Ecosse FE 01 Race Review | Handcrafted Inner Satisfaction

Ecosse First Edition 01 Race Motorcycle Test

Don Atchison at Ecosse has cleverly developed his exquisitely crafted Heretic motorcycle into something of a rich man’s toy and, with a price point starting in excess of $100,000, the Ecosse owners club has a rather exclusive membership list.

One must wonder — is the Heretic merely a dilettante’s plaything, or a real motorcycle for real riders?

The FE (Founder’s Edition) model is Atchison’s personal ride of the moment; it signals the end of the Heretic line and commemorates Ecosse’s 10-year anniversary. Produced in two versions — the original Heretic street model and a race (track) version — our test bike is a Founder’s Edition (FE 01 Race), with the “Race” designation within the engraved VIN on a hard-anodized aluminum plate on the head tube.

Atchison states flatly that he “wanted to set it up as a no-holds barred, ready to rocket, serious moto — no noise restrictions, no turn signals, no mirrors.”

Of course, “race” can mean drag race, road race, whatever; “It just doesn’t mean street,” he says. The street version essentially looks the same, but with the accoutrements to keep the authorities happy.

As the designated Race FE, this is not the famous supercharged, Öhlins gas-forked, “world’s-most-expensive-motorcycle” version of the Heretic. Notwithstanding, the specifications of this particular limited edition machine, if not quite breathtaking, are still very impressive.

Looking closely at the Heretic is quite an experience in itself; every piece, every detail is carefully and exquisitely crafted from billet in some cases, titanium and various metals in others; the different hues, finishes, and textures work beautifully together as a whole.

Gilles Tooling fully adjustable clip-ons and the Ecosse machined-billet triple-tree and twin-headlight system are topped with a gold Öhlins rotary steering damper. Öhlins special-for-Ecosse black-finish forks are complemented by an Öhlins TTX36 shock with special anodizing and black powdercoated spring at the rear.

The handcrafted titanium exhaust twists its way along the motor and exits high in the back. The exhaust does create some heat, so I’m not sure I would want to cruise Beverly Hills in the summer.

However, on the open road the bark from the machined-billet mufflers (muffler exit design echoes headlight intakes) is intoxicating — and the heat gets left behind in the breeze. Ecosse is working with Yoshimura R&D of America on a carbon street muffler that will be as much as 20 dB quieter without any loss in power.

Other touches include a titanium kick- stand, special nickel coating for corrosion resistance on chassis components, carbon-fiber wheels, Spider Peak grips, Goodridge racing oil lines, high-friction clutch plates, and a cable-operated high-torque drag racing clutch spring that doesn’t require as much of a solid wrist to operate as I was expecting. Incidentally, a hydraulic clutch option exists for those who want most of the effort taken out of the clutch pull.

First, the FE needed setting up, which meant a prerequisite trip to Camarillo, Calif., for an appointment with John Ethell and his Jett Tuning dyno. The motor is a 45-degree twin displacing some 2.1 liters and containing huge aluminum slugs inside gorgeous barrels, with special two- tone black finish.

The FE uses a flat-slide 48mm Mikuni carb with a velocity stack. After several runs, Ethell raised the needle two clicks to richen the mixture slightly and reduce a dip in the torque curve. The tweaks worked handily and, although the peak horsepower number of 118 is unimpressive, the peak torque of 145 ft/lbs is the precise opposite.

Think about that for a moment — the torque output of Triumph’s astonishing Rocket III in a package that weighs approximately half. If you’ve never had the pleasure of strapping yourself onto a motor with that level of thrust, then you should probably make it your business to take a ride down that particular avenue.

The six-speed gearbox isn’t entirely superfluous, but the sheer grunt in fourth and fit gears brings a something-eating grin to my face. It becomes increasingly hard to resist just twisting the throttle and humiliating every other vehicle on the road — just because you can. When you do shift, the lever has a nice short throw and ratios change relatively quietly and smoothly; clutchless up shifts are no problem at all.

Although this FE is prepped for track days with super-stiff suspension, EBC track-grade brake pads, and an exhaust note that would rouse Rip Van Winkle, we stuck a manufacturer plate on the bike and took it for a ride through remote mountain roads where we would unlikely be disturbed or, likewise, do much disturbing.

Riding the Heretic is truly as visceral an experience as one can possibly imagine. Each part of the machine, I felt to my very core; it is impossible to ride the Ecosse without feeling completely connected to it on every level. It is such a gargantuan personality, the bike cannot help but take over and completely dominate; it is a fundamental experience that I have never before felt.

Just the starting sequence — which involves clicking the pressure releases, followed by a careful sequence of events before pushing the large start button — is indicative of the ritual needed to establish a relationship with this machine.

Once underway, the motor throbs strongly and persistently, but it is not unpleasant, and of course it produces an enormous shove of power that builds rapidly enough that I run out of road long before I run out of acceleration.

The Heretic is quite comfortable to ride for typical canyon rides. It is committed, certainly, but it is not so radical that discomfort spoils the trip. Considering the super-stiff racetrack setup, the suspension was pleasantly compliant and road bumps were absorbed with ease. Naturally, the weight of the FE keeps the bike planted in the corners, yet the handling is neutral and the bike tracks equally beautifully through fast or slow corners.

The seriously overkill brake calipers worked quite poorly at first and required a manly grip at the lever to bring the whole plot to a stop. Atchison had informed me that he initially installed and bedded-in a full metal sintered Ferodo ST compound pad, but a drag-racing friend who had taken a spin had suggested to him that they were a bit powerful at the end of the 1/4-mile, so they had been switched out for some Ferodo P organics.

Clearly these pads hadn’t been bedded-in at all, though by the end of the test the brakes had improved to an acceptable level. If you are in the market for an Ecosse, I recommend you ask Atchison to stick with the original Ferodo STs, and monster braking performance should be resumed.

The suspension was set up for the customer, who apparently weighs around 210 pounds with all gear and corners aggressively cornering on smooth pave- ment (we rode the bike with his permission before delivery). Öhlins USA does a great job of taking Atchison’s recommended settings and then building suspension perfect for a customer’s weight and riding preference.

Personalizing the ride for each customer is of paramount importance to Ecosse. A great deal of attention to performance, detail, ergonomics, and comfort is paid to customize and fit each customer to his Ecosse.

For example, ISR levers are adjustable for reach and desired braking power. Atchison states with conviction, “We will listen to any request a customer puts in front of us.” There are limits, however. “Ultimately, we decided that we don’t want to compromise performance, comfort, or safety.”

Every part of this machine demands time, knowledge, and large amounts of respect. If you are up to the challenge, and not afraid to connect with this Heretic, then the reward is an intangible but overwhelming sense of inner satisfaction.

I can entirely see why people are prepared to pay the asking price for an Ecosse Heretic Founder’s Edition FE 01 Race. It is quite unlike anything else out there, and delivers a fully unique experience. It’s just you, the Ecosse, and the road—nothing else matters.

Riding Style:

  • Helmet Arai RX-Q Deco
  • Jacket: Dainese Tattoo YZK
  • Gloves Cortech Vice 2.0
  • Jeans: Kushitani Edwin Zylon
  • Boots: Toschi Motard

Story from the September/October issue of Ultimate MotorCycling Magazine. For a digital version, click here. For subscription services, click here.