The French word for Scotland – Ecosse – seems a somewhat odd name for a small-volume motorcycle manufacturer from the United States, but there is more to the name than meets the eye.
Ecurie Ecosse was a privateer race team from Scotland that won the grueling 24 Hour of Le Mans against the factory teams and almost all odds in 1956, and again with first and second places in 1957. (Coincidentally, the winning 1956 Ecurie Ecosse D-Type Jaguar is up for auction in August this year and is expected to fetch a record price for a Jaguar.)
It was the spirit of the privateer team however, that inspired Donald Atchison to adopt the Ecosse Moto Works name for the motorcycle company he founded in Denver, Colorado, in 2001.
Atchison, a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and mechanical engineer, had spent years travelling for work as the business development manager for a manufacturing firm, sketching ideas for the perfect motorcycle in departure lounges and on flights along the way.
Later, while enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Colorado Boulder, Atchison went back to his sketches and considered developing the bike as a project for his university course, but the idea evolved into another concept: an exclusive motorcycle boutique that included rare high-end furnishings, lighting, apparel, timepieces and motorcycle accessories.
Eventually though, despite the success of the business, frustration with the manufacturers and distributors and the general state of the motorcycle market at the time led Atchison to revisit his plan, and Ecosse was born.
Its first project – aptly called The Heretic – came about after three prototypes had been built and tested, including feedback from an ex-AMA Superbike Champion test rider.
Befitting Atchinson’s engineering background, the Heretic was far more than just an assemblage of off-the-shelf parts. Before any metal was cut, the bike was designed and thoroughly tested using three-dimensional modeling software and Finite Element Analysis. The ergonomics were determined after a lengthy design process that entailed several different body types and load differentials to ensure maximum comfort for leg position, shifting, seat height and reach.
The best materials were chosen including aerospace-grade aluminum and carbon fibre for their strength-to-weight ratios, and 4130 chrome-moly for the frame for its high fatigue limit. And as much as possible was fabricated in-house, including tooling and pouring urethane seals, vibration-damping supports and chain guides; designing and machining bolts; machining the sprockets; and cutting, bending and TIG welding the intricate frame.
The end result was a limited run of 100 customer motorcycles, with no two exactly the same, thanks to the range of options chosen by the buyers.
After that came the Iconoclast. With some of the Heretic’s unique engineering, and more hand-built American V-Twin power from the enlarged 2.0-litre engine, this machine was even more exclusive, with only 11 examples being made.
And now Ecosse offers the Titanium series.
More than just a name, titanium is the material used for the frame, the beautifully welded and hand-polished tubes of which are used for routing engine oil, aiding in its cooling.
And it may well need cooling. In the top-of-the-line Founder’s Edition, the thumping 45-degree fuel-injected V-Twin displaces 2,150cc, and with the aid of an Ecosse supercharger with intercooler delivers more than 200hp and 271Nm at the wheel, according to the factory.
Burnouts could well be the order of the day.
The engine is courtesy of G Squared Motorsports, and is a twin-cam pushrod design, with cylinders machined from billet and stress-relieved and a pressed assembly crankshaft, all assembled by hand, blueprinted and dynamically balanced for smooth operation.
The gearbox is a six-speed close ratio unit, though with this much torque that many gears seems like overkill. Top is a final overdrive, however. The frame, swingarm, sub-frame and exhaust are all in hand-crafted titanium (the latter even includes titanium baffles in the silencer and ceramic coating in the headers), while any bodywork is hand-laid carbon fibre. The fuel tank is carbon fibre with Kevlar and has a 15.9-litre capacity, so hardly designed for long-range touring.
But then the Titanium is hardly a touring machine. The front suspension consists of fully adjustable Öhlins MotoGP-grade TTX Gas forks, and the rake can be set at anywhere between 25 and 29 degrees, depending on rider preference. The clear-coated carbon fibre front wheel rotates around a titanium front axle. At the rear there’s another carbon-fibre wheel and Öhlins fully-adjustable TTX shock along with ride height adjustment.
Comfort is not forgotten either. The seat pads are gel technology and made according to customer requirements; there are 12 available footpeg positions, again depending on buyer preference; and even the titanium sidestand is customised according to the seat height.
Then again, when customers are willing to fork out around US$300,000 for a motorcycle (in the case of the Titanium Founder’s Edition) they probably expect a degree of customisation. It’s a testament to Atchison’s original idea that Ecosse has continued production for 15 years – clearly there are enough customers in this part of the market with money to spend on something they see as truly unique.
Obviously there’s not much of a Scottish or French connection with the Ecosse beyond the name, but a small garage taking on the establishment is a familiar story, particularly for fans of Le Mans history. Arguably the old ‘shoving a large American engine into a chassis that handles’ has echoes of a different Le Mans legend, one that took the name of a snake that isn’t native to the US either, but the spirit is definitely there.
Ecosse Titanium Founder’s Edition
Engine: 2,150cc 45-degree supercharged V-twin
Power/torque: More than 200bhp/271Nm
Dry weight: 199kg