‘It’s not like other shows – it’s real’: Dropping the S-Bomb on the BBC’s Sunday night hit – The Speedshop

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There’s not much that can beat spending Sunday evening on the sofa in the company of great biking stories, as you try to ignore the inevitable arrival of another Monday.

And to make Sundays even better, the BBC have invested in a bike-laden engineering series called The Speedshop, during which Special Boat Service veteran, Titch Cormack, creates unlikely builds, tells emotionally-charged feelgood stories and had adventures we’d all love to experience.

The series is set at Poole’s S-Bomb Vintage Workshop which houses a workshop, café, bar and even hosts live music at weekends. The rustic – and intentionally rusty – venue is the brainchild of 47-year-old Titch, who wanted to fill his life with hobbies once he finished military service.

“I joined the Marines when I was 17 and a lot of my friends had motorcycles,” Titch says. “I’d never been allowed to have a motorbike because my parents said it was too dangerous… so I thought I’d do the safe thing and join the Royal Marines instead.”

Titch Cormack with Toby

Titch passed his bike test while in the Marines and loved ploughing around on an old Suzuki GSF600. “I started racing off-road. I did motocross and enduro for the Royal Marines team, then got poached onto the road racing team and raced in 600s ThunderSport which took me towards the end of my career with the military.

“But the experience taught me to fix my own bikes and engines as I was never formally taught how to do it. I just worked it out and had a couple of really good friends who would help me out, let me tinker and fix stuff.

“I thought if I can make a living doing what I do at weekends, then I’ll do it… hence this place.”

After leaving the military in 2016, Titch took three months off to put his feet up, but his gut was still telling him to open a café and workshop.

Titch Cormack behind the bar at S-Bomb

“The inspiration came from the States. There were loads of these cool motorcycle workshops with cafés and bars. Our counterparts, the US SEAL teams, had their own and they were wicked places to hang out.

“We didn’t have anything like that,” he said. “So I wanted to try to do something similar.”

On the hunt for a venue, Titch struggled to find anything that served his vision until he was pointed to the harbour-side location by a friend.

“This place was absolutely derelict. Big holes in the roof and everything. It was an old shellfish processing plant. It was pretty bad, but I thought it was a brilliant space.”

The workshop part of the S-Bomb in Poole

With cheap rent and a lot to do, Titch thought he’d revamp the space in six weeks, but that quickly spiralled out to eight months. He found a cast iron window, fetched doors out of skips and built all the structures inside. Now there’s a workshop, storeroom, toilet, crash pad as well as a café and bar and is open to the public at weekends.

“Gradually people warmed to it. What was really cool was when my mum came down after I spent eight months building, and she was like: ‘Are you not going to paint all this? It’s all rusty?’

“I was like ‘mum; it’s meant to be rusty’ – she didn’t have a clue! She thought I’d built Starbucks or something. It took her a couple of days, but then she got it in the end,” Titch laughs.

The start of The Speedshop

Tools at the S-Bomb in Poole

Titch was focused on building custom bikes and keeping the café open. But in the background an old friend called Gaz Humphries met BBC producer Grant Wardrop while filming in America, and Grant’s interest was piqued when he saw a video of Titch and the team on social media.

“They sent me a message and asked if I’d be interested in a chat when they got back to the UK,” recalls Titch, “and I said, ‘let’s give it a go!’

“We made a 10-minute film as a little taster, then they wanted to do a pilot on the back of that.”

The pilot episode featured a bike build for Chris Dugan, an amputee soldier, which was then ridden over the Alps.

Titch's old race suits from his time in the Marines

“Chris has now got a ride with the True Heroes race team, so he’s currently training up with the guys and I think next season he’s going to make his debut. He was in a real low place when I was chatting to him initially,” reflects Titch.

“He’d just lost the leg and was not having a great time. He was a good kid to do something for. The show lifted him quite a lot and that was really the main intention of it all. Off the back of that he’s in a really good space now – it’s a massive success story.”

The excitement from the pilot ebbed away as lockdown put a halt to proceedings and Titch didn’t hear from the BBC for a year – but then came the commission to do a series.

Titch in the S-Bomb in Poole

“I think that whole process took three to four years,” Titch says. “But we eventually got there, and the first three episodes have gone out!”

The series has six episodes with the first being dedicated to Toby Gutteridge.

Behind the first season

Saffron interviewed Titch at the S-Bomb

Episode one of The Speedshop saw a bespoke sidecar created for Toby, an ex-SAS soldier who became paralysed and needs a ventilator after being shot in the neck. But the project wasn’t just for the TV show. Toby and Titch had been talking about the project before the show was on the cards.

“We had chatted about how to get Tobes out on a bike. The biggest hurdle we had was getting permissions from the ventilator manufacturer to say it can be done,” says Titch.

“No one wants to be liable,” explains Toby. “Their automatic answer was ‘no’.”

Titch takes Saffron for a spin

“But we then had the weight of the TV show and the BBC behind us, and it began to change,” says Titch. “Although it wasn’t easy, even then.” The NHS Southampton respiratory centre also rallied behind the project. After the manufacturer finally agreed, a statement had to be read verbatim on the show, but it was a small price to pay to achieve their goal.

“Now it’s been done once, anybody who is in Tobe’s situation and wants to do it, can do it.”

The sidecar outfit had to have a roll cage, ventilator and race seat; spacious access was needed and the team even fitted the exhaust of the Royal Enfield Interceptor to the opposite side of the bike. It was then painted by Deb Nelson to make it look like a World War Two bomber with amazingly convincing results.

Saffron speaks to Toby

But not everything went smoothly with the build. A faulty neutral switch took 24 hours to find and sort out, fibreglass had to be fixed after some of the cuts went wrong and long nights became part of the routine.

“We’d said after the pilot that we couldn’t do the lengths of overnights that we did,” says Titch. “We did 72 hours straight through on the pilot and got to the point where we were two steps forward, one step back because we were making mistakes, we were that tired. We were just trying to get the bike ready to deliver to Chris.

“There was a lass who worked on Gas Monkey who said that they never do overnighters, even if they say they do! I think that’s the thing that sets us aside from other build shows,” Titch says, “it’s real.”

‘This one’s personal’

Titch Cormack outside the S-Bomb in Poole

The episode airing on Sunday, April 10 is very close to Titch’s heart, as he divulged over a brew.

“Episode four is very personal to me because I got the opportunity to follow what my grandfather did. He was my inspiration to join the Marines and join the forces in the first place,” explains Titch.

“He was with 45 Commando during World War Two and landed at Sword Beach on D-day. So, I’ve built a bike specifically to go and do the same trip he did. I even have his map from D-day that he drew on himself. He marked their route and I wanted to follow it as closely as I could.

“For me it was a fantastic journey and there is a moment at the end where I was trying to find a location and I found it,” he teased. “It was very cool.”

So what’s next?

The S-Bomb in Poole

Since getting his name and face on television, Titch has been approached to do several things on the box. “There’s plenty in the pipeline!” he beams.

Although the BBC haven’t yet told Titch whether there is going to be a season two for The Speedshop, he has already planned out a series in his head.

“We’ve emphasised to them that we really could have do with having an idea soon so we could do all the prep work needed! We want to do quite a few events with the focus of doing things that everybody can do. I want to do all the little local events like I do in episode five,” Titch says. “I love it.”

The Speedshop: BBC considering full series for custom bike build show

First published 23 January 2020 by Ben Clarke

The Speedshop founder and show host Titch Cormack

The Speedshop could be in line to get a full series if viewer feedback and iPlayer performance are good enough. The show followed custom bike builder, Titch Cormack as he made an adapted off-roader for Parachute Regiment soldier and amputee, Chris.

The one-off show aired on Sunday, January 12 and was enjoyed by MCN readers who let us know in their droves what they thought.

“This needs to be made into a series, not just one programme,” said Facebook user Simon Milner, while Stan Matthews said, “Well done the BBC, great programme, more of the same please.”

“The BBC are analysing the views and audience feedback etc. and will base their decision to commission a series on that. We hope to hear soon,“ the show’s producer, Grant Wardrop told MCN.

So, if you enjoyed the show, make sure you get as many people as possible to watch it on iPlayer and spread the word. Let’s get more bikes on the telly!

Ex-Special Forces custom bike builder gets BBC show

First published: 04 January 2020 by Ben Clarke

A new BBC 2 TV programme follows custom bike builder, Titch Cormack, as he attempts to create an off-roader with a difference. The bike is for his customer Chris, a Parachute Regiment soldier who recently had his right leg amputated.

Chris wants to use the bike to cross the Alps between France and Italy off-road, a trip Titch will try and help to make happen drawing on his 10 years of experience as a mobility expert in the Special Forces.

Titch sets about modifying a Honda FX650 Vigor to suit Chris’s needs with the help of his team; Billy, a mechanic and ex-Tank Regiment Commander, who suffered life changing injuries following an IED explosion in Afghanistan and Martin, a paint and fibreglass specialist.

Ex-Special Forces mobility expert turned custom builder Titch Cormack

The build runs into plenty of problems long before the team get to the Alps, something they need to do before the snow hits.

“For Chris, it’s more than just a motorcycle, it facilitates him getting back to his old self,” says Titch. “It’s a big thing for him and I think that the guys realise that and that’s why they’ve put in the effort.”

The show is called The Speedshop and will air on Sunday, January 12 at 8pm on BBC 2.