Vikki van Someren is married to Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Someren, the founder of the hugely successful Bike Shed Motorcycle Club (BSMC) in 2011.
Since that date, The Bike Shed has not only run annual custom motorcycle shows in London and Paris, it has also branched out and set-up a 12,000 square foot venue in Shoreditch, London, that features a 100 seat café and restaurant, retail space and even a barber shop.
As well as this venue hosting regular events, Bike Shed’s Facebook page currently has over 650,000 followers, 100,000 follow it on Instagram and BSMC is a major player in the custom bike scene with manufacturers such as Triumph, Yamaha and Harley-Davidson keen to be associated with it. And it’s fair to say that without the driving force of Vikki behind it, much of this success simply wouldn’t have happened.
Q: What is your role within The Bike Shed?
VS: “I am listed as a co-founder of The Bike Shed and Events Director. When Dutch started it as a blog many years ago I supported him and let him spend hours writing stories and editing pictures of bikes rather than entertaining his wife! Nowadays I execute his vision for the events that we put on. I never really get involved with the website side of things, I just take Dutch’s vision for events and make it happen.”
Q: Why that role?
VS: “I have a media and events background and so I use this to co-ordinate all our global events and also everything at the Shoreditch venue. It is a natural role for me.”
Q: What drives your passion for custom bikes?
VS: “I’ve been riding bikes since I was five years old and was brought up with Royal Enfield, Matchless and BSAs in the garden waiting to be fixed. My mother’s partner was a big biker and I’ve always had a keen interest in bikes. I’ve always been a petrol head, whether it be cars or bikes.”
Q: What do you ride yourself?
VS: “I have two bikes at the moment, a beautiful Ducati SportClassic in cream and a Honda Dominator that has been customised to a flat tracker style that is my daily commuter. It’s very loud and causes havoc on the streets!”
Q: Can you handle a set of spanners?
VS: “I have done a basic bike mechanic’s course, but I don’t get that involved nowadays. I just don’t have the time to fettle bikes myself, but I have very strong ideas and generally think I know it all so I stand over someone and direct proceedings! When I have time I will build my own bike – but I think retirement will have to come first as I’m so busy at the moment!”
Q: What would you say to another woman who might be thinking about getting into the custom bike movement?
VS: “I’d say ‘absolutely, go for it!’ But I’d say that to a man or woman who wanted to get into the scene. Take your test and just do it! It doesn’t matter what sex you are, it’s the freedom and enjoyment of riding a bike that matters. I often speak to people who come here about getting into bikes and I always encourage them to try two-wheels.”
Q: What would you recommend as a good first bike?
VS: “I’d say don’t go too big as a first bike, get something you are comfortable with to build up your confidence. If you want something customised then a Yamaha SR250 or Down and Out are doing cool bikes. If the rider is small like me, I’m only five foot two, then I’d say get a small, light, bike. At the end of the day, just get onto two wheels, it doesn’t matter what you ride as long as you are comfortable.”
Q: And what about riding kit?
VS: “I ride in jeans, gloves and boots with a leather jacket if I’m just going home. I never ride without a jacket; my skin is precious to me. I’ll properly suit up if I’m going for a long ride – you need to wear the right gear. In the past I’ve struggled with women’s bike gear as it wasn’t to my style – I don’t like pink stripes – but this is changing and there is now some really cool kit out there! I want functionality but also to look good.”
Q: Does it annoy you when you see kit manufacturers making ‘girly’ riding kit with pink colours?
VS: “Not really, it’s just not for me. Some women like pink riding kit. I don’t define myself as a ‘woman rider’, I’m just ‘a rider.’ I don’t distinguish between male and female, I just want good looking kit that is functional and safe.”
Q: Is the custom scene helping to encourage more women to ride bikes as it has quite a few strong women figures like yourself?
VS: “The custom scene is a little less cliquey than other scenes, for men and women. It can be just as daunting for a man turning up at a bike venue as a woman. The custom scene is very open to like minded, creative, people and that makes it quite friendly. I think women are also feeling more confident in themselves lately. It’s all about creating an open and welcoming environment for all.”
Q: Do you have any role models?
VS: “That’s a big question! I take influences from lots of different people, male and female. I have my favourite racers – Valentino Rossi for one – but I think people are people and I like different elements of people for different reasons.”
Q: What advice can you share with women thinking of running or being involved in a business such as The Bike Shed or within the motorcycle world?
VS: “Just do it! Don’t over think it, don’t think ‘I’m a woman I need to act differently’, just get out there and give it a go. Bring your gifts because as a woman you have a different set of skills to a man, use these valuable skills. Women make shit happen!”
Q: Do you have a mantra or philosophy on how to live your life?
VS: “Ride it like you stole it! Ha, I’d say ‘treat people how you would like to be treated.’”
Q: So what really annoys you?
VS: “The stereotypical vision of women in the motorcycle scene annoys me. I love the fact women are beautiful, sexy, creatures but I want to move away from the stereotypical scene of a beautiful women draped over a bike in order to sell it. If you ride a bike, you ride a bike, it’s not about what’s between your legs. It’s all about who you are as an individual.”
As Vikki’s story proves, the motorcycle world may on the outside appear to be a male dominated industry, but in reality this is far from the case. Just like any business, success doesn’t depend on what sex you are, more if you have the drive and determination to get the job done. And Vikki certainly has this drive, not only in her passion for The Bike Shed’s success, but also her love of motorcycling.
So if you are inspired to take up two wheels by Vikki’s story, what’s stopping you? There are hundreds of motorcycle training centers located throughout the UK and taking to two wheels is much easier and costs far less than you would expect. If you are interested, check out the UK motorcycle industry’s Get On website which has loads of information aimed at those looking at taking their first steps into the motorcycle world.
Finally, and on a slightly less sexy, but practical – not to mention legally important – note, if you are looking to buy a bespoke bike or customise your own machine, you’ll need to think about the security and insurance implications. Specialist providers can usually offer you a bespoke policy to suit your bike’s modifications.
You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a customised machine only to have it stolen a week later or find out you’re not covered and can’t ride it. So make sure you can keep it somewhere safe and secure and check with your insurer how any changes to your bike will affect your policy.