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Love Me Paris – Davida at Bike Shed Paris 11-12th April 2015
Davida has had a strong connection to France since its very inception, Davida’s inception that is. Inspired by a trip to the Le Mans 24hr in the 70’s, MD, Fiddy decided the epithet ‘Davida Moto’ gave his fledgeling company the Continental association he desired. Twenty years later, Fiddy ‘discovered’ Leon Jeantet at a trade show and went on to introduce a whole new breed of his Aviator goggles for open face helmets onto the global motorcycle market. Some of Jeantet’s range was co-designed with Davida to specifically fit our open face helmets and we remain the longest serving and largest distributor of Jeantet in the world.
Over the years Davida have forged many enduring alliances amongst this nation of moto-ophiles. It was great to meet so many enthusiasts and riders from all aspects of life from Paris and beyond, they all seem to know the Davida helmet and its reputation for high quality, always good to hear, it’s not always the case. An especially warm welcome was given to some of our first helmet customers in France who came proudly bearing their 20 year old Davida helmets that they still use on a daily basis.
Needless to say it was all go at the Davida stand over the weekend, especially for our French Translator, Laura Peters. We were fortunate to be next to the exuberant Andrew and Mercedes from Bolt who went out of their way to help us logistically and who are always fun to be around.
We had a few ‘specials’ on display of course, the Wheels & Waves helmet we have done for Vincent Pratt and his Southsider’s Winter Ride, got a lot of interest, unsurprisingly given the event’s stature in the scene over the last few years.
An unusual metallic, distressed Celtic design for one of the ‘Hairy Bikers’ also caught eyes but perhaps the most attention was given to the colourful metal flake designs in a wide variety of candy colours.
A charming couple from near Manchester came to say hello and revealed that they’d bought nine helmets from us at the last Stafford Classic show, that’s got to be a record. We also caught up with the likes of Gotz Goppert, photographer extraordinaire, with a Merry Pranksters-esque Moto Guzzi painted with abandon by his 7-year old son.
Gotz was commissioned by Moto Heroes a few years ago to take images of the helmet manufacturing process at the Davida factory. Alberto Garcia Alix and the talented Frederique Bangerter who, sharing a good eye with Alberto, has produced a beautifully bonkers, bound book of the sketchbooks of artist Maxwell Paternoster, thank you Fred, I shall treasure mine always.
‘Mario and Luigi’ who were such stars at last year’s Dirtquake were around and assured us they’ll be back for more comic mayhem this year.
The last time I was in Paris, my girlfriend and I were on motorbikes, we’d already been to the Le Mans 24hr (a whole article in itself) and having had the good fortune to be able to recuperate at a genuine chateau, Paris just had to be braved. Having read ‘Quiet days in Clichy’ by Henry Miller, Clichy was where we sought a decently priced hostellerie, like in Miller’s time there are plenty of cheap places and it’s still more seedy than romantic though nearby Montmartre makes up for that.
Parisians bemoan negotiating their frenetic streets by any form of transport, personally I had a ball, it’s not exactly relaxing, but if you enjoy a ghost rider-esque thrash there’s no where better in my mind. There’s a kind of ‘who dares wins’ status quo in effect minus the plethora of traffic enforcement cameras that blight us on our side of the channel. The French all seem to love their bikes even the poor sods stuck in cars to the extent that they actually go out of their way to facilitate your progress unlike in England where they seem to either drive like you don’t really exist or on occasion actively set out to make you wait like the rest of them. Thus a Bike Shed Event in Paris was always going to be an interesting scene.
Having visited the wonderfully elegant hosts of Vintage Motors in Bastille (I could have sworn one of them was Jean Dujardin’s twin), we met up with the effervescent Anik Labreign of Ducati and Wheels and Waves at a skateboard photography exhibition, an old-school Parisian street party was in full stride outside the venue, a warm glow to the twilight, the street culture here, whether it’s skating, street-art, reclaiming, cycling, blading, eating & drinking, chatting, gossiping, flirting and dancing was a great reintroduction to Paris nightlife, a balmy evening helps of course.
I was concerned that Paris would have been noticeably different and scarred by its recent experience of tragedy, and yes inevitably it does feel a little different but there’s a healthy feeling of defiant freedom and anarchy here that is part of the city’s DNA and one of the things I love most about it.
The venue for the first Bike Shed Paris, Carreau Du Temple in the tres cool Marais district, is a beautiful 19th century market building that was saved from the bulldozers by local residents and is architecturally similar to the London venue Tobacco Dock though featuring one large open space. Just as well, as Friday saw us all working hard on a hot, close Paris day putting the exhibition together.
Handcrafted bikes from all over the continent were rolled in throughout the day, though not before each had been hastily drained of fuel into scavenged plastic bottles (I was always assured a full tank was safer), along with art and photography from the likes of Marta Rodriguez, a particularly artistic photographer currently based in Madrid having had sojourns in New York and London and a long working relationship with photography legend Alberto Garcia Alix. They both shoot the world they inhabit, which invariably involves motorcycles, they also both seek to use the medium to produce something dreamlike and ephemeral rather than simply document a lifestyle.
Freehand drawing is a discipline I greatly admire and I was very impressed with the work of Martin Squires from Bristol who, not content with exhibiting at the event (notably a long panoramic sketch of the Dirtquake pits, he uses a drawing board that can accommodate a long roll of paper) was to be seen sketching some of the bikes on display throughout the weekend. His eye for machinery and detail is quite something, looking at his sketches in progress, nothing looks out of proportion, he possesses an enviable gift.
Conrad Leach’s work has been a staple of events such as Bike Shed and Wheels & Waves since their humble beginnings and here people had a chance to see some of his ‘United State’ collection, his graphic blend of American and British Motorcycling culture, it is a bold and painstakingly rendered body of work with an iconic feel, I can’t figure how an enormous christ figure got in on the act though, certainly iconic, christ on a bike maybe? Elsewhere there were some charming portraits of bikers painted on wood by Tristan Barosso who likes to use reclaimed materials, an ethos that was mirrored in a lot of the custom bikes, why use a new part when you can recycle a nice old salvaged part?
I was amused to see an old aeroplane artificial-horizon gauge on the tank of a heavily reworked 145BHP BMW NineT and was assured that it responds appropriately when you lean the bike over, want one.
You could, if you were so inclined, have a tattoo done at the event or perhaps have your beard and hair tamed by a proper old school barber, get some bespoke leather work done maybe or, if you’re like me, just enjoy a damn fine cup of coffee and have a mooch.
There were of course many Parisian custom bike builders exhibiting, Blitz of course were strongly represented with machines that appeared purpose-built for tackling the Paris traffic, bikes like ‘The Arsenal’, based on a Suzuki DR650, it is a streamlined, lightweight, ‘stealth commuter’, black of course. Clutch Motorcycles were showing some nicely stripped down BMW’s, they make some of their own tanks which always gets extra kudos.
Talking of tanks, Tin Can Customs of Amsterdam brought one of my favourite custom bikes of the weekend, a ‘Zundapp’ Honda CB550 which had brass and glass portholes welded into the tank, the front end was reminiscent of a 30’s Harley or Indian and the exhaust was idiosyncratically welded together from many many pieces, his first attempt at such an exhaust fabrication.
I’m a sucker for Ducati’s and there were a fair few around, my favourite was a 749s by Modification Motorcycles of Paris they now call a 749M, the tank is polished and ceramic coated, always an eye catcher, the frame simplified and lowered, the front nose-cone fairing with external lamps attaches to the original brackets though they had to be strengthened, the battery is now under the hump, LED strip lights and so many other little touches, suffice to say it looks built to go like stink.
The Wrenchmonkee’s had a bike on the Yamaha ‘Yard Built’ stand, a XJR1300 ‘Skullmonkee’ which looked as muscular as you might imagine. Ducati played it cool at their stand, no big banners, just three newly customised scramblers, Mr Martini had his subtly done in black with his trademark custom high exhaust but the ‘marmite’ custom was the Deus scrambler, unapologetic in bright yellow with a bright blue suede seat, a ‘mono-sided’ front mudguard (nice touch), a custom made fairing/tail and a funky little squashed headlight, I liked it, for somewhere hot, going to the beach, it would spot on, it just needs one of their trademark surfboard rails.
Perhaps the star of the custom bikes would arguably be Sebastien Lorentz’ outrageous vintage BMW drag bike out of The Lucky Cat Garage, resplendent with enormous vintage-aerodynamic nose cone, this bike looks serious about going fast down a straight in every way, from its squared off rear tyre, elaborate nitrous system, low as hell, so many details, so much thought and hard work has clearly gone into every aspect of this bike, just gorgeous and uncompromising.
Of course that bike was designed for events like Glemseck not the public streets and yet almost all the bikes here ostensibly were, which gets you thinking: will these ever see the street? At many custom bikes shows you think, probably not. The custom bikes at Bike Shed Paris however are certainly destined to be used in anger on the roads, you can see the homologation tax stickers on them, though Fiddy found that on one of the bikes none of the cables were connected, hey, maybe they ran out of time, I’m not gonna name names.
Another custom bike that looked like a real labour of love was a Norton Hot Rod by Addict Motorcycles of Paris, it utilises a beautiful, polished 1949 695cc OHV engine in an original 1955 Norton 19R rigid frame, it has an open belt primary transmission, original chromed girder-forks and a custom exhaust and oil tank of course, it took Darren Logan two years of clever thinking and hard work to complete the bike and seeing the results I can’t say I’m surprised.
It would be remiss not to mention ‘The Distinguished Gentleman’ BMW from Deep Creek Cycle Works, Belgium, based on an R100RS, it’s a classy looking custom bike with nods to the off-road Beemer-bobber style, sleek black with gold line work, a bit of bling, fat and low, decadent and unapologetic about it.
It is a shame not to have the space here to talk about more of the custom bikes that were there, there was a funky looking little Puch x40 made by MoKka of Budapest which bucked the trend for big aggressive customs, it had some very tasteful design decisions, great seat and colour choices, great guys the MoKka bunch, they had the misfortune to have their van broken into whilst it was parked in Hotel ‘underground secure parking’ take note, they took it on the chin and will be at the London Event.
Dutch and Vicki and all their crew worked really hard pulling this thing off and the place looked great with just the right vintage furniture and accoutrements and they were all a pleasure to work alongside with, very relaxed considering. So Bike Shed Paris next year? I certainly hope so, it was a non-stop weekend and hot as hell by our Liverpool standards yet immense fun with a really easygoing vibe, I even got to repeat my Paris filtering escapades on a motorbike, a hoot but please Anik, learn how to service your bike for next time!
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