VC London is an all female biker collective, inspiring and supporting women riders. The group are East London based, from their workshop, The Shop Customs. They throw parties, design their own women’s Moto label and even organise CBT training.
They believe in ‘MOTO RIDING, GOOD TIMES & FUN SH*T. SIMPLE’
I caught up with Gemma Harrison, a founder of VC London and got some insider info.
Jenny: When and how did you get into motorbikes? What do you love about riding?
Gemma: I started riding just over 5 years ago. My husband had always been into racing cars mostly but since we lived in London. We’ve never had the space to keep them so he started riding. He got his licence and a Triumph pretty fast. So, his SR125 was handed down to me. That was the first bike we rebuilt together & I still have it today. I still love riding it even now I have other bikes too. It’s a little ripper & perfect for around the city! To be honest I just rode with my husband for a couple of years at first. Until I started teaching a few friends to ride & helping them to get on bikes.
The community here in London is pretty amazing & were all very close. From different groups of builders, riders & moto businesses so that’s something I love about riding here in London. As much as I love riding with other people. It’s also my alone time that I love to just have to myself sometimes too. Especially in a busy place like London, everyone is so crammed in together. It’s nice to feel like you’re just on your own a bit.
J: How would you describe London biking culture at the moment? Have you noticed a difference in the amount of women riders?
G: Slowly I’m seeing more female riders here in London. It’s still not super common that you see lots of women riding by on a motorcycle in London. It would just be nice to see more giving it a go because it’s so much fun! I mean we don’t claim to be the first women to ride a motorcycle in London for sure. We’re hoping that what we’re doing, by helping a few people take their first steps in riding. It is doing its bit to inspire more to give it a go. Everyone has to start somewhere! We’re just trying to make it a little more accessible to get into if you want to.
Although we support a lot of women to start riding. To be honest, I’m very much of the mind. I don’t think you have to be boxed in with a “ female ride/ male rider” tag. To me, I’m just a motorcycle rider who enjoys riding with everyone or anyone. Disregardless of what bike they ride or how long they’ve been riding. With VC we are just saying say hey. If you always wanted to give motorcycles a go then we can give you a hand. We’re women so we’ve just done things from a woman perspective. With some of the challenges, we’ve faced being women riding. We’ve actually given a few guys their first go at riding too recently which has been pretty rad!
J: Tell us a bit about how and why you started VC London? What do you want to achieve with the collective?
G: The VC started as a bit of a joke really between a few friends. We’re not really a club or a gang, just a kind of collective of people riding, building, hanging & having a great time doing it. We’re a pretty mixed bunch of riders and bikes from 125s, bobbers, cafe racers, Triumphs & Harleys to dirtbikes. The 4 of us who are the sort of main people who run the VC ( Myself, Namin, Mai & Jo) all hang & work out of The Shop Customs in East London, where we all wrench, ride & hang together with a bunch of other guys and girls. In the beginning, I was just kind of using our Instagram to document all that we were doing, learning about bikes, wrenching etc & it just seemed to catch on.
J: Are there any women biker groups or individual riders who have really influenced you?
G: Argh! There are too many to mention! Since we started the whole VC thing I’ve been lucky enough to hang & ride with some incredible women from all over the world.
Anya & Ashmore of Babes Ride Out are a pretty inspiring pair of ladies! Jaime Dempsey & Brittany Wood are also total gems that helped us out so much when we went to LA last year! Closer to home there’s the lovely Sahra Lewis (@roxysunny ) from Warrs Harley Davidson- most smiley lovely, positive lady ever, Sami Graystone (@sami_graystone) – complete badass on the road or on the track & of course the other VC girls (well I had to say them, didn’t I ?!). Jessie Gentry ( @jessiegentry ) of the Velvets, Joy Lewis ( @mouthfulofjoy) & the lovely Shelby Rossi ( @shelbyrossi) of Scarlet headers are a few more ladies I’m pretty desperate to have a rip around with stateside.
J: You also offer CBT training now, how did this begin? Where do the lessons run and how do people book in with you?
G: We originally put a post out on our Instagram offering anyone that wanted to give riding a go to get in touch. We just thought that if someone didn’t know a friend or a partner with a bike. Where they could just take them along to a supermarket car park to give it a go. Then how would they be able to start? The response was pretty huge. So we started teaching the very basics in some private land, nearby our workshop, to a few girls.
The next natural step was to hook up with a local training school to get them a CBT certification & get them on the road. A few of us did our tests with London Motorcycle Training & we thought they were great so we hooked up to do all female CBT days with discounted rates for everyone. A lot of the women that have been on the CBT days have made close friends with each other, riding together & going away on moto trips, so that’s pretty rad.
J: VC London now have an awesome fashion label too, how did VCC startup? How would you describe the VCC style?
G: Myself & Namin Cho (another of the VCs founders) originally met through work about 3 years ago. We have both been working as fashion designers for over 10 years. So as time went on, we started designing our own clothes for riding. We couldn’t find anything that we liked in terms of stuff to ride in.
About a year ago we started developing the VCC collection which is a fusion of moto inspired styles, gear with some safety features like our heavy cotton worker jacket (that comes with an option to have a full kevlar lining) to things like motocross style jerseys. We just couldn’t find styles that their arms were too long for us (mens sizes). Or, if they were made specifically for women they usually came with a big flower on them bike gear wise. Cool if you’re into that sort of thing, but it’s just not really us.
VCC is pretty London street wear inspired, easy to wear stuff that you can wear on or off a bike just as easily. Hopefully, its modern way to look at clothes with a hard wearing, functional angle. Meaning you don’t have compromise on your own style. We’re not trying to compete with moto safety brands with full armour. But just present another option that we felt was missing for riders like us. We actually have a lot of interest in VCC from some rad women who are into other scenes like skateboarding & riding bikes so I guess it’s quite organically going the way of a lifestyle brand which is pretty awesome!
J: Massive news – You are bringing Babes Ride Out to England. How did this come about and what does it involve? What are your hopes for the event?
G: Yes! We’re stoked!
We went out to The Babes Ride Out event last year in Joshua tree & had the most incredible time. We met some great new friends, rode in the desert, partied our arses off. When we got back to the UK we started talking about how great it would be to bring that type of event here to the UK. We started talking to the lovely Anya & Ashmore about it all & that’s when the idea to do Babes Ride Out the UK came up.
Its gonna be great to see women riders from all over the UK & internationally coming together to ride & hang in what we think is one of the most incredible places to ride in the UK. We’re hoping to bring people together & create the same welcoming, inclusive vibe to the event as we experienced in Joshua Tree last year, with some mind-blowing riding routes & of course one rad party at the end of it all!
J: Do you have an end aim or goal for the collective, what is your dream for VC London?
G: I think the main aim is to keep enjoying what we’re doing together. Hanging out, riding, doing events, launching our womens brand VCC & getting more people to give motorcycles a try, that will be as into as we are & for the long run! It’s all just about having a rad time – if people dig that then that’s cool. If not, it would still be the same for us here at The Shop just doing what we do.