this morning with the typical aching legs from wandering around a bike show for hours. Now, that normally comes from doing a ‘big’ show like Milan or the NEC, so it’s a sign of how the Bike Shed London show has expanded. We missed it last year, but compared with our last visit two years ago, it’s definitely grown, with more bikes, stuff and people than ever.
That wasn’t a great thing to start with though – we turned up ten minutes before opening time to be confronted by two gigantic queues, with some confusion over where the gentlemen and ladies of the Fourth Estate were to make their entrance. After trying three different security chaps and chapesses at three different entrances, I gave up, and joined what looked like the shortest line. Forty minutes of standing later, I got in the door, and all was well (my fashionably late colleagues got in no bother an hour later, ha).
If you’ve not been before then you’ll enjoy the less-corporate feel to things. The staff running it all seem to be members or friends of the Bike Shed massive, so they’re all happy and smiley and keen. The venue itself is also refreshing, after years traipsing round giant concrete and steel exhibition boxes, Tobacco Dock is a lovely piece of olde-worlde architecture, made of bricks and wood and with a sub-optimal, non-computer-designed-floorplan.
But it’s the bikes, and the kit, we’re here to see. It’s fair to say you won’t get a wider range of machinery on show – and it really does range from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the former camp are the Rev’It H2 and the Revival Cycles retro-faired BMW S1000RR, together with the Racefit Katana and the shed-built KH500 by Mike Godwin. In the latter are the nitrous Puch Maxis and fully-faired Honda C50s…
There are probably three main types of machine on show – the showpiece machines made by pro builders to show off their work, big-budget bikes made with support from the big firms like Triumph, Yamaha and Rev’It, and the shed-built homebrew machines, produced by enthusiasts in their own time with their own cash. All three classes produce great stuff though – and it’s a real pleasure to wander amongst them.
On the kit front, it’s a bit more focussed on the Bike Shed stylee. Dainese is there launching its new ‘Settanta Due’ retro range, with help from genuine legend Giacomo Agostini on Saturday and Sunday. And there are loads of retro helmets, brown boots, waxed cotton jackets and cool T-shirts, but absolutely no reduced Arais or Shoeis, and if you want to buy a paddock stand and a set of bin-end Michelin Pilot Road 2s, you’ll have to wait for the NEC show in November. You can get a tattoo (from our old mate Dan Gold, lovely man) and a haircut and a beard trim obviously because why not?
Apart from the bikes and kit and beard trimming, there’s a great selection of food and drink, including a giant Budvar bar, complete with custom CZ bike at the end. Smart.
If you can get along today or tomorrow, then you should. If you can’t – then check out our pick of the best bikes below…