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Wisconsin Girl In London

By Cat Hammes

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 What a cool way to spend time away, in no other place like London at a motorcycle show.

 The London MotoShow is an annual event held at this incredibly beautiful location called the Tobacco Docks. I thought I would check it out, I’m here.

 I was in for a shock, this Wisconsin girl in London!

 There were bikes and custom builders from all over the UK, live music, food, and venders, even a play area for children.

 What was so different you might ask? The style and size of the bikes, the clothing amount and style, more formal than I have ever experienced in the US.

 The food, the atmosphere. I see custom baggers and choppers in the US. Women in bikinis washing bikes and slinging drinks, corndogs, and frys and the food trailers in the US.

 London, come have a tea, food trailers of pastries, crepes and women in dresses and slacks, zero pasties or bikinis and children in tow by parents.

 Was this motorcycle culture stuffy and formal? Had they just come from a PTA meeting? I was determined to experience London’s motorcycle culture, but I had one week! Not one single bagger, touring bike, cafe style, motocross, on-off road style or electric scooters.


 I began my quest to answer my curiosities I spoke with Mark, the owner of Crank Customs. They customize used and new to the owners’ specs. He had an impressive scooter with a surfboard--a bad ass ride to the beach. A pleasure listening to his passion and the desire to keep things affordable and fabricate specific needs for each individual and their bike. 


 Then I spoke with Dirty Cats of London. They do custom bikes and fabrication. They displayed three bikes at the show.

 Alex Marshall, the head of the shop invited me to their place to check it out.

 It is located down a muse (an alley) paved in cobblestone with walls of graffiti leading to Dirty Cats Customs of London.

  I met Fil Mano, Alex Koster owners, Ollie O'Donnell fabricator and Lenny Klemmer Harley-Davidson specialist mechanic (a female). Al Lawrence helping with custom builds from Al's Chopshop and Paul Cockcraft their creative director. A  dynamo videographer who is documenting their shop and the bad ass builds. The group featured three in the show including, La Chamera, painted by the world renown French Artist Didier Chamizo. His passion for art brought changes in the prison systems and the art world.

 The La Chamizo will be on display at the art museum later and going up for auction in gala event with proceeds going to the Elton John Aids Foundation. This is an enthusiastic, fun loving crew of motorcycle loving folks who do not care what you drive. They encourage learning about motorcycles and will teach when they can. They customize and repair bikes for everyone, so they have ease in maneuvering the streets of London. They are not a shop that believes you must ride a specific brand; they embrace the rider and their bike, period. They believe in giving back and have a charitable heart for their community.


 I had the pleasure of not only visiting the shop but meeting up with them at the MotoShow and experiencing firsthand the motorcycle culture in London. We went to the ‘ MotoShed’, were you ride your motorcycle through the muse attached to the venue and enjoy music, food and cigars. Riders from all over, come to experience this iconic place. Hum, still not even one large touring bike yet very formal attire and riding gear.

 So, I spent a week watching, observing, and asking questions while visiting various places, like Warr’s Harley-Davidson, the oldest H-D shop in the UK. Visiting various suburbs of London including Abbey Road, the studio that produced artists like the Beatles. Camden, the home of Amy Winehouse. The architecture incredible breath taking! I rode various forms of transportation to experience the roads, food while watching the motorcyclists of London.

 What I had come to learn, London is a more formal culture. I saw no women slinging drinks in bikinis. I had some of the best teas and pastries I have ever had in my life and the food was incredible.  While observing and experiencing the streets, the type of material used on the streets, the modes of transportation in London, I came to understand the difference regarding the size of the motorcycles in London vs Wisconsin.

The narrow cobblestone roads are uneven and very slippery when wet. Double decker buses in mass abundance, Semi’s, delivery trucks and delivery scooters by the hundreds and cars that have zero driving etiquette. No slowing down, coming within inches of other vehicles and horns a screaming. Cross walks an absolute must! I learned firsthand the narrow cobblestone streets are not to be driven by the faint of heart and in London SIZE DOES MATTER! The entire time I saw one touring bike. Smaller bikes are easier to maneuver, larger bikes are not practical.

 My experience in London was a huge learning experience. This is a diverse motorcycle culture that just wants to ride, and it does not matter what, it is about practicality. The architecture is second to none.

What a beautiful adventure in London.


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No bikinis? It's generally sorta cold and damp on the English island nation... 

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