The Motorcycle Portraits is a project by photographer/filmmaker David Goldman, who travels the world making documentaries, and takes time out to interview interesting people in the motorcycle scene, wherever he might be.  The result is a single exemplary photo, a geolocation of his subject, and a transcribed interview.  The audio of his interviews can be found on The Motorcycle Portraits website.

The following Motorcycle Portraits session is with Hugo Eccles, a motorcycle designer who’s work has won many design awards and been included in several museum exhibits, including at our current Petersen Museum exhibit, Electric Revolutionaries.  His XP Zero – a collaboration with Zero Motorcycles – has been celebrated around the world for its futuristic embrace of new tech.  You can follow his Instagram here.

The Motorcycle Portraits of Hugo Eccles, taken in Alameda Point on April 13, 2021. [David Goldmann]

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Hugo Eccles, the co-founder and design director of Untitled Motorcycles in San Francisco. I’m originally from England, near Oxford, and have been in the Bay Area for the past seven years.

How did you first get interested in motorcycles?

My first introduction to motorcycles was probably my dad: he was an amateur racer. We had lots of cars – a Sunbeam Tiger when I was a kid – and he had a Suzuki 250 that he would commute from the English countryside where we lived into London, with a suit and tie under a cover.   All very sort of James Bond to my mind.  And I think that probably seeded it. And then I was into cars,  I’m sort of a car guy really, I like cars a lot and but I’ve always ridden motorcycles, and have ridden for about 25 years. But at the same time, I’ve been a professional industrial designer, and about seven years ago when I moved to San Francisco, I decided to combine motorcycling and design, to design motorcycles.

Hugo Eccles in his San Francisco design workshop, Untitled Motorcycles. [Simone Mancini]

Tell me a story that could not have happened without motorcycles in your life:

So I think one of the greatest experiences was a couple of years ago, a friend and I went on a road trip across from England across France and Italy, in the middle of the summer. I mean, it was just beautiful, you know, through the vineyards of France, over the mountains through Monaco, down the length of Italy. Unfortunately, it was a heatwave that summer and was just unimaginably hot. I mean, the heat coming off the road was like, opening the door of an oven. And then at some point, my Ducati decided to give up the ghost and the ECU kind of died. And we limped it to a motor repair guy in the back streets of in the middle of nowhere, some beautiful little town. He was very kindly, it was a Saturday, and I think we were really lucky that he was even there.  He was welcoming and repaired the bike for us, and took us out to lunch. And it was fantastic. You know, we never met him before and never met him since but those are the kind of experiences you get with motorcycles.  People stop, they help you. You know, the Ducati world. There were a couple of occasions like that with the Ducati; another when it decided not to start in the morning, and there was some guy traveling to work in his little van. He said ‘wait here’, went home, came back with his van full of tools, fixed it for us on the side of the road. We tried to thank him in our terrible French.

The XP Zero by Hugo Eccles, a collaboration with Zero Motorcycles. [Aaron Brimhall]

What do motorcycles mean to you?

Motorcycling very much kind of dominates my life nowadays. You know, I design motorcycles, I ride motorcycles. I’ve met most of my friends because of motorcycles. Yeah, it’s been it’s been great, really. I met a whole group of friends in San Francisco because I got invited to go on a ride. My wife jokes that she can’t leave me alone for five seconds, because she comes back and I’ve befriended someone, usually by saying ‘nice bike’, and that just kicks the conversation off.  That’s what’s really nice about bikes: if someone likes bikes, they’re already kind of halfway, it’s really a kind of opening to talk to strangers.



David Goldman is photographer and filmmaker who has traveled the world on projects documenting human trafficking, maternal health and marginalized people. He also interviews and photographs motorcyclists in this travels for his series The Motorcycle Portraits. You can follow his website here, his IG here, and his FB here. Explore all his stories for The Vintagent here.