“You can’t really get into restaurants without having a screen playing with your attention.”

Anthony “Dutch” and Vikki van Someren,

Founder of Bike Shed Motorcycle Co.

Credit: Frank Lee Wonho

We both been riding bikes for many years. Back in London, we had this little group where we used to hang out on bikes and go to pubs. Because we worked a lot, I decided to buy Dutch a new motorbike for his birthday. We were riding quite fast and big bikes, and I thought it was time for a bit of a change of pace, so I bought him a Ducati Sport Classic. I also suggested that he should use his knowledge and experience and blog about motorcycles. Dutch used to be a lot on forums talking about them, and I thought people might be interested in his story and insights about building and customizing his bikes – and people really liked it.


Fast forward, when we visited our friends in North London, we talked about this big motorcycle event in the UK, and how we all got bored of the same old stuff happening there in the years before. Same old bikes, bad food, bad coffee, terrible lighting, and so on. The only women at this show, the promotion girls, would take your contact info in order to sell you a bike. That triggered in us the idea to put on a show ourselves. We wanted to offer great food, great cocktails, never before seen custom bikes, an amazing environment with photography and art and where people would want to come, even if they wouldn´t be into bikes.


The following week, Dutch booked a space. We were doing a show. We had about 60 bikes at our first two-day event and 3000 people showed up. After this event came another one, and another one, and they just grew and grew and grew. At this time, we still had our day jobs and did the events just as a hobby. But people kept asking us, why this was only planned as a two-day event. If we would build this into a permanent space, they would come every day and hang out, eat food, meet their friends, even bring their families and dogs. We gave it a thought, did some research and decided that this was something we wanted to pursue.

Dutch quit his job first and we found a venue in London back in 2014 and opened in 2015. About five months later I quit my job and we both just went straight into it. We had never opened a restaurant before, never a barber shop, and never a retail space in general. We also never took on a big construction project like this before. But we still felt that we could do it nevertheless. Even though we never ran a business, we were prepared to some extent, since the jobs we had before required already a lot of entrepreneurial skills,. We worked in TV, media and publishing at a time when all of those industries were on their knees. When people weren’t buying magazines and books anymore because everything went digital and the TV industry lost its advertising revenue model. We led big teams and we were responsible for spending big budgets. We knew already how to build interest and engagement, so we just migrated those skills in our new business model. But, obviously, we weren’t quite ready for the shock of hospitality.


Obviously, the very first thing was to get hospitality involved. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner. But the other thing is what else do bike riders want? We’re curating a retail experience because bikers want to shop. It’s a kind a multi-channel business, all based around one ecosystem of people that like bikes.

Bikers want boots, and jeans, and jackets, protective gear and gloves, sunglasses, and maybe a t-shirt and a hoodie. They want to show their tribe and their affiliations. So we have bike shop, gear and apparel.


There was a whole phenomenon in the last decade, about the gentleman rider and a thing called the distinguished gentleman’s ride. Men’s fashion, especially in moto culture, was a lot about barbershop haircuts and beards. So having a barber shop as eye candy in our location, was like having a theater, but it’s also an option to offer a service. If you come once a month for a haircut or a beard trim, you maybe also come shopping once a month. And then you come for coffee every day or once a week, and then maybe for a tattoo. Tattoos and motorcycles have been intimately linked forever. We had tattoo pop ups in our show in our first year, so it just made sense to include it in our concept. We put the barbers and the tattoo artist in a glass box, because it is beautiful to watch. It’s an art; it’s analog, and it’s stunning to watch somebody in their craft. You can see how it makes people feel good. It’s a celebration of all of these different cultures and artistic things coming together in one place that just fit. And then we are still doing the events. We still do our annual show, but we also do other people’s events; somebody else’s birthday or a product presentation for other brands. Ducati did their first static press launch of their whole year’s fleet of new motorcycles here.

Thinking outside the box and understanding consumers was in our DNA; what people want and what’s going to get their attention, and that also extended to our staff. When you’re bringing people on board, you want them to believe and be a part of something. We identified that there was a whole culture of interesting, creative, aspirational people who love or ride motorcycles and who would be interested in spending time together in a destination that celebrated that culture. Everything we did, from a hospitality point of view, was from a consumer basis. We are consumers ourselves and we know how we like to be greeted at the door. We know what kind of food we like and we had the experience from those events before, which gave us an idea of what we wanted when we would open a venue like this. 


In 2018, we started to look for another venue in the United States and it was natural to come to Los Angeles. If you think about a road trip, you’re thinking about Route 66. But also, Los Angeles feels a little bit like London; it’s a melting pot. There are so many different people from different places living here and you see a lot of European brands on the road. The roads are amazing, the weather is incredible, the people are very like-minded, just like London. They´re also very open to new concepts. It felt natural to us to have our HQ in Los Angeles, and it will not be our last American destination.

Credit: Shayan Asgharnia

Credit: John Ryan Hebert

Credit: John Ryan Hebert

Credit: John Ryan Hebert

Opening a business like this, in Los Angeles in particular, is even more challenging, because the hospitality industry is so hard to make money in. Restaurants have to control costs, have as few staff as possible, and make sure that they have an appointment that they stick to. If you come early, we’re not ready. If you come late, we’ve given away your table. Then you’ve got 90 minutes to dine, then please leave. Restaurants have created this culture of eating out by appointment; it’s like a meteor. And please don’t bring an extra person. We really accidentally became champions for a different hospitality culture along the way. I mean, yes, we’re all about motorcycles, but we’re also about hanging out, common ground and community. Being able to hang out and engage with friends, meet new people and be surrounded by humans without having constantly a TV in your face, is something that humans are not very good at doing anymore. You can’t really get into restaurants in London or L.A. (or anywhere else) anymore without having a screen playing with your attention.


It’s kind of like being analog. We want people to be analog again, come back to the things that we used to do. Ten years ago, when you would have a leisurely lunch with somebody and you would talk about life, instead of everything being through your device or social media. In the last three years we tried loads of restaurants in L.A. to understand this market. All we found out was, that it was all very transactional and it was missing the social factor of bringing people together. Mark Zuckerberg always goes on about using Facebook to create real communities because people don’t join clubs anymore. All that sounds good, but how are you actually achieving that? How are you getting people out of their homes to be in communities if they’re focusing on digital groups, instead of real people? There are still people out there that want to interact with other people, e.g. that guy or the girl that just sits at the bar on their own, and then they starting to talk to the person next to them. You can just see that they’ve wanted a place where they could go on their own, and just be okay to chat with anybody. And that’s kind of the environment that we’ve created. When Dutch and I walk into a place, we want a virtual hug. That’s what we’ve created here in LA. And that’s what we’ve created for the last seven years in London. And it’s unique. And that’s a shame.


When we get up at 6am, we spend the first few hours talking to London throughout regular meetings. We’ve put in some key things in place that allow communication to flow really easily, just some of the basic things like nightly reports. What was really great, what was challenging, what do we need to work on, what was fixed, what was broken, things like that. Zoom has become a feature of our lives. We don’t love it, but we can see the faces of our team and they can see us. We make meetings fun, because it’s important. We all work really hard, but you got to also have a laugh; communication is absolutely key. We have a team in London that sometimes may do things slightly different from us, but they’ll never do it wrong, which is incredible. They’ve managed to take that on and have that be their own character as well, which is fantastic.

When Dutch started the blog, it was all about storytelling, connecting, inspiring, making it okay for people to do these crazy bike projects that take three years – and then celebrate what they’ve done. A lot of people getting their bikes, because it´s cool. But for people in this scene, this is about a lifestyle. They want to know the story behind it. With our spaces, we took it now a step further and turned digital trends back into something analog. Because, at the end of the day, people are hungry for humanity.

We realized that we had a very human proposition and a very human brand. And the very first thing was getting all those humans in a room. And then we realized that the people wanted that event to not go away, so we made it a destination. We’re on a mission over the next 10 years to take this across the world. Will still have Texas on our list, we want to be in Japan, probably Denver, Atlanta or something in New York. Florida, Vegas, and then back to Europe. We have huge ambitions, because we believe that people will get back to hanging together and having good times in person.


I think the real key to our success is, whether that’s through fundraising, or employing people, or getting customers or members is actually valuing human beings, we don’t want to treat people as a commodity. We realized that if we created a community where our staff, and our customers and our members and even our investors are one tribe, then we created something really special. I think other businesses have often forgotten about people. They just hire people to do a job; sometimes even to do the wrong job. We created a team, a story, a legacy and loyalty, so that we know that our location in London can operate perfectly, even though we haven´t been there for months.


We now got a team of just under 200 people and they are all phenomenal and amazing and want to be here. I think it really stems from the leaders of the business. It surprised me how often employees barely see the owners of the company, or the people that are running the business in the business. We are here seven days a week, we love being here, and we want to meet every single person that comes through our doors. Being here helps our team to feel valued. They feel like they’re part of something, they feel like they own it. We saw it in London, and now we’re seeing it here in LA.


It´s important to recognize that even though we work a lot with people in the bike industry, our business is not really in the bike industry. We’re treated as though we are. We do have a real member’s club here, and members have to ride, but they’re not the majority of our customers. You don’t have to play the guitar to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. You don´t have to play soccer to watch a soccer match. You just have to enjoy it. We’re about moto culture, but we’re for everyone. For the people who love motorcycles, and the people who love the people who love motorcycles.


@ bikeshedmotoco

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