Rua No 1
By James McCombe - 14 Apr 15
With a twinge in my back and a pair of feet resembling indiscriminate bags of meat found at the rear of the freezer, I sit at the computer a broken mess. Physically anyway, thanks to the incredible cacophony of bikes, people and gear that blurred past in the last 72 hours. But mentally I'm all there. My fingers, the willing agents to transfer the enthusiasm and ideas my mind struggles to contain following the Bike Shed Paris show. Fatigue breeds nostalgia and it was natural to think back to how much has changed and of the origins of the event. From a simple display of local machines in a couple of Shoreditch railway arches to the incredible surroundings of Carreau du Temple and an incredible international cast of thousands in just a mere two years. Surreal isn't quite the word to do it justice. So as to ease gently back into normality, this seemed like the perfect bike: "Rua No. 1". Rua Machine's first build, coming at us from all the way back in 2011 but finally having some photos to do it justice. It was the first build from the Portguese outfit to bear the official logo and still remains in the hands of co-founder Armando Fontes as his daily ride. A fashion designer and art director by day, Armando helms Rua with partners in crime Marco Mendes and Victor Rocha. The passion stems from his childhood and adolescence, fond memories of helping his father tinker with cars and bikes in the family repair shop. Avoiding the weight and complications of big a multi-cylinder machine, a middleweight Suzuki GS450E was the base for the build. The 1988 built machine was known to Armando, owned by a friend of the family, it had sat immobile in the back of a garage for some years. A few rust spots on the frame aside, the bike was in good condition, with a low mileage motor resting in the frame cradles. A bargain price was agreed, essential to the restrictive budget Armando had set out, and the bike was hauled back to the workshop. Years of ideas and sketches had to be carefully curated so as not to overload the simple build but the starting point was a tank swap and a thorough strip and clean. Four years ago, the Cafe Racer style was king; clipons and rear-sets reigned supreme. But Armando wanted something lithe and easy to steer through the bustling Lisbon streets and a tracker better suited the brief. The original tank was designed to work with side panels so an item from an older Kawasaki Z650 was drafted in to give the clean, classic lines Rua wanted. some new mounts front and rear, the tank provided the crisp horizontal line throughout the bike that the guys were aiming for. Being ridden daily for the 40km commute the reliable twin cylinder engine didn't need to be messed with. Chasing power would be a fruitless exercise, and the cheap reliable mill just needed a tune up and some oval K&N filters to bring it back to life. Similarly, while Armando toyed with the idea of swapping the rims out for some classic spoked items, he remained strict with his budget, got the original multi-spoke alloys painted and clad with 400-size Mitas HO6 rubber front and back for a balanced look. Along with the new tank mounts the rear of the bike met with the angle grinder; a simple loop welded on creates the timeless rear end. The battery found a new home between the sub-frame rails and bobbed mudguards provide placement for a simple rear lamp and appropriately sized number plate. The formula is sound and works perfectly with the fluted brown leather seat and new Kawasaki tank, wearing it's sleek monochromatic paint. The loom was entirely rebuilt: Reduced, simplified and neatened, it's threaded and tucked throughout the bike to keep it clean and tidy. Hand controls were posted through the bars and the grips, mirror and mini speedo are as simple as they can be. A smaller 4 1/2 headlight provides the same lumens as it's original tenant, but is far more in keeping with the style and proportion of the revamped machine. With the bike nearly complete and fired up ready for the daily grind, Armando needed some way to carry his laptop and various accoutrements to work. A simple steel loop frame was tacked up to provide support for his leather satchel. Quickly detachable from the bike, it removes the need for a clumsy backpack and is barely noticeable when not in use. It's a simple and stylish solution that should be used more, and increases practicality ten-fold. Laptop and rider on board, tank brimmed and starter thumbed, the bike was the beginning of the Rua journey and clearly represents the foundations their newer builds have built upon. Brief reflection is nice, basking in the rose-tinted warmth of nostalgia. But whilst it's important to remember your origins, it's essential to keep looking and moving forwards. So thank you to Rua for a trip to memory lane and thank you to everyone who ever twisted a throttle, picked up a spanner or clicked on a link, you are The Bike Shed. Onwards, as ever we go, and I can't wait. Keep an eye on their Facebook page here and the website here.