norton, BSA and Triumph than central Euro and Asian builds downstairs in the Shed Built section but the entire show balanced the international bikes equitably; even a handful of UK custom Harley Davidsons and Indians sat in the Shed Built lower floor: A Fastec-Racing of Suffolk show bike with impressive paint and blacked-out engine stood near ‘The Ol’ 38’, a 1995 Softail build by Carter Harris at Attitude Cycles that was near two builds by David Smart: Fat Tracker a 2022 Sportster S and Iron Head a 1989 Sportster. Both builds featured sleek, red, custom formed seat tails.

‘Fat Tracker’, built from a 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S by David Smart. [Michael McCabe]
Builders Josh Kemp and Lin and Vic Jeffords characterized the personal vibe in the downstairs Shed Built section: Josh stood next to his Honda custom build in the moody light, “Yeah I figured there wouldn’t be much space for a little CB200,” he said. “But here I am with my build!” Josh is a 38-year old London project manager with wrenching in his blood, whose Dad restores and customizes 1930s Ford five-window coupe hot rods for a hobby.

Josh Kemp with his 1976 Honda CB200 Outriders Moto ‘Surf Sprinter’. [Michael McCabe]
“I wasn’t really looking for a bike when I saw the 1976 Honda CB200 on eBay,” Josh said. ‘I was just doing a bit of a look around to see what was out there and it came up for a good price, despite having a seized engine and not been running for some time. The thing that stood out for me was the flat bottomed tank. There’s an aesthetic rule which I have for making bikes, that there should be a line from front to back, as it’s what really helps the eye to flow along the bike and tie it all together. I actually got quite a few people saying that it looked really tidy and couldn’t put their finger on why at the show!

Skull tank paint on the ‘Surf Sprinter’ 1976 Honda CB200 built by Josh Kemp. [Michael McCabe]
“I also wanted to try working on a smaller bike, something lighter and more fun that you could imagine –  strapping a surfboard to the side of and going ripping along the beach looking for the perfect surf (one of my dreams is to do this somewhere in the Pacific..). One of the wider things I’ve wanted to do with the bikes I create is to help anyone who is outside looking in have access and feel supported- hence my brand name “Outriders Moto”. Plus, smaller bikes are so much fun and a lot easier if you live in a city (like London). The skull is the Outriders logo, I wanted something that was classic, recognizable and screamed rock n roll, motorbikes and that sense of rebel freedom!”

Lin and Vic Jefford of Destiny Cycles with their chopper build. [Michael McCabe]
Nearby, Lin and Vic stood next to their 1960s style chopper; raked girder front end, free-style custom bars, dropped rigid frame and a hot-rod engine rebuild. The bike’s Sportster tank was custom painted with a collage of historically inspired images and lettering from the NorCal San Fran/East Bay 1960s counterculture. They own a shop, Destiny Cycles that’s located a couple hours north of London in York. Vic explained the theme of his build; “I built this bike to talk about history. A lot of young people I talk with did not experience the 1960s when young people of my generation were asking a lot of questions. The forms of my build refer to the old chopper days, when a chopper motorcycle was a deep statement about personal freedom. Young people during the 1960s rode on choppers to say something about who they were. I want this bike to help young people today to understand that motorcycles have always had a power.”

Are you going to San Francisco? The groovy 1960s NorCal vibe on the Jeffords’ chopper, ‘Kosmik Trip’. [Michael McCabe]
The tone at the 2023 London Bike Shed show was overwhelmingly open and positive. Judging from the smile on everyone’s face; Dutch, Vikki, their crew, the thousands of attendees, the invited bike builders and brands all worked together to make another successful and memorable event. The ongoing story of how motorcycles continue to change people’s lives will continue to unfold at future shows. Dutch and Vikki are now planning an impressive three-day event at their Los Angeles location for 2024.

From the actual shed: Clifford Howard’s custom built from a 1956 600cc J.A.P. Rotavator engine. [Michael McCabe]
[1] Jim Alonze of Alonze Custom Fabrication specializes in one-off fabrications of mild steel, aluminum or stainless steel. Over 50 years combined experience in sheet engineering and vehicle body building. Located on the Coastal Road, Scarborough, UK.

[2] Calum Pryce-Tidd of deBolex Engineering in South London dB 25 Series. 25 Ducati Monster1200, 147 horsepower limited edition series motorcycles with 100 new custom components added to each motorcycle.

[3] Joe describes the re-build- “This is a 1938 Matchless that we have re-built. The engine in the bike was built by Matchless but supplied to Brough Superior. We wanted to build a bike that we thought Matchless should have always built. Matchless never used this engine itself. This bike has been ten years in the making because nothing is off the shelf. It’s all hand-made and it takes a long time to collect these things. We made this bike as if Matchless had used the Brough engine in a Brooklands sprint design.” (From: Road to the Show- 2023 EP03.)

[4] Marc describes his build- “Underneath I’ve got 1000 K9- For last year’s show I had a Slapside ’88 1100 and I wanted to take the essence of that bike and make it into a modern day sports bike that has all the performance and capability. To put them together- try to combine the two and see if it’s possible to take a modern GSX-R and make it look good like the old ones from the ‘80s did.” (From: Road to the Show- 2023 EP04.)

[5] “Last year I had four bikes in the show, and there were four bikes in the show this year. But the future bike was in augmented reality. The build existed in two versions- There’s the photorealistic version and then there’s the augmented reality version. It’s a bike from the future with an undetermined drive train that is ergonomically adaptable. A tangible vision of the future”. (From Road to the Show- 2023 EP05.)

A 1981 Harris Magnum GSX1100EEX by Mike Stewart. [Michael McCabe]
A sweet 1956 Matchless G85CS scrambler by Toolbox Lifestyle. [Michael McCabe]
Attendees at the Bike Shed Tobacco Dock event. [Michael McCabe]
Bauhaus 2023 BMW R18 by Pier City Cycles. [Michael McCabe]
A nice spot to chill while absorbing all the energy in the venue. [Michael McCabe]
Herald Brat 125RX by Herald Motor Co. [Michael McCabe]
1968 BSA 441 by Ziggy Moto. [Michael McCabe]
2003 Ducati 999 Sami Uno by Michael Benink. [Michael McCabe]

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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