Interview – Hugo Eccles, Untitled Motorcycles SF

In Interview by Abhi0 Comments

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As you may remember, last month I was on another episode of Jay Leno’s Garage to introduce Jay to Hugo Eccles. Hugo is the man behind Untitled Motorcycles SF – and more importantly, he’s really interesting! Come learn more about his story as he answers the usual Bike-urious questions!

Honestly, I don’t remember how I first met Hugo. The first time I mentioned him was in a post inquiring if anyone had a Ducati Scrambler that they wanted to have some custom work done to:

Ducati Scrambler - Right Side Untitled

That project ended up competing in the Custom Rumble contest and while it didn’t win, I thought it was fantastic. When I first saw images of the finished build, I thought I was just looking at CAD drawings. I saw it in person for the first time at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, and some of you hopefully saw it at Ducati Island during WSBK at Laguna Seca this last weekend – Ducati liked it so much they apparently kept it for an extra day so it could be shown off at the Pirelli event (which I’m super jealous I missed):

My point is simply that this bike is cool, and Hugo is cool, so I thought you might want to learn more about him and his story:

1.) How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
My Dad had a Suzuki 250cc when I was a kid and I think that’s what started my interest. He used to commute from the countryside, where I grew up, to London in his suit and tie under a one-piece waterproof coverall: very James Bond to my young mind. I got my first bike, a Yamaha TZR125, when I was 19 and I’ve been riding bikes ever since. I’ve ridden, and liked, all sorts of bikes throughout the years.

Yamaha TZR125 – photo from http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/yamaha/yamaha_tzr125%2087.htm

2.) What bikes do you currently own?
My daily driver is a 2006 Ducati Sport 1000 Mono that I bought new from a dealer in Dallas and rode back to New York City where I was living. At the time they were cheap as, unbelievably, no one wanted them.

Photo by Isabel Avellan

Photo by Isabel Avellan

I had the option to buy a LE version (#69/100) which, to this day, I regret not buying. My Ducati has relocated with me twice from New York to London and from London to San Francisco. I also ride the HyperScrambler prototype on a regular basis as that’s our test mule for the production versions.

3.) What’s your favorite piece of gear?
I’m a creature of habit so I have a few favourite things that I keep using. I’m a fan of Thorogood boots and mine are paired with the ‘Shifty’ boot protector by Acme Studios. For the past twelve years I’ve worn a wear a Belstaff Mojave jacket and either wear regular jeans or Dainese’s Kevlar-reinforced Wayne trousers. Helmet-wise I have an open-face Fulmer- they made the original Easy Rider helmet- and a full-face Bell Bullitt.

Photo from Bell – http://www.bellhelmets.com/powersports/helmets/bullitt-30

I wear either insulated Barbour gloves or Deus’ re-edition of the Harold’s Gripping Gloves depending on the weather. I have a Bell&Ross BR03-92 watch that, despite my best efforts, keeps on faithfully working.

4.) Assume for a moment that money is no object, and importation laws aren’t a problem. What’s the next bike you’d buy, and what would you do with it?
My taste is pretty eclectic so there’s not a particular style or genre I prefer over another. I do prefer working with air-cooled bikes as they’re mechanically simpler and generally easier to create a clean aesthetic with.

Photo from RC Rivera

Photo from RC Rivera

I’ve got a few upcoming projects that I’m really excited about: one is a 1975 Guzzi 850T that I’ve designed a custom hand-built alloy tank for that’s an homage to the LeMans. It has modern forks and updated suspension so it’s significantly lighter, and it’s more responsive thanks to a lightened flywheel and larger carbs. I’ve got a real soft spot for these Tonti-framed Moto Guzzis – they’re really the epitome of the cafe racer – so this project is pretty close to what I’d build for myself.

An example of a stock 850T3 – photo from Motorcycle Classics: http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/classic-italian-motorcycles/moto-guzzi-850-t3-zmbz14jfzbea.aspx

I’d also like to build myself an off-road bike: something like a modern desert sled or a tracker of some sort, probably based around a KTM or a Husqvarna. Something I could ride out to the middle of nowhere and disappear for a while.

I like my bikes to be daily-rideable so I try to produce customs that embody the best of both worlds: classic hand-built looks with the benefits of state-of-the art technology.

5.) What’s the most memorable motorcycle trip you’ve ever taken?
I’m originally from England so, being on the doorstep of Europe, I’ve had quite a few memorable Continental road trips through France and Italy and northwards through Austria and Germany. The southern half of France is beautiful, Italy is breathtaking – especially Sardinia – and Austria has some of the best kept roads: they’re like racetracks.

Photo from Adam Bennett/Lonely Planet Images

I’ve traveled around the USA – Texas to New York and trips through Pennsylvania and Connecticut – and, being in Northern California, we’re spoiled for great roads and beautiful destinations. Motos in Moab – via Bonneville, of course – is on the list for next year.

6.) Do you listen to music while riding? If not, why? If so, what are some of your favorite tunes to listen to while on the bike?
Nah, I’ve never really got into listening to music or even GPS whilst riding. Usually, my ‘GPS’ is notes written on tape stuck to the petrol tank. I prefer to be left to my own thoughts, listen to the engine, and lose myself in the experience.

7.) How did you get involved with Untitled Motorcycles, and what made you want to start UMC-SF in San Francisco?
Untitled Motorcycles is one of the few custom workshops that has a presence on both sides of the Atlantic which is really useful for sourcing difficult-to-find parts and specialised crafts. Adam Kay, who founded UMC-LON in 2010, and I originally met through a group of London motorcycling friends who we ending up founding the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club with. Adam and I worked together on the UMC-021 Raw which was hugely enjoyable so, when I was preparing to relocate to San Francisco we discussed ‘exporting’ Untitled Motorcycles to the USA and launching UMC-SF. We thought that our particular brand of rideable customs with European styling would appeal to the American market and that’s proved to be true.

Adam and Hugo

Adam and Hugo

8.) Tell us about your inspiration for the HyperScrambler.
The HyperScrambler originally came about because of a friend of mine, Jim MacLaughlin who runs Marin Speed Shop in California, suggested that we collaborate on an international Ducati dealer build-off competition based on the new Ducati Scrambler 800.

from http://www.scramblerforum.com/threads/ducati-scrambler-icon-photo-thread.1605/

from http://www.scramblerforum.com/threads/ducati-scrambler-icon-photo-thread.1605/

I liked the Scrambler, it’s a great versatile platform, and I thought there was an opportunity to do something unexpected. I began by stripping the bike down to its raw mechanics and through that process revealed the trellis frame. That style of frame is so characteristically ‘Ducati’ that I wanted to celebrate it by designing a petrol tank that sat on the frame rather than over it. The tapered tank subsequently dictated the seat design and the narrow vertical headlight layout. I installed a tubular single-sided swingarm that better complimented the tubular main frame and allowed the slung L-twin motor to be highlighted. The clear clutch cover is a nod to Ducati’s dry clutches of the past and the bright neon orange ‘Rosso Corsa’ is an exact match to Ducati’s MotoGP bikes. Overall, the HyperScrambler is about 20% lighter and 10% more powerful than stock.

Photo from RC Rivera

Photo from RC Rivera

9.) With all of your experience doing something many people dream of being able to achieve, what would you do differently if you were going to do it over again?
Hmm, that’s a tricky one. This definitely falls into the “you didn’t know it was ‘impossible’ until after you’d achieved it” category. I’m not sure anyone would advise putting a successful industrial design career aside to start building custom motorcycles but the success of UMC-SF and the HyperScrambler has far exceeded anything I could have either imagined or hoped for. My wife, Jessica, who probably knows me better than I know myself, was the one who encouraged me to take the leap and reminded me that life’s plenty long enough to have multiple careers.

Photo from Simone Mancini

Photo from Simone Mancini

I got into this business because I love motorcycles so the success we’ve had has been wonderful, and humbling. Creating one-off customs to commission is something we’ll always do, as it’s what drives innovation. It’s always been important to us to build useable bikes that can be ridden daily so maybe that’s what appeals to our customers and keeps the commissions coming in.

10.) What can we expect for the future of the HyperScrambler?
I’m an industrial designer by career, familiar with creating objects for production, so it was always my intention to produce multiples of the HyperScrambler: I’m more interested in selling many at an affordable price that just an expensive handful to a few. This seems to be the right route as we’ve already received orders. The HyperScrambler is offered in a range of Ducati-inspired colours referencing the long heritage of the marque and there will always be the option, if you want something bespoke, to specify different components, different finishes, or a unique colour scheme.

Photo by Erik Jutras

Photo by Erik Jutras

Like what Hugo had to say? Follow him and Untitled Motorcycles:
@hugoeccles
@untitledmotorcycles

Studio shots of the HyperScrambler courtesy of RC Rivera.

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