Gesprächsgeschäft mit 'Dutch' Van Someren
Historically, motorcycles have a bad rap for being loud, dangerous, and the preferred mode of transport for outlaws around the world. But it’s 2022 and it’s time to admit nothing could be further from the truth. Alright, some bikes are still very loud, but motorcycle safety and modern motorcycle culture have come a long way. The Founder of The Bike Shed, Andrew “Dutch“ van Someren, goes so far to even say we’re in the “Golden Era of motorcycling.”
He makes a good point. Between the safe harbor spaces he’s helped erect -- inspired by motorcycle culture but welcoming to everyone -- and the level of safety and protection on offer from products like the Tech-Air® 3, it’s never been easier, or cooler to ride a motorcycle.
We sat down with Dutch at Bike Shed LA to pick his brain a bit and find out how Bike Shed fits in to motorcycle culture in 2022. And having seen his fair share of mileage over the years, we also wanted to know what he thinks of this current inflection point in the history of motorcycle safety.
1. Between the Paint Shop Tattoo Parlor, the Parts & Labor Barber, and Speak Easy Bar tucked away in the back, there seems to be something cool everywhere you look in Bike Shed. What is the common thread between it all? What is it that makes Bike Shed, Bike Shed?
Dutch: The answer to that is partly in the question. What we wanted for both the London and LA spaces and the whole concept behind Bike Shed was the common ground that motorcyclists have.
One of the things I love about motorcycles, since before I was in this industry, is the fact that when you meet someone who rides, all other things go out the window. Nobody cares what you do, how much money you earn, what your job is. People want to know what you ride, where have you been, and what kind of adventures and experiences motorcycles have given you. And one of the reasons we exist in London and why we came to LA is to celebrate that common ground.
It gets rid of all the bullshit that exists in the world right now. Everyone is so fascinated by what they don’t agree on. Everyone wants to fight about something instead of celebrating that we’re all humans living in this incredible time in human history. It’s far more important to think about the things that unite us rather than the things that divide us. And motorcycling is one of those unifiers.
When you create a destination for motorcycle riders, you have to think of all the things that they would want. You need to provide good food and drink with good service in a modern era. Because it’s 2022, right? It’s not 1972. So a place covered in spit and sawdust won’t do. We start with really good hospitality, then we add experiences and events for motorcyclists and motorcycle culture. Then we have the curated quality retail space where people can buy the bikes and gear they want, the helmets, gloves, jackets, everything.
2. What part does Bike Shed LA play in SoCal motorcycle culture? How much of that is unique to the LA space and how much is brought over from the UK?
Dutch: There are a lot of common things about motorcycle culture, globally, but you have to recognize the differences as well. In London a lot of people commute and ride their bikes to work -- even if it’s a nice bike. And of course it rains a lot, so the choice of motorcycle is different. They’ll also ride all through the winter, so there’s a slightly different attitude towards riding.
Here, in LA, we have more room. The motorcycle scene is bigger, so we needed a bigger venue. You’ll see the exactly the same Paint Shop and Parts & Labor in LA and London, but you have to localize it. The London venue is very London. It’s in old Victorian railway arches and it’s all about east London culture. In LA, we’re in the arts district, in a big warehouse, and we love the character that comes with it. I love that we built a wood-paneled speak easy bar in the middle of a giant warehouse. And that’s one thing we don’t have in London: the private Member’s Only Bar.
3. Similar to how “safe spaces” for riders to hang out like Bike Shed are becoming more commonplace in motorcycle culture, so is safety equipment like the Tech-Air® 3 Air Bag system. As a member of the community, what excites you the most about this newfound thoughtfulness towards rider culture, safety, and the modern motorcycle experience?
Dutch: It's important for our survival, because at the end of the day, motorcycling is dangerous. A lot of things are dangerous: horse riding, mountain climbing, surfing, there are a lot of ways you can hurt yourself having a good time, but motorcycling gets a particularly bad rap. Especially with the historical association with gang culture, violence, and crime, and the modern glamorizing of that side of it. However, the majority of motorcycle riders, probably 99%, want to be safe, don’t want crime, and are just trying to have a nice time.
Most of us want to enjoy an adventure, some thrill, a sense of community, an experience, and make it home at the end of the day. Along with that, comes this attitude toward safer riding. Whether that’s manufacturers developing electronic aids for safer bikes or the tech in clothing like hidden armor and Tech-Air® Technology.
What I like about all of that, and what I celebrate is, how well its hidden. People come to Bike Shed, maybe with their granny, or their kids and they say “I went to a motorcycle club for dinner and it was badass! All these motorcycles rolled in, it was loud, and it was cool.” So they have that sense of thrill, but they don’t feel like someone is going to rob them and start a fight.
With riding, you can go out and wear denim, a vest, boots that look like trainers, and you don’t have to look like you just got off the MotoGP circuit to be safe. I’m excited to work with brands where we can have that technology and also maintain a casual, relaxed look. That crossover between what we do and what Alpinestars does is what excites me. We’re both trying to provide safe spaces but still look cool doing it.
4. When you first started riding, did you ever think you’d see the day where you’d have Tech-Air® Technology and a dedicated (and celebrated) venue for riders?
Dutch: I don’t think so. When I first started riding a very long time ago, it was about freedom. It meant I could get around because I couldn’t afford a car. If I wanted to go to the pub, see a girlfriend, or go to town, I needed a vehicle and a motorcycle was that. I took for granted the dangers that came with that. What’s been fantastic is seeing how much more accessible and safer my passion for motorcycles has become over time. And in some ways motorcycling is getting safer and cooler. There’s a new level of sophistication, investment, and understanding which means more safety and enjoyment, along with cool experiences. There is a lot more focus on it and in some ways this is the Golden Era of motorcycling.