Magnesium, Super-Materials and the State of the Superbike

$300,000 for a motorcycle? That’s the price tag for Ecosse Founder’s Edition FE TiXX, from Ecosse Moto Works, Inc. (U.S.) where 15 artisans craft exclusive cycles like the TiXX  that’s fashioned with a hand-brushed titanium chassis, and a 2.1-liter fuel-injected engine that cranks out 200 hp.  And this 15-year-old firm isn’t the only one producing low volume, high performance, absolutely unique and stunning, state-of-the-art motorcycles, also known as superbike, (that are still road-legal) from sometimes exotic raw materials (like ‘raw aluminum’ that needs to be parked in a heated garage to stave off corrosion).  Serious, well-moneyed bikers are driving the market for luxury machines that set them apart from the crowd. 

“We build premium, luxury motorcycles for distinctive individuals,” explains Matt Chambers, CEO/Chairman of the Board at Confederate Motors, Inc. (Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.), known as “America’s rebel motorcycle culture” and maker of the P51 Combat Fighter (from $125,000). “The type of client who buys one of our bikes is almost invariably a self-made person,” he says. “These are heirloom-quality machines that are designed to last forever–but they are not at all conventional in design and each one takes 400 to 500 hours of work to complete. . .as soon as someone rides one they bond with it and understand the bike in context. And that’s the key to their desirability,” he adds.

Other major global brands are busy delivering these premium vehicles to the entertainers, athletes, and anyone else willing to pay six figures for two-wheeled exclusivity. Honda’s £150,000 (about US$188,000) RC213V-S (of the noted raw aluminum frame) has a variety of parts made from lightweight magnesium, titanium and carbon fiber that keep its weight down to 170kg, and a 1,000cc V-4 engine that produces 157 hp for a top speed of 200 mph. The RC213V-S is hand-built (one per day), with an expected production run of 250.

Italy’s Bologna-based Ducati celebrated its 90th production year with a 500-unit limited edition of the 1299 Panigale. The £23,995 “Anniversario” boasts 205hp, state-of-the-art electronics and a customizing kit that can take it from street to track. A few years back, Ducati’s 500 worldwide copies of the ultra-light version of its 1199 Superleggera featured a magnesium frame and wheels made from magnesium, a carbon-fiber sub-frame and fairing panels, and a titanium exhaust system. The combination lightened the bike by 11.5kg compared to the standard version, and added £27,450 to the price, up to £54,000. Alan Jones, Press and Racing Manager at Ducati UK Limited, says, “We have found that people tend to ride them rather than keep them as investments–yet that doesn’t seem to prevent the bikes from holding their price or even rising in value.”  For example, the company’s Desmosedici V4 Moto GP replica cost £40,000 when launched in 2009–now used ones are offered for up to £60,000.”

Other Italian makers are starring entrants in the “dream bike” field as well.  NCR, also Bolognese, says each of its handcrafted bikes is unique (production is available “only on request and fully customizable.”) You can add your name to NCR’s waiting list for its Ducati-engined models (the carbon fiber-based NCR M16, from €250,000).  Specialty maker Vyrus (Coriano, Italy) offers a hub-centre-steered Vyrus 987 C3 4VV, with a 211 bhp supercharged 1198cc 1098R Ducati engine, that weighs just 158 kg and costs EUR 65,000 (US$91,700).

Spirit Motorcycles Ltd. (Kent, England) is teaming with race tuner Tony Scott and his team at T3 Racing for a limited series of handmade motorcycles designed for both road and racing. Priced from £37,999 to £64,999, depending on specs.

According to Don Atchison (co-founder with his wife, Wendy, of Ecosse Moto Works), his artisans are “work-for-hire” specialists in particular aspects of the bikes’ construction, from expert welders to carbon-fiber mavens to his own area of expertise–design, born of his lifelong obsession with European sports cars and jet airplanes.

Wendy Atchison, reflecting the perspective of other makers of bespoke bikes says, “The people who buy our bikes appreciate the fact that they are high-quality, luxury items made from exotic materials.” “The owners often regard them as an investment that offers the extra enjoyment of being a road-going motorcycle. . .Our clients are not always rich or household names,” she adds. “In fact, the people who are often the most satisfying to build for are the ones who have saved up (for an Ecosse) for years, finally take delivery–and then proceed to ride the hell out of it.”

This article was originally published on and is republished with author’s permission.

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