You've probably already heard of or seen Kat and her red CB175 as it has made several notable rounds on the interwebs. I seized an opportunity to interview her, and had all my assumptions of awesome confirmed. Both Kat and "Moxxi" are amazing, but you probably already knew that. If you need a reminder, read on!
- Photo by @branchphoto -
Standard starter question: What's something you want everyone to know about you, but they may not?
I’ve heard all of the cat jokes, and none of them are funny.
Your Instagram username is "gutterskump," how in the world did you come up with that?
It’s my birth name. No, it’s just a dumb, made-up word from high school that I can’t even fully remember the story behind. I made it my Playstation Network username years ago, and it has sort of become my online alias ever since. I used @katstovall for my professional Instagram account, so @gutterskump became my personal account. Super exciting, I know.
You credit your husband with sparking your passion for vintage bikes. How did all that go down and how much time do you get to ride together?
Before I met my husband, Sean, I hadn’t encountered a vintage motorcycle. I’d only ever seen big, hulking Harley cruisers or crotch rockets on the street — neither of which I cared for. So, when I saw Sean’s cafe racer, I fell in love. It was just so much more unique, personal, and soulful than any bike I had seen before. It was as much art as it was machine. I knew I had to build my own. Nowadays, Sean and I ride together practically every day as long as it isn’t raining and both of our bikes are running, even if it’s just to grab a quick bite to eat. We’ve been together for nearly six years now, and our mutual love of riding motorcycles has been predominant in our relationship for most of that time.
You ride a Honda CB175; how did you choose that for a build and what's special about it to you?
I thought I needed something small and lightweight to start out on since I was new to riding, so I was hunting for anything smaller than a 350 on Craigslist. Honestly, I just came across a posting for a 1972 CB175, saw that it was cheap, it ran, and it was nearby, and that was all I needed. I drove to pick it up two days later. I kind of lucked out, because it turns out the CB175 is kind of awesome. It’s lightweight, yet it can stay toe-to-toe with every 350 I’ve ridden with.
Who was involved in building "Moxxi" and what's the backstory on the bike?
I picked Moxxi up in March of 2013 in Oklahoma City, where it had been sitting in a carport for a while. The underside of the gas tank had been patched with duct tape and painted over, but it was it great shape otherwise. So I brought it back to Fayetteville, switched out the gas tank, slapped some clubmans and a cafe seat on it, painted it army green, and got it running with Sean and his dad, Jan. Moxxi stayed like that for a while, because I really didn’t want to give up riding for the amount of time it would take to build it right. But, after a couple of years of riding it basically every day, a piston ring broke, so I decided I might as well take the whole thing apart and do a proper build. I built Moxxi alongside my father-in-law, Jan Sallings, over a span of 9 months for a total of about 400 hours. I designed the finished build, and Jan and I assembled it together, with Jan teaching me how to do literally everything and fabricating various parts for the build.
What are some of the key details about your CB175 that make the bike standout? What was the most challenging bit of the build?
I’m probably most proud of the modifications done to the backbone. It’s just a useless little detail that is constantly overlooked, but it was actually kind of challenging deciding how to best approach it without affecting the stability of the bike’s frame. The stock CB175 has a pretty ugly, boxy backbone and I think we were able to turn it into something pretty with a few simple holes and some perforated metal. We accented the holes in the backbone by adding in similar cutouts to the clutch cover and the front wheel hub, which I think has a subtle, yet strong effect on Moxxi’s overall look.
Honestly, the most challenging part for me was just learning to be patient. I went into the build expecting it to take a few months and for the build to go smoothly. Of course, that wasn’t how it happened. Things went wrong all the time, and it took longer than I had hoped. But, nine months after starting the build, I had a pretty sweet bike and a lot more patience and willpower that I had before.
A lot of folks struggle with the carburetors on small CBs, what is your current exhaust, intake and jetting setup?
I replaced the stock air boxes with cone filters, and replaced the stock exhaust pipes with custom straight pipes fabricated by my father-in-law, Jan. As for the carburetors, we had some difficulty getting Moxxi to run right after the oversized pistons had been installed. We put CB200 carburetors on it just out of curiosity, and it ended up running great, so my jetting setup is whatever the stock CB200 setup is.
Vintage motorcycles can be intimidating for many potential riders; what advice can you give someone considering an older bike?
I think a lot of people see a vintage bike and become enamored with how cool it is without really considering the insane amount of maintenance and repairs that it will take — I know I did. I’d say before you even entertain the idea of getting one, to be prepared for the number of times it will break down and the number of hours you’ll need to spend fixing it. BUT, it’s not rocket science. Vintage bikes are easier to work on than they seem. As long as you have the willpower and patience to put in all the hours of hard work it will take, you can make it happen. Even if you have no experience with working on a motorcycle, you can befriend someone that knows what they’re doing, and the internet has tons of resources at your disposal.
Overall, I’d say: Stay humble. Be patient. You got this.
Females are increasingly taking over the motorcycle scene, especially custom bikes. What changes to the bikes, style, gear, etc do you think need to be made to them, if any?
I think if new bikes were lowered just a couple of inches, they’d be more appealing to women. It’s hard to feel confident on a bike when you can barely reach the ground on your tiptoes. It’d also be nice to find a wider range of reasonably priced gear that isn’t pink or overly feminine.
Though, to me, the main issues reside within the motorcycle scene itself. It’s pretty off-putting when male riders react to a woman riding a motorcycle as if it’s some sort of a miracle. I get that there aren’t a ton of females relative to males within the scene, especially when it comes to building custom bikes, but it isn’t a great feeling to get off the bike that you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into just to be asked, “Did your husband build that for you?” Sounds cliche, but I have actually been asked that, or some variation of it, pretty frequently. I love the custom bike scene, but I can understand why some women might not want to get involved when it feels like you constantly have to prove yourself.
Do you have a favorite road to ride near you? What about it makes it great?
Not particularly. I kind of like to just explore all of the backroads here. Northwest Arkansas has a lot of windy backroads that cut through forests, run alongside lakes, etc. It’s really beautiful and serene.
Any plans for doing another bike?
I’m currently building a CB350 cafe racer with my husband for a friend. Then, I have a 1976 Yamaha XS750 in the garage that I’m eager to tear into. I probably won’t be able to start on it until after I graduate in December, but I’m hoping to have it finished in 2018.
What is your creative process; what inspires you? What can dig you out of a creative slump every time?
It’s always the most inspiring to me seeing other artists pumping out quality work. It’s important to maintain a community of creatives that I can surround myself with and admire. Just seeing the work that my peers are doing pushes me to always challenge myself.
There is a huge need for good illustrators right now with all the startup garages, shops and builders seeking to visually improve their brand. Do you currently work with any builders or shops? If someone wanted to contract you, are you available for that work?
I’m currently working on a custom website for Jan’s business, JMS Customs, and some design work for an event — Cafes & Coffee — that is being organized here in Fayetteville. I am available for work, and I would love to do more work for builders and shops. I can be contacted through the contact form on my website: www.katstovall.com.
You're located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. How's the bike culture there and overall vibe of the city? What's the best place to get a fish taco within 25 miles?
Fayetteville is one of the chillest cities I’ve ever known. There’s a good blend of people here, and there’s always something to do no matter what you’re into. It has a thriving and prominent art scene, and tons of beautiful trails and lakes are nearby. It also has a lot of curvy roads, which are great for riding.
At the end of September every year, Fayetteville hosts Bikes, Blues, & BBQ, which is one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the US. However, it doesn’t bring much of a vintage motorcycle presence with it. A local organization — the Ozark Vintage Motorcycle Association (OVMA) — puts on a vintage bike show during the event which draws in a decent number of old bikes, but it isn’t affiliated with BBB. The show had about 100 old bikes entered in it this year.
As for vintage bike culture, it’s pretty small at the moment, but it’s growing. There’s a decent amount of vintage motorcycle riders here, but much hasn’t been done to foster a community for them. I think there are some things in the works that will change that, though. Sean, a friend, and I are currently putting together a weekly event called Cafes & Coffee, where local vintage bike riders will meet up at a coffee shop every Saturday morning to meet other builders and riders, talk shop, and go on group rides. Also, Fayetteville is home to some truly talented builders. Two builders which have achieved recognition from Bike EXIF — JMS Customs and One Up Moto Garage — are located here. So, while the vintage bike culture here isn’t huge right now, I think it definitely has the potential to grow into something big.
Also, I hate fish tacos, so… I don’t know, the garbage? Con Quesos has the best tacos around, though.
If you had five mins on a soapbox, who would your audience be and what would you say?
Having grown up as a tomboy in the Bible belt, I’m partial to empowering young girls however I can. I’d want to tell them that they have no obligation to set aside their own interests for the sake of being “ladylike,” and that they should never doubt their own capabilities. It’s too easy to get sucked into the ideology that as a woman, you’re supposed to be this beautiful, delicate thing and you should stay away from anything that makes you look strong, capable, and independent. But it’s so much more fulfilling to pursue the things that truly interest you. Anyone that judges or doubts you isn’t worth your time anyway.
What can we all expect to see from you in 2018?
Well, I’ll be hunting for a job starting mid- to late December of this year, so hopefully I’ll be employed at one of the incredible design agencies in Northwest Arkansas by the start of 2018. And hopefully I’ll be entering my XS750 into some shows by the fall.
Cheers and thank you to Kat and her team of awesome people; your skill, time and craftsmanship do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Wonderful work! Thank you, Kat!
If you want to see more of Kat and Moxxi, you can follow her on Instagram at @gutterskump or find her professional page located here.
You can find Jan Sallings' Instagram here, and view all of the builds he has touched in some way. He has also been featured on Bike EXIF, which you can find and read here.
Many of the photos above were taken by Laurence Tan, whose Instagram can be found and enjoyed here.