Words and photos by Matt, from the Classic Bike Guide Magazine, October 2023 issue.

Hitchcox Motorcycles kindly invited us to watch them hand-make a range of exhausts for the Hinkley Triumph retro range, but they are just as happy to make one-offs for your classic

Art is an expansive word. Most admire painting as art, while others see landscaping or photography as an art form, too. For many in our world, or who have tried it, TIG welding to the level you see illustrated around these words is clearly an art form, especially when contained within bespoke exhausts, with a multitude of angles, on different planes, that must be the same length if the part is to fit, performance is to be untouched or even bettered, with a sound that stirs the owner at a level they want. To me, as a package, this is art.

Tom Hitchcox wouldn’t necessarily agree with the above piffle, but he does take enormous pride in what Hitchcox Motorcycles creates – beautiful exhaust systems. The idea started from Tom’s years of experience “making exhausts for Formula 1 teams.” These teams have almost endless money to chase hundredths of a second against their rivals, and even the smallest imperfection or deviation from design could cost them dearly. While a million miles away from a Street Twin system, that pedigree does give an idea of the quality of work we are looking at, and when it says it ‘fits straight on your bike’, it fits straight on.

A one-off system for a Triumph Scrambler special from the left

And the same system from the back, waiting for the heat shield

Pie-crust method of creating bends – time-consuming but gorgeous

Angled join is balance pipe, with a ‘fish mouth’ shape perfectly cut

As a biker, Tom fancied a set of drag pipes for his Triumph, which came out nicely. These were seen by someone else, who wanted some too. With Covid-19 having taken a toll on overtime and a little one on the way, the idea of a sideline to his day job looked realistic. Along with the kind cooperation of his understanding boss, he was able to start making exhausts out of hours, from stainless steel and even titanium, for a growing number of Triumph models.

Things have accelerated quickly, with Tom now working full-time for himself alongside two others, and the order book is healthy. With the custom scene still popular and those riders wanting to personalise their bikes with something that they are happy will fit as it says it will, Hitchcox is keeping busy. Drag pipes seem to be the most popular, both silenced and unsilenced, with more traditional, sports-style systems for the Thruxton and Speed Twin – which include hand-made silencers. Full systems and systems that must have lambda sensor plugs welded in, feature crossover pipes to keep the exhaust balance as it should be, and after-catalytic converter systems are available to keep all customers happy.

Very clever sound dynamics from internal baffle

Material, manufacture and cost

There are two materials available, 304 stainless steel and titanium. Stainless systems are usually made in 1 ¾in diameter with 1.6mm thickness, with silencers thinner; stainless steel will generally be 1.2mm and the stronger titanium as thin as 0.9mm thickness. They are very different in price, with Ti being a lot more expensive, so the lightweight advantage of titanium has to be appreciated, like for racing, as most custom will be perfectly happy with a stainless system and aside from the material, the cost of building an exhaust is the same. Both materials are TIG welded. There are other ways, but TIG allows the most control over quality of finish and longevity. To make sure of no impurities in the weld, the pipes are ‘purged’, by plugging the pipes, then filling the inside with an inert gas like Argon, so no impurities are brought into the weld. With precise preparation, there should be little need for filler wire, so all those pie-crust bends are fusion welding, with both parts carefully fused together. This takes years to learn, with setting the welder, cleaning, and preparing the material and even the position of the welder’s arms and hands essential to get a nice weld. 

As I’m taking some photos, I watch Tom weld a Triumph Bobber drag pipe together.

Tom mounts piece so he can work around it fluidly, and tube is for Argon to keep inside of weld pure

No robots here!

Triumph Bobber has swaged section for closer fitting

He works around the weld seamlessly, the jig helping to keep it in place. Then he uses a little filler rod to attach the bracket. The concentration, even for this experienced welder, is palpable.

As someone who has endlessly tried his hand at TIG welding, I may have more admiration than many, but you would be hard-pressed not to see this concentration and finished product as art.  

Helping with this is usually a jig for the more common systems, which while it looks very rudimentary, made from bits of steel box section and brackets, it is essential for a good fit to the bike, making sure all the bends and curves are correct and any brackets are in the right place.  

Coatings are also an option, with Zircotec or Ceracote. Ceracote is cheaper and easier, but marks more easily. Zircotec is applied with a flame and impregnates the material, so much more resistant and even lowers the temperature of the exhaust – but much more expensive!

Bends can be made with the pie-crust method, which looks incredible but takes time, or can be made with mandrel bends, which are quicker, easier, but less cool!

Brackets must be exactly right – that’s what annoys customers

These skills just take time to perfect

A jig – looks rudimentary, but the finished article ends up exact

Another jig, complete with purging fitting to keep welds clean


This is an extremely important element of people’s exhaust-buying decision. If not careful, you can make a bike louder but it’ll sound like a tractor. So Hitchcox has looked at the way its customers’ bikes can sound as good as they look, and Tom has done a lot of research into acoustics. It is one of the few companies to use baffle cores even in its straight-through pipes that have a raised-triangle pattern in a spiral rotation, which doesn’t quieten the level that most are looking for, but makes it a nicer sound, especially on overrun. For the bikes that are more likely to rev, like the Speed Twin and Thruxton, there are silencers with more standard Acccusta-fil and wire wool packing.  And if that’s not enough, matching Db-killers that fit straight in are available.  

Classic one-offs

Though one-off jobs take a lot of working out, with the bike being brought to the workshop to make sure everything fits, there is still a lot of things we already know. Tom explains: “If the customers require the pie-crust method of creating bends (where straight pipe is cut at a certain angle, then welded together to create the bend you wish), we can work out how many pieces and therefore how much welding is needed, therefore how much time to an extent, which also helps give an accurate costing. 

“One man came in with a Norton-Metisse. It was immaculate, because his son was a customer too and he had liked the work on that system. He wanted a two-into-one in stainless for ‘his baby’, ending in a reverse mega ‘silencer’. He was a perfectionist, so we were thrilled when we saw how happy he was. 

Thruxton exhausts are beautiful, light, and just the right blend of modern and classic styling

Best way to keep an exhaust clean?

The answer is not what most wanted – it’s to get on your hands and knees with some rag and clean your exhaust with acetone once you’ve been out and it’s cooled! WD40 and such like will help look after it though the winter, but get it off before you use the bike to prevent it burning on and changing the colour.

Small company, big goal

Tom is proud of what the company done in a short time and is confident in what it would like: “We wanted to create a business that gives a great customer experience. From the satisfaction of a perfect product, to the fitting instructions, through to the back-up if they need. And currently on the website, all our reviews are five stars. But it takes time. To build our range, we currently wait for a model we haven’t worked on to come in, then make an exhaust for it that pleases the customer, that we’re happy with, and we think will please others, make a jig and log the time and materials used, any specialist parts like end caps or brackets so we can make more, easier. The ultimate goal is to become an Akrapovic of the UK (Akrapovic is one of, if not the largest, aftermarket exhaust company in the world, based in Slovenia – so large it has its own titanium foundry). It’s a goal, but it would be nice to get to the stage where we have a few more people, but the quality has to stay where it is, and that will never change. We want to stay meticulous. For now, we’d like to get accomplished in the Triumph aftermarket world and take it from there.”

From the laser-etched ‘Hitchcox Motorcycles’ to the impeccable welding, from the brackets that line up where they should to the crisp sound, I feel that the quiet, thoughtful Tom should be pleased with what he and the team are producing – it’s beautiful. Is it art? I think so. 
October 10, 2023 — Ellie Hitchcox