Freedom is Out There, Hidden: A Second Interview with Hill Hudson of The Escape Collective

British Customs interviews Hill Hudson about The One Moto Show, starting a new build, and getting started in customs

Escape Collective motorcycle
Custom motorcycle from The Escape CollectiveBritish Customs

Hill Hudson is a herald of the New Heritage lifestyle. Hudson is a custom vintage motorcycle builder based out of Portland, OR, who works with the same tools his Brooklynite grandfather used in his machine shop established in 1886. Hudson is also a co-founder of The Escape Collective, an innovative group of builders and artists devoted to the adventure lifestyle by promoting motorcycle camping. He was invited by Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles to put his latest custom motorcycle on display at the 2016 One Moto Show in Portland, OR.

British Customs: What do you believe is the heart and soul of The One Moto Show?

Hill Hudson: At one point during the show some friends and I went across the street to a bar called the White Owl to get some food, and there was this huge line of people out front because they were patting everyone down. There were signs on the windows I had never seen there before stating “NO GANG PARAPHERNALIA.” I’ve never been patted down going to this bar either. When we got in I asked about why they were doing all that, and they answered that it was because of the motorcycle show down the street. I laughed because being a gang member wasn’t even an option for the people who were at the show. The people who go to The One Moto Show are just people who are passionate about the art form: they’re artists and builders and designers and a community of people who just want to learn and share. It’s like going to a continuing education class where every student got to bring and share their art. That’s why I wanted to go so badly. I just wanted to bring a bike and share it with everyone there.

BC: What does the motorcycle community mean to you?

HH: You don’t realize it even exists sometimes because we’re all stuck in our garages or at work waiting to get home so we can wrench, and you get stuck in your little bubble. You have Pipeburn and BikeEXIF and places where they feature bikes, but it isn’t until you get to the show in person with everyone else that you get to really appreciate the community. I feel so taken back by The Show every year because it’s so easy to get stuck in my bubble. The One Show makes me giddy: it’s so cool because there are all these fellow bike nerds there and we’re all just nerding out. On all the forums it’s just old guys tearing into young builders saying putting us down by saying, “You can’t even ride that bike to the grocery store without tearing your nuts off.” But the One Show is a positive environment that just makes you feel inspired. Everyone is just stoked to be there.

The Escape Collective poster
Vintage style posted for The Escape Machine from The Escape CollectiveBritish Customs

BC: What is your method to approaching a new build?

HH: I’m willing to bet that 85% of people say they do it fluidly and let it happen; most people will look at a bike and make a visual art board in their mind, or find their inspiration on the internet or in a magazine. I’m usually the same way. But lately I’ve had to draft art boards to get a plan together. I have to find color palettes and other custom bikes that inspire me. For my current client I had to put together a multi-page PDF to get an idea before I could sketch out a design. But actually realizing an idea is a completely different thing. Things will change. And that’s good. If you feel something is right, you should probably do it again until you know it’s right. No matter how much you plan from A to Z, something will always throw a curveball at you. And I’ve learned that if you feel like you need to ditch an idea, then you probably should. If you’re going through it and building it and your inner artist says, “Maybe we should do this instead,” you should probably listen to it.

BC: How hard do you think it is to take the first step towards customizing your own bike?

HH: I think it’s different for everyone. Someone emailed me recently with that exact same question, and my response was to find a cheap bike that’s common so it’s easy to find parts for it. Then find someone that knows anything about it and offer to sweep their floor in exchange for learning how to work on it. Find someone that knows about shaping metal or that knows how to build bikes and ask to learn from them. Find someone who will inspire you. It’s intimidating to jump into it, but anyone can do it.

Hill Hudson
The happy face of a man that's just finished a buildBritish Customs

BC: Where do you think is a good place to start for someone who wants to get into customizing a bike, but doesn’t know where to begin?

HH: Buy a bike and a manual, tear it down, and then figure out how to put it back together. For my first bike, I just searched “vintage Honda motorcycle” on Craigslist and found this rust bucket of a bike that someone was selling for a couple hundred dollars. I borrowed my mom’s Subaru Outback and didn’t tell anyone where I was going or what I was doing — I was 19 at the time. I went and checked it out and decided to buy it, so I laid it down flat in the back of the car, and when I turned around the owner looked so bummed out about that. I took it to this woodworker I was apprenticing under for college who rode an old BMW he had restored, and he told me to get a manual and read it from cover to cover. What I’ve learned is to be confident when you’re working on a bike, because whatever you’re going to do that bike with intention is probably going to make it 100 times better, because you’re going to make it safer and it’s going to look cool when you’re done.

For more information on British Customs, their bikes and parts, and interviews from other builders at The One Moto Show, visit British-Customs.com