Underneath the Arches

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Posted on Oct 26 2013 - 2:14pm by
It’s a funny thing, writing something for someone. I find that when you are visiting somewhere, an event, a place, with a view to reporting on it, you have a different ‘Worzel Gummidge’ head on.

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You’re looking for an angle, how you’re going to relate the story, and you almost become an invisible observer, an outsider, dipping your toe into the experience that you will be reporting on, gathering facts, noticing details, and taking photographs to illustrate the story you’re telling.

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And then, in contrast, when you are visiting something somewhere as a visitor, for pleasure, you approach things from a different perspective.

Well I do, anyway.

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You let your hair down (or I would…). Nobody needs to know who you are or why you’re there. There’s a marked difference between becoming an invisible observer and blending into the background. You take photos to show to your friends, for inspiration, or just to look at.

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So when I took a ride to the formerly ‘deprived’ area of Shoreditch in the London Borough of Hackney to attend the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club’s ‘The Event II’ I had no thoughts of writing a report, I was there as a punter. I paid my fiver at the gate and got a wristband, and then wandered around looking at bikes and took photos of the ones that caught my eye.

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Then a couple of days later the editor suggested that following his coverage of the Bike Shed’s original ‘Event’ in May (see ‘The Posh Boys Bike Club – TRD 179) a second opinion might be interesting, so here I am.

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The event was held at The Shoreditch Studios (where, bizarrely Google Streetview takes you right into the ladies loo…) a collection of arches beneath the East London line. It was a curious combination of bike show, fashion event and art exhibition.

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In fact, the motorcycles themselves fit that description perfectly. They are fashionable works of art, described variously as brat, street scrambler, café and bobber, embracing the ‘new wave scene’ – interestingly a phrase coined from a time when many of the bikes present were built.

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I won’t attempt to define which machines fit the individual styles; many of the bikes on show defy categorisation, which is perhaps what the designers were striving for; besides I would probably be wrong anyway, so the easiest solution is to look at the photographs and decide for yourself which of them work for you and what you would call them.

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And aesthetically speaking a great number of them work for me.

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However, being something of a pragmatist I have an aversion to thin planky seats that would give you a numb bum after ten minutes, most of the bikes would be unrideable in a heavy shower due to an almost total lack of mudguards – which would result in the wheels throwing water into open bellmouths – and I just don’t get this obsession with knobbly tyres on heavy street bikes (to complete the ‘Victor Meldrewisms’ I’ll just add “I don’t believe it!”)

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So, just as a pair of stilettos would be impractical for a five mile hike, and a spiky Mohican won’t really work with a crash helmet, these fantastic machines are in many cases a victory for form over function. A set of knobblies might look cool on a vintage R100S, but you won’t look very stylish sliding down Regent Street on your arse in the rain.

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But that’s not the point. By and large they look great. You probably won’t go very far on one, and you might struggle at the MOT station, but they really do look great.

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In case you’re wondering if I’m going to go into any detail about the bikes on show, I’ve decided that apart from a very basic guess at what they once were I wouldn’t be able to tell you much, so it would be better to visit their web page where you can find out details about the builders and their machines.

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One rather annoying aspect of all this remodelling of slightly clunky classics is that the increasingly short supply of half decent airhead twin shock Beemers are becoming very expensive, consequently my plans to get hold of one as a winter project are looking doomed as my limited budget is proving to be rather inadequate.

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I also noticed that a number of the uncool and unpopular bikes I owned in the last century have now become this year’s darlings. It’s a bit like bumping into a frumpy ex girlfriend who’s had a makeover and now looks plain gorgeous.

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They’re all there, the oddball XS750, the rattley SR500, the smoky RD400, the chunky old XS650, the ‘sensible’ BMW twins. If the rest of my back catalogue is anything to go by, you’d better start looking for XT 250s, K100s and a decent R1100S before they all get snapped up too.

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But it’s not just about the bikes. Following just a week after ‘The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride’ – where dapper chaps donned their open face lids and goggles, wore sharp suits, waxed their moustaches and rode their enviable mounts through the streets of London – much of their élan and verve has filtered through to The Event II. And so many of those present look ‘just right’ for the bikes on show.

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Huge beards, tight t-shirts, floppy hair, sleeve tattoos, jeans with massive turn-ups. And pretty girls. Unlike most of the bike shows I’ve been to, there didn’t seem to be too many people who looked like archetypal motorcyclists. There did however seem to be a good supply of people who looked like extras from a James Dean movie. Not that I’m complaining, it all seemed to fit in perfectly.

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In a side room Billy & Bo were busy coiffing cool Barnets, while Woody was busy inking in body art. I’ve never seen either of them at the NEC.

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Outside in the yard delicious hot food was being served by ‘Street Kitchen’ from a classic American Airstream trailer (I don’t like to use the word ‘caravan’…) as diners sat at large wooden tables on upturned wooden crates, eating their Buffalo Bill burgers and drinking beer from bottles furnished by the licensed bar. As with the bikes, luckily it wasn’t raining.

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I did feel at times like I’d wandered onto a film set, theatrical spotlights stood coolly in corners, and several times I had to do a double take as I passed Ewan McGregor lookalikes. Maybe one of them was him. I don’t know. Apparently Ross Noble was there (I didn’t see him) but I did spot Gary Inman, and had a chat with one of my favourite motorcycle journalists, former ‘Bike’ columnist Rupert Paul.

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As with any bike show, there was another great exhibition outside where the visitors’ bikes were parked in ranks. All of motorcycling life was there, from a classic 1960s Lambretta to Andy Tribble’s incredible Peraves Ecomobile.

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But interesting architecture, cool bikes, dapper chaps, groovy chicks, tattoos, haircuts and celebrities aside, did I enjoy myself, and would I go again?

Yes and yes.

Martin Haskell

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9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. John November 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    At £7.50 the burgers had to be delicious, lol

  2. Martin Haskell November 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Indeed, not to mention the teeny weeny Diet Cokes at £1.50…

  3. Vincent November 3, 2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I think your write-up summed up the Event perfectly. I enjoyed reading it & reliving my visit to trendy Shoreditch. Plenty of photos brought back some good memories too.

  4. Simon Krajnyak November 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Hi, I felt exactly as you did whilst behind the camera, definitely felt more submerged whilst in front of the bar which we were conveniently located. Ps I hope you enjoy the short trailer I put together whilst there. Simon D&o cafe racers https://vimeo.com/77898688

  5. Paul Mugleston November 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Some lovely bikes here but I can’t help but wonder at the disposable income required for some of these beauties.
    Seeing the comments on £7.50 burgers drove me to make this comment.
    Yours, from the North
    Muggo

  6. Dutch November 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Lovely write-up, and thanks to those of you who came to the exhibition. It was a labour of love for all of us in the BSMC and we hope to keep learning from each new event.

  7. Gareth Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    it was a great weekend. What’s interesting to note is that the vast majority of the bikes in attendance and on display cost less to buy, restore and customise than your standard new commuter bike. It’s funny how this ‘new trendy scene’ encapsulates much of the old ‘long in the tooth hairy-ass biker’ ethos. Old bikes that go wrong all the time, and spending half your life covered in oil clutching spanners. A welcome relief from acres of plastic, ECUs and diagnostic computers!

  8. Philip Gray Rev November 7, 2013 at 9:53 am - Reply

    why don’t I get to here of events like this, did I miss an announcement?

    I don’t like all the bikes, not into choppers and make believe bikes, BUT, wow the skill of the people who created them.

    Philip in Cheam

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