Untitled Motorcycles SF’s Scrambler Is Hardly Anonymous

The UMC-038 Ducati Scrambler harvests eyeballs.

Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 studio 3/4 view
Untitled Motorcycles SF’s Ducati Hyper Scrambler is light, simple, and very functional.RC Rivera

The world of custom cars and motorcycles is typically the playground of enthusiastic amateurs, but a few ringers join the game, bringing a different skill set to bear on their creations. Hugo Eccles of Untitled Motorcycles SF is one such pro, who shifted careers from industrial design (ID) to the Alt.Custom scene in 2013, after joining forces with Adam Kay of Untitled Motorcycles in London, and moving to San Francisco two years ago. He’d worked 20 years on product development with companies like IDEO (inventor of the ‘mouse’) and Conran (the biggest European design store Americans have never heard of), but found 3D modeling and computer prototyping was taking the hands-on fun out of his job. “It seemed like a time to take stock, as ID grew to be more about marketing,” said Eccles. “In a weird way I do a lot more design now with Untitled; there’s great satisfaction in the comingling of physical and mental skills.”

Hugo Eccles riding the UMC-038
The Hyper Scrambler isn't just for show. It was designed to function and be ridden.Erik Jutras

While interest in Untitled’s builds has grown via a custom-hungry Internet, their recent entry in the ‘Custom Rumble’ Ducati Scrambler build off garnered more attention than any prior work. The Rumbler was a custom Ducati competition, with six territories having popular-vote contests on dealer-sponsored builds (UMC worked with Marin Speed Shop). The UMC-038 “Hyper Scrambler” came in second in the North American contest, which suits Eccles fine: “The winner goes to World Ducati Week in Italy, and in a way it’s a blessing that we didn’t win, as our bike would be handed to Ducati for 13 months. Instead we’ve been able to show it around, in Portland and at the Handbuilt Show in Austin.” While the UMC-038 was featured on all the usual Alt.Custom websites, Eccles was most gratified by the attention from the non-motorcycle press, via features on Designboom, Playboy, GQ Italia, etc. The reason for the attention is obvious; the Hyper Scrambler’s razor-slim lines, outrageous color scheme, and aggressive proportions are real eye-catchers. Further scrutiny is equally rewarding, as the quality of Eccles’ execution, and his choices for important details like lighting and controls, give the impression UMC-038 is as functional as it is radical.

Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 fuel tank details
The fuel tank’s shape was dictated by the frame’s form.RC Rivera
Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 headlights details
Vertical LED headlights are slim and powerful.RC Rivera

The attention from the global design press is the kind of crossover only a few Alt.Custom shops have managed, like Bandit9 and Walt Siegl. What they share is innovation in form, well-balanced proportions, excellent execution, and available reproductions. While Eccles hasn’t yet indulged in multiples, he’s had plenty of requests for replicas of UMC-038; will there be more razor-slim Hyper Scramblers in Untitled’s future? “I’m already working on that, but I think each will have to be unique, at least in its color scheme.” Which begs the question; this machine’s chassis is an outrageous shade of fluorescent red–what’s that story? “That neon orange is Ducati’s ‘Rossa Corsa,’ as on its MotoGP bikes; I borrowed a panel from a $64,000 Superleggera to get the color exactly right! There’s a wonderful array of historic Ducati colors I’m considering for production Hyper Scrambler frames–Superlight yellow, 851 white, 916 gold, Paul Smart green. I like that ‘Rosso Corsa’ orange implies a story, I think of it as an imaginary meeting of Evel Knievel and the Ducati color palette of the 70s/80s.

Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 right grip details
Super trick brake and clutch levers have LED turn indicators built into their tips, while brake/clutch master cylinders are fed by minimalist fluid reservoir tubes.RC Rivera
Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 cockpit details
A super clean, yet functional cockpit includes a tiny LCD screen.RC Rivera

But texture is really important, too; designing for a 10-foot view is different than hands-on, you don’t want to cheap out on the things you touch all the time. A lot of builds fall down on that aspect, with horrible plastic switches; you should be thinking ‘I really like how that switch clicks.’ Obsession with quality is a bit of my downfall, it means my work takes time to produce.”

Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 frame details
The frame is painted in Ducati’s Rosso Corsa Orange, the same color as Ducati’s MotoGP bikes and Panigale Superleggera.RC Rivera
Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 taillights details
Thin LED taillights are incorporated into the frame.RC Rivera

A close inspection of the Hyper Scrambler reveals that attention to detail; as outrageous as the shape seems, in quality the bike feels like a production model. Or as Eccles puts it, “a factory bike from an alternative universe. I think there’s a niche between production and absurd I think we can fill.” Success for a very small shop is numbered in the tens, while large manufacturers can’t afford to build far-out machines, no matter how cool, as they don’t sell enough to justify the development costs. For Harley-Davidson and it’s amazing XLCR, selling 3000 in 1977/’78 was a total failure–but for Ducati that would have been a success, and is half the number of Mike Hailwood Replicas sold in seven years. A few more Hyper Scramblers would certainly be cool to see on the road, and from a pure performance standpoint, shedding 85 lbs makes this a completely different animal from the standard Scrambler. “It’s one-pound lighter than a 300cc Vespa!”

Untitled Motorcycles SF UMC-038 studio side view
If there is any question as to where the Hyper Scrambler carries its weight, this photo should answer it. Low!RC Rivera

Eccles’ process for the Hyper Scrambler started with the trellis chassis, which he feels is core to a Ducati’s identity. “The frame dictated the shape of the tank, and I had an idea for a seat which continued the lines, a narrow, arrow-like shape to sit on. That led to the vertical truck LED spotlights for headlights. I like leaving a lot of air around the fork; there’s usually a panel blocking the architecture. I’m attracted to elegant narrow forms, like drag bikes and board trackers, super slim. Just the amount of bike you need, stripped right down.” Amen.

Hugo Eccles of Untitled Motorcycles SF and UMC-038 custom Ducati
Designer Hugo Eccles left his industrial design job to join forces with London-based Untitled Motorcycles. He set up shop in San Francisco where he’s been building bikes since 2013.Erik Jutras

It’s been gratifying for this former professional designer to reap accolades in the traditional design industry for such untraditional work. It’s a full circle; you can’t take the professional out of the biker. “I’ve realized I’m getting back to the core of what design is, and haven’t given up design at all. Leaving the industry has allowed me to re-center on what’s essential in design, and I love going home mentally and physically tired. It makes beer taste great.”