The thrill I felt was barely containable at the prospect of meeting with three-time Grand Prix World Champion Freddie Spencer. Much of my misspent youth entailed chasing around England, where I experienced close-up encounters at various tracks. Back then, access to the pits was easy—it was all so relaxed. You could rub shoulders with riders in a queue for a cup of tea. Freddie Spencer was racing in the Transatlantic Trophy series, although in all those years, I’d never actually met Fast Freddie.
Feedback from some of our 60k or so weekly listeners of Ultimate Motorcycling’s Motos and Friends podcast tells us that you’d like to hear more than the usual information about the racing world—you want information from behind the scenes.
As the Chairman of the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel, Freddie Spencer is a busy man. Fortunately, our mutual real estate guy Joe LaCroix arranged lunch with Freddie and his wife, Alexandra, for us.
We met at the Bike Shed, an exciting new motorcycle-oriented gathering spot in downtown Los Angeles, the first satellite spinning off from the Bike Shed in London’s vibrant Shoreditch neighborhood. The MotoGP season’s summer break allowed us to talk about some facts gleaned directly from Freddie as a MotoGP industry insider.
The action starts in the adjoining parking lot with bikers and banter. After a gnarly freeway ride, Coram Publishing President Arthur Coldwells rode into the large no-charge parking lot next to the venue.
We stepped straight through The Bike Shed’s large side entrance, gawking at the impressive mural depicting ‘From London to Los Angeles’ covering the whole side wall of the building. The building was originally a pie factory and then a warehouse in the Arts District. Many of the industrial buildings in this area were constructed a century ago around the railroad.
The Arts District of Los Angeles was a new discovery for me. Here, as you would expect, artists are housed along with architects, green technology, and entertainment businesses. The area has a rambling, almost shabby look due to the aged buildings, the upcoming growth, renovations, and new construction. Before long, the whole of aptly named Industrial Street, where the 30,000 square foot Bike Shed is situated, will be tree-lined and generally spruced up.
Inside, a friendly smile greeted us, and we left our helmets in a reception desk area—except for me. I had mine on my MV Agusta—after all, there was a hench-looking guy at the parking entrance keeping an eye on things. It’s not London, so why not? We were introduced to welcoming Bike Shed owners Dutch and Vikki von Someren, both avid motorcyclists.
We had a chat about the Bike Shed itself. This is not a private club, although there is a membership option. While it’s not solely for motorcycle riders, motorcycles are common ground. Dutch describes the Bike Shed as a motorcycle destination even though most Bike Shed customers do not ride. You could happily bring your grandma here for brekky or high tea.
The Bike Shed saga started with an international motorcycle show in 2013. The van Somerens’ idea was to have a big pop-up club with bikes, people, food, and good hospitality. The Bike Shed incorporates culture, film, art, and photography, making it friendly for kids and dogs, husbands and wives. The idea is to be better for more than just the bikers, though ‘one percenters’ are off the welcome mat.
We headed to the other side of the bustling central bar towards the dining area. We were shown to a booth, and I noticed the eclectic mix of young, old, rough, and smooth diners.
The restaurant can seat 325, yet it maintains a closeted dark-toned feel, although not so dark that you can’t read the menu! The music is not so loud that you’re unable to hold a conversation. If you want to check it out, the huge kitchen is fully visible. There is also a private dining room for 18 people with sliding doors and drapes for privacy.
As we settled into our seats, I blurted out that I’d named my dog after Freddie. The Freddie Spencer chuckled and cracked a smile. I’m not sure if he was genuinely amused by this tidbit or being very polite.
Service was quick and very friendly. I had the wild mushroom salad, as did most of us—the meat-eater was odd-man-out—and we all commented on the top-quality tasty meals. I also partook of a superb draft tap beer.
After lunch, Dutch gave us a good look around by way of a little tour, emphasizing that the Bike Shed Los Angeles is a place you can just rock up and hang out. However, table reservations are bookable, though the general vibe is the easy-going turn-up modus. If you’re on your own, you’ll easily get chatting.
Entering through the front main doorway, you’re surrounded by café tables that spill out to the sunny outside. This flows through to the extensive lounging area, exuding comfort with leather armchairs and Chesterfield sofas.
As you get deeper in, it’s about booze and atmosphere. The Bike Shed gave me the feeling of being on a set of Peaky Blinders! There’s a selection of beers on tap, including Guinness and cocktails freshly mixed for you on the spot. A clutch of people sits drinking whisky and telling stories.
Breathe in the ambiance—rugged brick walls, vast ceiling space, industrial lighting, leather, tattoos, and a nice buzz of conversation.
My eye was drawn to one and then another of a smattering of unique motorcycles set amongst the seating areas. These are old and new, made by interesting people—Bob Seeley, Seaman, Roland Sands—some for sale, some not. Carey Hart’s race bike from the Bagger Racing League nestles amongst the relaxed seating areas. I
I most enjoyed the eye candy and motoculture vibe, which includes cool tattoos and a barber shop. The different elements put together at the Bike Shed make a sort of moto ecosystem.
We ambled into the shop area, keeping that old-school ambiance flowing.
The Bike Shed has a selection of tempting fashion merchandise alongside a lot of gear for motorcycle riding. Dutch explains that by working with safety specialists, such as British fabric-developer Covec, the Bike Shed can offer biker-wear that looks good and offers protection.
It’s not all about the Bike Shed. There are shops within shops, currently represented by ranges from Belstaff, Royal Enfield, Ducati, and Indian. Adults and kids will enjoy easy access to all of this, including Super73 pedal-assist electric bikes.
I was drawn to the corner occupied by the luxury award-winning Bremont chronometers, hand built in the UK. Bremont is the Isle of Man TT’s official watch and timing partner, and heavily involved in automotive, military, and aircraft markets.
Step back, and you’re up close to a Keanu Reeves Arch motorcycle. It’s not always easy to access bikes of this ilk, and you have the opportunity to enjoy a close look.
Then there’s the blingiest of café racers from Roland Sands to ogle. With music beats playing in the background, the nods of approval and conversation flowed. It was a great after-lunch stroll.
For those who are Private Members, there is, wait for it, a secret door leading into a speakeasy. This gorgeous room sports a fascinating selection of paintings, framed old photographs and Tommy’s Bar. Here, you can sit in complete comfort around a crackling fire set in a real fireplace.
I asked Gene, the guy you need to know for membership, “Why Tommy’s?” Again, I was thinking of Peaky Blinders’ main character Tommy Shelby. Gene casually answers Tom Hardy, who is (naturally) closely associated, shall we say.
Currently, membership numbers are sitting at 287. To become a member, you do have to be a rider—it’s about track days, events, trips, and whatever the like-minded membership chooses to do to celebrate motoculture.
Thursday night is Members’ Night—a hosted evening where moto people can meet and exchange ideas and anecdotes. These are the super-members who set the tone. They are responsible for the core mindset and spirit of the Bike Shed.
Guests are by Member invite-only—there’s no jumping the queue if you’re rich or famous. Being a biker is what counts.
We all eyed up the whisky lockers—an excellent way to keep your own bottle available. Interestingly the Bike Shed London has over 600 private members, even though there is no hidden Members’ room. The key is the moto-community.
Freddie and his wife have been living in London and enjoyed being members of Bike Shed London. They are keen as mustard for their membership to come through here—now that’s a recommendation.
Next on our list of things to nosey at was the events space. Porsche has worked here. Ducati recently launched the new Desert-X and other new models here. It is purpose-built for brand events, with well-thought-out good access. There is a vast flexible space with top-end staging, lighting, and sound equipment.
Passing through another door, we found ourselves in another cozy, leathered British-feel room with eclectic furniture and a grandfather clock. Dutch says this is for further Private Member use, or rentable for birthdays and other celebrations. It also serves as a private area for the event space—a bit like a Green Room. We were shown upstairs to a similarly furnished long room that overlooks the event space for more guest viewing.
The Bike Shed Los Angeles will soon introduce British afternoon High Tea and Sunday Roast, including vegan choices. In keeping with the Bike Shed London, MotoGP races will be streamed, making this a great place for shared race spectating.
I started talking about Freddie Spencer and spent more time on The Bike Shed because it blew me away. You can hear Arthur Coldwells and Freddie Spencer on Motos and Friends. The podcast player runs along the bottom of every page of the Ultimate Motorcycling website. Listen to Motos and Friends for your chance to win a copy of Feel: My Story signed by Freddie Spencer.
Photography by Teejay Adams, John Ryan Hebert, Dan Jones, Frank Lee Wonho et al