The desire for “dirty deeds, done dirt cheap!” have been mercilessly pounded into our heads by AC/DC, and it is difficult to escape the theme when considering the Ryca CS-1 Cafe Racer Kit. This custom café racer bike puts the “thump” in thumper, and appeals to anyone who wants to get his hands dirty, doin’ the deed of building it.
Primarily a kit bike, the Ryca CS-1 is spawned from the ubiquitous Suzuki Boulevard S40 (née the Savage LS650), which has been populating American highways as a cruiser since 1986. With a 5-speed transmission and an electric starter, these machines—powered by a 652cc, two-valve, air-cooled SOHC motor—are in plentiful supply and are a solid foundation for the unlikely cruiser-to-café transformation.
For those opting to merely realize their clubman tendencies, Ryca Motors—a partnership of Ryan Rajewski and Casey Stevenson in Whittier, Calif., about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles—will sell you (and ship, if necessary) a completely assembled version of the Ryca CS-1. In either case, you will be left with plenty of cash to spare for additional leather jackets, cigarettes, and cheap dates.
I didn’t construct the Ryca CS-1 I rode, though I certainly could have. Armed with a standard set of tools and a reasonable amount of wrenching experience, you can throw this kit together by rolling up your sleeves and applying some elbow grease for a few days.
The process of the build is straightforward. You send Ryca the tank and rear wheel hub so they can make some simple modifications. At your end, you use a spacer to shorten the forks, which moves the geometry in a sporting direction. That effort is amplified by the 18-inch rear wheel Ryca returns to you, along with longer shocks. This raises the rear of the bike, further shortening the rake for quicker handling.
Perhaps the most daunting step is cutting the tips of the rear loop of the frame (non-structural) so the café racer seat assembly can be installed; of course, a professional can always perform that job.
You are then left with the enjoyable task of bolting on the special bits—the reworked tank, trick rearsets, custom battery box (it is e-start), café racer-defining clip-ons, tiny gauges, fat vintage grips, a not-so-quiet reverse cone muffler, and airbox-free K&N air filter. As much as possible, stock mounting points are used, simplifying the process.
With a weight of only 320 pounds, an immoderately narrow stance, and a seat height of just 31 inches, the Ryca looked and felt nothing like its former self, and was all-too-easy to throw around. The portly cruiser identity had vanished, revealing a clean, minimalistic physique in its place.
The CS-1 is so minimalistic that Ryca opted to leave out the rearview mirrors and a passenger seat (they’ll soon be offering a 2-seat version, so you can take a date). The front turn signals have vanished, and the rear indicators are reduced to a few LEDs.
I rode the flat burgundy version of the Ryca CS-1. The custom tailpiece, seat, side panels, and lowered tank are subtly eye-catching, and the various kit parts all add to the motorcycle’s unique character. When I pumped the manual decompression lever, just forward of the shifter, and fired up the CS-1, I chuckled a little; I knew I was now initiated. All the memories of ruckus and mayhem I had through high school were flooding back in as I warmed the Ryca up.
As exciting as it is to absorb the crackling exhaust note of the big single, it is reassuring to remember that this is not a motorcycle powered by a finicky powerplant with iffy electronics and a dubious chassis. Underneath the café façade, remains a standard issue Suzuki powerplant and frame with a time-earned reputation for reliability.
Considering that it has the frame of a cruiser, the Ryca CS-1 is an able handler. Low-end torque is ample, so frequent shifting is not necessary. Despite its light weight, the motor’s 30-horsepower output is going to remain a limiting factor in all but the tightest canyons. Also, the Kenda Cruiser S/T tires are far from high-performance rubber, so the rider’s desire to attempt some serious lean angle is tempered.
However, this plays into the vintage character of the Ryca CS-1. There is an undeniable connection to classic 1950s English café racers, such as the AJS 7R, BSA Gold Star, and Norton Manx, as well as a contemporary Royal Enfield Bullet with the factory Café Racer Kit. Those were not drag-your-knee motorcycles, either.
After getting to know the Ryca’s intricacies and personality, we became blood brothers (not literally, fortunately). The CS-1’s compact riding position is not uncomfortable for short hops between cafés. On longer rides, the clip-ons let their presence be known and the limited cushion in the seat seemed to disappear entirely.
The small front disc and rear drum brakes were reliable and predictable—adequate for the chassis and tire performance. As I arrived at just about any stop, the CS-1’s voice would hit its note with a kind of brapping, popping and, well, thumping—truly a miscreant on arrival.
As other riders ogle the CS-1, curiosity and envy reveal themselves. At one stoplight, a guy on a KTM looked at the rear, rolled up to see the front, then back again to see the rear, and finally gave me a duly earned thumbs-up before resuming his ride.
Few will confuse the Ryca CS-1 Cafe Racer Kit with an expensive motorcycle—the kit starts at $2995—though its appearance is far from cut-rate. In the right hands, it will perform nicely on the right roads, collecting some respect at the next café stop. If you are not inclined to push the performance envelope, you can simply enjoy exuding the aura of the café racer, sitting back to watch people surround it at the next stop. No one has to know the dirty deed was done dirt cheap.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Icon Alliance
- Jacket: Icon Overlord Prime
- Gloves: Icon Overlord Short
- Pants: Icon Overlord Prime Leather
- Footwear: Icon Patrol
Ryca CS-1 Cafe Racer Kit Review Photo Gallery