What would a 2020 bike from a parallel reality where gas bikes never existed look like? According to Hugo Eccles of Untitled Motorcycles, it would look something like his Zero XP. When I first entered the basement of Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum (the new home of The One Motorcycle Show), I was dazzled by the hundreds of incredibly cool custom motorcycles on display, but when my eyes finally focused on one subject, it was the XP that really caught my attention.
(Full Disclosure: Indian Motorcycles invited me to ride its new FTR1200 Rally in rainy cold Portland, as well as attend the 11th running of The One Show. It also put me up in a posh hotel and kept me full of coffee and food.)
I’ve been saying for quite some time that electric motorcycles are the perfect opportunity for an aesthetic shift in what a motorcycle is supposed to look like. Without engines and radiators and fuel tanks, it’s possible to strip a bike back to its basic component parts and start fresh.
That’s exactly what Hugo has done with this thing, and it’s exactly why I kept returning to this bike to stare and ogle as it cycled through its lighting sequence on the show floor.
There isn’t anything entirely revolutionary about this Zero-powered machine from a mechanical point of view and that was done on purpose. For one thing, it shows how good the Zero SR/F components are from the get go. For another, it allows the bike to be visually exciting without centering the focus on some exotic material or unorthodox suspension setup. In this case, all of the mechanicals from the electric motor, battery pack, and suspension to the brake callipers and touch screen are cribbed directly from the stock Zero.
Hugo even invented a little bit of a story for this bike. It portrays an alternate universe where electricity was the primary power source for motorcycles. Eccles envisioned that this bike was created within that reality as something of a track-only thing that someone then converted to a street setup. It’s got the rakish profile of a sportbike with clip-ons and upside-down forks. It even wears slick tires and ditches its kickstand for a track-side rear wheel stand. Electric race bike for the street? I can feel it in my bones!
After I left the show I gave Hugo a call to ask him about the design. As it turns out, he’s just as much a motorcycle geek as you or I, just with a much better eye for design. Here are a selection of quotes from Hugo to illustrate that point.
I asked Hugo why he decided to go so hard with turbofan wheels for this bike. Really, there could only be one answer.
“I fucking love turbofan wheels. To be completely honest, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use a version of turbofan wheels on a bike.”
When I mentioned that I appreciated this bike’s ability to look like a potential blueprint for the future of motorcycle design, he was quick to correct me.
“The XP is not intended to be a future bike. When I first got the project from Zero, it made me think of the late 1800s when gasoline motorcycles first appeared. And I feel like there are a lot of parallels. We’re at this moment where there aren’t really any rules yet.”
Who needs rules?
And finally, I asked how such an off-the-wall design managed to look so clean.
“An electric bike has about one fifth of the components [of a gasoline-powered bike] and that fact kind of lends itself to a visual simplicity as well. You don’t need a gas tank, there’s no exhaust pipe.”
From an execution standpoint, this bike’s design has done exactly what it set out to do. Even using the same old motorcycle layout that we’re so familiar with today, you can tear up the rule book and completely start over. Perhaps if the motorcycle tree of evolution had branched off toward electric in the early 1900s, bikes would look more like this today.