I first saw the Ryca bike kits on ads in other bike blogs and custom sites, and wondered how easy they were to build yourself, and how good they’d look in the flesh. I wasn’t expecting to find out so soon though, when a couple of days after Xmas one rode into the garage where I was picking up my car, so I stopped to say hello, and found yet another like-minded biker-soul living a stone’s throw from me in North London…
Dave was happy to share his experiences and back story, so here it all is, in his own words:
I have always been a petrol head. In fact I would go so far to say that the smell of a piping hot two stroke is way more erotic than the smell of a statuesque bottle blonde who’s been chasing me round the house for 40 minutes.
Back in the 80’s I used to ride motocross and trials bikes, I then got obsessed by building interesting bicycles, even building metal robots for my kids,
…and last year once I had hit my midlife crisis, came full circle again and decided to get an interesting motorcycle.
I had seen a really nice Enfield riding round Tokyo in 2002 and had the look burned into my retina for later. (It was just like this)
Anyway, as it rattled around in the back of my mind I began to add to it and pervert the look, adding a little bit more wallop and filth re: Steve McQueen in the Great Escape (still one of my favourite films)
In 2009 I began doing some serious research into creating my perfect bike. It had to be a single. It had to be reliable-ish, and it had to be unique-ish.
I found some great looking bikes on the Deus Ex Machina site, but they all looked very expensive, and a little bit too polished and clean. Besides that, buying and shipping the thing over would be astronomical.
Over several months I screen grabbed literally hundreds of café racers, rat bikes, bobbers and flat trackers and stumbled upon RYCA motors totally by mistake.
The CS1 was perfect, it was a single, it was Japanese, I had never seen anything like it, and I would get to build it myself.
I got myself on the list, and began a three-month wait. I then started looking around for a decent donor bike, and eventually found a crappy ’89 Suzuki Savage on Ebay that cost me £1200. I stripped the bike down with the help of the short movies on the RYCA Youtube page.
I wanted to avoid buying heavies, like new rear suspension, new rear rim, tyres and all that sort of shit, because I could source it this side of the water much cheaper, and avoid postage costs.
I then began emailing Ryan, (the RY in RYCA) and he helpfully gave me all the parts details I needed and I got new rear suspension and shorter front springs from Alchemy bikes, I got some nice classic Firestones from Northhants tyres and the rear hub chucked onto a larger rim by Hagon.
I ordered everything else I needed from Ryan, removed the tank, stripped it and send it over to California for cutting, and did as much as I could to the donor bike while I waited for my name to get to the front of the kit queue, and then the long wait for the box of goodies to arrive.
One fine day, a large 42lb box arrived, with my freshly cut tank, all the fibreglass bits and a whole heap of bits and pieces, and I stayed up pottering in my shed until 3am for three days on the trot.
Casey, the CA in RYCA is an ex-Nasa engineer and the thing that is totally fascinating about building the CS1 is the ingenious cannibalisation and clever re-use of different parts, the gear lever is re-used as a pedal to activate the decompression, the side stand spring now holds it all in place.
The other thing that was brilliant was the simplicity of strip down and build. I don’t know shit about mechanics and engines, but the films on the Youtube channel are really easy to follow, and pretty soon you get that warm feeling when the bike actually begins to look like it does on the website, like the first time you cook a recipe from a Jamie Oliver book and it looks just like it does in the picture. Once built, I got Keith at Psycho bikes in Kings Cross to sort the electrics and give it the all clear.
I got a couple of different parts to the stock Savage stuff, I went for a larger headlamp, with cowling and a small pop up rear light, (both from Dime City Cycles) and a totally mental through pipe that I had to change after about a week of setting off alarms and a bit too much attention from Mr Plod.
The bike handles like shit. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s unbelievably antisocial. It does 50 miles to the tankful, I conks out in the rain, and it’s not at all fast. However, it’s fucking awesome.
I think the bike looks superb, and it’s nice to see how “faults” become “character” when you combine them with a bit of laid-back wisdom…