Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Q&A: Willie Knoll of Clutch Motorcycles - 1976 Yamaha XS650

1976 Yamaha XS650
I got the chance to shoot Willie Knoll of Clutch Motorcycles some questions about his background, his newest build, and his take on building custom bikes. His new Yamaha XS650 is a real stunner, as was his previous BMW R75/7, so I was interested to hear about his perspective. Read on, and check out the Yamaha's spec list at the end.

- Can you explain your background and what it was that lead to motorcycle customization?

I am a young American guy cruising the streets of Paris. As a younger kid I was always on 2 wheels. Bicycles where my thing, specifically BMX. I was always grinding or modifying my bike in some sort of way. After my few years of riding pro I went on to film and photography. I was a fashion photographer up until about 2 years ago now. I never enjoyed the industry but life was good and it enabled me to put money aside to create Clutch. I never really went to school just a few little internships in welding, machining and engineering when I was younger. I am what you can call a self made man! Haha.  

- What was it that drove/sparked the overall design of this build?

I don’t really know, I just go with the flow…  

- Where do you usually pull your inspiration from?

I don't really look around much on what is going on with other builders. But minimalist, aggressive, industrial, well hand crafted style and parts are things I always have in mind.

- What is your process like?

I start by sitting and staring at the bike to get a basic idea on how I want it to look and go from there. I don't use designs or stuff like that. I just got it in my head.

- How much time did you spend on this build?

On and off, the bike took 2 months to build.

- What led you to using the XS650 as the foundation?

The owner came to me not really knowing what base to use. He then asked me which bike I would like to work on and since I really like the XS650, we went for it. That's how it works. Some people usually come with no idea, so I help them. Sometimes I push in one direction if I have something special in mind for a certain bike.

- What are you most proud of in this build?

I am really proud of the nice raw finish on the frame. I think it turned out really well. The general lines of the bike work well too. The details and all the little fabricated parts that no one will ever see or notice. My 2 key words are Lines and Details. That's how I want my work to stand out. 

- What skills do you wish to acquire or develop further next?

Metal working in general. I am a perfectionist so for me its never good enough...

  • Complete frame re work
  • Modified tank
  • Custom gas cap
  • Mini homemade battery box
  • Engine rebuild and painted black
  • Lowered and machined fork -6cm
  • Lowered rear end of the frame -4cm
  • Homemade mud guards
  • Relaced Akron rims with black spokes and stainless nipples
  • AVON MK2 Tires
  • Top tree machined for adjustment
  • Custom  stainless exhaust 
  • Homemade machined foot rests
  • Custom seat
  • "and so on… to many little bits and pieces have been made to name them all."