Tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to build a RYCA.
I’m retired (stopped looking?) and finally I get to devote time to my interest in old motorcycles. I remember the first Savage I ever encountered. Back in the 80’s it thumped by me in the parking lot of the Bryar Motor Speedway (now NHIS) in Loudon N.H.. The bike was certainly not my cup of tea but being a fan of classic European motorcycles, I was impressed by the simplicity and clean look of that one lung engine. I’ve always been partial to the minimalist café racer style. Fast forward 27 years and I was talking to my old high school buddy, Gary Briggs of Falmouth and he told me about the Ryca website. After studying the kit for a while, I called him back and said “I’m in, this is a winner!”
How did you find your Suzuki? What year model? What shape was it in?
I found it on Craigslist. It’s a 1986 with 45,000 miles. It was in a storage container and was about one step away from the scrappers. I paid $500 which was about $100 too much, but she ran. Cam chain slapping, rusty spokes painted silver, flat black and rust exhaust pipe, spotty dull clear coat on the aluminum, dented tank, petcock stuck in the prime position, black tape on the seat, road rash on the master cylinder cover, bald tires and a new battery (wow), she was beautiful, everything I‘d hoped for. After getting it home I ran the motor just long enough to get it hot and did a compression test. I got lucky, it was acceptable. She must have had a rebuild in the not too distant past.
Did you sell the take-off parts? How much did you get?
I’m still searching for someone wanting rusty, broken and worn out Savage parts. So far no takers.
Tell us about any mods or upgrades you did to your bike.
I couldn’t deal with the side cover thumb screws so I fitted short 6/32 machine screws out through the battery box with wing nuts. The 27 year old wiring harness was a gooey mess so I carefully peeled all the tape off and cleaned it. This allowed me to do some creative rewiring. I did away with the decomp control unit and used the 20 amp fused power source to run a WOLO Bad Boy air horn mounted to one of the old battery box holes. It sure wakes people up (texters, yackers). Stops em’ in their tracks and by the time they figure out where the blast came from, your gone. The old rear brake light cable was junk. I fitted an aftermarket unit, it works mint. Ditto for the headlight. Headlight and taillight yellow tint came from Asia somewhere… I couldn’t read the can.
How long have you been riding? What other bikes do you own?
Been riding 34 years, I have a Harley Davidson XLCR and a Ducati 900ss.
What's your occupation?
I spent most of my career as a utility lineman.
What advice would you give to future RYCA builders?
Don’t stress, take your time and enjoy it. It isn’t a race. Hours spent? Oh-oh, was I supposed to keep track?
What was the best thing about building the bike?
It was all good. I had someone say, “you’ve got the kit, why don’t you just put it together?” I told them I was savoring it. From buying the donor, to pushing the Ryca out of the shop, to rolling down the road with a foolish grin on my face it has been a fantastic project. If I had to pick one best time, it was when the wrenches started going clockwise.
Tell us about any problems you had and how you solved them.
I really didn’t find many problems with the Ryca stuff, mine were more with the old bike itself and paint (DIY so don’t look too close). I learned a ton though. What’s important to note is that I replaced a bunch of parts: the cam, cam chain, tensioning parts, front wheel spokes, brake rotor, steering head bearings, swing arm bearings, fork seals etc etc, I had no trouble finding parts. Can you think of any other 27 year old bikes out there like that? The Savage/S40 is a remarkable machine. The years interchange on nearly every part. With online Suzuki parts suppliers, eBay, a service manual and the Suzuki Savage Forum coupled with the Ryca videos and write-ups , you’re good to go on just about anything and as for the kit, Ryca is just a phone call or an email away. I have no complaints.
Anything else you want to add?
When you get to the end of the teardown, you really aren’t far from popping the motor right out of there. Gary and I each did it and had no (big) problems. It allowed us to clean up the surface rust and paint the frames. Not to mention having the motor on the bench to work on was great. Thanks to all the other Ryca builders who have shared their ideas and innovations on this and other sites. You helped a lot. Oh, and thanks Ryca Motors, I finished it and I’m left wanting more. Wait, it’s getting clearer… I can see an Evo Sporty café project on the horizon.
Great story, John and very informative. Thanks for all the details. The bike looks great!
See more customer builds in the Customer Gallery.