This YAMAHA XS650 was a very fun build. I wanted to make a simple looking Bobber that also stood out from the crowed. The fuel tank comes from a 1960's Honda CL77 Scrambler that i modified to mount to the stock xs650 frome. The tank badges were made through a fun process of acid etching magnesium and sign paint. I incorporated a few wood componants here and there in an attempt to beautify some typically ordinary aspects. The handlebars were made from scratch, as well as the stainless steel exhaust pipes and various other parts and brackets such as the repurposed headlight mounts. The front drum brake comes from the 1971 xs650, modded to fit and refurbished. The sleak and beautifully hand made tail light was fabricated by the talented James Crowe of www.crowemetalco.com
I found this 1966 Honda CB77 Superhawk very sad and incredibly neglected, rotting and partially dismantled on Whidby Island in Washington state. This is a very simple build for the most part. These bikes are quite beautiful and in my opinion look great stock from the factory. But of course i had to change a few things. I made the cafe seat from a spare CB77 fuel tank to continue the tank seam that runs down its middle. i felt that this helped to center the bike and give it a much more balanced feel. I absolutely love the CB77 's stock early speedometer, so i simply tore it apart cleaned, rebuilt it and set the odometer back to zero. The Frame was painted with a glossy black single stage paint. All of the silver on the bike is actually raw oiled steel. I fully rebuilt the engine, boring two sizes up and crossing the transmission gearing for a smaller shifting ratio. This bike is perfect for cruising around town and jetting off on small trips.
Why I build
Escape Machine #002
"The CB350 known as ESC Machine #002. With the CB stripped to just the frame Hill set about creating the sort of bare bones that would be the foundation for his automotive art. But he isn’t just a brilliant designer, this bike is built by his hands and having seen the build photos he can weld with the best of them. The original subframe was removed and Hill created a new one from scratch, bending his own pipe, sleeving and TIG welding for the ultimate in fit and finish. Most people who build a twin shock bike keep the standard shock mounts. Not Hill, he used round bar to create his own custom items that were designed to make sure they not only look good but keep the geometry spot on! Not wanting to leave it there the swingarm is extended 3 inches and the lower shock mounts modified to retain the correct leverage angle.
The CB350 tank is a popular swap for not only other Honda’s but many Café Racer builds but Hill wasn’t interested in just being one of the crowd. So he’s taken an old XL250 tank and cut the tunnel out of it, welding in a CB350 tunnel for a perfect fit to the frame. It’s this extra level of detail that makes spending time studying this build such a reward with Hill going the extra mile on every component. He’s even laid down the paint work himself with the white and green acrylic with “Escape Collective” graphics a brilliant throwback to customs of old. Keeping the rustic craftsman like theme going is the leather seat that Hill made from scratch stitching it together on an old industrial sewing machine.
When it comes to suspension on old Honda’s the status quo seems to be either keep the standard forks or go all out using modern USD items. Hill has gone a different route, first the forks were completely disassembled and rebuilt to ensure perfect operation before new covers were machined from scratch that not only look amazing, they give the appearance of what an USD fork might have looked like in the 70’s. Out back the new shock mounts play host to a new set of adjustable shocks with progressive rate springs for vastly improved handling. Steering duties fall to a set of Tracker bars that Hill bent up himself to fit the design of the bike and his personal riding requirements. These are held to the top triple tree with conical-shaped risers that Hill machined up on the Escape Collective lathe. With a clear love of hands on craftsmanship Hill was back at the tools to create more pieces for the build, off the shelf bolt-on components just wouldn’t do it justice. The classically styled front and rear fenders were hand-made with sheet metal hammers and an English wheel. The rear fender holds the tail light that is one of the few components Hill didn’t make, but his buddy James Crowe from West America came to the party with just the right item. The twin headlight setup is more commonly seen on Street Fighters but using Model T Ford lenses it’s a perfect fit and they sit in custom-made housings. The leather wrapped grips with brass ends are matched to a set of footpegs that have been spun on the lathe from hexagonal solid brass. Powering this little Honda is the classic CB350 engine that made it such a hit when it was released, smooth, reliable and peak power at 10500rpm were a rare combination in the 1970’s and holds up with similar sized engines today. To extract a few extra ponies over the 36hp from the factory the fitment of Mikuni twin carbs is a popular choice for very good reason. Extracting the gases are a stunning set of stainless steel two-into-one pipes that Hill, naturally, made himself and finished off with a single short reverse cone muffler in true Tracker style. To keep the look of the 70’s alive the drum brakes have been retained, although thoroughly cleaned up and are laced to 1 inch over stock 19 inch rims wrapped in some period correct rubber. The final product is more than just a well fabricated motorcycle crafted by the hands of a talented young man whose metal work abilities are incredible for a professional Illustrator; This is a machine with a purpose “Let’s be honest, the thought of escaping the day job with a sketchy blanket strapped to your front end and hitting the trail with nothing but a bottle of whiskey and some bacon strips is good motivation to build a tracker style bike” Enthuses Hill. The Escape Collective name says it all, a group of creative friends who find solace in the build process and a physical and mental getaway with the finished product."
New tools customising old bikes. If you had to be blunt about it, that’s probably how you’d surmise the current custom bike scene. You need only to look at the old guard with their thinly veiled cries denigrating the beards and beanies to see that a ‘new tool’ generation has taken over from the old one. But today’s bike flips that equation on its coiffured head. With tools that date back to New York in the 1880s and a bike that’s barely out of diapers, today’s Honda XR650L from Hill Moto, still ticks all the cool custom boxes. Hill Hudson was in a philosophical mood when we caught up with him.“I’ve spent the last four years questioning the meaning of life under failing fluorescent lights, in the back of a cinderblock industrial building with no windows. I had no idea I would end up here, working as a metal fabricator or building motorcycles for clients. But when I was in art school a handful of years ago, my Brooklynite Grandfather passed away leaving behind an odd but inspiring legacy.”
That side of Hill’s family owned and operated a lace paper doily factory that his great great granddad started in New York in the late 1800’s. Sounds like a movie script already. “When it closed down, my older brother loaded up what remained of the factory and drove it from New York to the west coast. Destiny stepped in, and we both took to the calling to keep our grandfathers tools in motion, hence my slogan “Handmade with a Dead Man’s Tools.”
Then we get down to brass tacks about Hill’s new build. “This go around, I’ve built up an Vintage Dirtbike 2014 Honda XR650L. The client wanted the bike to be as practical as possible, while still keeping the doors open for me to run free with the custom aspects. I essentially wanted to build a motorbike that was a simple mix of modern and vintage.” I think I’m seeing a theme here…
Unusually for a private build, the client purchased the bike right off of the showroom floor and wheeled it into Hill’s shop after putting just 500 miles on it. “The first thing I did was to strip it down and remove the subframe; I wanted to lower the height a little and smooth out the bike’s defining lines.”
Hill fabbed up the exhaust and muffler from stainless and had some fun tucking it up under the seat, which is something he’s apparently been waiting to do for a while. “I was worried how the bike might sound because I’ve never made a muffler before, but it sounds really nice actually and it’s not too far from the stock muffler sound.” As is par for the course with any decent builder, Hill wanted to make everything harder for himself so he wasted an entire month building a bespoke pneumatic planishing hammer from scratch just to make the fenders. “I was fixing to build the tank too, but then one day I put that Honda CB77 tank on the frame and I just couldn’t take it off. I loved how it looked. “But I had the most fun, and spent the most time, on the tail-end of the bike. I figured that’s the view everyone has when you rip past them, so why not make it a good one, right? I offset the machined taillight to balance out the opposing machined brass exhaust ring, which were both in turn sandwiched between those amazing little Motogadget blinkers and a brass grab handle. It was fun, yes. But it was also definitely the hardest part of the build.” “It’s hard to say what I like best about the finished bike, mainly because I’ve been staring at it for over a year now. But I did have some compliments come my way at this year’s The 1 Moto Show in Portland. The bike actually won the ‘Best Dirt Bike in show’ award. I was taken aback, because I’ve never won anything before let alone an award for a bike I’ve built.” Hill says that, at the end of the day, he put way too many hours into the Honda for how simple it looks. But as the saying goes, “You have to work incredibly hard to make something complex look simple.” “I guess that was sort of the goal,” Hill concludes. “To keep the bike practical, rideable and not overbuilt.” Goal scored, we’d say.