Saturday 31 December 2011

Dave's Ryca

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...

Nuff said.


Thursday 22 December 2011

Skid Lid Nirvana

Things are pretty quiet in the world of custom bike building and blogging, so I reckon it's time for a Christmas post on the subject of gifts... And this year my lovely missus the Dutchess, has decided I need a better quality (safer) open face lid than the el-cheapo Bandit Jet I got from Germany for about 60 Euros.

We've done the rounds, looking at Ruby, Bell (including the nice the Junior range just being imported - with a slimmer shell) and of course Brit lid-makers, Davida.

I'm usually not that excited about buying British, but these lids are rather lovely, and although the trim looks a bit like gaffer tape on some models (it probably is) they are made of quality materials, and the new Nintey-Two range has a very small shell size - the same as the non road legal Classic Jet & Speedster - but with British Safety Standard approval.

For reference, Davida make a few lids:

The Jet - UK Road legal (and massive)

Classic Jet - Legal in the US only

Speedster - not legal anywhere

Ninety-Two - Road legal, using the smaller Speedster/Classc Jet shell - but with Kevlar and hard-ass padding.

The Classic & Classic Race - an old school pisspot lid - not legal anywhere.

This is the Ninety Two. As the Shell looks pure Speedster, the main visual difference is the lining, which is breathable fabric instead of leather, but the fibreglass composite shell is reinforced by Kevlar (sounds tough to me), whereas the other two smaller lids are without the Kevlar.

Useful green sticker, below...

For shape comparison, here is Davida's original road legal lid on the left, beside the new ninety-two... The Ninety-Two makes the standard Jet look the size and shape of a large pumpkin. Not ideal for looks, but they are a lot more comfortable.

Bowling ball to the left...          ...custom cool on the right.

In typical British style the model options on the Ninety-Two are limited by bureaucratic red-tape as Davida were apparently only able to get Small & Medium sized models passed through UK safety tests... I'm told that there are melon headed people out there squeezing their heads into lids made for less cranially-challenged wearers..., to get the helmets through the BSS they fitted hardest cheek pads imaginable - however, thanks to a tip off from Anita at Victory Motorcycles in Camden (home to Untitled Motorcycles)

I discovered that Davida are cleverly making a batch of soft cheek pads that you can pop-in instead.

This padding swap probably makes them non BSS compliant, but the stickers are still on the lid, so hopefully there wouldn't be any issues with the long arm of the law should you be stopped by a well-informed and extremely pedantic traffic cop.

My nine year old went to town with her Xmas colouring pens...

The 92s are made in the full range of Davida paint options, (above) and I've gone for the classic silver with black racing stripe (see below, shown on a road-legal Jet).

...Hopefully that stripe will make me go faster.

Thanks to Colin at Gorgeous Bikes in Chelsea for supplying the lid, and sourcing those secret cheek pads - and thanks to the lovely Dutchess for the perfect Xmas gift..

Monday 12 December 2011

Danger - High Voltage

It’s still bloody freezing outside, but while I had a day off it was time for me to get back down to Victory MC and try to install the new Lithium Ion Battery I got from Racing Batteries last week. Some of you might remember I had a few dramas trying to wire three smaller Li Ion batteries together into a pack, and completely failed to get the setup to start my Ducati, so without any fuss at all, Calum at RB sent me a high powered single-unit replacement… and the good news? It bloody works a treat. Plug’n'play, twist and go. Grin a mile wide.

Bish, bash, bodge…

…Snug as a bug

The new RB unit saves at least 2 kilos over the OEM unit, and with the Reg/Recifier relocated under the seat pan (to avoid overheating) there was more than enough room to fit the RB unit in, and the bike looks so much better without all the battery box gubbins wedged under the subframe. If I’d gone this route in the first place it would have been one of the easiest mods ever, and the improvement in looks and the weight-saving are well worth the modest cost of the posh Li Ion unit.

Obligatory roughed-up urban wall behind a blinged-up street bike

Rex was there as usual, patiently fixing customer bikes while helping me find tools, grommets, tape and bits of cable, and I also met a cool guy called Mike (I hope I remembered that right) who was there fixing up a really nice SR500 which had inspired his mate Damian to build a similar machine.

Love the StarWars inspired tank logo.

Check the UMC grafitti in the background

I hope to get Mike and Damian to send me some decent pics of both bikes together, once they’re done, and post up some of the before/during/after pics he showed me while I was there.