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Does A Kit Cafe Racer Subvert the Idea of Custom Building

There was a day when getting your hands on a custom motorcycle meant pulling out your checkbook and handing over a huge pile of your hard-earned cash to a “name” builder, but one outfit is trying to change the equation.

Ryca Motors in Whittier, California turns the whole garage-build idea on its head by selling a build-it-yourself custom motorcycle kit for a relatively modest outlay of $3,600 to $7,500. Put that up against the cost of the bikes you could buy in the old days at a starting pricetag of $50,000, and you can see the appeal to bikers strapped for cash in tough economic times.

Ryca makes the CS-1 Cafe Racer, and builders Ryan Rajewski and Casey Stevenson decided that people might be interested in buying the parts they reproduce as a kit from the bikes they used to build one-off in their shop for various customers.

So what do you get for your money? You get a motorcycle reminiscent of the classic cafe racers the pair love and you get it at an affordable price.

“You spend so much time building the thing, and it’s just this one person who has it,” Rajewski says. “Unless you’re the top 1% of guys, you don’t make any money.”

The standard Ryca CS-1 kit went into production in the fall of 2011 and since then, the pair have sold nearly 300 of their kits at prices ranging from $2,500 to $3,000. Customers buy a used bike, haul out some simple hand tools and then spend however many hours they need to finish the job and start riding the bike they always wanted. So which used bike do you need? How about the venerable and plentiful Suzuki S40. Since they went into production back in 1986 (and stopped making them in 2004), Suzuki made a ton of the 650cc, single-cylinder thumpers.

While it’s true that you won’t threaten 100 mph on a CS-1 based S40, you also won’t have your fillings shaken out of your head at speed like you often do on other single-cylinder bikes.

The Savage and S40 models managed 30 horsepower from a 40-cubic-inch four-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, single overhead cam engine. In 2005 Suzuki renamed the bike the “Boulevard S40” and strangely enough, you can still buy one today off the showroom floor. About the only changes to the bike since 1993 are the addition of a fifth gear, from the original four.

American Suzuki Motor Corp. thinks the men at Ryca might be on to something as well as they decided to  promote the kits through their network of 950 U.S. dealers.

It ain’t as simple as it sounds though, as they CS-1 kit includes something like 300 parts. You may not have to have the welding and fabrication skills needed for a tradition custom build, but you better has some skills. While Ryca does provide YouTube and downloadable instructions, it’s not like assembling a swingset for your kids. The CS-1 ends up being essentially a modern cafe racer, but Ryca also plans to make kits which ape two-seat, dual-sport scrambler, flat-trackers and even a 1950s-style bobber with a hardtail to help builders go old school.

It’s also not rocket science though Stevenson is capable of that as well it appears. He was, in fact, once an engineer working for NASA. He likes his new gig, a lot…

“It’s satisfying knowing there are hundreds of CS-1s around the world,” Stevenson said.