Casey Stevenson has elevated the Savage from the lowest rung on Suzuki's cruiser ladder to the pinnacle of café-racer cool. After finishing his biological-engineering gig at NASA (where he created a cancer-medication experiment that orbited on the space shuttle), he moved to Los Angeles with two things on his mind: music and motorcycles. And so he created the CS-1 café racer to transport him to musical gigs and the recording studio.
"Building this bike started out as a personal project," Stevenson says. "I wanted to create a custom café racer based on a single-cylinder engine like the ones I used to ride as a kid. It had to be a thumper, which limited my choices. My primary considerations were the Suzuki Savage and Buell Blast."
He took a ride on a Savage (renamed the Boulevard S40 in 2005) and decided its engine had the right character and power for the project, so bought one on eBay and started chopping. "I took the bike back to the shop and ripped all the ugly bits off of it. My initial plan was to build a bike around the engine using my own handmade frame and parts, but once I had it stripped, I realized the stock frame was going to work just fine. It took a lot of imagination to see a café racer in there!"
In a matter of months, Stevenson and his bandmate Ryan Rajewski (Ryca is a combination of their first names) had created their first prototype. They countered the Savage's raked stance by shortening the fork with internal spacers and lifting the rear with longer, 12.5-inch shocks. The front fender was removed to expose the 19-inch front wheel, and the rear hub was re-laced to a larger, 18-inch rim to complement the front wheel and further elevate the back end. These chassis mods rotate the bike forward, bringing steering geometry in line with that of a "proper motorbike" and shortening the wheelbase by more than an inch. The forward-set foot controls were yanked and replaced by custom brackets holding Tarozzi rearsets that position your feet a full foot-and-a-half back from stock. The high-rise handlebar gave way to clip-ons, tank-top instruments to mini-gauges above the triple clamp, and the original dished saddle and flared rear fender exchanged for a tidy retro-racer tail with integrated turn signals and stoplight. A reverse-megaphone muffler, custom side covers and a modified stock gas tank complete the metamorphosis.
Since 1986, the Savage has remained Suzuki's tamest cruiser. In 2005 it was renamed the S4
A custom panel replaces the tank-top speedometer and houses the ignition switch and indica
That appendage in front of the engine is the stock shift lever, repurposed to manually ope
The transformation exposes a refined-yet-elementally raw motorcycle far more deserving of the "Savage" name than the uninspired mini-cruiser from which it was wrought. Ripping around town on the Ryca revealed a light, nimble and surprisingly quick motorcycle, thanks in no small part to the significant geometry changes and some 60 lbs. of superfluous parts that were thrown by the wayside. The 652cc single breathes through a K&N air filter and kicks out plenty of power for city and freeway riding thanks to a freer-flowing (and almost obnoxiously loud) muffler.
Want to roll your own? Building a Savage café racer is surprisingly straightforward thanks to the kit Ryca Motors is selling through its website. "Using the stock frame is ultimately what enabled us to move this from a one-off project to the CS-1 build kit," Stevenson says. The kit contains all the custom and aftermarket parts the two entrepreneurs threw at the build, and everything you need to uncover the café racer in any '86 or newer Savage or S40. There's no welding or major modifications required; everything can be accomplished with basic mechanical skills and hand tools.