Time really does fly. It’s already been three years since we lost one of our founder members to the bright lights, open spaces and sea breeze of California. Hugo Eccles left London to setup a San Francisco branch of Untitled Motorcycles, and he’s not looked back. His obsessive attention to detail and career in product design has not only lead to some fantastic builds, and therefore happy customers, but he’s also reached the heady heights of hanging out with Jay Leno, appearing on TV and award nominations.
This hasn’t gone to Hugo’s head though, UMC-SF still accept commissions for tried and tested staples of the custom scene. UMC-029 ‘Kalifornia’ is a BMW R100 from 1983 that was exhibited at the One Motorcycle Show a couple of weeks ago, and here are the details if you couldn’t make it to Portland.
Hugo started with a decent donor bike but at this level a builder can’t take chances on decades old machinery, even if it was hewn from billets of reliability by fastidious Bavarians. The R100 was completely and utterly stripped before a rigorous de-tabbing and tidying of the frame and swingarm could begin.
UMC have developed their own bolt-on subframe kit, designed to be plug-and-play for customers wanting to convert their own bike, and fitted one here. Complete with integrated Custom Dynamics LED tail light and tiny but searingly bright Motogadget M-blaze turn signals. The original wiring harness has of course been scrapped, replaced by a lightweight and minimal loom controlled by the clever M-unit box of tricks. Another UMC off-the-shelf upgrade is their underslung stainless steel battery box, filled with a decent sized gel battery with enough welly to feed the greedy boxer engine, kept in good shape by an EnDuraLast charging system.
The engine cases have been vapour blasted to make the most of the natural finish of cast aluminium, complimented by stainless steel intake pipes running to a drilled airbox cover from an earlier model, now fed by Dellorto PHM-38 carbs. Internally, pistons, pushrods and pushrod tubes are new, with stainless mufflers by Cone Engineering in charge of the soundtrack. Earlier valve covers further belie the donor’s 80s heritage while retro looking but bang-up-to-date braided stainless steel HT leads by Magnum Shielding are further testament to Hugo’s insistence on only using premium parts.
The mismatched wheels are of course intentional, “I’ve always liked the tension of having a cast wheel paired with a spoked wheel,” says Eccles. The original 19″ snowflake cast front wheel has been replaced by a rear 18″ spoked rim and modified two-ribbed hub. The rear wheel was liberated from a R65LS, along with a vapour blasted drive shaft housing. Hugo struggled to find a tyre that met his demanding criteria so his UMC counterpart Adam Kay shipped a pair of Michelin Sirac 4.1 x 18s from London to San Fran.
Up front the brakes were upgraded to deep dish floating EBC discs, gripped by overhauled but stock Brembo calipers and Nissin master cylinder setup. The fork legs themselves have received the same blasting and clear coat treatment as the rest of the bike’s alloy surfaces but inside seals are all new and custom nylon spacers stiffen the ride. A beautifully finished cast alloy top yoke stands in for the the horribly cheap looking standard unit.
The cockpit is of course as minimal as Hugo could get away with. Wiring runs inside Renthal Ultra Lows to Posh switch gear and Motogadget’s elegant all-in-one speedo nestles in the traditional position inside UMC’s own headlight bucket. A Momo throttle and natural gum coloured Tommaselli grips complete the spartan setup. And the ignition? That’s taken care of by Motogadgets RFID keyless system, the transponder is sewn into the owners glove – the ultimate faff free motorcycle.
The centre stand is shorter than stock and the hair-trigger side stand BMW owners will be familiar with was replaced by a sturdier and better looking Brown’s version. Practicality extends to the seating too, a proper two-up length saddle with a wedge of comfort, upholstered in tan hide by Acker Leather Works.
The considered utilitarianism of Hugo’s approach may have only piqued interest from officionardos and the most diligent of customisers had it not been for the paint scheme being so obviously BMW. Local outfit Motojrefinish blasted, brushed and clearcoated the fuel tank before laying down the colours. Hugo agonised over the white. “Early in the design process, my client produced a photograph of a beautiful Porsche 356 in ‘Ivory’ with a tan interior. That image became a key inspiration for the Kalifornia’s colour scheme”. Searching for the correct tone proved tricky, with Porsches codes varying from warm cream to pale grey but eventually he found an actual 356 and matched the colour by eye. BMW’s familiar M-Sport stripes compliment the freshness of the white and a gloss black strip along the base ties-in the subframe, all crowned by brushed UMC badges.
Barely an hour goes by without a custom airhead popping up somewhere on social media but that doesn’t deter new customers from commissioning their dream bike. As long as people like Hugo and UMC are delivering effectively as-new motorcycles with modern reliability combined with discerning looks and practicality, the hills will be alive with the sound of boxer twins for a while longer.
Images Sean ‘Speedy’ Donahue